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Abtohka: Kingdoms of Despair

Summer 2019

A Dark Fantasy, 2D Action/Adventure, Puzzle Game.

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Embark through the ruins of fallen fantasy civilisations, slip through the cracks of time and reactivate an ancient device that will change the past forever. Swap between four distinct characters as they each carry their own burdens, yet strive to work together, in Abtohka: Kingdoms of Despair.
Abtohka Image
Abtohka Image
Abtohka Image
Abtohka Image

More about the Project

Release: 2019

Studio: Team Pengala

Platform: Windows + Mac (+Controller)

Skill Focus: Programming, Technical and System Design, Level and Puzzle Design

Engine and Tools: Unity, C# and Json

Team Size: 4 People

Time Spent on Project: 6 Months (+)

Summary of Contribution

Designed and Developed over 6 months, Abtohka was a passion project of four like-minded individuals, with my role as Lead Programmer and Technical Designer. Over the project I explored 2D A* pathfinding, complex 2D behavioural trees, and dynamic puzzle design (all of which can be read more about at my blog), Abtohka boasts an atmosphere further exemplified by its rich realistic characters and game world, elements the games design pillars set out prior.

Distinct, Complementary, Playable Characters - Every Traveller has unique Abilities and making them work together harmoniously is approachable, engaging and challenging.
Efficient Teamwork - Completing the levels requires the satisfying utilisation of strategic party management, with numerous stances being micro-managed in order to progress.
Always Engaging, Never Draining - Puzzles within the world consist of environmental, combat and maneuverability challenges. These are arranged into self-contained Chambers, several of which will have multiple solutions. All puzzles are non-obvious but none are so taxing they should cause the player to become stuck for an excessive period of time.
Exploration & Excitement - Exploring the dark fantasy world of Abtohka is intriguing and mysterious, an atmospheric setting full of atmosphere, hidden details and secrets.

Throughout its design, and later in its development process, I took charge to bring these characters to life by prototyping and designing their core concept, abilities, and game loops, creating ways in which they behave within the world. When controlling one character within Abtohka, the other three can follow, attack, and even investigate the environment by their own accord. These distinct personalities further added to the level of realism within the world and allowed us to explore more complex puzzle designs whilst allowing me to explore AI at my own pace.

In Abtohka: Kingdoms of Despair the player alternates control over four different characters known as the Travellers: A young child with magical powers (the Oracle), a beastial giant with a soft-heart (the Brute), a melancholic former nobleman (the Warden), and a bizarre ascetic (the Apostle). Each of the Travellers are the last of their race and have wandered through the loose threads of time to Syentralis, the arid land of the Chronos Needle, an ancient tower and device that could once rewrite history and undo injustice.
To revive their specific kingdoms, the Travellers need to rebuild and reactivate the Needle. They will need to revive other surrounding Fallen Kingdoms first, by delving into their Ruins, salvaging the energy source of Illicicyde (also known as ‘time-dust’), disarming traps, overcoming obstacles, facing off Adversaries - to undo the Fall of kingdoms and revive the dead. By joining with the resurrected citizens of Fallen Kingdoms the Travellers will soon begin building a Settlement around the Needle. As the Settlement becomes bigger, they will be able to rebuild and reactivate more of the Needle, climbing higher and repairing its devices.
Eventually the Travellers aim to reach the zenith of the tower, whereby they can harness the Needle’s full power to save their own kingdoms from the ashes of time. But in their quest to rewrite their own histories they will find challenging moments as they consider the ethical weight of changing the past of others whilst a new threat arises, as the Needle’s consciousness begins to awake…

I likewise worked on the world and level design, the puzzles and tutorials allow the player to understand more about the travellers, giving them the ability to bring out their many behaviour quirks further exemplified by these distinct abilities and personalities, and the story allowed the players to discover the true purpose of each character (to read the Oracles story, click on the Press Kit above). Through this project I worked alongside the Lead Designer creating a tightly woven prototype that shows each characters numerous abilities in a way that allows the player to fully immerse themselves within the world, whilst allowing them moments to breathe and familiarise themselves as they descend into this whimsical dark fantasy world.

In the game, the wider setting is known by its creators as Abtohka, yet few of its inhabitants have ever heard such a name. The name derives from the prefix Ab (appearing in Latin/Greek/Sanskrit and others having a multifaceted meaning: ‘away/abnormal/outside of’) + toh (an old English word meaning ‘to’ implying travel) + Ka (an ancient Egyptian concept of the fragile soul within the human body). The intention of these meanings to infer in the player a world that sounds ancient, surreal, old, mystical and vast.
At the dawn of moments, on the first day that begun and ended, a variety of cultures known as the Amaranxyme (also known as the Timeless Ones) emerged from the parallel planes of the Void and the Nexus and from the background energy within the Nebula of Nothing that covered the world, they were able to weave life itself. These new mortal creations worshipped their creators as Gods. Yet most of the Amaranxyme eventually began to move away from the world, frustrated with each other and their own creation’s limitations.
Their disregard for their world and their newly created fabric of reality left the world malformed and disrupted. The distance between places became unquantifiably large as the world itself become a vast and chaotic stretched plane of existence. Without the assistance of the Timeless Ones this left the Nebula, a mysterious and toxic smog, to re-enter the world. The few Timeless Ones who remained held back against the Nebula storms, providing safe havens of atmosphere around small self-contained societies.
Thus began the age of Kingdoms. Across tens of thousands of years, small pockets of societies prospered largely disconnected and unaware of one another, separated by the vastness and toxicity of the Nebula’s space. While a detailed scientific, mapping of the world would be possible it wouldn’t be composable on a two-dimensional plane. Any attempts made thus far were deemed failures and most attempts and efforts were lost to history.
At the start of the game all Kingdoms cease to exist. The Travellers will therefore be on a journey, not just to revive their kingdoms, but to save all life itself by fully reviving the Needle.

This was by far the biggest project I've worked on, and we eventually presented it at Brunel's Digital Design Show.

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© Mark Tadros