September ’21 Hellcard Development Update

This is the first in the series of regular monthly updates about Hellcard development, as promised in the last update. We want to keep you in the loop as much as possible

The whole Hellcard thing began for real around a year ago when we launched a pre-alpha demo. We wanted to see if the core idea works and if it’s fun. And it was – we spent the next few months gathering feedback, fixing bugs in the pre-alpha build, and preparing to make the real thing. 

“Wasn’t that the real thing?” you may ask. It wasn’t. It was hacked together quickly using chewed gum and duct tape, like something MacGyver would make. From the player’s perspective, a large portion of the game was there: both multi and single-player, cards, leveling up, combat, and character progression, all was there. But below this facade was a mess and we couldn’t build a whole game on such a foundation. The final experience would be shoddy and bugs would be abundant even in the best-case scenario. In the worst, we wouldn’t be able to implement all we want to. Knowing that the core concept is now proven, we went back to the blueprints.

Since then we have been working on three aspects simultaneously:

  • backend systems design and implementation (net code, card logic, etc.)
  • content design (cards, enemies, etc.)
  • visual design (locations, arenas, etc.).

Backend systems

At this point, most of the core backend systems are implemented. This includes the very base systems like

  • Language subsystem – basically allowing translations and switching between them.
  • Character loader system – a flexible system for storing all character related data for multiple characters
  • Card system – a surprisingly complex and flexible system for storing, saving, and rendering cards
  • Unlock manager – system for storing unlockable content

We still are tackling issues with matchmaking code – it was wonky in the pre-alpha prototype as those of you who played back then surely recall. Now it’s completely rewritten but some issues remain. 

Designing Content

The pre-alpha prototype sported just a handful of cards. Right now we already have designed give or take 150 cards with more than a hundred more to go. Compare this to the mere 29 cards available in the prototype to get an idea of how flexible the builds will be. At the same time balancing such a number of cards is tricky. This is where a closed beta will be important, no one will find loopholes better than the players.

We have also designed 20 monster types and are currently designing bosses. This includes not only how they look but their unique mechanics. Just like the Antiope who counted cards in the demo. 

We are also designing artifacts (both common and class-specific) and we have already finished designing things the characters will be able to do between battles. Here is an advanced concept for one such location that can be visited: 

A cozy campfire makes fighting evil hordes worth it.

And we are also working on the intro! We started with a screenplay and now we are wrapping up a storyboard (a kind of a comics-like image-based version that shows keyframes from the final animation):

A pearl? A flower? An eye? Only time and more color can tell.

As always,
stay safe in the paper dungeons!