Early Access Dev Blog #1: The Whale Road-Map

Welcome to our first weekly Early Access dev blog post! Firstly thanks to all our players and the community activity - great suggestions and critique.

Now it is time to look ahead, and talk about what we have planned for the next few months. Please note that this roadmap is not cut in stone. We expect that we will be updating it as we move along, and as we receive more feedback.

We are aiming to release an update at the end of each month. Patches like v0.2.1  will be the exception. In this case we are splitting the scope of the release to be able to have updates ready in time for Gamescom. I know that this is not the the most exciting update, but gamedev is not only fun & games. ;)


August-Gamescom - v0.2.0: Enhanced Features, Usability Improvements & Bug Fixes

New Features:

  • Ability to discard trading goods from the ship storage
  • New combat map: forest
  • Trading goods colour codes to indicate where they are produced
  • Character opinions for winter events

Improvements:

  • Replacing “sleeping on board” screen with a day transition screen
  • Winter home settlement - Make winter wintery! 
  • Updating sailing screens with light specific for each day stage

Bug Fixes:

  • Remove ability of characters to swap places in combat
  • Characters will no longer pass through other characters during combat
  • Fix a bug where the player cannot leave a location after a saved game has been loaded
  • Fix a bug where the player cannot leave a location after combat
  • Fix a bug where armour sets are vanishing or the incorrect image is shown

Content: 

  • First character mission - Going north to Ribe and the Limfjord
  • Additional NPCs - Adding a second set of Saxon enemies
  • New winter events - Events at your home settlement during winter
  • New location events - Events when you are at other settlements
  • New locations along the Danish coast

August - v0.2.1: Events & Enhancements

New Features:

  • Linking of events - Will allow us to combine events into chains for more story-telling options
  • Raiding of camps - This is the first phase of the raiding functionality. The ability to raid villages will be added later.

Improvements:

  • Adding a weather system - Rain, and then some more rain
  • Event outcome randomisation - Some events results will have changing outcomes
  • Event character opinions - More variety of opinions
  • Trading goods balancing - Updating prices and availabilities

Content:

  • New sailing events
  • New rumours

September - v0.3.0: Character Progression & Trade

New Features:

  • Character to leader affinity
  • Character renown
  • Character progression 
  • Character afflictions
  • Ship upgrades
  • Enhanced trade - A more dynamic trade system

Improvements:

  • New sailing side-scrolling areas (cliffs, forest, swamp)
  • Fog, wind and sky variations
  • Main story events' cinematics

Content:

  • New location events
  • New sailing events
  • New winter events
  • New character missions

October - v0.4.0: Combat & Story Update  

New Features:

  • Enhanced combat system
  • New event screen

Improvements:

  • New combat AI
  • Event illustrations

Content:

  • Additional Danish characters
  • Additional NPCs
  • Danish storyline chapters 2 & 3
  • Locations along the Frankish coast
  • Additional winter events
  • Additional location events
  • Additional sailing events
  • Additional rumors

We will extend the road map from this point on to the full release, as we get closer to the end of October. No studio can escape its wyrd.

Best.

Joachim @ Sunburned Games

The Great Whale Road is live on Steam Early Access!

Hello Everyone! 

We are happy to announce that The Great Whale Road has passed through the gates and has entered Early Access. 

We really hope you like what we have created, and we are looking forward to have you with us on this journey. Please use the Discussion Forum on the Steam Community page to provide us your feedback, inputs and critique. 

We know that we have our work cut out for the next months, and we have already a content update planned, which will come out in two weeks - before Gamescom. 

We have already published our first mini patch - a 32-bit Windows build and some minor text fixes. So what are you still doing here? Go to Steam and get The Great Whale Road:

See you around! 

Rock that Saxon Lyre!

How to create a modern & early medieval score?

Victor, composer of The Great Whale Road soundtrack, and Joachim, co-founder/writer here at Sunburned Games, talk about the originating story of the score with an imaginary game journalist.

How did this collaboration start?

Joachim: Johnny, one of our developers, knew Victor from another project and he recommended him warmly. So I just dropped him an email, and that is how our joint adventure began. When Victor and I started discussing what the music for The Great Whale Road should sound like I might have had a vision, but I couldn't describe it very well. Looking at my first email to Victor from over a year ago I can see that I didn't make his job easy. My short briefing reads: "Something classic (think Wagner), but more primitive and rhythmic (think large skin drums and horns maybe)." He really deserves a lot of credit for translating my "directions" into the tracks we have today. 

Your first tracks were composed and recorded last year, correct?

Victor: Yes, I wrote the first tracks, the theme for the Kickstarter and Greenlight trailers, which were used as the main theme of the demo, and a second track for combat itself. I tried to imagine the long journeys, the sea travels, the battles, all the emotions and feelings of such adventures ... and combine all these things to create modern video game music with an ethnic touch.

Victor Riera

Victor Riera

Joachim: These first two compositions already captured the soul of what we were after, and I think included an influence of 70s Spaghetti Western scores.

Victor: Well, I really like Ennio Morricone's music and also his ability to create great melodies!

But the scope of the game has changed since then. How has that impacted the music? 

Joachim: For the second set of tracks for Steam Early Access start we were looking to emphasise the early medieval cultural aspects of the tracks while keeping the overall stylistic direction we started with. I pictured every culture in the game with its own theme and some ethnical medieval flavour.

Victor: We considered various options to maintain the consistency throughout the OST, to make sure we respect the special characteristics of each culture. The solution was to use the same ingredients, but to distribute them differently. Now we have a more folk based instrumentation with an orchestral touch.

Sounds challenging, what were the key problems to overcome?

Victor: The main issue is that you can't listen to a lot of authentic early medieval music on Spotify. All the music which claims to be early medieval is a reconstruction. It is how someone today imagines the instruments and compositions to sound like. On the plus side that maybe gives you more freedom, but the downside is that it is more difficult to find useful references. Luckily Joachim gave me a lot of interesting material and he pointed me in the right direction to start my research.

Joachim: Little did I know how difficult it would be. After I started to search for examples of early medieval music I panicked a bit. There is loads of romanticised stuff, but little which seems authentic. I then stumbled across Faroese chain dances and early medieval chant. That together with Celtic music gave Victor a starting point. There is this one Faroese Viking Age chain dance I love, and Victor used that as one of the influences when he composed the themes for the Danes.

Victor:  We had some ideas to start with now, but also the idiosyncrasy of every culture. We had religious chants for the Franks, an archaic Celtic sound for the Picts, and we were trying to do something darker for the Saxons. Don't get me started on the lyre.

So how did you deal with that when composing?

Victor: I focused on creating something modern which has a primal feel to it. I had to reduce the composition to basic harmonies, sometimes even monophonic parts. To strengthen the primal aspect I then added irregular passages and droning background sounds.

Did you use live instruments?

Joachim: We only used some live instruments for the first two tracks. We recorded them with Joan at his A.C.V studio in Barcelona, who also did the mastering. But for the latest tracks we went down the digital route due to budget constraints.

Victor: I went with loads of different percussion instruments. I tried to find instruments that sounded rough, for example ancient horns, harps, flutes or pipes.

How many tracks will there be at the start of Early Access?

Victor: In addition to the first two we have six new tracks ready to go. I had mentioned the project to Mikel F. Krutzaga, who had been the sound engineer for the Castlevania games, and he liked the tracks.

Mikel F. Krutzaga

Mikel F. Krutzaga

Joachim: Yes, and we got him on board to be our sound engineer. He has done a really great job.

Victor: Working with Mikel was a fantastic experience. He added an extraordinary amplitude to the themes, which has a big impact. His experience lifted the score to another level.

So what's next sound-wise for The Great Whale Road?

Joachim: More tracks in the future! If players like the game as much as we hope then we will add more cultures. And each of them will have its own theme, or a variation at least.

Victor: And I will be working on the SFX side over the next few weeks.

Will there be an OST to buy, and can you let us listen to a sample?

Victor: You can find the first two tracks on Soundcloud and we have added a little surprise.

Joachim: We will add the OST as a DLC on Steam, and maybe Victor will put it on bandcamp as well. We will use the theme of the Picts in our gameplay trailer, and we are keeping most of the new tracks under wraps until then.

Let's listen to the Danish theme! Thanks for your time, gentlemen.

Victor: De nada!

Joachim: My pleasure.

Development Update - June

Hello Everyone!

I am starting with the important stuff - we have decided to move the Early Access date to the end of July. A game in this phase of development can do with every hour of work it can get, and rushing things in the face of E3 and the upcoming Steam summer sale didn't seem reasonable.

On the way I also did a bit of rescoping to give myself more writing time, as I am not Stephen King and other studio stuff will always encroach on my schedule. After six months I was finally smart enough to realise that and to plan accordingly.

The adventure will start with 'Episode 1' of the Danes, while we will continue to add features and content. We'll unavoidably run into August, when most of our team will take some well deserved time off. Therefore the second part of the Danish story will follow at the end of the summer - as long as the end of September still counts as summer. We would also like to have the first part of our Northumbrian story ready by then, but I am not swearing an Óðinn oath on that just yet.

If you are in Barcelona at the end of June you can meet us at Gamelab, which is still the place to chat about indie games in Spain (or so I have been told by the cool kids). In August we will be at Gamescom in Köln, but due to affordability you will require access to the business area if you want to stare at our tiny stand in awe. We simply couldn't afford a place in the public entertainment area. Even so the costs have swallowed a major chunk of our marketing budget. But if you don't have a press pass or similar and are in Köln at the time give us a shout. We will be happy to organise a show & tell Bratwurst eating contest! Because there is always time for Bratwurst.

Development and art have done great work while I have stumbled through the storyline and refined the style of events. The objective is to make all the writing in the game immersive and fitting the historical game world, even if this sometimes means that events have to be thrown away and rewritten.

Our next mini-milestones are the setup of the Steam store page and the production of our gameplay trailer - both due in the first week of July. And as tradition demands, I am asking you to follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @WhaleRoadGame and The Great Whale Road. If you are really keen you can try to find us on Tumblr and Instagram as well.

Every time you decide to share one of our Facebook posts or retweet one of our tweets you expose The Great Whale Road to a wider audience, including your nan and that bloke you are pretty certain you have never met before. Everyone matters and your grandmother might enjoy an historical story-driven tactical RPG. 

Thanks for reading this to the very end! +5 Renown

Best.

Joachim @ Sunburned Games