Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami introduces a novel gameplay mechanic using Unreal Engine

June 14, 2022
Welcome to cyberpunk Japan. The year is 2650, and the country has entered into a new, dark Edo period where the Shogunate rules and mythological robot creatures roam. As a samurai, your only job is to obey orders and kill. The only problem? You’re completely blind.

Welcome to the world of Yami, the hero of upcoming open-world action game, Blind Fate: Edo no Yami, who only has his senses and historic environment data to guide him.

If you’re wondering what inspired such a unique concept, you wouldn’t be the first. For the [Barcelona-based] team at Troglobytes Games, however, creating interesting lore—and pushing the boundaries of game mechanics—is what gets them up in the morning.

To learn more, we interviewed this thriving Epic MegaGrant recipient about their game, what went into it, and more. Read on!
 

For anyone not familiar with Troglobytes Games, how did you get started? What sets you apart?

Saverio Caporusso, CEO at Troglobytes Games:
Since 2015, Troglobytes Games has strived to create innovative games with unconventional gameplay mechanics and aesthetics. Our team is a mix of young talents and veterans with more than 20 years of experience on titles including Etrom, Kien, and King Commander.

Our flagship title (until now) has been HyperParasite, a cutthroat shooter and beat ‘em up game where players embody an organism that’s able to snatch its enemies, making them a resource rather than an obstacle.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami is such a fantastic concept. What inspired it?

Saverio:
We are avid arcade gamers, but some of us are also old-school tabletop RPG players that use only pen, paper, and a set of dice to play and build our stories. We were playing the multi-genre roleplay game RIFTS to push the boundaries of our creativity: telling stories with characters like techno cowboys, Victorian space vampires, Psi-knights, and cyber-samurai.

This led us to start thinking about how a blind protagonist could perceive the world and the surrounding enemies within it. We thought that a wired brain connected to some kind of sensor would be the perfect solution.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
Sensors help players visualize heat, sound, and smell in Blind Fate. How does that mix influence gameplay?
 
Saverio:
For us, sensors are also a great way to reward players who use them to explore their surroundings. Also, players will use sensors to avoid the dangers hidden by old data or get out of a dead-end.

For instance, let's say Yami ends up in a room or tunnel with no exits. By switching on the hearing sensor, a vent may appear and become interactable, allowing the player to proceed to the next room. In another level, Yami will jump from one moored boat to the next one. But because he only sees the world through old data, a couple of boats may have disappeared. Luckily, by using the hearing sensor, Yami can detect which boats are still there to jump on because they produce a noise, hitting the nearby piers.

There are also many pickables, upgrades, and lore fragments that emit a sound—like a beacon. Players might hear these muffled sounds in the environment, but only with the hearing sensor can they see the ripples that give away the item’s exact location.

During combat, you also need to use the correct sensor to identify the position of each approaching enemy, which could be flying or hitting you from behind, undetected. Switching sensors during the WeakSpot mini-game simulates the fact that, despite his blindness, Yami can discover and deliver powerful blows.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
What were your goals coming into this project?

Saverio:
Since our aim was to find an investor able to fund our project from the very start, we wanted to show everyone—including players and publishers— something different via innovative gameplay. We also knew we needed to create attractive content to post on social media, like cool “AA” graphics and high-quality effects, if we were going to stand out.

Blending sci-fi and samurais seem to open up an amazing opportunity to create your own mythology. How did you go about balancing two disparate elements?

Saverio:
Historically speaking, the most glorious period of Japan is the Edo period, known for the samurai and their growing social-military power. When we decided on that as a backdrop for the game, we knew we could add not only an overruling Shogunate but also religious references such as Bodhisattva, Yokai, and other mythological entities.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
For the science fiction elements, we added cables, holograms, and technology to traditional Japanese environments from this Edo period. We decided that our main character, Yami, would have cybernetic implants, for example. For the enemies, at first, we were inspired by watching Dinobots and playing arcade games featuring all kinds of cyber-beasts, but soon, we decided robot-like tigers and dragons would be nice to have, but not so unique for our game.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
Instead, we decided our hero would fight more well-rounded enemies, each with their own individual history. For these reasons, we decided to create sci-fi renditions of Yokai and Kami, each characterized not only by their own weaponry and set of moves but also by the real, rich lore from Japanese folklore.

How did you go about creating/defining your blind mechanic? Did you work with actual blind people to recreate their experience at all?

Saverio:
In our game, if you walk without knowing what is in front of you, you will be hit by something you cannot see. That means players are encouraged to study what’s around them and to be quick while doing it.

We went through a long process to simulate the feeling of fighting while being blind. First, we made our game’s invisible enemy detectable: it can be noisy, smelly, or have its weapon produce heat when activated. Using the correct sensors, the player will be able to see hints of the enemy’s steps and shape on screen.

Then, once the player knows more or less where the enemy is, that’s when the fight begins! A mechanic we used was that the more you hit the enemy, the more visible it becomes. Its silhouette and shape become more defined, and finally, the enemy will appear like any other video game.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
To keep the player engaged in the combat, we decided that if the player walks or jumps away from the enemy, it fades out until it eventually becomes invisible again. Then, we added the concept of WeakSpot: hitting the enemy increases its visibility, and some threshold of visibility allows a player to detect an enemy’s hittable weak spot. A color-coded widget will indicate which sensor to use to actually hit the weak spot. The player needs to change the sensor to quickly play a mini-game in which a thumbstick or the mouse can be used to direct Yami’s slash on the weak spot, delivering extra damage. Hitting a weak spot would also stop the loss of the gained visibility.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
We tested this mechanic with many players and received very good feedback. But we felt that there was more to refine. That’s when we added different pre-attack visual notifications on the enemy’s attack. Players will easily understand if the incoming attack is parryable, unblockable, or counterable.

That’s when we noticed that the process to make the enemy visible was still too long for an action game. Instead, we decided that whichever interaction Yami would have with an enemy, hitting or parrying it, for instance, would make them appear instantly. Also, to reach a bigger audience, we replaced the visibility thresholds and the weak spot mechanic with a more known combo system. Once you reach a five or seven hit-combo, combining your katana, handcannon, and air-dash attacks, a weak spot will be detected and the minigame starts.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
Once defeated, some enemies will release data about their kind. Collecting data will make them appear as always partially visible. This way, you know where a known enemy is while using sensors to locate another one. And yes, after releasing the first demo, a couple of blind users who played the game reached out to us in our Discord and gave us some precious feedback.

Yami has to rely on centuries-old environmental data to navigate the world around him. How did you decide where to include inaccurate data as a gameplay hurdle?

Saverio:
We placed bad data in the first part of each mission, often as a reminder to carefully navigate the level and to use Yami's sensors. Some other times bad data can hide a reward or a sub-level or, even more rarely, conceal deadly traps.

In the game, Yami interacts with dozens of robotic versions of Japanese folktale creatures. Which ones make an appearance?

Saverio:
We chose to use renditions of Yokai and Kami because we saw many cyber beasts in video games, movies, and games; but never any that were mythological creatures.

We made about 20 creatures for the game, including NPCs and enemies like Kirin, Oni, Yuki-Onna, and Dorotabo. Some of them were already fit for purpose, whereas for others, we reworked their appearance according to our needs.
 
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games

For example, in urban areas, players can also meet the WaNyudo and the Akaname. A WaNyudo (priest-Wheel) is a huge flaming wheel with a human head in the middle that chases criminals. For our sci-fi version, we created a huge wheel with a floating robot-like head and red-blue siren lights like a police car!

For the Akaname, who is a kind of goblin with sticky limbs and a long tongue, we created a robotic four-legged moving container that roams in the sewers collecting trash, sewage, and whoever is on its path.
HyperParasite was such a vividly colored game. Blind Fate is too. What makes you keep returning to neons and hyper-colors?

Saverio:
HyperParasite is our love letter to the glorious '80s, and includes plenty of neon lights. In Yami, we wanted to show the transition from a futuristic sci-fi world to a destroyed, post-apocalyptic one. Neon helped to boost the concept, so we decided it wouldn’t be missing from this title either.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
Blind Fate is Troglobytes’ first side-scroller. What inspired you to move from a twin-stick shooter to this style? What did you learn in the process?

Saverio:
Since we were introducing the idea of playing an action game featuring a blind character, we decided a side-scroller game would be a better fit.

We had to face quite a few technical challenges, especially when it came to representing the various sensors the protagonist uses to perceive the world around him, including the heat sensor, sound sensor, and smell sensor.

We had to come up with a few tricks, but we're overall happy with the results! For example, we had to make visuals work in conjunction with audio; when you switch from one sensor to another, you usually have a visual effect that introduces you to the “new” version of the environment, as seen through the lens of that particular sensor. At the same time, you’ll hear a sound effect that will immediately give you a hint of what’s happening, and less important environment sounds and music get muffled. Camera effects and shaders are used to enforce this by color-coding each sensor to allow for easy recognition.

We also had to learn how to optimize the game to make it run smoothly on consoles (especially portable consoles like Nintendo Switch and older generation consoles like PS4 and Xbox One). It's all a great experience that we'll carry into our next projects.

Did any games influence this project? Any Easter eggs to look out for?

Saverio:
We’ve been influenced by movies like Zatoichi and Blind Fury, and other games like Strider and Mark of the Ninja.

And yes, we included some Easter eggs! The story of Blind Fate: Edo no Yami takes place in 2650. The sci-fi setting of the game allowed us to hide a kind of time capsule from the year 2150, containing some gamer memorabilia, cameos we introduced to pay homage to the most iconic Spanish games, and, of course, to HyperParasite!

What made Unreal Engine a good fit for the game? Did any features really come through for you?

Saverio:
We have been working with Unreal Engine for the best part of eight years, so we were pretty sure it would prove to be a good fit for this kind of project. The feature that really comes through for us is Unreal Engine's robust and powerful shader and material workflow and the spectacular Niagara VFX system. Both of these features really allowed us to achieve our aesthetic vision on Blind Fate: Edo no Yami.

For example, when Yami finds new environmental data, and we show how the environment changes, thanks to the Material Editor and Material Parameter Collections, we were able to quickly synchronize what was happening. It was an impressive effect, but making it was easy.
Image courtesy of Troglobytes Games
How about the development process? Any fun stories to share?

Saverio:
We have been developing Blind Fate: Edo No Yami for the last two years, in lockdown and while working from home. We released two demos for Xbox and PC/Steam and added a quite challenging enemy called Big Hammer, just before the final boss.

We received a lot of feedback about how difficult it was to defeat the boss, the one with the big hammer. That feedback was handy since we were about to draw the line between the easy and normal levels of difficulty. So, we nerfed some of the enemies a bit, which you can try yourself by playing the prologue that is now available on Steam.

You received an Epic MegaGrant last year. How did that impact the way you worked on Blind Fate?

Saverio:
Thanks to the Epic MegaGrant, we could improve the quality of certain animations and rework some of the finishers, making them smoother, longer, and more spectacular—like the Dorotabo and Jikokuten ones. We were able to hire a senior animator who had previously worked on several AAA titles and truly break away from all the limits to make our vision a reality.

Also, our composer and sound designer, Joe Kataldo, was able to collaborate with cello players Tina Guo and Éru Matsumoto, Taiko Master Isaku Kageyama, and mixing and mastering engineer John Rodd to add their talents to the main theme of Blind Fate: Edo no Yami.

Where can people learn more about Blind Fate: Edo No Yami?

Saverio:
We invite everyone who is interested in knowing more about our project to follow Troglobytes Games on Twitter. You can also play the game’s prologue, Blind Fate: Edo No Yami – Dojo on Steam, and join our Discord server.

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