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:

Information for Backers with NPC and Enemy Contribution Rewards (With some Interesting Internal writeups maybe?)
over 2 years ago – Fri, Aug 21, 2020 at 02:07:31 AM

Been tooooo long...

If you are one of the few people in these tiers, or gained the enemy contribution perk through the art contest, expect to hear from me directly, shortly!

So one element which has contributed to updates slowing right now is that we have been working on some elements of Dawnthorn and Hazelnut which are high in their organizational hierarchies, and have many design dependencies. It is gradually forcing us to pin down some aspects of the design which we delayed finishing because we did not have full agreement on the finalization on, such as closing the item set HB will ultimately have. We put them off until later, but when we revisted them, we found the same level of disagreements about direction, so ultimately needed to make some tough design choices, in order to keep development progressing properly. 

Another aspect is that we don't want to show the high-level planning elements too much, because they are effectively a map of the entire production, and can spoil a lot.

Finally, In interest of full discloure, I've been having some health issues this season which unfortunately saw me down a large number of hours. Thankfully these appear to be clearing up gradually, at least. I am in comparatively much better general health writing this, so that is a big plus!  Thankfully these symptoms are at about 15% of the intensity they were at peak, so thankfully things are more normal again.

Meanwhile Mark and Shannon have kept up work on schedule, advancing their own contributions to Hazelnut and Dawnthorn. 

I am thinking that in the immediate future, we will try smaller updates with singular focal points, to keep the community engaged in development better.

So on to content!


These next writeups are meant primarily to help inform the backers contributing to the asset design in Hazelnut, but since we haven't shown much concrete in a while, and because they may be interesting in their own right, we have them here as an update too, for those interested!

Please forgive the wide formatting! The UI for KS doesn't really gel with this kind of document, hehe.

HB basic enemy character guidelines:

The enemy characters of Hazelnut are divided primarily into dungeon and overworld sets. These sets overlap slightly in some special cases, but for the most part, they are pretty separate.

The basic theory we are working with in Hazelnut is primarily to arrive at complexity by assembling it from simple elements. The enemies are all kept limited in their scope, having only a few major traits, and a few hidden characteristics. They are distinguished by their movement patterns, their speed, the degree and method to which they home to the player's location, their method of attack, the patterns of their projectiles, the damage they deal, their health pool, the degree to which particular items attack vulnerabilities they have, the degree to which they resist certain items, how they synergize with certain kinds of environments, and how they stack with other enemy types which particularly compliment them.

In order to properly integrate into our system, enemies should fill out roughly 1 tile visually, as they all navigate by single tile colliders. 

Right now we have close to enough dungeon enemies, but our overworld could probably use a few more slots filled.

Try to get a sense of what sorts of behaviors and complexity we are targeting with these guys, as well as something distinct from the roles already filled. We are especially filling out enemies now which have unusual special traits, rather than common, basic enemies. 

Also, try to keep scope in mind! There is a certain window of complexties we are targeting with these! Something we ran into with working with the backer enemies for Dawnthorn is that most of the responses we got were either far too basic, or far too complex; a couple users wanted to design what was effectively a miniboss, or something that would be the most complex enemy in the entire series by a factor of 5, or that several dungeons would be built entirely around. Try to get a sense that everything in the title has to work harmoniously.

The general art direction of most of the enemies so far has been insect-based, plant-based, mechanical, and referencing common genre tropes lovingly. Several of them are armored. Some of them are based on real animals, combinations of animals, or fantasy creatures. There are no human enemies, although a couple are roughly humanioid.

In addition, it is probably worth reviewing out current Item list, since the enemies are meant to heavily synergize with these to the greatest extent possible:

  •  Manifestor: Spawns a block in the environment, which can deflect lasers, serve as a node for connecting electrical arcs, block enemies, plug passages, cuttoff the flow of fluids, and more.
  •  Glider Ability: Allows the heroine to use her outer garment to glide on the wind, dropping down hills cliffs, catching upward drafts from air grates, and currents from fans. 
  •  Crossbow: A simple projectile attack, which may be modified to fire 3 bolt quills as well. We are looking at possibly integrating a strafe feature into the crossbow as well, but not decided.
  •  Spear: A tool which emits a short range projectile of force, which does low damage, but heavy knockback and push. We may also possibly give it another use, but not decided. 
  •  Shield: Allows the player to absorb frontal contact damage and most projectiles. Also allows for a strafing ability.
  •  Flash: An upgrade to the sword, which allows the player to instantly cross gaps, get out of tight spots in combat, and phase over enemies to attack them.
  •  Dig form (otter): An item currently being integrated which allows the player to burrow under the ground, find new paths, collapse objects on unsteady ground, and perhaps attack enemies from below while surfacing
  •  Whip: An item which we have played with off and on, and will possibly use. One potential use may be integrating with the electrical arc system as a starting point.
  •  Firerod: An item which emits an oscillating pattern of flames, covering a wide area with a crowd-controlling attack. Also currently has another use for revealing hidden objects / passages.
  •  Bubbler: An item which emits a bubble into the environment; this bubble may be used to entrap enemies as a stun, to retrieve items, and even for the player to enter and use as weak shield, or a passage across some fluids.
  •  Splitter: Emits two dualistic, inert projectiles by splitting energy into is consituent parts; they bounce around independently, and can be recombined at a second touch, causing them to violently travel in a line toward one another, damaging enemies and activating buttons and nodes as they go.
  •  Swap: Allows the player to swap positions with enemies and some objects. May possibly be given a projectile attack on arrival. 
  •  Diving form (otter): The other major use of the otter form, which may be used to traverse a multi-tiered space underwater. 
  •  Bombs: Various kinds of plantable explosives with different effects.

A proper idea would look something like this:

  •  Name: Acros (Derivation, Greek for "high") [We used a lot of Latin / Greek / French / Italian derivations, as well as portmenaeus from English for names]
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Drops from the ceiling and attempts to grip the player; if it misses, it charges quickly at the player, before returning high again; produces a shadow on the ground that grows as a telegraph.
  •  Art concept ideas: A mechanized spider (Sonic 2 much?); a falling jelly; an inverted plant bulb
  •  Special traits: Has a special weakness to falling on a bomb (a tired example, I know), otherwise takes many hits
  •  Notes: Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Lore Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And ClarifcationsExplanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations Explanations And Clarifcations  ....

Sketches of a look, or reference images also help if you'd like to supply these!

From top left to bottom right, row by row:

  •  Name: Sporeman
  •  Location: Overworld, central regions
  •  Attack: Projects an expanding cloud of spores in a ring, may possibly give status debuffs
  •  Special traits: Relatively slow moving, low homing, may be vulnerable to flamerod
  •  Notes: Has other forms in Dawnthorn, which may possibly inform HB, such as a form which runs in short burts, then rests

  •  Name: Stag
  •  Location: Overworld, long narrow passages
  •  Attack: Charges directly at the player, and stops after the player leaves their line of sight, but on a delay; the delay gives them an opportunity to strike a wall, at which point they stop and reveal their weakpoint
  •  Special traits: May possibly be fully armored, and only weak when stopped, but not yet determined; synergizes particularly well with the manifestor block, since it gives the player more control to trigger the stunned state; may synergize particularly well with the flash move, to catch it in a charge

  •  Name: Froddish [Frogg-raddish]
  •  Location: Overworld, central regions, somewhat open to constricted spaces, which make it more dangerous
  •  Attack: Stops and does a quick tongue attack
  •  Special traits: In order to have lots of opportunities to attack the player, the homing pursuit trait is relatively high

  •  Name: Dervish [Spinning Dervish clerics]
  •  Location: Overworld swamps, and select dungeons, open spaces
  •  Attack: Has two states, one low intensity where it walks slowly, with low homing, and one where it rapidly whips its legs around in a spiral, presenting a very high hazard
  •  Special traits: This enemy is particularly important to face with projectiles; may possibly be weaker to crossbow

  •  Name: Bulb Mother
  •  Location: Overworld, forest, Swamp, select dungeons, open spaces with lots of places to avoid player
  •  Attack: Continually produces a number of smaller enemies; the max number of smaller enemies is the number of existing bulb mothers times a constant
  •  Special traits: Relatively easy to dispatch flier, but produces so many seedling fliers that it can be difficult to isolate and approach

  •  Name: Seedling
  •  Location: Overworld, forest, Swamp, select dungeons, accompanies bulb mother in most cases, but can be isolated
  •  Attack: Contact
  •  Special traits: Generally many in number, favors area-projecting weapons, such as crossbow mod and flamerod

  •  Name:  Wall Naga [Sanskrit: Snake]
  •  Location: Not yet integrated into HB, but would be used in dungeons
  •  Attack: Appears as a face on a wall, and then charges at player, disappearing into the object it strikes
  •  Special traits: Hard to isolate because the player can't fully control it, may cause panic in large numbers; Notes: This enemy has challenges to implement relating to perspective, and may end up being deprecated design

  •  Name: Chiro [Greek: hand, which is a word associated with bats]
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Contact
  •  Special traits: A basic saturation enemy to provide a simple threat, few if any special characteristics

  •  Name: Adipose [French: weight, mass, fat]
  •  Location: Overworld Swamp ruin regions, dungeons
  •  Attack: Alternates jumping and firing projectiles, 2 each time in opposite directions, and alternating up-down and left-right
  •  Special traits: May appear in large numbers, but be resistant to the bombs

  •  Name: Ofal [Waste, castoffs]
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Like the adipose, but 4 way projectiles every time
  •  Special traits: May appear in large numbers, but be resistant to the bombs; saturates the air with projectiles considerably

  •  Name: Chitin [Arthropod armor substance]
  •  Location: Dungeons, open rooms
  •  Attack: Pauses, and then moves several times at once; projects a circle of risk around it
  •  Special traits: Since its movement is so unpredictable; takes pressure off of ranged support enemies with its area control

  •  Name: Carpace [Upper armor segment]
  •  Location: Dungeons, open rooms, narrow passages
  •  Attack: Same behavior as Chitin, but moves a very large number of tiles at once; commanding most of the screen at once
  •  Special traits: Can hit the player from nearly anywhere on screen in a very short time, so requires very special attention, unless obstructed by blocks or level geometry

  •  Name: Necrophaser
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Moves about at random, then telegraphs an attack where it projects a double, then quickly flies there
  •  Special traits: May possibly have a number of resistances, including projectiles, or require a special attack like the flash to harm

  •  Name: Monova [Single explosion (one eye)]
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Low homing, when aligned with the player, begins charging up, then fires high damage laser instantly
  •  Special traits: Laser can be deflected with manifestor blocks, for various purposes; may possibly synergize with the Swap as well, since the player could transport the monova while it is active, to a new location

  •  Name: Death Lens
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Much stronger variant of the normal laser, faster to fire possibly 
  •  Special traits: An ultra dangerous enemy which must be given high attenion in any room it appears

  •  Name: Shock Jelly 
  •  Location: Water tracts in the overworld, Dungeons
  •  Attack: Charges up electrical attack, and then fires 4 projectiles diagonally, very low homing
  •  Special traits: Can't be attacked with the sword while it is charging up (shocks the player)

  •  Name: Man of War [A common jellyfish]
  •  Location: Water tracts in the overworld, Dungeons
  •  Attack: Similar to the shock jelly, but instead fires an orthoganal stream of projectiles in 4 directions
  •  Special traits: Can't be attacked with the sword while it is charging up (shocks the player) 

  •  Name: Slow slug 
  •  Location: Dungeons 
  •  Attack: Deploys a trail of debuff particles behind it
  •  Special traits: Turns very infrequently

  •  Name: Queen 
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Drops egg projectiles, which explode and release bomb projectiles
  •  Special traits: has frontal armor

  •  Name: Flame snail
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Deploys a flame trail of damage particles behind it
  •  Special traits: Moves incredibly quickly, turns infrequently

  •  Name: Frobbit [Frog-rabbit]
  •  Location: overworld, dungeons, open spaces and mazes
  •  Attack: fires simple projectiles, has low homing trait
  •  Special traits: Basic populating enemy with not many features; immune to fire. 

  •  Name: Flammit [Flame-rabbit]
  •  Location: Lategame overworld, Dungeons
  •  Attack: Projects a stream of fire, with expanding ends 
  •  Special traits: Immune to fire 

  •  Name:Armored frobbit  
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Similar to frobbit, but faster, more aggressive attack, higher homing
  •  Special traits: Can only be attacked from behind, making it particularly tricky in combination with its other traits; synergizes well with the swapper, since the player can't easily harm the armored frobbit when they are facing one another directly in a line, but faces a big thread from the fireballs; immune to fire. 

  •  Name: Energy Well
  •  Location: later dungeons
  •  Attack: Absorbes the player, and transports her to another determined location in the dungeon
  •  Special traits: invulnerable 

  •  Name: Vespa [Italian, Wasp]
  •  Location: Overworld forest, Dungeons
  •  Attack: On gaining line of sight with the player, charges and fires a stream of fast projectiles
  •  Special traits: Can be hatched from eggs; may synergize well with attacks that are indirect, like bombs, diagonal crossbow modifier shots, recombined splitter shots

  •  Name: Stigma [Plant organ, negative second definition in English]
  •  Location: Overworld, Dungeons
  •  Attack: Fires A poisoning projectile with splash effect at the player's location at time of telegraph
  •  Special traits: Poisons player and requires an item to clear 

  •  Name: Pistil [Plant organ, sounds like "Pistol" too]
  •  Location: Overworld, Dungeons
  •  Attack: Fires a projectile at the player's location at time of telegraph
  •  Special traits: Pretty basic support enemy without many other traits; since they can fire out of sync though, too many can create an onslaught of aimed projectiles that get hard to avoid and respond to

  •  Name: Armored Stag [Stag beetle]
  •  Location: Dungeon
  •  Attack: A Variant of the stag with frontal armor
  •  Special traits: Deflects the player backward if they contact armor with sword; synergizes with the spear weapon

  •  Name: Mudmaw
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Contact
  •  Special traits: A basic filler enemy to populate spaces

  •  Name: Doldrum [Sluggish listlessness]
  •  Location: Dungeon
  •  Attack: Contact
  •  Special traits: A basic filler enemy to populate spaces

  •  Name: Lancer
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Charges at the player if sightline gained, at VERY high speed
  •  Special traits: Can hatch from eggs; may synergize particular well with the flash move, to catch it in a charge

  •  Name: Fly
  •  Location: Dungeons
  •  Attack: Contact
  •  Special traits: Can hatch from eggs

Enemies which are planned but currently missing from the cast:

  • Around 8-12 enemies which fill out the rest of the overworld slots, especially enemies with very peculiar properties or niche uses
  • An enemy which surfaces from the ground, to indicate places where the player may use the burrow ability
  • A couple more invulnerable hazard enemies which synergize well with being captured by the bubble
  • An enemy which has a special weakness to the splitter recombination effect
  • More enemies which synergize well with the Swapper usage
  • An enemy with a special weakness to electricity
  • An enemy with a special weakness to being surfaced under with the burrow ability
  • A couple enemies which make parciularly good sense in the underwater diving setting

Backer NPC character guidelines:

The greater world setting is a parallel-history-version of European culture from the late 1600's through mid 1800s. Clothing and mannerisms reflect a collection of references from this period.

The greater culture from which the cast of Hazelnut comes from is a mixture of buccolic country-living with elements of light steam-punk influence. Think idylic villages full of linen- shirted townspeople, dirigibles, a warring empire. Most of this never actually gets explored, because it is beyond the scope of the game's story, but it is in the background, informing how the character's are written and what their backstories are like.  

The majority of the characters reflect a Flemmish-pastoral kind of sensibility, although there is room for a fair bit of variation too. One of the characters has a more Dickensian kind of background, for instance.

Everyone on the large island where Hazelnut takes place is an expatriot from some other distant place. The group is a collection of people seeking to start over with new people in a new situation. Often they have run away from something, or are recoving form some kind of loss, escaping some form of shame or loss of face, or have been discarded by society at large. Most of them represent some form of social issue. The society they've built there is relatively isolated and rustic, but does have contact with the outside world occasionally. 

Each of the NPCs in Hazelnut has a development arc, small or large. They go through some process of overcoming some kind of adversity, or personal failing, or growing through a past trauma. The heroine serves as a catalyst to help each of them move on to the next stage of their lives. 

A good character idea would have:

  • A background story, that explains who they are, how they came to be there, and what sort of personality traits they might have
  • An Intended social issue meant to be explored through an arc
  • A written description of how they should look, and what visual traits to focus on
  • Some reference images for explaining the visuals of their design
  • What sort of adventures or quest material they might be getting up to, or involve the player in

If you are one of the few people in these tiers, or gained the enemy contribution perk through the art contest, expect to hear from me directly, shortly!

A look at some of the piecemeal elements of Hazelnut in mid-prototyping
almost 3 years ago – Wed, May 20, 2020 at 01:25:44 AM

Hey everyone! It looks like update time is overdue again!

I personally lost a bit of time this season, due to some unusual expenses and moderate difficulties (partially indirectly facilitated by our Covid friend) that sort of all came at once in a stack. I had enough saved to take care of it, but things are slower for a bit as a result. This season, someone vandalized our water system in a big way, there was a major vehicle-related expense (transmission replacement!), I had a health issue that took some specialist care, and due to economic disruptions, the other person with income in our household had their job suspended. For a while, I needed to put in some hours with commissions work to cover the extra expense and lost household income, but things are stable, and I am just about returning to normal working hours for our projects again. 

While art and design has been much slower as a reult during this time, we still have stuff to show for general work on Hazelnut: a number of smaller concepts or refinements or prototype explorations or code systems. Mark still has strong hours available, and is working to fill in later tasks to make the best use of his time. In addition, Shannon is also completing work for the remainder of the Dawnthorn soundtrack. She is now armed with the complete specifications and reference manual for the full OST, and is making progress toward finishing it, afterwhich she will switch to finishing the Hazelnut OST.

I have also been doing a lot of artwork for hazelnut, refining and reworking some tilesets, as well as character art, but I am sort of reluctant to show these just yet because they are not quite production assets yet.

Hazelnut Prototyping

Ok, so keep in mind these have NOT had art passes. They don't represent final looks. They contain some rendering errors we overlook while doing pure code work. Usually Mark just adopts existing art frames to depict concepts (and truth be told, maybe better than most programmer-art turns out, hehe). 

A lot of these concepts will not even make it in to the game, but are being experimented with. They are tools for us to explore things via gameplay, and see how well they integrate. Prototyping tends to be an important step in game development, because concepts onften sound much better on paper, but simulating them reveals hidden issues or unexpected interactions and conflicts with other game mechanics.

Swimming! (?)

This is sort of a funny one, because design decisions we have made for Hazelnut sort of seem to be precluding swimming as a design element we should use. We have three levels of water in hazelnut / Dawnthorn... shallow pools the player can walk across, mid-depth water the player can traverse with specialized boots, and deep water which the player can't swim in, but may use the bubble and flash items to cross. This distinction also allows us to use deep water as a framing collision element, which otherwise might create a conflict with another element we have, the gliding descent animation the player does while using her outer garment as a parachute. If the player were able to swim in deep water, we'd probably need to look at how to keep them contained with new elements. 

But here it is, so we can look at both possibilities! 

Water levels real-time change

Back in the the demo dungeon, we had a mechanic where the player could in one step lower the water level in the dungeon, and reveal new pathways. For time and complexity reasons, we didn't actually depict the water levels transitioning, but instead suggested the change via audio while the player was elsewhere. Mark decided it was time to make a shader and animation system to depict the change in real time, and it is pretty neat! Again, not finished, but it looks great so far!

It is intended to be a central puzzle element in one dungeon, and used in conjunction with other new mechanics we haven't shown yet.

Garment gliding additional uses

So during the demo, we added the design element of the heroine using her outer cover as an impromptu parachute, to facilitate the use of a cliff-jumping mechanic; the purpose of this mechanic is to provide a one-way gate to level design, which is a useful element for allowing the player to navigate some sequences with less backtracking:

A new idea for how this may be expanded, is updraft grates. This may also be further expanded into a controllable descent in some cases, but still being thought about:

Mark has also thought about using it as an element to build navigation puzzles involving fans, which may also share influence over the player in various ways:


Shield changes, strafe

So the current functionality of the shield is that the player uses it via a button hold, and while using it they are planted, but can swivel directions. The shield protects against most projectiles, and it provides them safety from contact damage for enemies they are facing, as long as they are not pressed against a wall. Mark looked at two different ways in which this can function differently. 

The first is a shield-strafe, where when blocking the player locks their facing to one direction, but they are mobile. The benfefits of this system is that the player can move while choosing which threats to face, and can move in a different direction to the one they are guarding against. It is possible that if we adopted this pattern, we could also use something like it for other items, but still being thought about.

An additional way which it could work is similar to the Oracle of Ages / Seasons games, where the player re-guards to whatever direction they are moving:

Running in place

This is another one where I am not sure if it is the right move or not, but it is one way to handle something. Right now, we do the flash-move via either sword-stabbing while running, or while charging up a spin then stabbing instead. An alternate way to handle it would be to have the player run in place while not moving (currently she runs like an unstoppable train the player has to give a direction), and then she could transition into the flash from this state (excuse the choppiness of the environment here):

Splitter recombination

Right now the splitter in Dawnthorn behaves as we expect will be its final form in that game. The player creates two projectiles by, from a lore explanation standpoint, splitting energy into is pure dualistic, opposite components. Each one does diagonal bouncing, and immediate contact damage. The currently splitter concept we have for Hazelnut is instead for each of the two energy orbs to bounce around the environment, but to otherwise be inert. They will only cause damage when the player releases the suspension, and they violently recombine, no matter where they are (this means angles of all kinds are possible if the player gets the right bounces). This concept of the item is intended to be both a special combat item for niche situations, and a puzzle element. 

Another concept we've tried, but I am guessing will not materialize is a splitter variant that follows walls:

Giant fire bombs

Because why not? 

They are one possible uncommon bomb variation that may result from the crafting tree in Hazelnut:

Colored signal pathways and / or logic gates

Another concept which we've had for a while, but haven't prototyped yet was an idea seen in this screen concept:

The idea there was single binary signals which interacted with logic gates (AND / OR / XOR / NOR/ NOT, etc). These gates would span entire sections of the dungeon and multiple rooms, and cause various things to happen in the dungeon in response. We decided that the concept of logic gates might be too complex to convey to the player in digestable visuals steps, so instead Mark thought about a similar system which would use multiple colored signals which can interact (with a visual distinction for color-blind folks):

And of course it is a simple element, but complexity quickly grows when we add some of our other many puzzle elements in combination. 

Music progress

As mentioned above, Shannon now has the complete design document for the entire Dawnthorn OST, with all of the remaining information she should need to complete every remaining track. Here is a sample track she tossed our way a bit earlier, to get a feel for Dawnthorn's title track:

We hope you like it as much as we do!

Hiroki Kikuta on the other hand has completed 4 of the 5 tracks commissioned for Hazelnut, but we are still working out what to ask for, for his final track! We had definite targets for the first four, but the final track is something we are still considering! Feel free to offer suggestions of where you'd like to see him contribute his final work! So far we've had the most ease and best results when asking for work which has strong connections to his tracks for the Mana series. 

Next update

This update was admittedly pieacemeal- I generally like to build some media which we can assmble into a strong narrative with a greater thread through it, and hold off on updates until either an obvious thread presents itself, or we have something important to announce or distribute. The next update should be coming shortly though, and deal more with announcements and promised content; this guy was more of a "hey... we really ought to show something at this point", hehe. Let us know what your reflections on these prototypes and design thoughts are!

Dawnthorn is still looking like it should be finished late this year, despite the delays, btw. Hazelnut is of course expected late next year at the very earliest, at this point. 

I hope everyone is doing well through the tough situation the world found itself in as of late. We've lost some people in our circle, and I am sure many of you have as well. But regardless, we will continue bringing you content at the fastest rate we are sustainably able! 

Be safe and well, everyone!

Content Update for HB and DT
about 3 years ago – Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 01:05:46 AM

Hey everyone! Finally publishing another update again today. I tend to have a list of things I intend to place in each update, and end up waiting a bit overlong to give the update if they get delayed. Apologies for the wait!


Ok, some great things on this front. 

Hiroki Kikuta finished track 3 a while back, and we've been sitting on it. It is a complex composition that gracefully describes a varied mixture of concepts and emotions at once, which is appropriate for the part of the story it fits into, which is -redacted spoiler-

We also recently got an update on track 4, which was originally intended to be a core theme for the overworld. It sort of developed its own character over the two versions, and now it feels like it may be better to use this particular track as a regional theme for a certain overworld location. 

We have the two tracks paired with gameplay B-roll. Note that the first scene is quite old, so while the tileset is an actual location intended to be in the final game, the mechanics and animations and such are years old at this point; the second scene is from the KS demo, and is more up to date.

For Dawnthorn, Shannon has two tracks to present.

We gave a sample of the continue theme for DT awhile ago, and Shannon recently sent us a finished version that we spoke back and forth a bit about. Shannon has also made the artistic choice to work by the hardware constraints of the NES system to give the Dawnthorn OST an extra layer of authenticity, by working within Famitracker. It is adding a bit of work for her, but the results are lovely. The latest iteration of the continue theme feels really special, so it felt appropriate to share it now:

We also have a new version of the dungeon track to share, now more or less complete and properly looped:

Steam Page for Dawnthorn

We are also happy to present the steam page for Dawnthorn, which is freshly up! If you want to do something that helps us a fair deal, hit the "wishlist" button, as that helps Steam recognize the page has interest, and Steam will show it to other users later. We are also going to be using Steam to publish our first alpha builds, so that was an important step for setting that system up.

Dawnthorn Systems work

Something which took up A LOT of time (a lot more than predicted) was writing the full dialogue tree for Dawnthorn, and designing the map of triggers and variables which stitches it all together and lets the game know what to say and do when. I had a lot of fun writing these parts, and I think the story has a lot of quirky character. It ended up with some interesting post-modern and deconstructivist elements, and a running thread about standards of proof, and how to act on insufficient knowledge and data, as well as some one-liner zingers that people of all ages and diverse backgrounds can reflect on. 

It wasn't too bad actually implementing this system, as we laid the groundwork for it when constructing the engine for HB, but populating it with content and mapping it all took time. It still isn't fully done. 

Everything is handled in a nifty node-editor system which Mark made within Unity, which streamlines the process. Here is an example of how an NPC is mapped out, and then encoded into the game engine:

Dawnthorn Scenes

Something else which I've spent a good chunk of time working on recently is tuning the Dawnthorn overworld for the roughly 10 states of player progress through the character development tree, since the entire overworld (along with the NPC dialogue system I just mentioned) will be in the first alpha build.

Rather than pontificating about that, here are some scenes from that process, to give things a bit of color:

What is next for Hazelnut?

Ok, so this is the obvious elephant on the update page. We honestly need to start showing more of the art and gamplay progress for Hazelnut soon, rather than simply the music tracks. Actually implementing Dawnthorn has taken a bit longer than projected, alongside the expected-unexpected episodes or setbacks to deal with here and there, so that is why the last updates have focused a lot more heavily on the work we have to show on that front. I have been quietly working on character and tileset art updates for Hazelnut in the background while I do this stuff, and that will probably be the next thing we see for HB. Since Kikuta-San is nearing being finished with his work, Shannon will have all the material she needs to start working on her own contributions for the Hazelnut OST- that is something else exciting to look forward to. I'd also like to start working on the backer content for Hazelnut soon; I know I've said that before... starting to sound like a broken record lol,  but I am nervous about taking on too much more at once and getting spread even more thinly. I seem to produce the best work when I focus on only a couple elements at once and put full energy and intent into them.  

Btw, if you backed at the 1000 USD or higher tier, we are also offering the chance for those backers to design a Dawnthorn enemey with us. A few of the users at that level have of course taken us up on that offer, but a couple of those backers still haven't gotten back to us about that yet. If you are one of those folks, be sure to get to us soon so we can get your ideas into DT! 

As always, let us know what your feedback for all of this content is, and any concerns you may have!

Halloween Update: Second Blood
over 3 years ago – Fri, Nov 01, 2019 at 02:19:37 AM

Ok another one a bit late in coming, but at least it is packed with various, oddly timely goodies!

Music update

Ok, our second Track from Hiroki Kikuta:

This one was a bit tricky to get right, as it is outside of Kikuta-San's typical sort of inclinations, and it is pretty crucial to the work, but we arrived at a pretty good result after some iterating! The base motif (the recognizable, singable melody) is planned to be written into a host of variations for each of the many dungeon tracks to come! As a bonus, you get to watch me forget how to play our own game! 


Backer-Submitted enemy concepts for Dawnthorn

This one is half-enemy, half puzzle element! An animating gargoyle statue that drops down on the player's head wall-master style, pauses for a moment, then resumes flight; several variants create different effects upon landing, some more dangerous than others, and the enemy also synergizes well with the spear-item's push ability while in paused statue form!

These are definitely Halloween bunnies, and not easter bunnies! We'll let you find out why later!

This next one is still a little rough (in a process stage with Mark the Programmer), but we are calling him the "Fortune Goblin"!

There are still three people who have the right to help us design a Dawnthorn enemy (in addition to their Hazelnut one), so if you are such a person, and don't see your idea represented here, get back to us soon by message or email! 

Level Design Progress

So the entire overworld for Dawnthorn is mostly "done"tm, and has all of its animations, collisions, enemy placements, and interior and warps in place. We are still implementing the NPC system though, and tuning the enemy variables. It is a bit tricky to properly plan, since Dawnthorn, like Hazelnut is a game where you experience the same world at a host of radically different power levels as a character controller, and each has to make sense, and appropriately challenge the player, while giving some meta-hints, such as enemy intensities to suggest where the player ought to be exploring at any given moment. 

I hope to have a livestream up at some point in the future, featuring some of the tuning work on the overworld, which can also serve as a live QA. It should be a fun event. We will mention it in a future update when we have a date!

Here are a couple twitter excerpts from the beginning of that process:


Design a Collectible Tier

We are finally nearing the time when we are going to ask for backer responses for those who supported us at this tier! Stay tuned, because we will probably lay out the process of how to approach it and contact us in the next update!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

A small update to break the silence!
over 3 years ago – Thu, Aug 08, 2019 at 02:33:00 AM

Hey everyone! We've been working on a host of things around the projects, and have sort of had our heads down, but I looked at the last update, and saw it was months ago. We've been planning on having a bigger update for a while, and had a list of things meant to be on it; but too much time has passed, and we do have most of those things to present, so I can show you a few now, and some more just a bit later!

Soundtrack Work

We've been working with Kikuta-San on two tracks so far: The Boss track, and the Dungeon track for Hazelnut Bastille. 

The Boss track is just about done. We don't have the final-final version, but here is one that is very close to final, dropped into the scene from the demo with the crab boss for context:

The Dungeon track is still being worked on. There has been one version so far, but we are targeting a certain sound and structure for that that I think it is critical for us to hit. We should have that one to share shortly as well!

Shannon is still working on a few things (juggling a couple major projects), but in the meantime, we can share a little sketch she made for the Dawnthorn Continue Sequence at least:


Dawnthorn Title Screen Art

I spent a bit of time working on a new title screen concept for Dawnthorn, as a prerequisite to loading Dawnthorn Builds to steam for Alpha-backers (you need a pretty robust art package to build a page). I think it turned out fairly well so far, let me know how you guys like it:

Here is the older one, for comparison:

And finally, some stuff that is sort of neat, that we didn't plan to share, but here it is because we need stuff to pad this overdue update out!

A cute little look at the animation for the world warp system in Dawnthorn, 100% out of context (which makes everything funnier):

Some newer overworld enemies, again totally out of context in a dungeon test room, hehe:

The Current inventory as it appears in late game DT, with a full map: 

The Current world map as it appears ingame:


We've been doing some work toward bringing the current work into the Switch platform, now that we have access to the devkits, and all of that is going well enough. One of our studio mates even took a past game we made for a jam and brought it quickly onto the Switch platform, to test the waters, and it actually went off pretty well without a hitch.

Tax season went very well for us, so our time spent panicing and switching accountants in February really paid off. Big Thanks to Alec Breeding and co.! 

We are in a place with Dawnthorn where I think we will be able to share content videos somewhat more frequently, so look forward to lots of those! 

And of course, the upcoming Alpha sessions for DT are on the radar!