Spring Cleaning Update: Focusing on Narrative

Hi all—the past few months have been chaotic to say the least. [For posterity’s sake, we are in a global pandemic!]

But for the Boreal Games team, the abrupt change in routine has given us pause. To put it simply, we’ve been able to take stock and finesse some higher-level issues after focusing on development details for so long.

Since we pivoted to a single-player from a multiplayer format last year, many aspects of development became simpler. On the other hand, world-building needed to become far more emphasized. We realized lately that in our change of focus, we had built something that functioned well without feeling finished or immersive. And after some recent reflection, we’ve made progress on ensuring that the game feels as fun as it is smooth to play.

In this update, we are sharing the first glimpses of the storytelling overhaul we are giving Crystal Companies. We hope this work will culminate in a playable version that we can be proud to show you! Until then, here’s a glimpse into the path we’re taking toward a more story-driven final product.

Who, what, where, when

The idea behind Crystal Companies has always been simple: You lead a prospecting company in a crystal-rich frontier, and competition with other crystal companies ensues. In the multiplayer version of CrysCo, each game instance consisted of a procedurally generated arena where you would battle an opponent in a turn-based fashion.

The single-player version of Crystal Companies, however, lost the competitive novelty associated with a human opponent. This made the abstractions more obvious and the game instances more repetitive. The goal of adding procedural, rogue-like expeditions was to restore replayability through a new means. Item management, overworld route planning, and progressive randomized deck-building were introduced to complement the new expeditions mode. The environment and random events also were new focal points. The new challenge, though, was making sense of this rebuilt world. We needed to answer some basic questions explicitly to make the world feel real.

Who

First off, we decided who the player is: A new arrival to the frontier; naive and with few resources. It turns out, the frontier is past its prime; the news of great fortunes being made there are overblown. You can’t afford to leave, so you are offered a contract position as an imperial courier. From there, you work your way up to running a full-fledged company—if you (quite literally) play your cards right, that is.

What

You begin by essentially running errands for other, more established frontiersman, which as a term is a bit of a misnomer considering more than a few women have established successful crystal companies. You traverse various environments in your wagon, with few companions, to carry news and crystal between encampments and forts. Along the way, you may even gather some crystal for yourself, not to mention alliances that will help you grow your company.

Where

The frontier is a vast place. No two regions within it are exactly alike. The variety of environments is amplified by the fact that crystal itself is an energized material. As crystal is dug up and moved around, the landscape becomes more volatile. Natural disasters and even supernatural phenomena increase as crystal is unearthed. In addition to natural disturbances caused by crystal mining, there are political fights over access to land and the resources bubbling to the surface.

When

Time is a relative concept in the real world; it’s arbitrary in an imagined one. But one big change the in-game storytelling underwent was changing where the named characters—the captains—were in their timelines. Instead of imagining them as at the beginning of their journeys, we put the player there. The captain characters are now in the mid-stages of their development. Not only are they more useful to the story that way, they can also act as mentors to the player as they progress in their quest.

All of that to say…

We are re-imagining every touch point the player has in order to instill storytelling throughout. UI/UX is the main area of change so far. Here is a first look at what we are creating:

Newspaper-inspired UI will enable players to gain context for gameplay within a framework that also serves to advance the game’s narrative.
We’ve mocked up a series of examples, like these, and we expect to integrate this content systematically with in-game scenarios and situations.

Essentially, players will become keyed into current events through a newspaper-like interface. New missions and items can be found within the pages of periodicals, as well as additional context for the events that occur over the course of your expeditions. Paying attention to the news will pay dividends as players plan their expeditions.

On the Horizon

While we are farther away from releasing Crystal Companies than we’d hoped to be at this point, we are excited to be able to share what we feel is an exciting prelude to a promising version of the game. We are currently commissioning some new art in addition to firming up the storytelling elements of the game. We are looking forward to sharing new developments with you soon!

First Look at Expeditions

This is a preview of the new Expeditions mode of Crystal Companies.

Expeditions is a single-player mode where players embark on procedurally generated missions, dynamically build decks, and navigate hex-based tactical environments, all in an effort to build a successful crystal company.

Expeditions have been in development for a couple of months now—here are a few glimpses at progress so far!

Deck Selection, Overworld & Encounters

The framework for beginning an expedition is now in place 🙌 We are still ironing out some of the visuals, but the basic format of each expedition is as follows:

  1. Players select a captain, which is associated with a semi-randomized deck. Contracts (cards) can also be acquired or sold over the course of the expedition.
  2. An overworld scene with a series of nodes is generated procedurally.
  3. Each encounter has specific win conditions and optional challenges, with the goal being to end the expedition with lots of crystal.

Going Deeper: Items, Agents, and Economic Strategies

Expeditions will bring a slew of new additions—dynamic deck building, new UI, and contract simplification, to name a few. Here are some of the things we’re working on now.

Items

Items, like potions and equipment, have always existed in Crystal Companies as contracts, but in Expeditions, they will have a more distinct function in addition to their traditional role as cards in the deck.

With the addition of an inventory, items can be collected during an expedition and accessed on demand rather than exclusively in the form of drawn cards.

Agents

Players begin each tactical encounter with any agents they control appearing near their wagon or command post. Agents can be movable units or take the form of stationary support operations, which existed in previous versions of CrysCo.

Agents are also special in that they persist from battle to battle—as long as you retain them in your inventory. Agents, like items, can be found, bought, exchanged, and lost. Agents are unique in that they can be upgraded at forts.

Economic Strategy

The monetary importance of items and agents will also play a role in the overall strategy—or “meta strategy,” if you will—of Crystal Companies.

Not only will players have to balance their deck composition with the mission at hand, they will also have to maintain a healthy, sustainable company over the long haul by managing their supplies.

On the Horizon

Thank you for joining us on this leg of the journey! We look forward to sharing a more polished (and playable!) version of Expeditions mode soon. 🙏 Join our Discord server to be among the first to access this new version of CrysCo!

The Creppy/Spoopy Monthly Update

Hello all, and welcome to the October Crystal Companies monthly update. Since our last post, we have implemented a slew of sweet upgrades into the game. If you haven’t yet, join our Discord channel so you can get your very own alpha Steam key! Find the scary-good update details (if I do say so myself) below.

🎃 👻 🍬

Marketplace, Investments, and Main Menu Screen

There have been a few major substantive changes to the user interfaces of the game that also happen to be cosmetically and experientially noticeable as well.

First off, the marketplace and investment windows have been removed, and their functionality (or at least the parts deemed to be relevant) have been rolled into interactions within the environment itself. Now when you claim build sites, you receive certain universal upgrades specific to the structures you build.

Second, the main menu screen received an interesting overhaul–now, instead of a 2D menu, there is a 3D scene that makes navigation more intuitive (we hope!).

An image of Crystal Companies' 3D main menu screen

(Try it out for yourself–get a Steam key here.)

Hand UI

Will made several major upgrades to the hand UI, making it smoother and more functional overall. This short video demonstrates these changes:

New Standard Maps

The cat’s out of the bag: in addition to the procedurally generated “unknown” (random) map feature that was added recently, there are now also a number of new standard maps.

Not only that, but some of these maps include entirely new interactable units like boats, and bears, and boars (oh my!).

On the Horizon

We hope you will be our guests and test out some of the big changes coming to Crystal Companies over the next few months. Lately we’ve added a new stream to our Twitch schedule (http://twitch.tv/crystalcompanies), played a bunch of community matches (more to come), and been to some really fun local events (also more to come). As always, check out our Twitter for intermittent updates (and Discord of course). Have a creppy/spoopy month!

 

Things Fall into Place

It’s not quite fall, but things are coming together nicely as summer concludes. Not only are the procedurally generated battlefields improving daily, but the visual style of Crystal Companies is cohering nicely as well. Progress and plans for the future abound in this end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall update!

Procedural Generation: The Latest

This video shows some of the most recent developments on the map-generation front in Crystal Companies (of course, to see the very latest you should just get yourself a Steam alpha key from our Discord server!).

Environmental Assets

Here are the latest results from Johnny Halcyon’s hard work!

yellow longspur lupine purple longspur lupine rock pile matgrass

QoL

As usual, there were so many improvements this month–too many to mention here. However, Brad’s devblog post catalogs them in detail here.

I’ll mention a few highlights:

  • Battlefield shapes are diversified and will likely become archetypes in addition to random map options
  • Many stock structure models have been improved across Wealth (yellow) and Intellect (orange)
  • Card glow (which indicates playable cards in hand) is now amplified

On the Horizon

The next month includes preparing for Granite State Comic Con (and probably a few more events that we will tell you about later!) and polishing Crystal Companies’ game mechanics and UX/UI. Both of these major initiatives should result in a smoother onboarding experience for new players and increased functionality across the game. Needless to say, these are exciting times!

As an end note, don’t forget to like us on Facebook–where we’ve begun a new series called “Procedural Map Monday” wherein we post games played on procedurally generated maps–and follow us on Twitter, Twitch for Wednesday-night dev streams, and hop onto our Discord server to chat and/or get a FREE Steam alpha key!

Finally!

A wild new feature appears! Deck-building is back and better than ever. Check it out for yourself by:

1) joining our Discord server (discord.crystalcompanies.me)

2) typing !key in chat

3) redeeming the Steam key you receive and downloading CrysCo.

Now, for those who prefer it, read on below about our progress over the last month and a half.

Deck-Building Functionality

Here is a video that will do a better job than I can of describing what has been added to the game:

Worth noting about the current iteration of the deck-building capabilities:

  • Each player has been temporarily given the full library of available cards.
  • You can now create fully customized decks.
  • Searching and filtering a collection can be done via the filter buttons or search field at the bottom of the deck editing view.

Card Updates

To see a full list of recent card updates, head over to our Dev Blog.

In summary, a lot of interesting updates have been made to Intellect (orange) and Wealth (yellow) so maybe that’s where you should start when building your first deck?

Art

After receiving some amazing new art (featured in the new build of the game!) we have already begun commissioning art of another kind: new models! This should include not only a new captain character but also updates to the environment assets. Expect to see more on this front over the next month or so. Some models already in the pipeline (see previous monthly updates) should reach completion relatively soon as well!

On the Horizon

This month ended the first big sprint of the year for the Boreal Games Team. We successfully re-implemented the deckbuilding screen. But we are already hard at work on the next one! No spoilers yet, but a hint is in order: check the new nav and you can begin to guess what features are coming next. This series of sprints is meant to culminate in a (successful?) Kickstarter, so as you follow along, we’d love to hear ways we can continue to improve the game and help build our community’s interest!

P.S. one more time: if you want to play CrysCo, join the Discord 🙂

discord.crystalcompanies.me