Aeon of Sands

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What is it like to play Aeon of Sands?

“Here, have some of my water – says the man under the cowl – you clearly have not packed enough to get here.”


Setrani has no strength to object, and, from his curled position, half buried in the sand, accepts the water skin with a hoarse groan.


“Easy, easy… Careful not to drop it!”


Setrani peers from below at his saviour . A rover, from a city, thankfully, and not a nomad. Or else, he would probably be attached to a slave caravan, by now.


Still, a rover, a man so resilient to walk the desert, scavenging his sustenance and finding items to sell back at a city, is just slightly safer than a nomad, in his view.


Setrani nods at the man, and notices his sack. Only half empty.

“Thank you. Are you… going back?”


The man looks around. “Not yet. You are from Pantella, yes? I think I saw you there. Did they throw you out to die?”


A surge of pride in Setrani’s chest overcomes his caution – “What? I’ll let you know I’m an important person! I was sent out on a job! Not casted out!”


“Hah! Yes, the sand half burying you seems to disagree.”


The clerk deflates, but refuses to admit that he’s indeed having a terrible time at this mission.


The rover, gently pushing back his sack with his feet, continues – “No, I’ll have to find something more to sell before going to the markets. There’s a mine I visit when my runs are fruitless. But I don’t go there gladly. Too dangerous.”


He gives the clerk a look, calculating. “I could use the company.”


Setrani’s mouth dries up again, considering his options. How is his death more likely today? In the open desert, with the little provisions he has, or following this man he doesn’t know anything about to a, what has he called it? A mine? What’s a mine?


He wishes he had not argued with Harro, the guard that was accompanying him the last few days. At the time, to send him alone to those travelling merchants seemed a good idea…

How could he possibly know they were cannibals?


Besides, the man in front of him is not a nomad, so there is that, even if there’s no guarantee that he would not use him as sandcrawlers’ bait. The idea hits Setrani: what is unthinkable inside a city wall is very possible out here. He’s really new to these outlandish rules, but he’s learning.

And if the rover would act funny, he still could probably run away. Maybe with his provisions…


The man awaits an answer.


What are the clerk’s options? Whatever he chooses, he hardly will be able to retrace his steps, and the night, the very short night is coming, with all the fanged things that live in it.


Setrani must choose.

So you are asking, what is it like to play Aeon of Sands?

Well it’s like this:

You play a character that is as removed from the ambient he’s exploring as a city clerk in a dangerous desert: you know nothing about it and its customs, and you have an urge to survive.


Therefore, you make decisions while not having a clue about the consequences: your only tools to navigate the adventure are your own morals as a compass, and the order of your priorities.

  • Is it your survival first and then – perhaps – everyone else’s?
  • Is it the greater good above your needs?
  • Is it an ideal of law and civilisation that guides you, or the knowledge that nature must rightly overcome all men?
  • Or are you comforted in the idea of a brotherhood of humans, with no distinction between cities and tribes?

Whatever your path, the consequences have little to do with your skills or your statistics, and much to do with your choices, current and previous ones.

It’s more a roleplaying adventure, at its core.

And later this year 2018, you’ll be able to walk your own trail in Aeon of Sands!

Add us to your Steam wishlist to be informed when the game is out!

 

Aeon of Sands – Summer Interview and new gameplay footage

IRN : HOW LONG HAS THE DEVELOPMENT TAKEN SO FAR?

Starting in 2012, about 2 years of research, planning, story and pipeline (how to get the exact old-school look and feel), followed by 3 years of implementation (code, graphics, gameplay, story, audio), and almost 1 year of beta-testing and polishing.

ANY IDEA OF A RELEASE DATE?

Our plan is to release in 2018 !
We will disclose the release date in a few weeks on our blog; please do register for our newsletter if you want to be the first to know!

Read the full interview at IndieRetroNews: http://www.indieretronews.com/2018/07/aeon-of-sands-trail-exclusive-dungeon.html

@LET’S PLAYER, JOURNALISTS, …

If you want to write an article about Aeon, an interview, or you just want to let’s play it…please contact us at: info at aeonofsands.com .

Register to our newsletter: https://t.co/ft6LromBC1
Melee & Spell Combat Footage
 
Story Footage

Cheers!
Marco & Florian^TwoBitsKid

Add us to your Steam wishlist to be informed when the game is out!
 

Desktop wallpaper process

Hello readers!

For this instalment of “Sleep ’till late with Marco”, I’ll guide you in the process of Aeon of Sands – The Trail official videogame desktop wallpaper creation.

The first requirement to create artwork is someone who asks or forces you to do it. Usually a perverted creature called co-worker who ignores the fact that you already have something to do: to recover from too little sleep, to buy food and to defend yourself against garden vines that try to enter your floor uninvited. This kind of thing.

For proper illustration making, there are engagement rules to be respected.

Something along the lines of:

Evil Co-worker:  We need a splash page.
Me: We already have one, I call it “orange flat”.
Him: No, I mean a proper one, with the Kinami tree… Have we already shown the tree? And the city… and the glass dome from the inside! And maybe tigers! A group of them attacking a pirate ship. In a stormy night! And the two Suns!
Me: I see… Minimalism, Pop Art, the whole 20th century got nothing on you, right?
Him: Don’t throw words at me! The only word is Code!
Me: Right. Bye. [the communication breaks up. I go back to sleep.]

 

Thumbnails ahoy

After some other unjustified jokes associated with the threat that he would add heinous features to the game that only his distorted mind could love, like, more statistics,  I give up, and for the sake of reason, I’ll make a few sketches that you see above.

What I wanted create:

  • a bold view of the sacred giant tree of the city of Pantella, called: Kinami
  • the tree: important to the story of the game,  thus should show its vitality, its will to spread, and to fill up the image
  • the city: had to be shown growing on it, in a symbiotic relation
  • a figure in foreground to help me state the proportion of the scene, and most of all to give a sense of story, of a final destination reached, or of something about to happen.

I thumbnailed a dozen possibilities, and decided for the one that seemed the most clear and sharply cut: a straightforward one.

Black and white rough

At that point, I usually want to have only a couple of values; in this case that was also seconding a scene overflown by the two suns’ light. I’m mostly concerned with shape and flow until very late in illustration, in any case.

After that, I distanced the various planes a bit, and thought about the mood.

In our story there is a kind of metaphorical veil, sometimes even a real one. A warm strangulation that threatens to suffocate the main character. This sometimes leads him in situations where right and wrong are blurred and Setrani, our leading actor, cannot help but miserably move on.

So, I started playing with that idea and the tree.

Add heat

The rough was ready, and I started to work on the preparatory drawing. I don’t need such drawings to be very precise in respect to line, but I do need that in respect to masses; I need to know what goes where precisely.

I’m not the kind of visual artist that has the details fixed in mind from the start: I usually find them as I go on, as long as I have an expression, or emotion in mind, and a structure in place.

Now for instance, the placeholder figure in foreground was really lame. I needed a clear purpose for it, beyond the simple balance of the image.

So I borrowed a particular creature from the story, I covered it with a cloak, and gave it a sense of foreboding menace which fits with the general theme of the game.

Draw the skeleton out

Then I started to paint it. A lot of clone-mix brush work and pencils later, I arrived the stage of the following screenshot.

Pour the color in

And even later, after adjusting the overall hue, adding detail and trying to pursue light diffraction and more distance separation, I came to the following one.

Add detail

Then, I had to add the game title that also called for a revision of the logo used for the normal advertising screenshots.

Enter the logo

I decided not to occupy myself so much with the dome, and to suggest it only in the distance. Besides, whatever the creature in the foreground is, the dome is an obstacle that didn’t stop it: it’s already inside the city limits. ,

Now I just had to add the shadows cast by the tree and by the figure on the ground, and add a bit of detail to it: grass, maybe a bit of farming for the sustenance of the city inhabitants.

Finally I placed the logo on it, and added the finishing touches.

Floor it

That’s it!

If you like it, download it here in colossal [2560×1440] resolution for your desktop pleasure!

download wallpaper:

with Logo:

1920 x 1080

 

1920 x 1200

 

2048 x 1536

 

2560 x 1440

 

without the Logo:

1920 x 1080

 

1920 x 1200

 

2048 x 1536

 

2560 x 1440

 

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Marco Pedrana, the more aerodynamic half of Two Bits Kid, artist, illustrator, narrator, designer, sleepwalker, I don’t actually have Setrani’ looks.

 

Aeon of Sands – NPC creation process, updated

This summer I will still be sludging through the opponents creation, trying to get a sense of what misses yet, or is out of place, in the growing and roaring sea of game assets.

Here below, a 3 minutes video in which I illustrate the creation process of a creature, from the puppet sketch to the final frames of animation in game.

As I mention on passing in there, the dirty puppet underlying the animation, and the time it requires to be cleaned out, are a necessity for my keeping together the creature, to be able to give it consistency with all its frames and all the other creatures; this imposed constraint is actually boring to keep with, but effective in avoiding me going away in 100 different directions at the same time.

When I do not care for consistency, but only for expression, I would normally keep the puppet sketch – that encompass my understanding of the object – on one side, as a shorthand note, and do something only slightly related to it on a new page.

What I found is that in game design, that almost never happen, sadly.

As a result, this is the face of my dizzyness, that’s amazingly similar to the result of hitting yourself with a magic in game.
 

Marco Pedrana, graphic slave of Two Bits Kid, artist.
I don’t really have blue sparkles on my face.

 

 

Fonts: The Quest for Readability

Hello again!

We have now nearly 80% of the game finished and we are relieved to see more and more of the game content becoming safe from major revisions.
Today we tackle a bit of the remaining 20%, that includes checking that the presentation of the content is good enough not to distract you or prevent you from enjoying the game.

 She might, but we are still polishing it.
She might, but we are still polishing it.

Take for instance the body of text of more than 80.000 words that accounts for the backbone of our game story.
You wouldn’t want to crawl through a novel badly formatted, with an unreadable font, no matter how interesting you find the story; in the same way, you wouldn’t want to click compulsively through AoS’ dialogue, pressing ‘Continue’ just to skip an eye tiring wall of text.

This kind of revision is something that is scary, yet, there’s an exhilarating freedom in savaging in a few hours what you spent weeks to carefully create: the old fonts, the text box, the dialogue paragraphs.

One thing was sure: the old font was not working for us, nor for the ladies and gents who tested the game at demo-events like Talk&Play or Gameover 2015.

blog_font_2.jpg
Font nightmare

That first font was born from the need to show blocks of text up to about 600 characters, in a fixed text display box of 505×118 px.

This basically means, leaving 1/3 of the box’s height for the dialogue choices, we still have 10 lines (an average of 90 uneven characters at 4×8 px size).

At first we thought that would be ok.

We wanted a crisp pixel look with no aliasing, and we still had no decisions for the resizing of the game screen, so the first thing I did was create a bitmap font of that 4×8 px size.
The results? Passably readable at fullscreen, on a 20 inches monitor. A pain at anything less or in windowed mode.

l41YtvIyG2S94pYKk.gif
No, no, no, no, no, no…

Back in April, I started to look around for a Creative Commons licensed font that was suitable for commercial projects and that was also good for us. We tested more than 20 promising candidates, ranging still in the 8 to 12 pixels height area.

Some were nice, actually really nice, but very few were actually readable, in discrete quantities.
Of the readable ones, instead, pretty much none captured the feeling of cheap thrills from sci-fi crumpled pulp magazines outta the fifties, that tints the Aeon of Sands world.

At last I decided to go and create one myself, using the great tool provided for free at Fontstruct. If you are an indie developer on a budget or you just love typography, you should take a look!

blog_font_5.jpg
Monospaced or not? Bitmap or Truetype? 8 or 16 px? So many choices…

As soon as I started drawing the font, it was apparent that anything below 12 px compromised the readibility of our story, while, on the other hand, only fonts of 8 or 16 px scaled well with our resolution changes in game, so I settled at a 16 px font.

After three iterations, plus a minor revision, the end result is Pantella, our very own font named after the city where the game starts, well readable both in windowed and fullscreen modes.

blog_font_4.jpg
Pantella. Or not a hole under our feet.

How will it look in the new ‘cage’ of the user interface that we are implementing to meet the needs of the different monitors resolutions and ratios?

For that you’ll have to read the follow-up post of Florian in the next weeks!

 

Marco Pedrana, font-lover half of Two Bits Kid, artist. I want a vacation.