December 4, 2019
The Path of Calydra combines adventure and childlike whimsy to create a fantastical journey
The Path of Calydra, an upcoming third-person adventure game from Brazilian developers FinalBoss, looks to recapture this explorative spirit through its whimsical lands, quirky enemies, and sprawling lore. Matheus, the game’s protagonist, is just a simple boy from an idyllic suburban home who now finds himself lost in a foreign land, aided only by a mysterious creature named Calydra and its array of elemental powers.
FinalBoss were recipients of an Unreal Dev Grant in 2018, which allowed them to increase the size of their team and to put even more love and care into this adventurous title. Now, several years into its metamorphosis, The Path of Calydra is approaching its final incarnation. We chatted with Marcio Vivas, owner and founder of FinalBoss, about inspirations, exploration, and the Brazilian dev scene. How did being from Brazil influence the game and its world? Do you think that offered you a unique developmental perspective?
Marcio Vivas: I cannot speak for everyone, but being Brazilian and having a childhood that was completely different from kids today left a huge emotional charge on me. I grew up playing with kites and marbles, spinning tops, and playing soccer. Back in the day, it was common, even as a toddler, to play outdoors with friends who lived on the same street or in the same condo building. This is still a reality in small towns, but everything is more limited in bigger urban centers due to factors like violence and lack of time, for example. Matheus, the game’s main character, represents this a bit: even while being addicted to games, he still shows some of these old-fashioned things in The Path of Calydra.
Having a child as a protagonist provides a sense of creativity and whimsy that wouldn’t exist otherwise. How does Matheus evolve and grow throughout the game?
Vivas: Matheus is an ordinary kid who is being bullied at school. Although this is not the game’s main plot, it is important to note that this is something that pulls Matheus into his adventure with Calydra. He has no special abilities and does what a kid his age likes to do. He is smart, agile and very curious and, depending on the situation, these characteristics will help or undermine him. While it seems that he is the only human in [our fictional world] Calysgore, Matheus’ journey is assisted by a teenage girl named Joanna, whose diary pages are spread all over this ready-to-be-explored world. Joanna’s teenage perception of Calysgore mixes with Matheus’, and with all the dangerous situations he faces, Matheus soon realizes that he needs to grow up and stay strong to go back to his world. Facing giant monsters might be only another step in his growth.
When creating a fictitious world, the possibilities for lore-creation are almost endless. How deep do the stories behind Calysgore go, and how do you intend on revealing them to the player?
Vivas: Behind The Path of Calydra’s visuals, we have a laid-out plot and detailed story that captivates the player in an interesting way. There are three stories: Matheus and Calydra’s as the main one that guides the player; Joanna’s diary entries; and the story of Alchemus, an ancient wizard from Calysgore, which will explain the creation of the universe and how it influences what we see in the present.
These stories get intertwined throughout the adventure, which has dialogue between Calydra and Matheus written by award-winning writers Christopher Kastensmidt and Tiago Rech, who have made my original idea way more credible and fun.
Sometimes I think that us adults lose our capacity for abstracting things and dreaming, of letting our imagination flow and take us on a journey. I think we are way more literal. Many times a kid ends up dreaming and letting things happen more naturally, even in the most unusual moments. The narrative proposes growing up and improving without losing the ability to dream.
The landscapes of Calygore appear to shift, move, and alter as the player progresses. How did you use UE4 to explore these types of level design?
Vivas: One of the hardest things to do in The Path of Calydra is the level design. Some of the skills the player gets open many mobility possibilities. For example, if we do not pay attention, you could float from a higher place to another area of the game, which you initially could not reach before getting the “Float” skill. Our game is not an open-world one, but it has some really big scenarios, which forces us to double our attention towards skills that might mess with Matheus’ progression. UE4 eases level-blocking with its simple but powerful tools. We end up losing more time on scenario-idealization than on blocking and embellishing them.
No fantasy land would be complete without some wacky creatures. What was the conceptualization process like for these baddies, and did Unreal Engine assist in bringing them to life?
Vivas: I always drew a lot of monsters when I was a kid. Unfortunately, my drawing skills have always been bad, so I simply addressed my ideas to someone who could draw. Due to my background as a marine biologist, I end up applying the things I studied to the craziest ideas I have. In the 3D area, however, the whole team can give suggestions and everything ends up going smoothly.
We cannot compare ourselves with other companies who have dozens of modelers and animators. Having that in mind, we set goals that are reachable within our deadlines and capabilities. If something is good and within our creative vision, we move ahead to the next goal, always counting on Unreal’s ease to deal with shaders, textures, and Materials in an objective way, which is fantastic to our small team.
Considering you’re a big movie fan coupled with the fact that protagonist Matheus has vintage movie posters in his room, would you say the game have a cinematic feel? And if so, were there any ways UE4 was able to enhance this aspect?
Vivas: I am a big fan of movies indeed. Whenever I have time, I watch a bit of everything, from old classics to modern blockbusters. I tried to imbue a little of that in Matheus and, even being young, he really likes sci-fi and horror movies. I cannot say if we have a cinematographic feeling in The Path of Calydra, but I would say that we follow Matheus’ adventures with a close look on everything that happens, as if we are Matheus and Calydra’s companion on their journey.
UE4 makes this process easy, allowing us to manipulate the animations through Sequencer in a relatively fast way. Since our team is small, spending too much time on cinematics would not be a good idea, and we probably would not have even half of what’s included if this tool did not exist.
There appears to be lots of different abilities and items. Can you explain them a bit and name your favorites?
Vivas: Yes. When Matheus ends up in Calysgore, Calydra’s universe, the entity is totally powerless. Our protagonist has to help it recover its powers so he can return to his world. Each ability is related to the four elements: fire, earth, wind and water. Every time he collects one of these elements, the backpack that Calydra embodies transforms, not only in its shape, but also in opening a range of element-related skills to be developed.
In Hyrus form (water), we have some of my favorite skills, like the one that changes the backpack into a SCUBA tank and allows Matheus to explore rivers and seas. Another interesting one is the “water drive,” which allows Matheus to traverse longer distances underwater in a very fast and fun way.
The Gyrus form (earth) has, among its skills, one that gives Matheus powerful arms to climb big magic walls, as well as a sword and shield that the character commands to face enemies. A wide variety of combos can be used depending on the need and on the size of the enemy.
There are many possibilities within every one of the elemental forms, and each of them has diverse options that can be accessed in a quick way.
You’ve previously spoken highly of the engine and its quick learning curve. What are your favorite tools and how have you used them to craft Path of Calydra?
Vivas: We began developing the game in another language. Back in the day, I had trouble using some tools and software, so our programmer suggested UE4. At first glance I thought it would be even harder to deal with such a complex tool, which is normally used by bigger developers, but I was wrong. In a short time, I was already assembling the first scenarios and feeling way more comfortable with the tools granted by Epic.
As creative director in The Path of Calydra, I do a lot of things. More than visual direction and game design per se, I also take care of level design. After blocking the level, I use the Foliage and Landscape tools a lot. They simplify the finishing and embellishing of each scenario, and even though they are easy to use, they are extremely powerful. I learn something new to use in the game every day.
The first trailer dropped almost four years ago. How has the game evolved since then and what have you learned as a developer and creator?
Vivas: Back in the day, it was almost “just for fun.” I had no idea of where we would like to go with the game. We simply went by doing stuff and learned how to deal with the tools. After the second trailer, we got a real grasp of the game’s potential and, even with just a three-person team, started to work on basic stuff.
I come from a career making advergames, where we developed smaller projects (to big companies, though) with smaller teams and a very short deadline. Switching to a project like The Path of Calydra is way more complex and bigger, requiring a lot of discipline and focus. You start to notice things you did not have to worry about before, trying to keep the project’s scope within what you know you can do, turning down ideas for being too complex, and simplifying what needs to be simplified. You learn how to deal with a bigger team, trying to get the best of each one. You learn how to listen more and, mostly, absorb all the knowledge you can, because that is going to help solve the problems that will surely show up along the way.
Can you talk about what earning an Unreal Dev Grant has meant to the team?
Vivas: Getting the Dev Grant was phenomenal. It boosted us up emotionally and psychologically, once we got the approval of people who consider hundreds of other projects and, despite this, chose ours.
The team is now made of seven people besides me. With this growth, things started to shape up faster and game mechanics were implemented a bit easier. Visually, our improvements are also noticeable, and nowadays the project goes much swifter.
Are there any other Brazilian games or developers that readers from North American, Europe, or elsewhere may not know about that you’d like to give a shout-out?
Vivas: The Brazilian market has been expanding gradually over the past years, due to some of the government’s tender that boosted up some companies, allowing them to develop their projects with more resources (The Path of Calydra included).
With this [growth] in the market, lots of good games have been released across diverse platforms. Games like Horizon Chase Turbo (Aquiris Studio) and Chroma Squad (Behold Studios) became inspirations to other developers who seek quality products. Right now, just as The Path of Calydra, dozens of other good titles are being developed and will be on people’s radars by next year.
If you want to learn more about The Path of Calydra, you can follow the game across multiple social platforms and the game pages below: