• 02Apr

    Lately, we’ve been doing a ton of playtesting of Road Not Taken, particularly with fellow game developers. (If you’re ever looking for brutally honest feedback, other game developers are a good place to start.) In general, the feedback has been pretty positive: people love the game’s basic mechanics, art and audio. But one big issue repeatedly crept up in many of our playtests: people weren’t sensing the depth of the game and weren’t feeling a strong sense of progression. This blog post is all about how we’ve been fixing that. :-)

    I like to think of Road Not Taken as an iceberg floating in the ocean: a tiny percentage of the total game is visible above the surface when you first start playing, while the vast majority of the game lies unseen, waiting to be discovered. A large part of that depth comes from all the unusual creatures and objects you can encounter as you explore the enchanted forests of the game. Another large part comes from all the secret tools and boosts you can create if you know what you’re doing. (For example, if you combine the right number of red and white spirits lurking in the forest, you can create a useful magic axe.)

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  • 14Mar

    In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the procedural system we use to create the enchanted forests that serve as your proving ground in Road Not Taken. That system is what makes Road Not Taken a fun game to play repeatedly, and as with any good roguelike you’ll need to play RNT many times before you’ve stumbled upon every interesting object and creature lurking in the forest.

    RNT_Blog_Terrain_1

    But a purely random system, even a very rich one, can start to feel repetitive over time. Every snowflake might be unique, but after you’ve looked at a thousand snowflakes it’s easy to stop appreciating them! Our roguelike developer ancestors have invented a few solutions to this problem, one of which is to change the look and feel of the environment to signal when something new/important/dangerous is happening. Sewers transition into dungeons, dungeons become underground caverns, etc. And in Road Not Taken, peaceful glades might lead to blizzard-ravaged woods, haunted glades and dangerous ice caverns! The changing terrain is both a marker of your progress as well as a warning of new challenges to come.

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  • 25Feb

    RNT_Blog_MapGen_Title

    As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Road Not Taken has procedurally-generated levels. You get a completely new experience every time you venture into the forest. When designing a game like Bioshock or God of War, a designer must hand-select the placement of every corridor, every object, and every enemy in the game. With Road Not Taken, we’re not hand-selecting anything. We spend our time creating interesting objects and enemies and then carefully defining the probabilities of when and where you will encounter them.

    The process reminds me of Duchamp’s painting ‘Nude descending a Staircase, No. 2’. For thousands of years, humanity painted a single instant, captured in time. Duchamp, inspired by advances in motion pictures, decided to paint all the possible states of a woman walking down the stairs in a single painting. To me, designing a roguelike is a little bit like that. Instead defining a single level, we use algorithms to define all possible levels at once.

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  • 13Feb

    Hi folks! Ray here, another member of the Spry Fox team. I do a bunch of different jobs for our studio, including making video trailers for our games, QA, and community management. Sometimes, just to have some fun and goof around a little, I make live action videos using my fellow Foxes as actors (or guinea pigs…) And since we’ve been working really hard on our upcoming game, Road Not Taken, I thought it would be cool to do a live action video for that!

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  • 24Jan

    Hi everyone! Brent here again. We’ve gotten a lot of questions and compliments about the look of Road Not Taken’s main character, so I thought you might enjoy reading about the process I went through in creating it!

    First, I guess I should say that designing a game’s main character/avatar is always tricky. The avatar has to work as a functional asset within the context of the game, has to look good in marketing materials and screenshots, but most importantly, has to feel right as something that represents you, the player! Easier said than done.

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  • 20Dec

    RNT_Blog_Audio_1

    This post is by Danny Simmons, the audio producer extraordinaire for our game Road Not Taken

    We recently added the first batch of sounds to Road Not Taken, and the team got really excited, like the game was finally coming together! It’s funny because it was such a small thing in relation to the huge amount of work that has already gone into the game, but it really highlights the difference sound can make in the way we experience things.

    The world of Road Not Taken is made up of magical and natural surroundings. That makes me happy, because even though I love the bleeps and bloops you can get from synthesis, my favourite way to make sounds is from scratch like a foley artist.

    It just so happened that I started working on the RNT audio catalogue in the fall, right when there were piles of dried leaves everywhere — perfect! I brought a bucket of them inside and rustled them, crunched and dropped them… my studio was a mess! Also, if you listen closely to the end of the second RNT teaser, you can hear some percussion that was made from dry sticks. At the time I was at a cottage on vacation with my family, so I used a makeshift set-up to build that sample instrument. I expect that you’ll hear it again.

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  • 10Dec

    How might a roguelike look like if it featured a thinker and explorer, instead of a traditional warrior? If being clever was more important than being strong? That’s a design challenge we’ve attempted to tackle with Road Not Taken.

    You play a ranger in a frigid, enchanted forest, trying to save lost children. You start with a few easy-to-learn abilities. You can pick up any adjacent objects, you can carry them around, and you can throw them. Trees, boulders, bears — they all float at your command. But you need to be careful; whenever you carry things, it costs you stamina. If you run out of stamina, you collapse face-first into the snow. No checkpoints, no reloads. It’s over.

     

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  • 01Nov

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    The boosts we previously described are almost all implemented at this point! In the process, the little house we were planning for the main character has exploded into a not-so-little house full of cosy rooms, lazy cats, bear rugs, and of course tables and desks to hold all the aforementioned boosts. This is one of those situations where design drives the narrative I guess; there are so many totems and trophies you can collect that the main character simply needed to have a more spacious home to put them in.

    But then again, the size of the home seems to emphasize its emptiness. It’s full of stuff, yes, but almost completely devoid of people. In that regard, it’s far from the stereotypically “perfect” home. That feels appropriate for Road Not Taken.

  • 23Sep

    This post was written by Brent Kobayashi, our lead artist for Road Not Taken, who is currently enjoying a much-deserved vacation so I’m posting on his behalf. -d

    Meeting a few of you in person and talking online to others excited about Road Not Taken, I’ve been asked the question a number (2 is a number, right?) of times what the inspiration behind the look of the game was. Obviously, the style borrows heavily from kawaii aesthetics. The dot-ier the eyes, the higher the mouth, the happier I am. But that’s sort of a rule given my Japanese background. So, I’ll briefly mention a couple of specific points of inspiration behind the look of the game as well.

    I have a terrible memory. I don’t often remember artists’ names I like, names of paintings I enjoyed, or what the point of this sentence was supposed to be since I started typing it. But very specific moments seem to stick with me. One of these moments is a brief scene in a montage from Samurai Jack of a matryoshka doll being sliced open, revealing a smaller nested doll, and she perks up for a split second. She’s alive! The moment lasted one second, but it was so unexpected and so delightful that it comes up in my conscience frequently. The memory of this brief moment was the kick-off point for all the artwork done on Road Not Taken up to this day:

    RNT_Insp_1

    Outside of illustration, another place for the inspiration behind the look of many characters in the game comes from old pottery and sculptures. Especially those from my favorite period in the history of humans making art, the Middle Nazca Period, 250 – 450 AD (Thanks to Wikipedia, anyone can sound cultured and look like they know what they’re talking about!) Their use of simple shapes ornamented with textile-like patterns is a look I’ve been going for for several years in my designs. When I started really digging into Nazca art I came to a sad, but inspiring nonetheless, realization that they seemed to have perfected what I’ve been trying to do. They only beat me by something like 1700 years. No biggie.

    RNT_Insp_2

    Finally, to follow up a little more on the idea of simple shapes, here’s a quick peek into an approach I use when creating these characters that will ultimately be shown at small and usually 1:1 aspect ratio size. Whenever I sketch out a character for a concept, I rarely draw them much larger than a Canadian quarter (Can’t guarantee this will work with US currency, sorry.) This ensures that the silhouette of the character will be legible at any size. Then I fill it in with all that fancy stuff. But ultimately, they’re just shadows playing with each other in my eyes.

    I couldn’t leave you hanging without an actual update from the game, so here’s a piece of concept art that shows the original sketch for our newest character we’re currently working on, to the final art. Introducing… the Doctor!

    RNT_Insp_3

    If you have any source of unusual inspirations, let me know in the comments!

    Arigato!