Hey Kinoko fans!

We’ve only a few hours left before the United Kingdom enters the month of May, so instead of wasting time talking about the English weather (long story short: it’s been terrible), let’s get straight into this month’s update with a look at what Chelsey and I are both focused on currently: Kinoko’s tablet.

This device – currently codenamed the Nexus Engine, or NEX for short – will serve as the game’s primary user interface, providing Kinoko with access to his inventory, maps, unlocked outfits, and lots more besides. We toyed with the idea of a similar system last year, back when we were still working with Unity, and before we dropped the central idea of rescuing abducted kuparkukes around the galaxy. We developed some of it, but we put the idea on hold when we made the switch to Godot. Chelsey’s now come back with a new take on that idea which is far more in-depth and offers loads more functionality, and she's put a lot more thought into how it fits into our world too.

Although it’s taken a little longer than I’d envisaged or hoped, due to reasons far beyond our control, I feel like we’re finally at a place now where platforming feels good – not perfect by any means, but good, and perfectly functional for a prototype. If we were looking to release a quick, 60-second gameplay demo today based purely on platforming, I’d be comfortable with that. (We won’t, though – we’ll make sure any demos we release are worth the time it takes to download them!) Combat’s getting there too, although we’re still in the process of designing how we want melee combat to look and feel. Whilst we wait for inspiration to strike there, the NEX feels like the next natural step.

If you haven’t seen it on Twitter already, here’s a look at the NEX device…

As you can see, the NEX is a tablet-style device designed primarily for browsing the internet – but at the same time it’s so much more than that. It uses advanced augmented reality to display any number of additional screens, to produce 3D globes which Kinoko can spin, navigate and explore with his hands in order to plan his adventures, and to present detailed anatomical information about the creatures he meets. It can also record photographs and videos, connect Kinoko digitally to his friends, scan and identify virtually anything he comes across from flora to fauna, and lots more besides.

Given its complex technological capabilities, you may wonder how it is that a kuparkuke from the planet Fungaia (a world completely devoid of any kind of electronic technology) comes to get his hands on such a device. Well, we’ve been thinking about that, and we’re well-aware that, as with his raygun, it makes no sense for Kinoko to have access to the tablet from the very beginning of the game. Therefore, the tablet is probably something you’ll unlock once you complete the Fungaia chapter and progress into the galaxy beyond; we’ve just got to ensure that we’re not locking any functionality behind it that you can’t beat Fungaia without!

So, given our focus on the game’s first chapter, why are we working on the NEX at all if it won’t even be unlocked until outer space? The answer for that is simple. In case you don’t know, what we’re working on currently for our game is what’s called a ‘vertical slice’. In game development, the vertical slice is like a small, self-contained prototype for a game which contains as much of its core functionality as possible. We’re focused on building our game upwards instead of outwards, getting as many of the systems working as possible before devoting time to levels and content. It’s all about proving that our game and our ideas work and are worth spending time on.

We’ve already made the NEX a part of the game’s ability system, giving ourselves the option to give and revoke access to it at any time, but for the sake of the prototype and any demos we release in the future, it’ll be available by default. Opening and using the NEX couldn’t be more simple. It’s a core facility, so we want it to be immediately accessible at any time. On keyboard, you’ll press the ‘tab’ key. On Xbox gamepad, you’ll press the ‘view’ button. (You know the one. It’s the one with two overlapping squares. Loads of games use it for maps and stuff like that!)

Instantly, Kinoko will be presented with an interface that'll look a little something like this…

From this interface, Kinoko will have speedy access to a wide variety of functions. This is all completely subject to change, but we’re currently exploring possibilities such as a player inventory, world maps, perk/ability trees (more on that at a later date), collectables, an encyclopaedia, switchable outfits, customisation features and more, as well as an ability to immediately exit a planet and return to Starlight City, the game’s central hub in outer space.

If you’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this first part of the NEX’s interface may seem familiar to you. We both really like the idea of a quick menu system which can be opened during gameplay, presenting access to all the various available menu-based functionality, without the game necessarily having to pause, and without us having to cram all of the tablet’s functionality into a single UI design system. We feel Animal Crossing: New Horizons did this very well, particularly as none of the functionality then needed to adhere to a consistent layout, so it’s a big influence to us currently as we design the NEX.

We have so many ideas for the NEX that now isn’t really the time to talk in any great depth about what we’ve got planned. Our goal at the moment is straightforward: we’re just going to prototype it one piece of functionality at a time, starting with the inventory system, whilst slowly deciding which other pieces of functionality we want to explore down the line. Currently, I’m currently working on getting the inventory roughly laid out and functional, whilst Chelsey thinks about how she wants it to look and creates the assets for it.

Here’s a sneak peak at what we’re working with currently…

So that’s what we’re doing and where we’re at with it! As I mentioned earlier, platforming feels like it’s in a place where I can stop tinkering and rest it for a bit now. We’ll work on the NEX for a bit now whilst waiting to decide how we want melee combat to work, then in a few weeks we’ll come back and review platforming with fresh pairs of eyes to see how we really feel about it. It’s difficult to review it objectively at the moment when I’ve only just finished working on it, but we also feel like it’s too early to ship it out to anyone for playtesting. The NEX will certainly keep us busy in the meantime.

In other news, we’ve just received a shipment of our second piece of official Kinoko and the Cult of Galaxy merchandise, and we’re about to receive our third too. You can expect an announcement hopefully at some point in May about these new additions to our store, and we’re very excited to reveal what we’ve got in stock.

Until that announcement comes, I think we’ve said all we’ve got to say for one month. As always, thanks so much for reading this blog post, and don’t forget to follow us on social media for all the latest updates as they happen!