It has officially been a year since we started development on the project, and we’re excited to talk about it. We’ll be sharing information about the game here until our website is finished. You may have seen some mocks or screenshots we’ve been posting around on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but we have much more to tell! Please bear with us, as there’s a lot of ground to cover.
Our story begins in the small, mountain village of Pell. A gathering of stone and log houses, Pell is located in the northeastern foothills of the Goravia Ridge. The mountains split the western part of the continent from the colder, northern areas. East of Pell, along the Trader’s Road, are the city of Gretrand and the Great Wall of Dormand. The Great Wall divides the countries of Alta and Kovell, which now sit at peace.
To the south of Pell, through the Ferga Plains and the across the Ferga Ravine, lies the city of Dellador, where art and style flourished after the Black Triad War. The stone artisans built the city larger and more detailed than any other in Alta, save for the Royal Hall of Stornbrook, the capital to the south. Past Dellador lies a colorful meadow, named for King Storn II’s wife, Queen Renlia. They had played there as children, when King Storn would visit the Regent of Dellador and discuss politics and war.
After a fruitful hunt with his friend Krell, Arnen returns to the village and finds out that the trader who supplies dry goods and other sundries has broken down on the Trader’s Road, to the east. Before setting out, the two are joined by Dolvis, a messenger from Dellador, and Prym, a gifted magician who also lives in the village. They reach the trader and help him fix the broken axle of his cart, but when they return home, there are Bandits guarding the entrance. Arnen and his team fight them off and make their way into the village, only to find that the leader of the bandits has kidnapped Arnen’s sister, Karissa, and fled up into the mountain pass.
War of Velana is a tactical-RPG at its core. Drawing inspirations from Shining Force, Fire Emblem, and Final Fantasy Tactics, the game system is an orthographic, turn-based combat system on a grid matrix. You fight battles with a party of 1-8 ally units, each with their own static Class and skill set. Classes cannot be changed at will, but will advance to a Promotion Class once the character is strong enough. This unlocks stronger weapons and better stat growth for each class. Skills and Magic are gained upon level up, and each character has a different set of abilities, even if they share the same Class with another ally. There are a few units in the game that are specialized Classes, and have no Promotion Class to achieve.
In battle, you have a number of commands at your disposal. Attacking enemies is straightforward, but different weapon types offer a variety of unique ranges allowing you to tailor your party any way you choose. In contrast to some of the classic tactical RPGs, one of the things we’ve developed is not only magic abilities for Mages and Priests, but also various combat abilities for melee units as well. Soldiers, for instance, have abilities that can boost nearby allies and increase their defenses. Warriors have abilities that damage as well as reduce stats, like Arm Rend and Leg Crush. Archers have skills like Hawkeye, which increases accuracy when attacking, and other tactical abilities their bows can perform. Each Class/Promotion Class Pair in War of Velana has 6 abilities to learn and use in combat.
Items will play a significant role in combat as well, with many types of herbs, potions, and runes to aid you. Management of those items is key, so in addition to using them, you can also give them to other units, or send them to the stock cart. The stock cart is the party’s storage overflow, and is only accessible outside of combat, so be careful what you throw in there! Once you send an item to stock, you won’t have access to it again until after that battle is complete.
Matt Gabriel and I began composing strictly on piano, recording pieces of themes along the way. I would then take the recordings we’d made and track them into digital form, layer, and refine them until we had something close to what we wanted. I’m going to hand this over to Andrew Capone, who tagged in as our primary composer and is at the helm of orchestration.
The music of Velana is very much inspired by the tactical RPGs that the game draws its influences from, and in new, modern, and exciting ways! Since creating the score has largely been a team effort, we are doing some very interesting things in the composition process that isn’t typically done when scoring a game. The music either originates from piano or notation, and then is synthesized using sounds from the Roland Sound Canvas series, the legendary synthesizers used on many Final Fantasy games and other nostalgic games from the 90’s. We want the score to pay homage to older games so that the gameplay will feel new, yet familiar at the same time. Below are some excerpts from the score, as well as some themes from the soundtrack.
The art in War of Velana is inspired by a lot of retro-16bit games. Being a grid-based game, we wanted to have the characters more or less fill out the tile that they were on. This resulted in a slightly SD/Chibi approach to proportions, but while we took a sort of scaled back, less pixel dense direction to the art, we wanted to incorporate a more organic feel to the maps and areas. This was achieved by creating many variations on each element to a map, and peppering them throughout the areas. This way you aren’t staring at the same tree or rock over and over as you explore an area, and that sort of detail is very important to how we’re building the world of Velana, inside and out.
We’re also taking this approach to the inhabitants of the world. While they may be based on similar templates, each Non-Player-Character will be unique, with their own name and sprite set. While many of the old RPGs that we love don’t abide by this logic, our attention to detail will further flesh out the world as you adventure around it.
Our code wizard, Justin Mollenauer, and I have been busy. The system feeds all of the game data into the menu UI and battle systems from a set of databases where the individual components are managed. These include things like items, equipment, special abilities, ally and enemy entities, classes, and effect animations. We have most battle interactions implemented: attacks, animations, damage timing and effect, and skill/item use, as well as their effects (healing/damage) applied to the target and updating properly in the UI blocks. Most of the experience gain system is in place, but we’ll be adding things like Exp Bonuses a little later, since most of them are dependent on the states and elements systems being in place.
The leveling system is also in place, with experience, level, and stat growth metrics fully operational. As far as battle flow goes, our random encounter system is in place (triggered only when the player decides to) and enemies can be damaged and killed, and through clearing all enemies battle can be won. This can be done over and over in cycles, so we’re really starting to nail down the cycle of it all.
The other major system to start working on soon is Enemy AI. We know how we want to do it, so it’s just a matter of time before we get there.
We have most of the roaming/interaction systems in place, so area exploration is almost entirely built out . We can chat with people; find items and gold; move around between exteriors and interiors; pull up the menu to check ally status and inventory; and trigger things like scene changes/battles directly from the dialogue system.
The next domestic system to implement is probably the most important: the event control system. Once in place, we can start building actual story events and create the flow of the game.
Artwork on the maps and map components progresses as we near the halfway point for the game’s environments. Animations are being implemented and polished, with full sets nearly complete for all allies and enemies in Chapter 1. A majority of the enemies in each area will be unique. We have all of the front-facing, initial sprite design done for all allies and all common enemies for the game. We’ll cover more about rare enemies in a future post!
Additionally, the portrait art is being handled by our character artist, Stephanie Mayton. We can’t wait to reveal more of the game’s cast in the near future.
The soundtrack is being rapidly refined and developed as we expand on the musical ideas we have been working with. Be sure to check out what we have above, and follow us on Soundcloud as more will be introduced in the coming weeks.
We’ll probably hold off on the next post for about a month while we work steadfast on all facets of the game. As part of the next post, we’ll introduce you to our main character, Arnen, as well as a few of the first allies you’ll meet.
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Justin Mitchell – Game Director