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!

Summer’s End Update 2019

We’ve been hard at work on Expeditions this summer, and we have a lot to share. In case you missed it, Expeditions is a new single-player mode of Crystal Companies that emphasizes procedurally generated adventures. (We shared details about Expeditions in our previous update.) We have some finishing touches to complete before a new playable demo is ready. But, as you will see below, things are falling into place nicely with the game.

Unit Ability Effects and Animations

Two types of decks will initially be available in Expeditions (each of which will start randomized rather than pre-constructed). Both come equipped with a series of revamped abilities with animations to match.

Imperial deck moveset and FX.
Alomian deck moveset and FX.

UI/UX: Item Management & Tactical View

As items play an enlarged role in Expeditions, the entire system for collecting and using items had to be overhauled. Similarly, we improved the way players can review the environment and actions in a more streamlined way. Below, you can see how looting items and the action viewer have been consolidated into the HUD bar at the top of the screen. Along those same lines, the tactical view has been reinvigorated with a cleaner layout.

Loot, Item Menu, Actions

New item pickup, use, and inventory system.
Looting items from another point of view, which also includes the adjacent actions stream on the left-hand side of the HUD.

Tactical View

An especially optimal time to use the tactical view: when the world is on fire!

Environmental Improvements

Environment generation has received some love recently as well. Both the blending of textures and weather effects were updated.

On the Horizon

As was said in the intro, a new playable demo is on the radar! Hopefully in the next update we will have firmer details to share. But for the time being, you can join our Discord server, which is where we plan to make Steam keys available again!

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!

 

Juice, Juice, and More Juice

This month we attempted to inject more juice than ever into the game…and I think we succeeded (depending on your figurative definition of juice, of course).

UI

We are always working to improve the UI in order to better communicate the themes of Crystal Companies and make it easier to enjoy.

This month we:

  • Fixed a number of lingering issues in the unit detail view, as well as fixed display of unit models and lore display.
  • Refined designs for the new Draft mode, which allows players to play with a selection of random cards that they may or may not own.

Snapshot of draft mode user interface
As you can see, card art is still in the works!

  • Refined timer system design to make it more obvious that time management is important during playing.
  • Refined conquer point bars / player display design for more space-efficient display and to communicate some of the frontier exploration elements of Crystal Companies.
  • Combined system messages into the new “HUD bar” design.

    Snapshot of new player heads-up display
    This HUD design is still a work-in-progress, but is far and away a big improvement over what we had previously!

Keep your eyes peeled as these new designs should be rolled out in time for Crystal Companies exhibition at Boston FIG.

JUICE

We’ve been hard at work this month fine-tuning CrysCo’s look and feel with updated special effects, models, and controls. Here’s a quick run down of ALL THAT JUICE:

  • Character movement now feels more natural and with less jerky teleportation.
  • Most spell cards have visual and sound effects, and representative characters that are shown in the character detail view.
  • Most conditions and boons now have sound and visual effects.
  • Special effects triggered by abilities are much smoother and more synchronized.
  • Targeting with spells and placing units is more straightforward and intuitive.
  • Error messages are now more informative and describe problems in a less technical fashion.
  • Character models are more organized and better represent their associated resource faction.

Here’s a quick video showing just one of the many new effects in action (a lot of times, but sadly without its particle effect…)!

On the Horizon

Be prepared for EVEN MORE JUICE in the following updates! By the end of the summer, we hope to have our “productized” version of CrysCo available to our followers! For now, here’s how anyone can get involved:

  • Join our Discord server here: https://discord.gg/fy7yBrk
  • You can hop on our stream every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 5:30-7PM EST here.
  • Come see us at the Boston Festival of Indie Games (FIG) in September! Check out https://www.bostonfig.com/ for more details and to get your tickets.
  • As always, feel free to share CrysCo with your friends, and let us know what you think!

Once again, thanks for reading. And remember: next month juice will be in even greater abundance.