Some major life events consumed the majority of the spring and summer for my life, but I have finally gotten back on track working on Evenfall at a steady pace. Recently, I have taken another look at the existing art in the game. I've said time and again that the playtests had non-final art direction, but I figured it's high time to start working towards what the art direction will be.

Art has always been my weakest point in game development. I have a long way to go before I would expect people to refer to the art as "good" but for the time being, I'll accept "passable!" There is still a long time between now and any kind of "done" state for Evenfall, and I plan to spend a good chunk of that time improving my ability to produce the art for the game.

As a first step, I have gone back and begun to rework most of the existing sprites, textures, tilesets and hud elements. Using the wonderful EDG64 palette by @ENDESGA, I have been standardizing the look and feel of existing art as well as working to simplify textures and make foreground elements clear with outlines and brighter colors to contrast the darker backdrops.

For example, here is a screenshot of the middle of the first town, Riverstone, from the Winter 2017 playtest:

Riverstone pre-redo

And here it is now:

Riverstone redone

Simplified, clarified and consistent in color.

It's not perfect. I'll never stop trying to improve it as I learn and as the game develops. For now, this color and style overhaul helps get things in order for a more consistent development plan. I now have a direction to move in with the art rather than throwing something into the editor and calling it "good 'nuff".

Continuing on between art work, I am also focusing on yet more expansion of spells and a fresh take at the Traits system.

For spells, I've added several new ones to each school of magic, and the unlock order and balancing of all existing spells have been completely overhauled. Each school of magic should feel unique and lend enough power to make it through each part of the game. Some spells will fall off over time, some may seem useless until you find the right gear or spell synergy, but each spell has a purpose.

For the Trait system, I've recently decided to also overhaul what they do. In Evenfall, you gain Insight points when you level up. You can use these points to upgrade spells or unlock Traits. Traits today give you small buffs or bonuses, but looking at them, they just don't seem fun. Here's a few abridged examples of what some traits do right now:

Stats, stats, stats. There is very little fun in small number tweaks, especially when the alternative is to upgrade spells to great effect. So, I'm reviewing existing traits to either make them feel more impactful, or replace them altogether. One existing trait, "Gambler," is my inspiration for more traits. With Gambler enabled, when you kill an enemy with a critical hit, a six-sided die is rolled. Each number on the die has an effect tied to it, one of which is to roll two more dice! This can lead to some completely crazy outcomes, as your health is increased or cut, or you gain a buff or bonus experience or otherwise.

Instead of enemies dropping a percentage of more gold, what about a Trait that causes enemies to bleed gold coins when they take a serious hit? Instead of always taking less magic damage, what about a Trait that gives you a permanent, visible shield that absorbs damage, explodes it back and has to recharge? The outcome is the same, but it feels so much more fun.

All this to say: I'm continuing my focus on not churning out another statfest RPG and instead keep things interesting at every turn. Builds will feel unique, playstyles can be optimized and shortcomings can be covered with dynamic exchanges.

More on all this later in the season as I determine when it is best to have another playtest. I also plan to discuss more about a potential minigame release taking place in the same world as a combat engine test.

~Michael