2019 Winter & Spring Updates
As winter and Spring come to a close and we shift into the summer months, a sense of motivation has encouraged us here at AfroDuck Studios to think differently about how we approach game development. Zakumba: Episode Astraia (ZEA) has been the brainchild of multiple developers, each with a different way of approaching its design, complexity, nature, and what it represents to different communities. When we first began, we had just wanted to design a fun narrative that would involve anybody to fall in love with our character and be able to sympathize with her situation and understand her story. One of the early designs for her was to make her of European descent so we could incorporate a wider audience with her culture. However, there was an opportunity that could not be ignored. We decided that instead of following a traditional character analysis of the hero's journey, we would take a leap of faith in her narrative to stand apart from other indie games with a character like hers. This mindset has pushed us to think more critically on how combat affects the narrative, gameplay, and vice versa for all. ZEA is now being designed with everything being connected and everything having a purpose clearly defined by the team.
Here are a few Key Updates from development to show our progress this past winter and spring of 2019.
One thing that crossed our mind when we first developed the story for Astraia was a question that we still ask ourselves even to this day. What emotion do we want the audience to feel when they finish Astraia's story? This question drove us to think deeply about the type of person who Astraia was and what she would do in our world as a person. Was she relatable? Was she a normal child who would get on our nerves? Would she be more intellectually sound than us? Would she agree with the politics and philosophies that most people accept growing up? Understanding and defining these types of questions helped us realize that Astraia was the type of child that we wanted to be at some point, but only when we were old enough to realize it. Astraia is motivated and independent. She understands the world she lives in but still wants to carve her own path through it. The dangers she faces and the people she interacts with are all part of her daily life and she has grown accustomed to a standard of living that many of us could not survive in. As we developed her character, it became clear that the world built around her also had to test her. Yes, Astraia was tough and would not back down, but she was also a little girl who was learning about life and the world she lived in while being raised by a single father. A world where everyone has their own problems and didn't have time to cater to her needs. A world where she has to fight for her own survival when her father is not there to always hold her hand. Astraia defines the mindset of when many of us transition into adulthood and are realizing just how scary and exciting the world can be. This is what we thought about when defining her character and working on the primary location setting of Pyrophestus.
The writing team has spent a lot of time editing, changing, and critiquing aspects of the narrative to make sense have dialogue and scenes be enjoyable to play through. Currently, they are on the last few edits of it carefully considering every character decision that could be taken awry. They are excited to share the fruits of their labor when we can introduce Astraia and her story to our audience.
Art/ Character Designs
At AfroDuck Studios, we love our art team and the designs that they are able to translate from the mind of our creative director. Over the course of a few months, we have gotten some very valuable concept pieces which are helping us design the final sprites and game assets needed for prototyping. Over the course of ZEA's development, we have had many concept designs for different characters and the NPC's that the player would interact with. Although Astraia is the main character of this story, the supporting cast was vital in expanding the world of Zakumba.
Kofi is Astraia's father and was one of the more difficult characters to design. Designing a character who resembled Astraia became tricky because we were already so used to Astraia being an independent person without the need of a parental figure. We had to go back to the writing team and truly pinpoint what someone like Kofi could offer our genius little girl. Which is when we realized that because Astraia was a child, she would still act like a child and would need a supporting role in her life. A parental figure to lean on.
The same went for the Nkrumah Family consisting of Belles, Xex, and Bubs. These characters were all related to each other but shared different personalities. It is important to note that although we had an idea for these characters on paper, the way they were played was what also influenced their final iterations. One of the teams’ personal favorite to design was Belles. She was the fiercest and most enjoyable characters we designed because of her nonchalant attitude toward authority and life in general. Her style and her attire represented that with a firm belief in Function over Form. Her brothers, Xex and Bubs, also had designs that were more attuned to their personalities. Xex is a man who decides his own fate and walks the path he believes to be best for his siblings. He is calm and collected and represented as the more calculating type of the Nkrumah family. Bubs is a more stable and relaxed character looking out for his younger siblings while taking a moment to enjoy the little things in life. His design represented a more rough but soft design tone.
Through many iterations and new character introductions, we look forward to hearing your feedback and comments on these designs.
Art/Locations & Scenes
The World of Zakumba has many locations and points of interest that we are excited to share with our audience. One of those locations is the main setting for the game Pyrophestus, the city of Ash and Fire. The design inspiration for Pyrophestus came from the idea of a city surrounded by fire where the greatest weapons, armor, and items were created which would then be shared with the rest of the world. However, this city soon brought in a government bent on abusing its people and working them while reaping in the profits on its own. Living at the bottom, worse than the lower class where some people cannot afford to build their own homes on such a low income. There are a lot of great designs that our artists worked on which will be prime spots for exploration.
One of the most important aspects of a game is how it plays and how the combat functions within any scope. ZEA is no exception to this. Over the past year, our team has been studying core concepts of RPG mechanics and how they function within the confines of the world we have built. We wanted to take the core idea of a turn-based strategy game and include some new and original elements that can only be unique to our designs. Our very first playable prototype was recently developed and followed the scope of a board/card game format. The way it worked involved placing character cards on a board. Each character had a specific attack number placed for them which could be increased by the role of a dice. Skills and Abilities were then added to gain boosted attacks or varying effects in combat.
Skills are used for more powerful attacks and also have varying effects depending on the character. Each Skill has a cost that is paid by the character based on their SP, Skill Points, and can be refilled with items and other character Skills.
Abilities function in the same way but are shared among the entire party. One mechanic we are excited to implement involves Team Attacks. This opens up the player to have all characters perform an extra move and then, based on who is still available, perform an all-out attack toward an enemy.
We hope to offer a variety of different play styles that fit you best and can't wait to release our first Alpha build.
Prototype Build and Alpha Status
The team is currently in the stages of development assets being built for our first digital build of the game. currently, one of our biggest struggles has been getting the right proportions for art and sprite designs. one of our main RPG influences comes from Lunar: Silver Star Harmony developed by working designs and released on the PlayStation Portable in 2010. It is a classic rpg with a captivating narrative with a hero that you root for as he goes on his quest to save the world and his love. It is worth a play if you ever get a chance. Highly recommended by the entire team.
Currently, our sprite assets have been in many planning and test forms and have seen a huge growth in implementation.
We are also working on a unique way to blend the in-game menu and combat menu from a traditional look and style to something that captivates the player's interest. Some of our ideas have been drawn out to lay the stage of these GUI elements and we are more than happy to show what we are trying to work toward.
As our designs improve, we hope to meet the quality that players will come to hold us for and bring more enjoyment to the story.
We are very excited to introduce some of our newest members on the team, Ellen Barlett and Rose Flora.
Ellen is currently studying at the Ohio State University pursuing a degree in Art and Technology with a minor in Zoology. Ellen has come on board as our background and Scene Designer for ZEA.
Rose is our newest Pixel Artist and Animator. She currently attends Columbus State Community College pursuing an Art and Technical Animation Track.
We are super pumped to have them both join our little pond of developers. Check out their pages on the Team Section of our website.
We also are proud to announce the Graduation of one of our Lead Writers, Neil Grayson. Neil has just graduated from The Ohio State University with a master’s degree in Writing. Neil has been part of the AfroDuck Team for 2 years and we are excited to see him accomplish great things here and all his projects.
Thank You to all of our supporters keeping up with the news and our updates on the website and our social media. Please reach out to us for any questions regarding our studio or our projects.