Hello again, readers!
This week we'll take another trip down the memory lane and talk about another game which has inspired us. These chosen few are not only games which have influenced the development of Kalaban, but our whole career as indie game developers.
" Enter Crimsonland "
Over fourteen years ago, when I first booted up the executable called "crimson.exe", I really had no idea what to expect. I had downloaded this freeware game, made by a couple of hobbyist game developers, from the Pelit magazine's gamedev forum. Pelit is a popular video game publication here in Finland, and around that time many young indie developers used to hang around those forums.
At first you're greeted with a topdown view of a featureless playfield. Then, little by little, gray alien creatures start to appear from the edge of the screen. You click on your left mouse button, and the virtual avatar fires a single shot from his pistol. Blood splurts from the enemy, and it falls over. Soon the whole screen is clogged up by slowly moving monsters, as you try to avoid them. Before long you get your first level up; a perk of your choosing. These range from weapons mastery, to regeneration, to faster movement and picking up objects from the distance with your mind.
The gameplay is simple, straightforward and fun. And I was instantly hooked to it. My fourteen-year-old self had found a game, which was exactly the kind of game I wanted to create at that time. Later, when the freeware Crimsonland evolved into the full version with multiple game modes and quests, I dreamed of creating a first person rendition of the same idea. Sadly, that concept never came to be.
Playing Crimsonland is like playing Doom (1993). Here's your gun, there's the monsters, no questions asked. The view is far enough from the player that you always have a clear vision of the battlefield. The weapon fx and bonus item effects still look great, thirteen years later. It takes courage and vision to hone the gameplay to such a pure and simplistic level that it just works. After that, you just add enough weapons, different foes and perks to keep it interesting.
The secret of Crimsonland is its spartan action, with everything useless removed from the UI and from the game itself. The idea is so simplistic that you can imagine any gun-wielding character in place of the player, blasting away endless foes. That is what drove me to vision my own version of it at the time. The exactly same gameplay would not work from a first person perspective however. If you have enemies approaching at you from 360 different angles, defending yourself becomes impossible. That's why you need some cover and structures at the playfield, to funnel those foes through.
When we began writing new combat system for Kalaban, I had this game in my mind. Attacking should feel intuitive and powerful. Enemies would occasionally drop loot and they would vary in speed, strength and style. Others would fire projectiles at you, others would be purely melee type and others would blow up on touch. And attacks, blasts and damage would cause a violent screenshake.
Recently, when we created the Shooter demo of Kalaban, we had these gameplay lessons in mind. We took the basic combat from the main game, and just added more spawning monsters and a high score which would rank up with every kill. We wanted to create a good view into the visual world of our game, without compromising the detail and depth of the actual game.
Who knows? Maybe we'll create a game purely built on combat in the future. In Kalaban we've wanted to make the experience atmospheric, filled with exploration, discovering story breadcrumbs and working with the NPCs to survive. And of course, there's plenty of combat...
You can download and test our shooter demo from below: