Happy New Year! 2017 Retrospective

I can’t believe this is the 4th year that I’m privileged to write one of these. What a busy year it’s been! Let’s take a look at what we accomplished together:

  • We announced our most ambitious game to date: The Negative! Look forward to this game in late 2018 or early 2019.
  • We announced Siralim 3. You’ll be able to play it soon enough, and it’s going to blow you away.
  • We released a new game as a side project: Learn Kana The Fun Way!
  • We released Siralim 2 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
  • We launched a free content update for Siralim called “Invasion”.
  • We launched a free content update for Siralim 2 called “Renaissance”.
  • We overhauled our website and started a blog to share more details about our games, as well as general game development.
  • We launched a merchandise shop.
  • We expanded our team to bring you even more games at a much faster pace than ever before.

These accomplishments are nothing compared to what is to come in 2018:

  • Siralim 3 will be released on all platforms.
  • The Negative will (hopefully) enter Early Access testing.
  • Another RPG is in the pipeline that should be out in mid- to late-2018.
  • We will support additional platforms with our games. Specifically, we hope to support Xbox One. It’s too soon to talk about Nintendo Switch, but we are trying very hard to make it happen. And by “trying”, I mean that I’m sitting around and hoping GameMaker supports it soon.
  • Siralim and Siralim 2 will be released on physical media for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

I have a lot of people to thank this year. My thanks extend far beyond what words can convey, but I’ll do my best:

I want to thank Maarten Boot for his dedicated work on The Negative’s graphics. His passion fuels what promises to be one of the most satisfying games we’ve ever made.

I want to thank Tim Bongiovanni for creating some of the most evocative video game music I’ve ever heard. I can’t wait to share some of the work he’s done. This also marks the 4th year I’ve been working with Tim.

I want to thank JC Malapit for doing such an amazing job on graphics for The Negative (battle effects), Siralim 3, and Learn Kana The Fun Way. This is now the 4th year I’ve been working with JC.

I want to thank Joshua Queen for creating such nostalgic, high-energy music and sound effects for Siralim 3 and Learn Kana The Fun Way.

I want to thank Janette Ramos for the amazing, hand-painted app icons, title screens, and marketing media she’s created for Siralim 2, Siralim 3, and The Negative.

I want to thank Mario (Umaro) and Sergio for their timely and professional work on writing Siralim 3’s creature lore.

I want to thank Shaun Musgrave and everyone at TouchArcade for continuing to support our games on their website. In turn, we plan to do our part and support them next year as they’re struggling to survive due to a volatile industry climate. (You can do your part to support them as well.)

I want to thank Doug, Josh, and everyone else at Limited Run Games for making it possible even for small developers like us to publish our games on physical media.

I want to thank all the content creators out there who published reviews and videos to showcase our games.

I want to thank all the people on our forums, Discord, and social media for helping us to maintain an active community. I’d also like to thank many of those same people for their color palette contributions for Siralim 3’s Singular Creatures.

And finally, and absolutely most importantly, I want to thank you for being the best customer and player anyone could ever ask for. Your passionate feedback and the excitement you show toward our games is the primary reason I’m still able to write this retrospective 4 years later. I promise to make each year better than the last, and I can’t wait to show you what we’ve come up with for Siralim 3, The Negative and our other unannounced projects very soon.


I hope you have a safe and happy New Year!
Zack Bertok

Siralim 3: Talismans

Siralim 3 has a new type of item called “Talismans”. In short, talismans provide you and your creatures with passive bonuses just for being in your inventory. In that regard, they’re a lot like cards… but unlike cards, talismans can be upgraded.

While runes and runewords provide players with in-battle bonuses, talismans provide players with out-of-combat and utility perks.

Let’s start with a few examples:

Gonfurian’s Beckoning – Increases the amount of treasure earned by completing Realm Quests by {1%}.

Grim Dawn – You have a {1%} greater chance to find Spell Gems.

Ianne’s Left Eye – Increases your chance to obtain better stats when reforging artifacts by {1%}.

I really want to show off some more interesting talismans here, but I want to keep them a secret for now. Anyway, you’ll notice that in each talisman’s description, there’s a number wrapped in {curly brackets}. This means that, whenever you upgrade a talisman, that number increases by a certain amount. For example, a Rank 1 Gonfurian’s Beckoning offers a 1% bonus, and a Rank 2 Gonfurian’s Beckoning offers a 2% bonus. There is no hard cap on the number of ranks a talisman can have.

So how do you upgrade talismans? After completing an Itherian Realm, and that Itherian Realm is the highest depth you’ve ever cleared, you’ll be given 5 chances to upgrade the talismans of your choice. The chance to successfully upgrade a talisman is based on the Itherian Realm’s depth in relation to the talisman’s rank. Therefore, in order to upgrade your talismans to very high ranks, you’ll need to complete Itherian Realms that are at higher depths.

Alternatively, you can now take your unwanted runes to the Artificer NPC who can grind them down into Rune Dust. You can use Rune Dust to upgrade your talismans, but again, there’s a chance that the upgrade will fail. Additionally, the higher a talisman’s rank, the more Rune Dust it will require to attempt an upgrade.

After a talisman reaches rank 100, a new bonus will be unlocked. Here are the bonuses for the talismans I mentioned earlier:

Gonfurian’s Beckoning – You are given 1 additional Realm Quest in normal realms.

Grim Dawn – Spell Gems you find now always have 3 properties.

Ianne’s Left Eye – The reforging stat range now has a 25% higher floor.

There are 30 different talismans for you to find. Some can be purchased from the gods after you attain a very high level of favor with them, while others must be acquired as arena rewards, by defeating certain bosses, or even as rare drops in treasure chests. Some are kept secret, and only the most resourceful of players will be able to find them. You can only acquire one of each talisman.


Next time, I’ll reveal yet another new system coming to Siralim 3: Knowledge.

Siralim 3: Otherworldly Sigils

Last week, I revealed the new Sigils system in Siralim 3. I also left you with a bit of a cliffhanger: what are Otherworldly Sigils?

After you defeat the boss of a Sigil Realm, you’ll have the option to take control of that realm… for a modest price of several thousand resources. After you take control of a Sigil Realm, you’ll be given a code that you can give to your friends (or more likely, strangers on our forums, social media, and Discord).

When another player approaches the Teleportation Shrine, they can input the code to view the Sigil’s properties before they commit to entering the realm. After that, they’ll be sent to the exact same realm you just conquered. If the original owner of the Sigil Realm found a certain Itherian Creature, you’ll be able to find it too. If the owner found a really awesome and powerful artifact, you’ll be able to get your hands on it as well. Even the realm layout and enemies are the exact same. This means that players can work together and help each other to collect ultra-rare creatures and items.

Normally, after you complete the Realm Quest of a Sigil Realm, a portal will appear that takes you to a powerful boss. However, in Otherworldly Sigil Realms, there’s a bit of a twist: when you teleport to the boss’ room, instead of encountering that realm’s original boss, they’ll find a replica of the owner (another player!) of that Sigil Realm instead!

The boss will look just like the owner of the realm’s character, and even have the same name and gender. In addition, players can unlock “Titles” in Siralim 3 which replace the standard “King” and “Queen” titles you’re accustomed to from the previous games. There are dozens of titles to unlock, and whatever title you have equipped when you create the Otherworldly Sigil Realm is what other players will see when they fight you. Zack the Drunkard is coming to get you!

Most importantly, however, other players will have the opportunity to fight against your own party. If they win, they’ll receive exclusive rewards including access to unique traits and items. If they lose, they can’t re-enter that realm again, so the opportunity to gain exclusive treasure is lost. Statistics will be tracked for all Otherworldly Sigil Realms so everyone can see how many players conquered that realm, how many players died, and much more. In addition, other statistics will be tracked on a monthly leaderboard that shows the most popular Otherworldly Sigils for that month. If your Otherworldly Sigil Realm is especially popular, you’ll unlock exclusive titles, wardrobe costumes, and more – so it’s definitely in your best interest to share as many Otherworldly Sigils as possible!

Otherworldly Sigil Realms disappear after 72 hours. Otherwise, you’ll clog up my server, and I can’t have that.


Next week, I’ll reveal a new type of item called “Talismans”.

Siralim 3: Sigils

In Siralim 3, Sigils work much differently than they did in the previous games.

Sigils now serve as keys to the Itherian Realms, which can be unlocked at your Teleportation Shrine after completing a post-story quest. Each Sigil has a set of randomized properties that affect the way the realm behaves. For example, one property might grant all the enemies in the realm a large boost to their Attack stat. Another might give enemies 3 additional spell gems. Another yet might transform all the items in treasure chests into resources. Some properties are extremely rare but very valuable, such as this one: “Realm is inhabited by Treasure Golems”. The more properties a Sigil has (they can have up to 8, but that number might change during development), and the more potent those properties are, the better the treasure, and the more experience points and resources you’ll earn in the realm.

Sigils can be modified by the Sigil Shaper, a character you’ll unlock during your travels. Modifying a Sigil costs resources, and the amount of resources required to modify a particular Sigil increases each time you do so.

After you defeat all the enemies in an Itherian Realm, a portal will spawn near you that will take you to the boss of that realm. Most bosses will drop exclusive Itherian Realm materials, or even unique creatures cores. Some bosses are very rare to find and have unique traits that no other creature has (similar to the Pandemonium King or Lord Zantai from Siralim 2). These bosses drop their own, exclusive items as well.

Enemies in Itherian Realms do not scale to your creatures’ levels, which is an important distinction from the Sigils you found in Siralim 2. Instead, here’s how it works: you’ll start at Itherian Realm Depth 1. If you defeat the boss at this realm depth, your maximum Itherian Realm Depth increases by 1. The next time you use a Sigil, you can either choose to use it at Realm Depth 1 or 2, depending on how challenging you want the realm to be. In this way, you can continue to climb to higher Itherian Realm Depths which will give you a higher chance to find awesome treasure. It is important to note that you’ll receive a massive bonus to the number of items you’ll find, as well as the experience points and resources you’ll gain, for conquering your highest Itherian Realm Depth.

Itherian Realms are also home to some really cool new items and creatures. These realms are the only way you can acquire any of over 100 Itherian Creatures, each with their own, unique traits. On average, you’ll encounter one Itherian Creature per Itherian Realm, and you can extract cores from these creatures. Several of the rarest creatures in the game can only be bred using Itherian Creatures, so you’ll want to extract cores from as many of them as possible. If you’re at your current maximum Itherian Realm Depth, you’ll have a much higher chance to find Itherian Creatures.

In addition, you might occasionally find an Itherian Artifact. These artifacts work just like the normal ones, except they will be enchanted with an Itherian Artifact-exclusive trait that you can’t find anywhere else. They’ll also have a cool name. There are no materials for these traits, and no creature in the game has access to these traits without having the Itherian Artifact equipped. I am hoping to have around 50 different Itherian Artifact traits.

Ah, and there’s one other important reward you’ll receive for conquering an Itherian Realm: you’ll be able to upgrade your Talismans. What are Talismans, you ask? I’ll explain in another post.


In my next post, I’ll reveal and discuss a multiplayer component that relates to Sigils called “Otherworldly Sigils”. Can you guess what those are?

Siralim 3: Runes

If I could only change one thing in Siralim 2, it would be Runes. While the core concept is interesting enough, this system has a few flaws. First, the effects of runes were poorly balanced. Many of these items were useless, while others were so powerful that they were must-haves. Runes also didn’t stack in your inventory and saw very little use in post-story content, which caused players’ inventories to constantly clog with dozens of runes that you’d clearly never use. Aside from all of that, runes simply weren’t that interesting. I hope to address these problems in Siralim 3.

Runes

Runes now stack in your inventory. This should make them much easier to manage. In addition, there are now 50 runes for you to find, and most of them have different effects than they had in Siralim 2. Here are a few examples:

Ith Rune – Your creatures’ Critical buffs now also work with spells.

Yar Rune – Your creatures’ Taunt buffs now also cause them to automatically Provoke at the end of their turns.

Zar Rune – Enemies’ Blight debuffs now also cause any buffs they gain to be converted to a random debuff instead.

If these feel too niche for you, there are a few basic ones as well, such as the Aen Rune which simply increases your creatures’ Health by 10%.

Runewords

You can equip 5 specific Runes to form a “runeword”. Runewords give a very powerful effect to you or your creatures. For example, you can equip the AenKihMulRuhZar runeword which translates to “Light”. While this runeword is active, Surathli will sometimes join you in battles to support your creatures. There will be dozens of different runewords for you to discover. Note that not all combinations of runes will form a runeword.

To prevent players from constantly swapping out their runes to form new runewords without any thought, there is a now a small chance that your runes will break when you unequip them.

Artificer

The Runemaster from Siralim 2 will return in Siralim 3, but this time he’ll be known as the “Artificer”. You can trade your unwanted runes to the Artificer in exchange for knowledge of a new runeword. The Artificer also allows you to choose from the list of runewords you’ve discovered and equip the necessary runes automatically. The Artificer also has one other function that will serve as a rune dump, but that’s related to another system that I will reveal in a later post.

Siralim 3: User Interface

Siralim has always been a complex game, and with these complexities comes a major hurdle for me as a game developer: designing a user interface that provides players with adequate information to play the game to its fullest potential while maintaining ease-of-use. It’s taken me some practice, but thankfully, Siralim 3 has a much more accessible user interface than its predecessors.

I’ll start by saying that no single user interface is going to make everyone happy, especially with a game like Siralim. We need to keep in mind that players of all ages and gaming experiences will try this game (you’d be surprised at how many players are over the age of 60), so while you might want the informational equivalent of a Wiki available to you at every point in the game, I don’t think that’s necessarily what Siralim needs. There must be a balance to provide players with as much information as possible, but it has to be presented in a way that isn’t overwhelming. That’s why, for example, I will never add access to the game’s library to the battle menu. There’s always going to be a more elegant solution instead of that – one of which you’ll find toward the bottom of this post.

The goal of any user interface designer is to minimize the number of “nested menus” that players need to sort through in order to get where they want to be. For example, how many buttons do you need to press to equip a creature with an artifact? How many buttons do you need to press to attack an enemy in battle? For obvious reasons, the fewer times a player needs to press a button, the better.

Aesthetically, I still want to maintain the old-school NES/SNES user interface style of a black background with white text. After all, Siralim is meant to remind you of those games. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a classic-inspired game to have a decorated interface for no apparent reason. So no, there still won’t be any scantily clad succubi peeking out from behind your creatures’ health bars like you’ll find in a game like Diablo 3. It’s just not that kind of game.

Let’s start with the very first screen you’ll see when you start the game and get past the Thylacine Studios logo.

I know, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out such a simple control scheme, but isn’t this infinitely better-looking than the primitive white-on-black screens found in Siralim and Siralim 2? This is the first game element that any player sees, and I think the old one had an immediate, negative psychological effect on a lot of players that made them say to themselves, “Damn, this game is cheaply made”.

The biggest change to the user interface is the main in-game menu, so we’ll discuss that next. Let’s take a look at a few screenshots.

Excuse the weird look of the castle – it’s just a chopped up version of Siralim 2’s castle right now, but it’ll be entirely different soon enough. Anyway, this is the first thing you’ll see when you press Q to open the menu. Not much has changed here, but you’ll notice that the resources are now presented a bit more consistently than before. In addition, when you choose any of these menu options, instead of another menu popping out to the right of the main one, the options will simply change in the original menu instead. Here’s what happens when I choose “Character”:

Immediately, with one less press of the button than before, you have some quick access to your character’s information. You can scroll up and down using the W and S keys as before, but you don’t have to press E again – the panels on the right simply change as you “hover over” one of the menu options.

Here’s a better, animated example using the “Creatures” menu:

The Library interface is now sorted much better as well. Now, each library book has been categorized as either a “List” or a “Guide”. Lists include things like the creature bestiary, the spells you’ve discovered, and your breeding recipes. Guides are informational and serve as a reminder of how certain game mechanics work.

One of the most commonly-requested features is to allow players to view detailed information about their creatures and enemies in battle. Therefore, in Siralim 3, the “Inspect” command is now a lot more useful:

This new feature allows you to view the stats, traits (yes, even the temporary ones you can sometimes acquire mid-battle), artifacts, spell gems, and many other things about any creature in battle. You’ll also notice that when I targeted the Yeti, there’s a + next to the “Inspect” text. This means that, since the Berserker Fiend (Chaos) is inspecting the Chillbreeze Yeti (Sorcery), it’ll deal extra damage to it. There’s a + next to all the command text, including attacking and casting spells. That way, it’ll be easier for you to choose the best target based on the enemy’s class. Similarly, you’ll see a “-” sign next to the text if your creature’s attack will deal less damage due to a class weakness.

The Negative: Devlog #23: Just checking in!

While I’ve been busy working on Siralim 3, Maarten, Tim, and JC (who is also working on a lot of Siralim 3 stuff!) have continued to work on new graphics, music, and sound effects for The Negative. While I don’t have any huge news to report in this devlog, I figured everyone might appreciate a status update on how the development cycle is going for The Negative.

As of a few days ago, Maarten completed work on all the monster sprites. There’s over 140 sprites total, including summoned monsters and things like that. They’re all animated with both attack and idle animations. JC has been working hard on skill effects for these monsters – each monster can have 4 active skills, so all of those require their own particle effects and sprites. In addition, many passive skills also require animated effects, so there are around 800 total skill effects in the entire game. That’s an absolutely insane amount, and yet JC is already about 80% done with these. He also finished all the buff and debuff effects, as well as battle ground effects such as pools of lava or circles of healing.

While JC finishes up the skill effects, Maarten has started working on the in-game environments. He’s starting with the Depression environment, which has a lot of snow, ice, and forgotten ruins. Each environment is made up of several sub-environments to keep things fresh for the player – our goal is to ensure that players won’t see the same tileset more than once every 10-15 hours. And when you do start seeing repeated tilesets, my hope is that the random generation will be so good that you’ll barely recognize it anyway. I’ve discussed this goal with Maarten quite extensively and we’re confident that we can pull it off. It’s going to be awesome. Oh, and each environment also needs its own town graphics since each environment also has its own distinct culture and lore. People who live in the Depression environment will live in very different houses than those in the Anxiety environment, for example. They’ll dress and act differently too.

One slightly frustrating part about developing The Negative is that there won’t be much to show you in the way of screenshots for a pretty long time. I decided that we should focus on creating monsters and skill effects first, so while there’s a lot of smaller bits of art to pass around, it’s almost impossible to show you what the actual game looks like since there are no actual environments or tilesets yet. But don’t mistake that for a lack of progress – the game is coming along very well and I am incredibly excited to continue working on it.

There’s still a ton of work left to be done, and I honestly don’t even know when we can expect an Early Access release at this point. The goal is still late 2018, but this game is easily the largest and most ambitious project I’ve ever created and I will take as much time as needed to make sure it’s absolutely perfect. In the meantime, you’ll have Siralim 3 to enjoy very soon!