Its with extreme excitement that we can finally say we are now reaching the last steps of building Keen, and we thought what better way to celebrate what we have accomplished if not by looking at just how far we have come from the first concepts and brainstorms to the product we have now.
From quarters on a paper board to an exploration-driven puzzle/adventure: Shaping Keen
Once upon a time, Keen was nothing but an exercise on the idea of creating a game where the same game-play would become increasingly harder by itself without any external arbitrariness like timers and whatnot, a game with simple controls that could be comfortable no matter the platform the player chooses.
Just like that, we started (on a classic pen-and-paper grid) conceiving the core mechanics for a slide-moving, 2-players board game about 3 beans that wanted to shoot down 3 quarters which naturally wanted to shoot those 3 beans in return. We figured that if we could play such a complex tactics game making all the pesky turn and path-finding calculations in our heads and still have a good time, then the idea was likely promising.
We went on and started working on a prototype in Unity 3D, it became a 3-on-3 tactics game with moving/attacking sub-turns that controlled like a slide puzzler on a 7×13 tiles board. Back then, the player had to kill 3 sliding Hyrule Guards utilizing his 3 sliding Links in an arena made of tile sets downloaded from RPG Maker communities (thank you, unaccredited artist). The 3 Links would move 5 times, all at the same time, then select their attacks from a collapsing menu, and wait for the three Guards to do the same.
The initial prototype faced a fair share of criticism for being too complex, specially for its mobile intentions, so the first thing we did as we got home was rethink the whole game-play. we went on a simplifying spree. Three Links were two too much; Five moves per turn? What about one! and finally: what if the movement and the attack controls shared the very same sliding mechanic? In a matter of a couple days we had a new build of the game. Link was slashing fluidly through the enemies, moving freely like a ninja. It felt like every turn was Link’s turn. It started to strike us that maybe that was not a turn-based game anymore. It had turns, but it was starting to feel more actiony.
When the once called “Tactics” became “Keen” we began our first attempts to concept the game (we are so very sorry Link). Very likely because of all the ninja-ish movement ideas we decided to go for an oriental setting. Like with the gameplay, Keen’s general concept took a while to be settled, we wanted the game to have an oriental theme but not be really tied to a place on earth (like Japan or China), so we took lots of different asian aesthetics and tried to create our own style that would be very reminiscent of oriental cultures, but not exactly represent any of them.