Taking on a new dimension

When we started this project we had a pretty clear vision for what we wanted. 4 player local and Internet co-op, a game that rewarded skillful play without being reliant on highly dexterous execution. A game that you could put a lot of hours into getting good at, but still invite some friends to try it out with you and play a bit more casually. Through this long twisty road we've been on there have been quite a few variations of the game that we eventually named Emberscape.

Our first prototype was a real time 2d beat-em-up perspective, similar to Castle Crashers. We then moved on to a real time isometric view of a hex grid. Next we tried out the variation that ended up with what you've seen in previous blog posts. We were fairly happy with this variant for a long time. We did extensive paper prototyping and then the digital implementation(s). This version of the game was ok, maybe even good, but not great. We kept running into seemingly little issues that just ate away at our time. An interface for 4 players when you have cards with lots of text and a variety of status effects is surprisingly complex. Even after we did multiple iterations on this problem there was still too much complexity, too much text, and most frustrating for me personally, a perceived lack of design space where it seemed there would be ample opportunities.

Today we're here to talk about yet another attempt to cage this beast that is the idea of Emberscape. We've returned to the real-time nature of our original prototype but with an art pipeline that allows us to do 3d. You can see here one character from the 2d version of the game and then the 3d version of that same character.

The previous game's 2d character and the 3d version. As the game's primary mechanics have changed the role of this character also changed and as a result was redesigned.

The previous game's 2d character and the 3d version. As the game's primary mechanics have changed the role of this character also changed and as a result was redesigned.


In this latest and hopefully final version, the battle gameplay is much closer to games you've probably played. If you could imagine an environment from a top-down perspective like in Diablo 3, the new Gauntlet, or Dungeonland in a small'ish 1-2 screen area, where the characters you've chosen for your adventure can fight the forces of the Emberscape with their chosen (and customized) abilities. Battles are relatively short, lasting just a few minutes.

The flora seems a bit displeased with the party's presence here.

The flora seems a bit displeased with the party's presence here.


When not in combat you'll be exploring the world on a 3d hex grid. Think of the Civilization or Total War maps with their cities and oversized people walking around. Your party is just one of those units, off to do, well, whatever it is you decide to do. We'll be going into more details about the overworld map and how that fits into the battles in a separate post but you can think of it sort of like a mix between FTL's navigation within a system and Don't Starve's randomized but persistent map. Every game world will be unique, but once you explore bits and discover where things are, you will have that knowledge as a resource until the end of your game.

Emberscape, naming, and the battle system

You may have noticed that The Ember Guard suddenly became Emberscape without much explanation. As it turns out, we discovered another game named Ember Guards that had independently hit upon a very similar name. Their project is very different from ours and we both announced our projects very close to each other so it's quite understandable how neither one of us would have found each other while searching around for available names. After some internal discussion, we decided to change our name to avoid any possible name conflicts. As a nice bonus, emberscape.com was available, zomg!

The Ember Guard, Emberscape, what's with all this ember stuff? We're going to have some future posts going into a bit more about the setting, but the general idea is that this world is in decline. A cataclysm of sorts has happened and what's left of humanity has banded together to survive. The Ember Guard is the premier line in the stand against the forces that threaten humanity and they are effectively the military. The Emberscape is the domain of the scary stuff that The Ember Guard is trying to keep at bay and is generally a pretty dangerous place to hang out. For all of you rolling your eyes right now at the merest mention of the fall of mankind, big scary monsters from a spooky dimension, and other such related tropes, in the future we'll try to keep all the lore/setting posts fairly contained so you can skip right over them.

Ok, on to something really meaty, the battle system! A few posts ago we talked at a high level about the elements that make up the battle system. This is where you'll spend the majority of the game and is something you're often planning for during the non-battle encounters you have (more on the in an upcoming post). Battles are designed to be fairly short (currently 4-8 minutes) but are packed with interesting decisions to make. As a team your goal is not only to defeat the enemies you're facing off against but also to minimize the damage you receive in the process. Emberscape is not a game where the white mage heals you up after the battle, in fact healing is pretty hard to come by and generally when you're healing you're missing out on some other pretty good stuff.

The core of the battle system is juggling the threats your team faces. Each turn you'll have between 2 and 6 cards to choose 1 from. In the image above you can see that the cards can have 3 different qualities. These are shown via the copper, silver, and gold borders. Gold cards are generally better than silver cards but are distributed such that you get a pretty even distribution of quality. So if you have a lot of gold cards, you probably also have a lot of copper cards. If you have a lot of silver cards, you probably have, well, lots of silver cards. In a future post we'll talk about the item system and the decisions you make when swapping out your cards between battles.

Most of the effects cards have influence two stats that every character has, Health and Defense. In this image here, the Channeler has 10 health and 2 defense. The icon indicates that the Channeler is being targeted by the boss's card. In the above screenshot you'll see a few cards that interact with defense, either gaining it or sacrificing it, but you won't see any that give you back health. As I mentioned before, taking damage is a big deal and you really want to avoid it if at all possible. Let's take a look at a few of the ways the team up top could mitigate some of the damage coming their way this turn.

First off, the Channeler at the bottom has a card that directly reduces an enemy's attack, in this case by 2 as that is the current defense of the Channeler. Right above that we see a card that deals some melee damage and then adds defense. When you take damage, it is applied to your defense first and then any remaining goes towards your health. There is no cap on the amount of defense you can gain in a single battle, although it does reset between battles. If we continue up, the next two cards don't do much to prevent damage. The Reckless Strike in fact removes all of the Guardian's defense in exchange for a lot of attack! Players attack before enemies, so killing an enemy is a viable way to prevent their damage. The 6 attack of the Guardian is 1 shy of being able to dispatch the Umbralings across from her, if only there was a way to put a bit more damage on them. Fortunately the top character has just such a card. Vulnerable causes the affected character to take additional damage the next time they are hit. So if the Umbralings have Vulnerable 3 on them when the Guardian uses the 6 attack, they'll take 9 damage which is more than enough to cut through their 2 defense and then 5 health. Cooperation like this is standard fare for Emberscape battles and you'll want to keep an eye on what your teammates are doing to maximize your potential on each turn.

Each turn after the players have taken their actions the enemies will get their turn. Most enemies are pretty straightforward, usually doing some damage with a small effect. The green enemy in the top lane simply hits for 5 every turn, which is a huge threat. The Umbralings are also a threat, but in a different way. They will hit for 2 break and 1 damage, meaning they will reduce your defense by 2 and then apply 1 damage. So if you have 2 defense and 10 health you'll take 1 point of damage on your health and end up with 0 defense. If you had 0 defense and 10 health you'd end up taking the same amount of health damage as break can only affect defense. The third enemy simply hits for 2 damage, but each turn this number goes up by 1, so on round 2 it will hit for 3, then 4, and, well you see where this goes. Prioritizing which enemy you take out first is part of the core gameplay and we're really excited to provide you with a large toolkit to experiment with.

New Name, Updated Logo, Minion Alt, and Boss

You may have noticed our logo is a bit different from the one we showed previously. We'll have a post shortly to explain more of the details. In the meantime, art!

Here is a work in progress for one of our boss characters.

The battle screen has undergone some simplification. Gold cards now have a distinct border, silver cards will soon gain this as well. The boss has been reworked to only have 1 card instead of three but now also has a "charge" ability that builds up each turn.

Announcing: The Ember Guard

It's time to start talking about our new video game project. Introducing...

The Ember Guard is a 1-4 player co-op tactical roguelike RPG with card driven battles, loot based deckbuilding, and meaningful story encounters. It's for PC/Mac/Linux (and perhaps other platforms later). Phew, buzzwords! Let's dive into what that all means.


Card Battles & Deckbuilding with Loot

Battles are fought with your character's deck of cards against monsters and bosses in turn-based combat. The twist is you can see exactly what the enemies are going to do on their turn. This opens the door to meaningful tactical play; more on this later!
The cards of your character's deck come from the items you choose to equip. Each randomly generated item consists of two cards, and potentially a passive or other stats. Do you want the heavy hitting Claymore with the double strike cards, or the Parrying Dagger with its defensive and setup strikes?
Your deck is only 10 cards (5 items). That means no filler cards; every choice is crucial to how you build your character. You'll have some other choices, such as class abilities, but we'll talk more about that in a future post.

1-4 Player Tactical Co-op (Local/Online)

Players take the role of powerful members of The Ember Guard, civilization's first and only line of defense in a hostile, broken world. The group you control is made up of four characters each with their own deck and abilities.
Battles are fast and ruthless. You'll need pick which cards to use wisely, factoring in not only what the enemy is going to do, but what danger your teammates might be in or how you can best aid them. Coordination is key. It's quite the feeling when you play all the right cards to completely counter your enemy's actions and achieve victory.

Roguelike RPG & Story Encounters

Alongside randomly generated missions, battles, and items, you'll unlock new classes, new cards, new areas, and handcrafted challenges and boss missions. We're doing new and exciting things on this "persistence layer" as we call it (stay tuned).
During missions, you'll encounter story events that give context to the battles you'll inevitably fight. Each character must make their choice on how to respond and together your actions will have powerful consequences. These aren't just random outcomes like some games. You'll know what you're getting yourself into when you make a risky choice.

The Future

Pretty cool right? We're just getting started. Check back here regularly for more details, art, and news. You can also sign up for the mailing list here (we promise to respect your inbox).

We (Deanna, David, and Trenton) are excited to share more with you soon!