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November 2, 2016

Ittle Dew 2: Past, Present and Future

Hey! This is Joel again. As I write this, all the work on Ittle Dew 2 is done, and I’m patiently waiting for the game to go through the proper channels to finally make its way into players’ hands on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. While I wait, I’ve had a little time to reminisce about the journey that Ittle, Tippsie and all of us here at Ludosity have been on to get us to this point.

The Ittle Dew series has its origins in a project we created during our university days.

Believe it or not, Ittle Dew has its origins as a school project that I worked on with fellow Ludosity cohort Daniel Remar when we were still attending university. I wanted to study compact level design and sequence-breaking, and the game that eventually evolved into Ittle Dew was my thesis on the topic. Back then, it was set in a single, large dungeon, but even in this form, we implemented puzzles that focused on using multiple items at once, which remained a key feature of Ittle Dew and Ittle Dew 2.

Did you know that Ittle Dew 1 initially didn’t have an overworld? Things changed quite a bit during development, especially where the overworld was concerned.

Even after it had served its purpose as a school project, we continued to work on the game over the following years. Its scope continued to grow; when we decided it could no longer be contained within one dungeon, we added additional dungeons and an overworld. Sometimes we’d put development on hold because we’d be busy with other things, and then we’d come back to it with a fresh perspective, which allowed us to improve our designs and cut unnecessary features. The overworld went through some serious iterations.

Eventually Ittle Dew evolved into its final form, and it was released to the public in 2013 to a generally positive reception. Looking back, there are things that could have been better, but overall we’re still very happy with what we accomplished. Creating the first Ittle Dew also helped teach us a lot about the importance of combat and the need for puzzle variety (especially when you’re talking about a larger-scale game), as well as the benefits and drawbacks of 2D versus 3D graphics (as I’ve discussed in a previous post). Plus, we learned not to spread ourselves too thin by committing to too many platforms! Those lessons, along with our general overall experience as a dev team and the benefits of having worked together for many years, ensured that the development of Ittle Dew 2 went surprisingly smoothly, and has resulted in a title that really is bigger and better in every way. I honestly can’t wait for people to play it.

Thanks to the lessons we learned from making the first Ittle Dew, development on Ittle Dew 2 was surprisingly smooth.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’d be lying if said that I haven’t already given Ittle Dew 3 some thought. Ever since Ittle Dew 1, I’ve had this village-with-layers idea that I’ve been wanting to try, and Ittle Dew 3 might the place to do it. What is a village with layers, you ask? Well, it’s kind of like an onion. Onions have layers. But cake has layers too. I guess a more detailed explanation might have to wait. Of course, we’ve also considered setting other games in the Ittle Dew universe. Would anyone be interested in an Ittle Dew side-scroller?

For now, we’ll just be happy to have completed Ittle Dew 2, and see where things go from there. Thanks for reading, and have fun playing the game!

October 26, 2016

Creepy Castle: Looking Back!


Hey guys! Zach here again to discuss Creepy Castle. As I’m writing this, development is essentially all wrapped up, and I’ve found out that the game even has a tentative release date! Heck, by the time this gets posted, maybe it will even be out! At any rate, this seems like a good time to think about the experiences I had and things I learned during the development of Creepy Castle.

If nothing else, Creepy Castle has helped me become a more efficient coder. Back when I started this endeavor, I was really more of a designer than a programmer, so a lot of the code I wrote, particularly for the duels, was very redundant and messy. Sure, it worked, but I discovered it was a lot better keep things modular and flexible when it comes to designing game engines. Eventually I ended up going back to the old duels and collapsing all of the redundant code into standardized functions that I could apply to all the duels, both existing and yet to come. It was a bit of a detour to development, but in the end it really increased productivity and allowed me to add new duel minigames more easily.

The duels were initially pretty bloated and redundant from a programming standpoint, but they were streamlined during the development process.

Development also reminded me that not everything makes the cut. Most things did – in fact, if anything, I was guilty of making more work for myself so I could cram in more ideas. But a few things still got scrapped. At one point my friend/collaborator Krystal and I came up with the idea of this weird bug character that is mysteriously similar to Moth, but is a just a little bit “off.” It’s very small, it only has one ball shape on its antennae, and it walks on four legs. There was a sequence in which a weary Moth woke up to see it scurry across the ground in front of him and suddenly stare him right in the eye and really freak him out. Unfortunately we never really went anywhere with it after that, but maybe I can put it back in if I ever make a “director’s cut” version or something of that nature.

At one point in development, persistent items across scenarios were considered, but ultimately were abandoned.

Another idea I toyed around with was persistent items that functioned across the game’s scenarios. For the most part, each scenario is completely self-contained, but for a while I was thinking of adding special relics that functioned across scenarios. For example, on your second playthrough, you might be able to get a sword that could defeat any enemy in one hit. In the end, though, I could only think of cheat-type ideas that wouldn’t really make a meaningful contribution to the game in the long run, so they ended up getting cut. Maybe it’s something I’ll revisit some day if I can think of enough interesting ways for persistent game modifiers to work between scenarios.


One of the highlights of making Creepy Castle was getting to demo it on Twitch’s livestream during E3 2016.

But one of the best things to come out of the entire development experience was the friends I got to make, places I got to go, and people I got to meet, both online and in person. Thanks to Creepy Castle, I was able to come out to San Francisco back in May to mingle with the gaming press (and eat tacos) at a Nicalis demo event, and it gave me an excuse to attend E3 back in June where I got to show the game live on Twitch. Plus, being at E3 gave me the chance to ask a Naughty Dog employee if he’d be making an Uncharted racing game called Unkarted. (For the record, he walked off, quipping that everyone asks him that, apparently.)

Ultimately, working on Creepy Castle has been fun, rewarding, educational, and unlike anything else I’ve done in my career thus far. Thanks again to everyone reading this, everyone who supported the game on Kickstarter, and everyone who’s been looking forward to the game. I hope you’ll be playing it soon if you’re not already!

October 17, 2016

Ittle Dew 2: Just for Laughs

Hey! Joel here again to talk a bit more about Ittle Dew 2. If it hasn’t been clear from my previous posts, and especially the last one about the whiteboard, there’s a big emphasis on humor in Ittle Dew 2 (and Ittle Dew 1…and most of our games, really). Honestly, we never even considered trying to make Ittle Dew 2 or its predecessor more serious. When video games try to be epic, serious story scenes can make the experience tedious and detract from the fun. Making something that’s silly, ridiculous, and lighthearted makes it easier to keep things fast-paced and snappy. Besides, if you think about it, when you have a game where you’re running around whacking hundreds of innocent wild animals and smashing pots and taking stuff for no reason, it makes more sense if your protagonist is kind of a lunatic.

Right from the beginning, it should be clear that Ittle Dew 2 is goofier than your average adventure game.

There’s humor – or, at least, dumb/amusing/weird antics – in just about every part of the game, from the cutscenes to the enemies to the dialogue to the puzzles. I especially like the way the intro turned out, which is stupid yet subtle, and I still get a kick out of Business Casual Man (a character with especially interesting fashion sense) and one particular floor switch that runs away when you approach it. You can thank our main programmer, Stefan, for coming up with that one.

Say hello to Business Casual Man, one of our favorite characters in the game.

Some humorous elements are easier to implement than others. Daniel, our game designer, also wrote the dialog, and he tended to just make it up on the spot. If it wasn’t funny enough or something more amusing came to mind later, it was easy enough to rewrite the scene later. Visual gags, on the other hand, require a lot more work. Ideas for visual gags popped up constantly during development, either in conversation or on the aforementioned whiteboard, but we had to be choosy about what to include; very few of these jokes actually made it into the actual game. Sometimes the deciding factor was how much of an in-joke it was. Something might seem hilarious to those of us on the team, but if it wouldn’t make sense to the player, then there’s not much point. Of course, some of those inside jokes still made it in, but hopefully in a way where the silly quirkiness still fits the world or adds to the mystery of the game, even if you don’t know all the back story.

Ever wonder what video game bosses do when they’re not fighting you? Now you know.

Basically, when it came to the humor, anything was fair game. If it made us laugh, and especially if we were able to build upon each other’s jokes, it had a shot of making it into the game. There was nothing off limits as too silly or too weird, as long as it fit within the game’s universe (and let’s face it; almost anything goes when you have a theme-park-like adventure island where most of the bad guys are hired help). Hopefully you’ll have as many laughs playing Ittle Dew 2 as we had when we were making it!

October 11, 2016

Creepy Castle: A Little of This, A Little of That!

Hey guys! This Zach again to tell you a little more about Creepy Castle. I’ve already talked about the scenarios, the combat, the characters, the items, the retro style, and the customization, so what’s left to tell you about the game…? Well, I like to think that Creepy Castle stands on its own as a unique action-adventure-RPG, but there’s no question that many games that I’ve played over the last 20-plus years have been influential in various aspects of the games design. In previous posts I’ve specifically mentioned Castlevania and the Mario RPGs as influences, but there are numerous others – some may be obvious in the impact they’ve had, and others not so much. Here are a few other ways in which Creepy Castle was influenced by some of my favorites.

Like in many classic action-adventure games, Creepy Castle has areas you can’t reach until you come back with the right item.

Exploration and Ability Gates: Metroid and The Legend of Zelda are kind of the prototypes for all exploration-based, action-adventure games. Like in those games, you’ll explore large areas and sometimes come across “ability gates” where you’ll need specific items to proceed, or a new item might bring new meaning to a place that was previously thought to be a dead end.

The duels in Creepy Castle were inspired in part by the minigames of Mario Party.

Skill-Based Minigames: I’ve mentioned before that the battles in Creepy Castle take some cues from Mario & Luigi and other Mario RPGs, but they’re influenced by Mario Party as well. Specifically, the battles require technical skill in a variety of minigames. Sometimes you’re mashing buttons, sometimes you need perfect timing, sometimes you need keen observational skills…

The framed HUD and picture-in-picture-style gameplay window is reminiscent of many classic RPGs.

Picture-in-Picture HUD: A lot of Falcom’s classics (and other vintage RPGs) used a good chunk of the screen for the HUD and had sort of “picture-in-picture” window that served as your viewing port into the game world for the actual gameplay. I used the same style for Creepy Castle to give it some retro sensibilities.

The characters in Creepy Castle are designed to be cute and cuddly, sort of like Kirby or Pokemon.

Charm and Appeal: One thing I really wanted was to make sure that Creepy Castle had a cute and likable aesthetic for the character designs – something broadly appealing and really memorable, like Kirby and Pokemon. The visual style of Kirby and Pokemon didn’t influence Creepy Castle directly, but I was hoping to capture that same whimsical charm. Pretty much all of my artistic inspiration and character design sensibilities come from Japanese art.

Replay Value: When I was a kid, Super Smash Bros. Melee always stood out because there was just so much to see, do, and unlock. It was like a fountain of infinite gameplay. With Creepy Castle‘s multiple scenarios, unlockable characters, a bestiary of monsters to defeat, and a library of lore to fill, I hope it gives players a little of that same excitement. Even if you’ve already beaten the game, there are still new things to do and new goals to achieve if you’re feeling so inclined.

Like many modern adventure games, Creepy Castle is full of backstory to discover if you so desire.

A Detailed World: I love it when a big RPG or an adventure-style game has a lot of thought put into its world and backstory. Similar to Metroid Prime, King’s Field, or the Souls series, Creepy Castle lets learn a lot about the world through the lore and from NPCs that sort of creates an interconnected web of personalities and events. It’s easy enough to avoid if you aren’t interested in that sort of thing, but if you do want to learn all about the details of this world, then it’s there for you to discover and learn about.

So there you have it – how some of my favorite games helped inspire Creepy Castle. They say nothing’s created in a vacuum, and that’s certainly true in this case. I think that there’s still plenty of originality here (there’s aren’t too many games that star a moth as the main character, right?), but if people play the game and they’re reminded even a bit of the classics that influenced me as a gamer, then I’ll know I’ve done something right.

October 6, 2016

Ittle Dew 2: The Whiteboard!


Hey! This is Joel from Ludosity again. In my last few posts I’ve talked about the various elements that make up Ittle Dew 2 – the the combat, the puzzles, the enemies, the overworld – but this this I wanted to let you in one of the tools we use to come up with all that good stuff. It’s kind of a trade secret, so come in close so I can tell you…about the whiteboard.

As you can see, we use the whiteboard for all kinds of important stuff.

Yes, we have a large whiteboard in our office, and, in theory, that’s what we use to discuss and evolve a lot of the design ideas we come up with, like the creation of new enemies or new overworld areas or stuff like that. Maybe we’d put scheduling and project-planning information on there too. At least, that was the idea. In practice, what happened is that every time one of us wrote something important or serious on the whiteboard, someone else would doodle something completely silly next to it. Honestly, there’s a lot of doodling happening on the whiteboard (a lot of just pertaining to whatever games we’re currently playing for fun), and not a whole lot else.

But that’s not a bad thing at all! A lot of our characters have been born as jokes. Some features as well. Someone says something funny, we laugh at it because it’s a joke, and someone draws something about that, on the whiteboard. The next thing we know, we’re looking at each other and a game idea starts to come together, and before you know it, one of us is saying, “Actually, you know what, guys? This should probably go in.” If you played the original Ittle Dew, you may remember Ultra Fishbunjin. He’s ridiculous: a super-muscular fishbun who throws dumbbells and generally makes players angry because he’s so difficult…and he definitely started out as a whiteboard joke. So did some of the recurring characters in our other games, like the Apathetic Frog, the Hype Snake, and Business Casual Man. They all got their start as goofy doodles on the whiteboard. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that a lot of the enemies in Ittle Dew 2 came about this way.

Remember this guy from Ittle Dew 1? He got his start as a joke on the whiteboard.

Fooling around on the whiteboard has lead to other unexpected things. There’s a block you can place in the game, and it sort of pops up shortly after you place it, and eventually we realized that we should have enemies react some way if you have the block pop up beneath them. We joked that it should just launch the enemies into space and we drew a little gag about it on the whiteboard, but before you knew it, a programmer put it into the game. It looked great, so we kept it. Of course, that expanded into a discussion about how we could add a scene onto the ending where you could see all the enemies that you launched into space, just floating up there, but in the end we nixed that idea. The game does keep track of how many you launch, though!

You never know which of these doodles might actually show up in a game.

The truth is, the whiteboard doesn’t get used for too much serious work anymore, but we did use it to plan out the ending cinematic to Ittle Dew 2. Although after you see it, you might decide that isn’t exactly too serious either… I guess you’ll get to see for yourself in the near future once the game finally lands on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One!

October 5, 2016

Creepy Castle: Cameos’n Crossovers!


Hey guys! Zach from Dopterra here again to talk some more about Creepy Castle. You know the phrase “It’s dangerous to go alone”? Well, it’s certainly true when it comes to game development. Or, if not dangerous, at least less than ideal. During this experience, I’ve had lots of support from friends, colleagues, the crew at Nicalis, and other indie developers. And speaking of other indie developers, I’m pleased to say that I’ve collaborated with several of them to give Creepy Castle some crossover indie star power.

As you might have seen on Creepy Castle‘s Kickstarter page, the game will include cameo appearances from Plague Knight (from Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight), Chica (from Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s), and Dr. Fetus (from Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy). Basically, I just wanted to work with some of the characters and creators of games that I really like, so I was absolutely humbled when they allowed me use these guys as special guests. It’s almost like getting to write creator-approved fanfiction! I suppose I could have asked to use the protagonists, but for some reason it seemed more special to use characters that were a little off the beaten path, so to speak.

The evil Dr. Fetus will make an appearance in Creepy Castle, complete with sadistic buzzsaw!

As for how these characters are going to appear in the game… Well, I don’t want to give everything away yet, but as I write this, the plan is to spread the character cameos across the scenarios, and to allow you to fight them as super-powerful hidden bosses. Once you defeat them, they’ll become playable in the game’s Free Mode!

Dr. Fetus should show up somewhere in Scenario I: Creepy Castle where he’ll try to cut you down to size with his buzzsaw in the Struggle duel. Plague Knight and Chica will appear in Scenario II: Ghostly Mystery; Chica will fight using the rhythm-like Slider duel, and Plague Knight requires you to dodge potions in the shooter-inspired Siege duel.

I’m pretty excited to have Chica from Five Nights at Freddy’s in the game. It’s a real honor to have Mr. Cawthon’s permission!

Oh, and guess what? In addition to the three crossover characters that were announced during the Kickstarter campaign, two more are on the way thanks to the folks at Nicalis. (See, I told you they were helpful!) You can also expect to find Aban Hawkins (from Aban Hawkins & 1001 Spikes) and Balrog (from Cave Story) in the game! Given that he’s an explorer, Aban will show up in the exploration-heavy Scenario III: Depth, where he’ll make good use of his throwing knives… on you! And finally, Balrog will be found in Scenario IV: Due Exaltation.

As an explorer, Aban Hawkins is a perfect fit for the vast expanses of Scenario III: Depth.

Considering that I’m including all of these cameo appearances, you might be wondering if the characters of Creepy Castle are going to show up anywhere else. Personally, I think it’d be awesome if other creators want to include them in their games! I don’t have anything I can confirm yet, but you might want to keep your eye on Puzzle Depot from Laughing Manatee games.

Once again, thanks for reading, and I hope you look forward to seeing some of your favorite indie characters in a brand-new light once you get to play Creepy Castle!

September 28, 2016

Ittle Dew 2: Let’s Bash Baddies!

Hey guys! This is Joel again from Ludosity to tell you a bit more about Ittle Dew 2. I’ve mentioned before that Ittle and Tipsy aren’t the most heroic of protagonists – they really just want to find treasure and clobber bad guys. For that reason, it’s pretty important that there are lots of bad guys to clobber, so here’s an introduction to the enemies you’ll get to fight in the game.

First and foremost, we have the Jennys, and I don’t mean Forrest Gump’s girlfriend. If you’ve played Ittle Dew 1 or some of Ludosity’s other games like Card City Nights, then you already know about the Jennys. The full name is Jenny Rich Monsteur, which is a terrible pun on “generic monster.” They’re these purple-skinned girls who dress up in various costumes – like a frog costume or a fox costume – to make them suitable for different environments.

When you see the Jennys, you know what to do: beat up every last one!

Of course, we have a whole bunch of new Jennys for this game. The Safety Jenny is one of the first enemies you meet, and she’s armed with a useless foam sword and safety goggles. There’s also Slayer Jenny, who is like something out of a Moomin (it’s big over here in Europe, trust me) fairytale but more sinister. There’s the Flower Jenny who’s armed with a scythe-shovel, and Shark Jenny who swims around with her fin sticking up (unless she’s on land, in which case she just flops around uselessly).


There are lots of other enemies besides the Jennys, too. Among the most powerful are the Hexrots in the final dungeon; they’re big, cloaked carrot wizards who cast all sorts of spells. We’ve also got cactuses who flex and chase you around while shooting flaming spines, and in Star Woods you’ll face turnips armed with spears, shields, and bazookas. There are even rotting zombie versions of those guys! Because combat is much better this time around, we could make more difficult enemies and more challenging combat, so we’ve tried to make the enemies more varied and fun.

This will teach you to eat your vegetables!

And then we have the bosses, who aren’t necessarily what they seem. Here’s the thing about Ittle Dew 2: even though it’s a classic-style video game adventure, it also pokes fun at the genre a little bit, and so the whole thing is set on an adventure island run by a gamesmaster – it’s sort of a giant theme part for adventurers – and the bosses are hired help. So at the beginning of the game, you can go to the village area and talk to the bosses, banter back and forth, and you’ll learn that they’re pretty good guys. But once you step into a dungeon, they get all serious, and they’re ready to beat the crap out of you.

Sure, the bosses are hired help – but don’t feel bad about clobbering them. They have it coming.

There are three recurring boss characters, all of whom ride robots to battle. There’s Cyber Jenny, who replaces her body parts with mechanical parts gradually, Le Biadlo, who wants to avenge his cousin from the first game, and Lenny, who doesn’t really care one way or another. While Ittle and Tipsy are kind of blank slates as far as backstory and characterization goes, there’s actually a lot to learn about the bosses and their relationships, so that can be pretty fun. That’s especially true of the gamesmaster, but to say anything else would be a spoiler.

So there you have it: a quick look at some of the enemies and bosses of Ittle Dew 2. Some are cute, some are dangerous, and all of them will be there for you to beat the heck out of when the game arrives on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.

September 27, 2016

Creepy Castle: Custom Creepy!

Hey guy, this is Zach again. I’ve talked a lot about the content and features in my previous updates about Creepy Castle, but this time I wanted to touch on something that isn’t really directly related to the gameplay: the customization options. If you checked out our Kickstarter campaign, you may recall that a customizable interface has been one of the planned features ever since the beginning: you can completely change the border around the gameplay window and choose between hearts or a bar to represent your life meter. In addition, you can select from multiple color palettes.

This is pretty much how the interface looked when we first designed it.

It might not seem like a huge thing, but I honestly think that having multiple borders is a great way to make the game better suited to the player’s personality. In the beginning, of course, there was only one type of border. But then it went through revision and redesign, and the new interface looked quite different from the original version. I showed it to my friends, and opinions were mixed. Some liked the old one, and some liked the new one. Some preferred the hero and enemies to have their remaining health displayed as a somewhat nebulous bar, while others preferred seeing it as distinct hearts so it was a bit more obvious how much health they had left. It seemed to be a simple matter of personal preference. So I figured, what the heck? Why not include all those options and let the player decide which to go with?

Do you prefer the old look or the updated look? Either way, you’re good to go.

The custom interface choices grew from there. You can select from one that’s red and smooth, one that’s blue and stony, one that’s grey and mechanical, one that looks like castle parapets with dragon heads breathing fire, one that looks like a lush forest, and others. There are currently nine border choices in the game, but that could end up expanding before the game’s release.

This plant-themed border is pretty soothing, don’t you think? It’s one of nine you can choose from.

The customizable color palettes came about during the Kickstarter campaign. One of the stretch goals (which we hit) was to include a greenish four-color Game Boy-style palette for the game, so to do that I implemented a shader that can swap certain colors with other colors. Once the shader was done, it was no problem at all to include other alternative palettes as well, and the number of color options has currently climbed to 10 (though, as with the borders, the number may grow).

It’s like 1989 all over again with the Game Boy-inspired color palette!

You can choose to go with a brighter color palette, a more muted palette (if you find the default palette tough on the eyes for any reason), a grayscale “noir” palette, a pastel pink palette, a black-and-white palette, and even an NES color palette. There’s also one that makes all the colors weird – it was sort of inspired by Super Mario World, specifically the way the colors and character art would change once you cleared all 96 exits in the game. Sorry, no pure-red Virtual Boy color scheme though!

On top of all that, there’s also even more adjustable shader options that let you tweak the game’s aesthetic to your liking. All of the aforementioned options from this update are available from the get-go – you don’t need to unlock them or anything – so I hope you enjoy trying them out and finding your favorites once you play the finished game.

August 23, 2016

Ittle Dew 2: Adventurous by Design

Hey everyone! Joel here again with some more behind-the-scenes chatter on Ittle Dew 2. This time I’d like to tell you more about the world you’ll be exploring in the game, and some of the decisions that influenced that world’s design.

If you’re familiar with other classic action-adventure games, or the first Ittle Dew, then you know the general premise: lots of dungeons, a nice big overworld, and lots of enemies to crush and puzzles to solve along the way. Naturally, we want to keep things varied and interesting, so there are a number of fun and, um, unique locations to visit. The dungeons include places like the Trash Cave, an art exhibit (where pretty much everything is is destructable), and even one that’s set in some dude’s flooded basement! It starts as a regular basement, but slowly transforms into a pirate-themed desert island with sharks and cannons and stuff.

While in the art gallery, be sure to mind your manners and…smash everything you see!

As for the overworld, you’ll travel to spots like Pepperpain Prairie (which has rivers of hot sauce and peppers), Frozen Court (a permanently snowy area where enemies with gigantic magical swords roam around), and Star Woods (where a beautiful forest is half-covered in sad-looking trash bags and rivers of sludge that are coming from the aforementioned Trash Cave).

The adventure turns hot and spicy when you venture onto Pepperpain Prairie.

Originally, the overworld was a lot more open, without any major obstacles or detours, and it was mostly just a way to get from one place to another. But that wasn’t satisfying, so Daniel, our expert level designer, rebuilt a lot of it and blocked off some paths so you could never just run through in a straight line. There was a lot of creating and testing to make sure it was fun and the difficulty felt right. Also, to make sure it didn’t feel like going through the overworld was ever a chore or that you’re wasting time, we’ve included warp spots at all the major points of interest so you can quickly travel there for subsequent visits. (Likewise, there are shortcuts in dungeons for easy backtracking, too.)

Need to get somewhere fast? You can warp to all the major points of interest after you visit them once.

On the other hand, we also wanted to make sure that exploring was worthwhile, so there are lots of secrets and optional items off the beaten path, as well as a few sight gags and bits of lore about the game that only astute players will discover. You can find hints for just about everything too, even if the clues aren’t obvious or necessarily near the secret in question. And while I’ve talked a lot in the past about how important it was that the game be nonlinear and that you could go anywhere at any time, that’s not completely true – aside from the final dungeon, of course, there are some mysterious black obelisks that…well, I’ll let you see for yourselves.

Tooltip Sign2
Why, yes, I do believe this is…a clue!

There’s plenty to see and solve and destroy in Ittle Dew 2, so I hope you have fun playing it and discovering the world for yourself when it’s released in the not-too-distant future.

August 8, 2016

Creepy Castle: Music in the Castle!

scen1-unlocking doors

Hey guys, this is Zach again, and this time I want to talk about something that’s especially important to me in a video game: the music! The right music can make a good game great, and make a great game something truly memorable that sticks with you forever.

I can’t actually think of any moments in video games that I consider to be truly great where the music was not playing an integral role. Phoenix Wright lives by the pounding beat of one of its Cornered themes filling you with adrenaline as you finally begin to break apart a murderer’s false testimony. Yoko Shimomura’s touch is incredible enough to make the wacky melodrama of Kingdom Hearts something you can be excited for with tracks like Forze Del Male, and beautiful enough to conjure emotions in places you might not expect, like the Final Battle Theme of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time.

I’d say music is the most nebulously absorbed part of a video game – we tend to care more about what’s happening in a dialogue box or the action on screen – but at the same time, in some ways it might be the very most important part.

So, obviously, making the right soundtrack for Creepy Castle was incredibly crucial to me. I wanted something that was memorable and motivating, based in rock and metal, and at the same time had the proper retro sound to go with the old-school visuals. Ideally, I wanted something like the old Capcom or Konami soundtracks of the NES days. There was just one problem: when I started making Creepy Castle, I didn’t have any musical capacity at all. Fortunately, my friend Marius Schneider from Germany is a great composer, and he’s been helping me with Creepy Castle since its very first two-day-game-jam incarnation. Marius has a Celtic approach to music and a background in guitar, and his music is a perfect fit for the upbeat and catchy nature I’m going for. (He’s also very talented at writing and world-building, and he’s helped a lot with the story of Creepy Castle.) He originally wrote nine songs for the original Creepy Castle prototype.

Marius cites the Marble Atrium theme as one of his personal favorite tracks.

As the game expanded and after the Kickstarter was successful, we found ourselves with the opportunity to do a lot more with the soundtrack. Marius went back to those original nine tracks and tried to make them a bit more unified, expanding some songs and rewriting large parts of others. We also kept finding reasons to include new songs: unique themes for certain characters, new areas, specific enemies, etc. It happened organically, without a particular plan, but in the end we expect there to be more than 60 unique tracks in the game!

Fun Fact: Sometimes the music would influence other aspects of game design, like I might make an area more labyrinthine if that’s the feeling the music gave me.

That’s a lot of music for one person to handle, so in some cases Marius went into his personal vault (so to speak) and dug up unfinished and unused songs he’d written over the years, polishing them up or using them as inspiration for new tracks. One that especially stands out is a mysterious, Egyptian-sounding theme that has found a new home as the theme of an important area in Scenario 3. In addition, I’ve been working to improve my composing skills since the Creepy Castle prototype was built all those years ago, and they’ve reached the point that I’ve been able to add to the soundtrack as well. I’m probably only writing one song for every 10 that Marius does, but I’m glad to contribute tracks like the Ghost Palace Boss theme.

Marius didn’t originally create this song for Creepy Castle, but it ended up being perfect music for exploration.

While I’m very happy with the songs I’ve made and Marius’s tunes are amazing, there’s one thing about the Creepy Castle music that had always bugged me a little, and that’s the fact that we weren’t creating authentic chiptunes. Ever since we started making the music back in 2009, we did stick to rules like limited channels (two lead, another for bass, another for percussion), but we just exported the sounds as MIDI files, then fed them through a program called GXSCC to make them sound like they’re being generated by an an 8-bit sound chip. It’s OK, but it’s not ideal, so eventually Marius began redoing the music the proper way with tracker software.

Unfortunately, the going was slow, and we still had a lot of other work to do on the game, so remaking all the music was somewhat impractical. Luckily, Nicalis introduced us to musician and remixing genius RushJet1 – who I’d already been a fan of for years – and he’s remixing all of our songs into proper chiptunes. Better still, he’s even contributed a few original tracks to Creepy Castle, and collaborated on a few more. One of my favorite tracks so far, which was somewhat inspired by Yoko Shimomura’s emotional, imposing boss-fight song from Kingdom Hearts 2, is called “Wanting All the Things You’ll Never Have,” and it wouldn’t have been possible without Marius’s fantastic bass track or RushJet1’s instrumentation.

This track was very much a collaborative effort and is one of my favorite tracks in the game.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this look at the music of Creepy Castle! If you want to know more, you’re in luck – there’s a jukebox option in the game, and each song has a bit of commentary from the composer. I hope you look forward to checking it out!