Skullstone

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Interview with 

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

By Peter Ward


 

Overview

Skullstone is a dungeon crawling RPG inspired by the legend of the genre – Dungeon Master. Choose your team of mercenaries and explore the dark corridors of the Skullstone dungeon. Fight monsters and solve puzzles to reach deeper levels. Visit the village, complete quests, find treasures and powerful items. Develop your characters and learn secrets behind Skullstone’s sudden reappearance.

Skullstone will be released in 2017

History

Skullstone – details of the game

The people of Deepkar send for help. Evil creatures spew from the ancient structure – Skullstone – which appeared in the forests. Killing men, snatching women and children – they bring terror to the hearts of good people. Heroes are needed to deal with the growing threat once and for all… But reality is there are no heroes in this world. All of those who came here to aid people of the Deepkar village in their struggle won’t do it for just a few words of appreciation. Money and treasures is what they want. And fame for some of them. They are mercenaries and this is yet another great opportunity to earn a coin. Choose among 20 characters, each with different set of skills and abilities, ready to fulfil different roles in your party. Healers, offensive and defensive magicians, front-row fighters – you name it. Build your team according to your play style.

Lead your team and help bringing safety to the village of Deepkar becoming rich and famous in the process!

What creatures are you gonna fight against? Monsters you have never seen before, created entirely by our talented artists. Some of them simply ugly and dangerous, others – twisted evil beings waiting for you in the darkness. Capable of attacking at range, cursing and slowing you down – monsters dwelling in the Skullstone offer an entirely new level of challenge.

Explore vast underground levels, see a number of different, unique visual dungeon styles. Find hidden rooms, treasures – monsters even – just for you to find. And also, there’s the town. Go there to give your team a break from fighting monsters, talk to NPCs, complete quests, claim rewards, and learn more about the game’s lore. Wherever the team goes, its movement is accompanied by an impressive ambient and dungeon synth music you will listen to even after playing the game!

Black Torch Studio – our quest

Players often dream of making their own games, not many actually seriously attempt making one. Here at Black Torch Studio we are making just that – our game, first serious project for all of us. And development is going great so far, we’ve reached the last straight. Filling the game with assets is all that’s left now, but how did we get to this moment?

It all started when Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara decided to start realizing his old fantasies. Already being a successful programmer, he created a satyrical browser game. Simple project to get some early experience. It wasn’t enough to satisfy him and he soon decided to create something more, something demanding. After a talented artist – Łukasz Szulik – was found, together they decided what their first serious game will be, the name Skullstone was born. Soon after, when they already had something to show, additional artists joined the team and development accelerated. And here we are now.

It’s a bumpy road and tough moments happen occasionally, but so far working on the game is great fun for all of us. We are on a quest to bring our dreams and ideas to life and the result of our work will be released next year. Are you eager to accompany us on our way?




First of all welcome to Retrogamesmaster.

 

Black Torch Studio

Thank you for inviting us for the interview!


What was your first gaming experience?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Fred and Galaxians 2. Both on ZX Spectrum. Year 1985 I think.

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

The first one was a racing game I played around 1993. I don’t know neither its title nor platform, some old computer, but I don’t know which exactly. Then was Mortal Kombat, perfect game for a kid starting his adventure with games.

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

The first game? Peter Pan – a simple matching pairs game. Then came the classic Pegasus – it’s a clone of the NES console, really popular in Poland during late nineties – with games like Mario, Contra, Bomberman, Battle City. Later, NFS 3 Hot Pursuit, on a PC (besides Windows Solitaire and Pinball). I still play it from time to time – it’s great when you just want to play a quick race. This is impossible in modern games – you need to log into your account, then find a race by driving around the city.giphy-61


What got you into developing games?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Will it sound too simple if I say I just wanted to make games? That’s how it was. As a kid I got my hands on ZX Spectrum, then my parents bought me an Atari. Games for it were written in Basic and I remember how easy it was to modify them. Atari had a built in Basic interpreter and I started tinkering with it. Now, years later, having obtained knowledge and experience (result of working as a programmer for many years) I decided the time has come to realize my old plans.

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

I think of myself as a creative person. I was always fascinated by all the possibilities offered by digital entertainment. I wanted to be a part of the industry. I translated games and mods, created some of the latter as well (for Fallout 1 & 2, Jagged Alliance 2, Warcraft 3, GTA San Andreas and few other games). Skullstone’s the next step. Time will tell what will happen after that.

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

I think it was curiosity and will to create. I always wondered – how is it to make a game, what’s behind that jumping character? I played around with Game Maker and such and learned a lot. Then I found Blender. Tried it and it became my hobby. I decided to dedicate myself to graphics, as programming was related to math, and I wasn’t any good with it. 😛

 


What gamedev is for you? Is it you main job? Your future or maybe just an adventure?

 

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Currently, gamedev is a great way to distance myself from the growing boredom. I’m working as a professional programmer for many years now and sometimes I’m falling asleep at work – that’s how bored I am. Making games help me once again discover how fun the programming is.

Also… if Skullstone becomes a success, if our hard work results in making some money… I might think about leaving behind all the boring work, together with its boring data bases and boring business applications. I might fully dedicate myself to making games.

 

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

Skullstone is the first serious gamedev project I’m in. Well I’m not counting that one Polish indie game that was stuck in development hell for long years. It was actually released some time ago, perhaps it shouldn’t even be called indie anymore. It’s completely different game than what it was supposed to be back then.

I worked on many mods for various games, translated a few as well. I even released a couple of my own mods for games like Fallout 2 and Warcraft 3.

I see the game industry as a great opportunity for people like myself and I will definitely try to achieve more in it. Currently tho, I’m a freelance translator and interpreter.

 

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

So far I don’t think gamedev will be my future. I’m doing mainly what I did for the last few years. For me, gamedev is a way to make dreams come true. You wanna castle? No money tho? It will take 150 years and it’s still not done yet? You can build it much faster in 3d virtual environment. And cheaper. Aaand you can immediately show it to others.screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-20-14-18

 


Your current project – Skullstone – is a dungeon crawler game. What made you choose this genre?

 

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Why crawler? When I had an Atari and my brother Amiga I fell in love with Dungeon Master – I played it on his computer all the time. It wasn’t available for Atari and it made what I felt even stronger. Then, when I received my own PC, I played DM over and over. I still have all those feelings, I wanted to write my own dungeon crawler for a long time.

The genre was dead for a long time, but LoG appeared some time ago and revived it. People liked it and want more. Now’s a good time for such games.

 

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

Because that’s the idea FrozenShade came up with when we discussed what we should make. 😛 Also, it was a niche genre, I mean it still is. Let me use different words – it’s not a popular genre, unlike, for example, FPS games are. There’s still a lot to show. We don’t need to fight against well established competitive products.

 


What development tools or coding are you using on your current project?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

The game’s written in Java, so the IDE is Eclipse. The engine used is jMonkeyEngine.

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

Blender – IMO the best program that was ever created. All our models are made in it. I also use GIMP (everybody knows what it’s for), FreeCommander – a solid file manager, it’s important not to get lost when working with a lot of different pictures and models. And then there’s Substance Painter, I don’t regret a single penny I paid for it as it saves a lot of time. Skype is used for everyday communication – it makes it easier for us.screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-20-14-03


What are the major focuses of the design of your current project?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Major focuses are first of all the quality of graphics and a solid gameplay. To be honest I have no experience with neither of the two. Skullstone is my first approach to 3d graphics and just two years ago I knew nothing of it. Today it’s easy to see what was achieved. This isn’t Unity where you can just buy a set of shaders at the asset store – I, by myself, implemented new functions or adapted solutions I found on the Internet. I will design the final gameplay the same way I approached graphics – meticulously.

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

Not much to say here. I’ve joined the game when majority of things were already designed. I’m focusing on my work, which is writing ingame texts in Polish and English and promotion of the game. I also help designing stuff.

 

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

I’m one of the two founders of the project. I’m responsible for graphics and esthetics of the project – the whole artistic direction. Since day one, together with Frozenshade (the other founder of the game) we decided the game won’t have a light, positive vibe to it. And it won’t be a small flash-like project you finish in a few minutes. We aim for realism (combined with fantasy setting). The game’s gonna be dark but with style and taste.

We kept basics of the original dungeon crawlers to reflect their spirit:

– movement per square on a horizontal grid;

– dark dungeons – dungeons, not mountains, forests or canyons;

– 4 characters per team – not exactly heroes (why? Can’t a thief fight a ghoul?)

These are important elements of our design.

As far as the design of the dungeon itself go – it’s difficult to step away from the idea of tight corridors with stone walls. This is dungeon after all, this is what puts the “dungeon” into dungeon crawl genre. But keep in mind we have some additional things planned!


What hurdles did you have making your current game?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Hurdles… first of all graphics and 3d environment. I found it difficult already during my studies. Math never really was a serious problem for me… but all those matrices, vectors and conversions were and still kinda are. A lot of laborious work. I never really had the imagination for it.

As if that wasn’t enough, the engine that met my basic requirements (open source, java, highly flexible) turned out to be inferior in the field of graphic capabilities and overall quality of graphics. Of course its flexibility and access to the source code allowed me to introduce a lot of modifications. This required me to make friends with mathematics to write good shaders on my own. I believe I did a good job, especially as I never touched this matter before.

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

The most difficult thing is making a 3d game for the first time and using this engine. You need to learn everything, see everything on your own, check how things work, correct whatever needs correction. Then you move forward, learn something new, change some old things and work on next ones. Another serious matter is motivation – sometimes you have simply no will to work and you really need to try to find some strength to continue what you started.screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-20-16-31


What other games have you made?

Black Torch Studio

Skullstone’s the first project of our team. Only FrozenShade has a finished product he can show. It’s a farming-themed online clicker called PGR Online available for free. PGRs were large state-owned farms from the previous political system of our country. The game itself aims to mock that system while still being playable and fun. PGR Online was never translated and thus is only available in the Polish language.


After the completion of the game what might be your next project?

Black Torch Studio

If Skullstone gets a lot of attention, we will make an expansion pack with additional dungeons and challenges. Something we can create in a decent amount of time. Then we will most probably start working on… Skullstone 2! Although it won’t be another dungeon crawler. We will try to bite an other genre – maybe an RTS game with adventure elements? Like Spellforce. Or maybe something like Icewind Dale in Skullstone’s world. We will see, we need to focus on the current project first.screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-20-16-14


What is your favourite retro game?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

Of course it’s Dungeon Master!

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

Jagged Alliance 2. I was utterly fascinated by this game since childhood. I love its tactical shootouts, depth, modding possibilities, overall feeling of it and all the hidden features. I still play it every few months.

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

Definitely Road Racer.

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What’s the worst game you have ever played?

 

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

The worst game? I can’t remember. Why would you even bother with such things. You need to remember only fun and good ones.

 

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

It’s difficult to tell. My mind decided to forget all the worst games I played. I remember many games which I really, REALLY tried to like but couldn’t. Great projects, but poorly executed.

 

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

Let me think for a moment… Oh, I know! Alien Swarm! I wanted to give it a try, but this game was so unstable that I couldn’t play and decided to get rid of it. If not for this problem I would definitely see this game as one of the better ones I’ve played.

 


Do you play on any of the modern platforms and if so whats your favourite game?

Kamil ‘FrozenShade’ Siara

I only play PC games, I don’t really have any preferred titles other than the good old ones I remember and would like to play again. I sometimes return to the old RPGs and would complete Arcanum and old Fallouts again if I just had any spare time to do it. The Settlers 10th Anniversary hooked me for a long time because of the sentiment I have for the first few games of the series. I’m currently playing Jagged Alliance Back in Action – again, an old series. I also bought Dungeons on Steam, it’s waiting for me to play it. It’s a remake of sorts of old the Dungeon Keeper game series. I just love remakes of the good old titles. 🙂

‘Luźny’ Jakub Ćwikliński

I’m a PC guy. Favorite modern title? Space Engineers!

Łukasz ‘winhelp’ Szulik

Batman Arkham Asylum on PC I guess. I probably finished this game more than ten times.


Finally, what game or feature would you like to see on Retrogamesmaster in the future?

Black Torch Studio

Well you need to review more dungeon crawlers, both old and new ones! And you definitely need to review Skullstone as soon as it’s released!


When will Skullstone be released?

Black Torch Studio

2017! However, the exact date is yet to be annouced.


Thank you for your time, would you like add something?

Once again thanks for the opportunity to answer all these questions. Now we would love to invite all of you dear readers to check our game’s FaceBook page ( https://www.facebook.com/SkullstoneGame/ ) and Twitter ( https://twitter.com/skullstonegame ).

We are also launching our website http://skullstonegame.com/. Check it our to read game information and FAQ, see movies and screenshots and get into touch with us!screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-20-04-58