The Tiny Trinket Games team delved into the production process of Zoria: Age of Shattering, discussed how they worked on the game's combat, and explained how they ensured that the game's world remains easily comprehensible for players.
As Tiny Trinket Games, we started making video games in 2010, starting with a hidden object game, moving into mobile games, and then prototyping several titles. The modern form of the studio was constituted in 2017, when programmer Gabriel joined us, at which time we decided that we would make premium games for PC and consoles.
Our first "serious" game, and a bland precursor to Zoria, was the platformer Azuran Tales: Trials, released in 2018 for PC and Switch.
Since then, we started working on Zoria, releasing Prologue in 2020, the first demo in 2021, and the latest demo in 2022.
We always wanted to make an RPG game. We've always played RPGs, each of us having our favorites, with Fane being a passionate World of Warcraft player back in the day, so the decision to make an RPG was a very natural one for us, as it's always been the genre that we find most interesting in video games in general.
When we started the concept phase of the game, we looked to classic turn-based RPGs, but not only. Although you might find similarities to Dungeons and Dragons' playstyle as well as more modern approaches like in Divinity Original Sin 2, we went a bit outside the scope of classic RPGs adding systems and elements more at home in an XCOM-style game.
Story and lore-wise, we are deeply into fiction like The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, and The Witcher, so there is a certain degree of influence present, however, we have our own story to tell, and we believe it’s an interesting one, so the world of Zoria and all its lore are an original creation.
The time it takes to get a big game where we want it is a drawback of working on one as a small indie team, particularly since we had to support ourselves in the interim and frequently could only work on it in our free time. Fortunately, it's no longer an issue because we are now working with Anshar Publishing, a company known for its love of role-playing games, which led to the release of Gamedec in 2021. As a result, we were able to leave our jobs and focus solely on completing Zoria.
The Game's Turn-Based Combat System
When designing combat, our primary goal was to strike a balance between the complexity and lack of pacing and dynamics in battle, specific to many CRPGs, where even small encounters are tedious in the long run, and the fast-paced but shallow approach of action RPG. The traditional CRPG slow, very deep, and tactical combat system creates an entry barrier for new players, repelling a lot of potential players that could really enjoy the exploration and storytelling of such games.
The attacks and abilities in Zoria class specific and some are also item-specific, being used only when certain items are equipped. Each class will have a tree of 16 skills to choose from, but with at least 2 followers of the same class available through the game, the players can experiment and see what they enjoy more. Abilities vary from single target to effect over time and area of effect. Some include summoning, spawning area-of-effect items on the battlefield, or using line-of-sight and blocking enemies' paths.
When completing a team, class synergy is critical to pay attention. Classes can protect, heal, or empower other characters, and the creative use of special abilities (taunts and control) will provide exciting encounters. And with the game’s focus on multiple followers to choose from, there’s quite a lot of room for experimentation.
Enemies in the Game
As combat is bread and butter in the Zoria world, a lot of resources from our Tiny (no pun intended) team were used to design encounters that reflect the changing environment and story progression. We drew inspiration from existing fantasy literature and mythology, of course. Still, considering the importance of the story in the game, we wanted to make them consistent yet diverse and fun. That’s why more than 100 monsters and bosses with various skills and abilities are in the game.
Making the Game's World Readable
We created a visually appealing and engaging world with obvious signposts to lead the user through various levels. Rich lore and backstory were also incorporated to create a more fascinating and immersive universe. We carefully iterated and playtested the game world's design in order to make it more engrossing and simple for players to investigate. But just because the world is accessible and easy to understand, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its secrets, so exploration is still a very important part of the game.
Exploration and Progression Systems
In Zoria: Age of Shattering, exploration involves navigating around the game's levels and environments, interacting with NPCs, and learning about its lore and secrets. The make-up of the team is important because as they advance in the game, they may add new characters whose skills will let them enter previously inaccessible areas.
Outpost Management System
The Outpost management in Zoria includes crafting gear (weapons, armor), crafting new potions through alchemy (that is also possible during the exploration phase), upgrading the Outpost to allow for different perks, or sending lower-level followers in unattended missions.
The base management phase comprises the following mechanics:
- Follower management;
- Quest hub through the Inn and the other buildings;
- Unattended Missions hub;
- Outpost upgrades;
- Lore delivery through quests and interaction in the Outpost buildings.
Potential for Replayability
Some quests in the game are branching, and the different choices the player makes throughout the game will affect certain things. Our main objective was to deliver a coherent experience where players will enjoy the story and exploration of Zoria's secrets.
Tiny Trinket Games' Roadmap
2023 is the year of finishing Zoria. After six years of development, we have a product we are proud of.