Hazelnut Bastille, a 16bit Indie Adventure

Created by Aloft Studio

Hazelnut Bastille is a topdown, Zelda-like ARPG, presented in a rigorously-period 16 bit style. Hazelnut is available to back again for a limited time. Our expectation is for orders to be charged when Dawnthorn, the 8-bit sister game to Hazelnut is first released to backers.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

More Dawnthorn Level design scenes
over 2 years ago – Thu, Dec 17, 2020 at 10:51:57 PM

I am currently in the process of working through level design with Dawnthorn, while we wait for stuff that's needed for the Alpha build of Dawnthorn to get worked out- sorry again for the delay there! 

In the meantime, enjoy some of these scenes from that work! 

A puzzle-platforming scene intended for level 4:

A basic introduction to some of the features gargoyles have, as another level 4 puzzle:

A scene where a particular enemy must be faced in a particular way to triumph: 

A simple enemy-fight space:

A tricky encounter intended for one of the last two levels:

A very challenging puzzle (which we aren't showing the solution to here, so no spoilers!) which will lead to a bit of optional content most likely:

Another late-game space that relies on a peculiarity the flame snails have in order to be workable, and which then becomes a kind of cute "minigame": 

And finally, a crew who mean business, early on in the game, and who may be pretty tricky to face due to your initial lack of material provision:

We should have some updates on Shannon's progress with music as well, shortly!

It looks like I will be working on level design for Dawnthorn for another good 30 days or so, at which point I will move on to whatever task makes sense given our collective work. That may be either working more through Dawnthorn boss-fight implementations, finally releasing the first alpha build, or more Hazelnut work, depending on where we are with other stuff!

Dawnthorn gameplay clips from level design work
over 2 years ago – Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 10:18:44 PM

Ok, so right now we are in the process of finishing up Dawnthorn. The task that I am engaged with now is level design. I am working on implementing the pool of concepts and enemy encounters planned for the entirety of all dungeon sequences, in one giant level file, as I tune and test different experiences, and potentially shift content from one dungeon to another if it is found to be out of sequence difficulty-wise as designed. 

In the process of doing that, I've also added in planned sequences for a special segment of the game where the player is given the opportunity to increase their base states as a reward for triumphing against a series of very challenging enemy ecounters which each have puzzle-like peculiarities to them.

Around the map in Dawnthorn, you will find a set of altars that may look something like this (although they may be more difficult to reach than they appear to be!):

There are around 30 challenge rooms to complete in these sequences. Here are some examples of candidate rooms I thought you guys might dig:

We might tone down the flashing graphics a bit though, since I could seem them being a bit too much for someone epileptic. The visual style is meant to be dazzling and disorienting in these particular sequences, to add challenge by the way of visual confusion and distraction, but it might all be too much.

We also added simple animated grass and flowers to the entire overworld, which is something I've been meaning to add for a while but never got around to:

We will continue to bring content as we create it (should be plenty this month), and we should have the first alpha build for testing Dawnthorn for the backers as soon as we complete some of the last remaining requistes for putting that out! be sure to watch twitter as well, if you'd like to see a few sequences a week, as we post them!

Dawnthorn Gameflow Map and NPCs
over 2 years ago – Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 12:15:43 AM

Dawnthorn Gameflow Map and NPCs

Ok, as mentioned in the last update a bit ago, there is a large amount of work just concluded on Dawnthorn that we can talk about now. 

Don't even have to blur this one this time, since it is so big that a simple screen cap isn't enough zoom to read any part of it.  So the core structural element in laying out Dawnthorn is the macro game state. There are 10 of these, and they advance everytime a dungeon is completed. Various things in the Dawnthorn world change each time these increment. Each of the NPCs inhabiting the world changes what they say or how they behave each time. You are not simply able to take the dungeon item from each dungeon and skip completing the full dungeons, as you might in the Original level of Zelda, as we've arranged things to account for that.

The flow of the game is controlled by a gating system, where the player gains access to sets of dungeons in either 2's or 3s, but must complete every dungeon in the set before the next set unlocks. This gives us the opportunity to give the player options about what order to tackle the game's various challenges, while also letting us guarantee that they have obtained certain items and upgrades that we can expect them to have and thus integrate into the design of future levels. We've laid out the mechanics of each level, and which mechanics are central to the experience of each. We've determined which enemies are intended for which dungeons, so we can further specialize the stats of those enemies to fit the experience of where they are supposed to be encountered. We've placed the gating for specific powerups in the overworld to become available. We have every single dialogue crafted and placed in the sequence of the gameflow. On the left side, we have a big board that deals with what is available in each shop at each point, and a plan to probably fluctuate prices for each game state, so the player is encouraged to search out the best deals any given moment. 

Over that we have a system integrated into the shops, which actually offers the player a long list of possible "tip" hints about where they might find the many lesser powerups found throughout the overworld, posed in engaging fashion. (there are approximately 60 of these).  Some examples include:

Just north of the Pool of Jellies in the Central Young Wood, something shimmers in the shallows, near the bridge.  

Near the southern shore where the river doglegs, there is a long-dead bush that caught my eye!

Check the stones just south of the 4 sisters of the Swamp of Regret!

As you can see, they are written in such a way as to provide real information, but also to require real thought about how to interpret them, and fit the descriptions to actual features in the world, and I figured this style of hint would be the most engaging as it actively involves the player's thought patterns. 

Beside that we have the information and assets for a couple minigames. 

On the bottom left, we have a map of how the powerups are distributed around the world. We have a target for what basic power level we expect the player to hit at various points in the game. We've laid them out in such a way that you only gradually gain access to them in the world, and of course they are hidden well enough we also assume you will miss most of them even after they become available. This gives us a general idea of your max, minimum, and likely power level. While I am playtesting the game's main sequence, I will play each segment at both the target and minimum levels, in order to get a feel for how rough / fluid the challenge is. 

And here we have the current worldmap corresponding to the flowchart, full of scrawled notes, powerup locations, and schematics. Unfortunately this is probably as good as we can show you, as it is pure spoliers. 

The NPC's themselves are an area I've had a ton of fun with. Above is the full exhaustive set for Dawnthorn. Each NPC has a particular purpose in the world, which they fulfill consistently. Each them has a modeled personality and background, in some cases so developed they are modeled on real world people or fictional characters. There are also themes and patterns that recur across the entire set. 

The seven Soup Sages (Far left) for instance all have their own themes that connect to one of 7 basic flavor-types, with an Italian name connecting to their individual theme. Furthermore, each of them has an established personality and life outlook that connects directly to their flavor-type, so they see the world radically differently and interact with the player in a way that reflects that. Mela (apple-astringency) focuses on witty sarcasm and modern / existential social critiques. Amaro is bitter, but opportunistic, and runs a moonlighting business around his duties. Peperoncina opts for hot-takes. 

A big part of the joy we have crafted for Dawnthorn is simply interacting with each of these NPC's, as they change throughout the story. It's always worth it to speak to any NPC, and to do so often. 

Dawnthorn Titlescreen Animated Intro, with Music
over 2 years ago – Thu, Oct 08, 2020 at 12:58:38 AM

Dawnthorn Titlescreen Animated Intro, with Music

That is all! More coming shortly, but it is sort of tied up in a package it makes more sense to present together!

Let us know what you think of this draft, and any improvements we should make!

Ironing out the full sequence for Hazelnut
over 2 years ago – Fri, Sep 18, 2020 at 02:57:11 PM

Ironing out the full sequence for Hazelnut

Ok, so in the spirit of more frequent updates, some of these are probably going to be some headscratchers, especially given that we can't show this one in particular unblurred, as it is literally a map of every spoiler conceivable all at once. It is so far removed from actual gameplay footage and art, as most people prefer to see, but it's what we've been up to, and it is interesting in its own right, so probably fair to talk about!

What we see here is the sequence planning for all major elements that go into Hazelnut's flow-chart from start to finish. It incorporates all cinematic and cutscene events, all tutorial elements. Each individual dungeon is there, along with what supporting art and assets are associated with them, what mechanics and design concepts factor into the overall design of each, which particular enemies are planned to be featured there, what items and powerups should be placed there. It is presented in this form so we can easily move modules around the full game sequence, as we decide they make more sense to be placed in one particular moment or another. It lets us think about different orders we might feature the items, and how to actually gate progress through the game. 

This system also allows us to pair the major gameplay elements going on in the dungeons with story elements that are happening in parallel. In order for the story to make sense, it is broken into around 100 or so essential encounters the player should have with NPCs, that are needed for understanding the characters and their motivations. We arranged these encounters into a sequence that tells a logical development arc for individual characters, and also gives each particular discrete episode of the story a unified theme told across all of the NPC interactions in that period. There is a complex polyrhythmic effect going on, where each NPC has their own development arc, but those arcs also interweave into one another so they unfold over a series of events involing the whole cast. 

Along with gameplay and narrative elements, the story also has to flow in such a way that is feels natural and engaging for the player to experience; each step in a narrative chain should logically lead to the next, and the way forward should be clear, without the player feeling they are being held by the hand too sharply either. The player also can't feel like they are being forced to simply find the next NPC to advance the plot, but rather that they are performing a set of tasks overwhich the narrative naturally drapes itself. It's a very delicate balance to plan, and will ultimately require some playtesting to ensure that players also experience it all in a naturalistic way. 

Another motivation for developing this map is it also gives us a sense for what assets are remaining to be finished  that fill gap roles we didn't anticipate existing until we arranged the entire sequence, and identified holes.