Anathema - Esperware
Happy October!

We don't have as much this time around to share with you as we did last month, but this time around we will show you some audio/visual goodies!

In last month's update we shared images of the work-in-progress for the newest level we've been developing - The Ossuary. In this video, we share a brief look of this level in motion, including one of three mini bosses you will encounter. The player can progress through this level's three routes in any order they choose, but must defeat all guardians before they are allowed passage into the next area - the Vampyr Den. Feast your eyes and let us know your thoughts!

To change things up this month a little bit, our resident composer has whipped up a special remix just for you. For those that have played the demo, you will be familiar with the tune this remix is an arrangement of - Gravekeeper's Hollow. When thinking of games' stage 1 music, it's important to hook the player with a catchy, hummable melody that (hopefully) can get stuck in your head. When Anathema releases, we definitely want to have a bundle that includes the OST for the game. Whether or not it includes remixed versions of tunes from the game is up in the air as of now, but companion pieces are always great to have. Let us know what you think.

Quite a lot of progress has been made since the last update. We've begun adding a new area that precedes the graveyard area of the first stage which will serve as the "tutorial area." The video tutorials in the demo area merely placeholder just so the player has a basic understanding of the core fundamentals of gameplay. Don't worry, we won't hold your hand, but it's important to know the basics so players can get the most out of the game. Here is a very early look at how it is shaping up aesthetically.

There will be more to show in future updates. We will post them here but you can also follow us on Twitter at to be notified as we post.

We hope everyone has a fun and spooky rest of your October, and Happy Halloween!
Anathema - Esperware
Happy September!

It has been an excruciatingly long time since our last update, but I assure you we have been hard at work! In this update we will go over the latest information about the status of development, showcase a brand new player sprite, new HUD and latest level!

There is a LOT to share below so let's get started!

We would like to start by unveiling the re-design of the sprite for Aurora Delacroix. When development of Anathema began in October 2014 we began using pre-made, royalty free assets available on the web to make pre-rendered sprites. As development has progressed we became disenchanted with the design currently in the demo. We knew that it was important to give Aurora some original flair of our own design.

Around May 2018 we reached out to our friend, Craig Daversa with Pyroklastic Games who has a great game that can be found here, that has worked with us on prior artistic portions of Anathema and gave him a rough design sketch of what we wanted to do with Aurora's design. Craig began modeling the new design for us and we were off to the races. After many collective man-hours modeling, rigging, weight mapping, texturing and animating, we give you the new design of Aurora Delacroix. Many thanks to Craig for this as we could not have pulled this off without him.

For good measure, here is a comparison of how Aurora's design has evolved throughout the years. As you can see, the design has changed almost entirely since the original concept in 2014, but some design elements were developed into the 2015 revision and maintained into the final design.

We have also redesigned the boss that challenged quite a few players we saw on YouTube Let's Play videos - Aeron, the First Vampyr. The original design was something that just no longer fit the vision for the game, so it needed to be updated as well! Gone is the silly purple/red hair color and odd body-wrap she once wore. This look is much more streamlined and in-line with the character's story.

A proper development would be incomplete without a look at a brand new level you've not seen. There were a few glimpses of upcoming levels at the end of the demo, but this is the first time we've publicly showcased this new level we've been hard at work making.

This is the Ossuary - the level you will find yourself in immediately after the confrontation with Aeron as seen in the demo. When developing ideas for levels, we would always try to come up with elements that would help set it apart from prior levels. The graveyard is basically the training ground that lets players become accustomed to the game's mechanics. The forest begins to test those skills with some tight platforming in the treetops. The swamp slows the player down with jumping between vines and the log ride. What sets the Ossuary apart is it is a non-linear level, unlike the prior three stages.

Anathema is quite often mislabeled as a metroidvania because it is assumed since it has visual elements similar to Castlevania, it must be a metroidvania. In order to be such a game, it would have to be designed for the player to obtain new abilities to access areas they previously could not. Anathema is nothing like this - it is a classic style platformer that plays more like the NES and SNES Castlevania, Ghosts 'n Goblins, MegaMan and Ninja Gaiden games. There are no mechanics that require you to backtrack to access previously inaccessible areas. Players can return to previously completed levels to obtain powerups they previously missed if they wish, similar to Mega Man X, but it is not required for the progression of the game. However, in the Ossuary, players are free to take any of the multiple routes they wish in any order, but they must all be completed before the player can progress to the next area. Each route has a switch that will unlock the exit, guarded by a powerful Vampyr Elder. Throughout the Ossuary are new enemies the player has not previously encountered that we hope will challenge and keep the player's heart rate up. The Weeping Angel can be especially surprising...

As you can see in the above screenshots, the player HUD has been completely redesigned as well. We gained some great feedback from the demo release and used that to make the HUD more intuitive and simplified. The HUD now maps the corresponding buttons the player designates in the controller setup to the corresponding mechanic.

The bottom box with the deathbringer will only be visible once the player obtains their first deathbringer powerup. As the player amasses more in their inventory they will be able to switch between them on the fly in-game. Deathbringers will still operate on a cool-down mechanic like in the current demo which was changed from the original release that consumed souls that were shared with subweapons.

As we move into the five year anniversary when development began, it goes without saying that this game is taking quite a while to make. There are three main people working on this game consistently in our spare time outside of our day jobs and family lives. Game development is difficult and elongated, but it's fun and rewarding as well. We ask that you please be patient with us as we continue to hammer away at the game. We're making great progress and have even set an internal goal for a release date; but since that is an internal goal and not concrete we can't share that now. We don't want to make promises we can't keep (sometimes consistent development updates are hard enough to keep up with), but rest assured once we know a solid release window we're going to share it!

Currently we're dividing into different tasks to cover more ground. The voice-over for the script has been recorded and cutscenes are in their pre-visualization stage. There will be a Story Mode as well as an Arcade Mode that skips the story and focuses solely on the gameplay, but the story is quite hefty and was a monumental task in of itself to write, edit and direct the voice over. Just look at the size of the script with standard script formatting...

We appreciate all the feedback and anticipation Anathema is receiving. It's truly humbling and rewarding that people are interested in playing this game that we have devoted the last five years of our spare time making. Sometimes life gets in the way and makes it hard to make the progress we want to make, but in the end we think it will be worth the wait and hope you will too.

We have plans to release an updated demo in the future, but aren't quite certain exactly when that will be. Most of the update work has been completed, but there will be a new area added before where the demo currently starts which will be developed in the coming weeks along with updated cutscenes.

Thanks everyone for your support and engagement. We really do appreciate it and hope you stick with us the rest of the ride!
Anathema - Esperware
Hello all,

A new version of the demo was pushed out today. Following is a list of changes/updates. Let us know if you run into any issues!

  • Fixed bug where cutscene would not play before the final boss fight of the demo.
  • Fixed a control bug where the player could become stuck on the ladder if they attacked while rapidly pressing left or right.
  • Fixed an animation bug where the attack animation froze when attacking immediately as the player dismounts a ladder from the bottom.
  • General bug fixes with the config tool.
May 30, 2018
Anathema - Esperware

Thank you for joining us for our May 2018 update! Since we have been experiencing tropical weather causing flash flooding, I thought it would be appropriate to go with a water-based theme for this update. Following are images that tie together for one particular level in Anathema.

CONCEPT ART - "The Shipwreck Graveyard"
This is a stage that we knew early on we had to have in Anathema. If you are fearful of deep waters (and what may dwell within them) then this may be one of the creepier areas in the game. A torrential storm rages across this vast ocean, causing violent waves and disturbing its inhabitants. The player must use the floating wreckage of fleets torn apart by the tempest to attempt to make it to the nearest shore for safety. The problem is there are all kinds of monsters of all sizes in the waters waiting for you, including the behemoth Dragon Turtle.

Some of you may recognize this stage from the end credits of the demo. That is an old tech demo of the stage from about two years ago so expect to see some polish when you play the game!

CONCEPT ART - "Mermaid"
It's fascinating how popular culture glorifies beautiful mermaids and tends to forget about how hideous and deadly they can be. I recently watched "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" again and knew that mermaids were just what the Shipwreck Graveyard was missing. When I first began designing this enemy, I had a debate on what approach to take with its appearance. I could have easily went with the usual monstrous visage similar to the alleged photos that surfaced years ago of a dead mermaid. On the other hand, I didn't want to make them a fully beautiful being as that just simply isn't interesting and threatening in this world. As such, I opted to take the middle path and leave room for belief that the mermaid could, at one point, have been an alluring siren that beguiled passing sailors before Azrael changed so much in this world.

These sirens will leap out of the waters at varying heights and do their best to bring you back into the water with them. They will be especially dangerous in sections where you're on small chunks of debris atop turbulent waves.

CONCEPT ART - "Killer Ray"
I know, not the most creative name, but that's not what's important at this stage of development. ːsteamfacepalmː

Most games opt for things like killer fish, jellyfish, sharks and things of that nature. It's not too often that you see a stingray type of enemy in a game. This simple but incredibly aggressive enemy will leap out of waters to fire a spray of spines from it's tail in varying angles that the player must either destroy or avoid - otherwise, it's into the drink you go!

We have more things to show on this level but don't want to show all our cards just yet. You'll just have to stay tuned for further footage as development progresses for a more in-depth look. ːsteamhappyː

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!

See you in June!

Apr 29, 2018
Anathema - Esperware
Hello all,

We're back with another monthly update! Today I'd like to bring you some interesting new developments in the asset creation department.

As some of you know, we've used Daz Studio since the project's inception, as none of us were really artists at heart. Daz provided the best solution for graphics that weren't downright atrocious. We initially wanted to present the game with pixel art, but quality artists were well beyond the scope of our budget. Unfortunately, for the amount of animation we wanted, pixel art would be been incredibly expensive and we simply couldn't afford that out of our own wallets. As a result, the pre-rendered art style was essentially born out of necessity. In the end, we think this is a nice contrast to the current happenings in the indie market as it helps Anathema stand out visually against other titles. Some might say pre-rendered graphics should have died with the 90's, but there are others that look back fondly to games that used this type of art style.

One of the issues with this approach is it relies on a lot of readily made assets that can either be used straight-away, or further customized in various ways such as geometry morphs and new textures. Part of the reason we revamped the entire game in 2015 is because of the implementation of the NVIDIA Iray render engine in Daz that allows for physical based rendering and overall improved quality images.

I've had several ideas in mind that have not been able to be realized because some of the assets necessary simply do not exist for Daz, until now.

Throughout the course of development of Anathema, we have worked here and there with Craig Daversa of Pyroklastic Games for a couple art commissions. It wasn't that long ago that Craig showed me some of his ZBrush sculpts and I immediately had that lightbulb appear above my head. Suddenly, new doorways had been opened to finally realize some of the ideas that were previously impossible. Not only could we finally incorporate completely original assets into Anathema, but work with someone we've had a long-standing relationship with that even created a pixel art Aurora sprite when we were tinkering with that art style years ago. Coincedentally, this could not have come at a better time, as I have been working with Substance Painter to create new textures to help make some of the Daz assets at least a little more original.

What you are about to see is a work in progress as we are currently rigging and applying weight maps to the mesh, so it is in a standard t-pose and isn't exactly all decked out yet.

Those that know me personally know that I am fascinated by the wendigo creature. Originally from Algonquian folklore, the wendigo may appear as a monster with some human features and are typically associated with cannibalism. These creatures have been presented in numerous shapes throughout history, but typically have some common characteristics such as antlers and an emaciated physique.

I recently gathered some reference images and showed them to Craig and asked if he would be willing to create the mesh. The results blew me away and I'm happy to share this work in progress. Here we see the wendigo as it will be in Anathema, which has more of a deer-like head and lower body, with some gnarly extended arms and giant hands.

In Anathema, a particular level will take place in a snowy summit (first shown in the March 2018 update) and the wendigo will be found here during the boss sequence. I will say, the wendigo creature is not the boss itself, but rather, a leadup to the boss of this level. I'm excited to finally see this creature that I've had such a long-standing infatuation with come to life. I can't wait to see players react to this thing running at them.

Below are a couple of gifs inside of Daz using an HDRI map for lighting and PBR textures to showcase this work in progress.

Here are a couple stills for better quality also.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes at a new enemy and how this will allow for a more fully realized vision of the game working with Craig. Please stop by and check out his game, Survival: The Living Dead Redux. It is quite an addictive game and helped forge our working relationship together. I even did some music for his game.

You can find it here: STLD Redux: Episode 2

See you in May!

Mar 14, 2018
Anathema - Esperware
Hello all,

I apologize for the delayed update. I had hoped that there would be more info to share after a slight delay but unfortunately that is not the case - so I will be sharing a lot more concept art and behind the scenes images. We have a developer's meeting this weekend so there should be more juicy tidbits in the next update. In the meantime, here we go!

CONCEPT ART - "The Snowpeak Village"
This level is an important moment in the story of Anathema and is a real turning point in the narrative. This is an early concept art and doesn't reflect all of the ideas we now have for this level. The plans for this level are to implement a heavily vertical element - think the Waterfalls stage in Contra, but with horizontal elements also. As you progress through the level you will encounter windmills that introduce some new elements to the platforming. The player will be faced against strong gusts of wind that shift directions, either helping the player move faster and jump farther, or slowing their speed and shortening their jumps. Elevators will also be a major player in this level. We're really excited about the climax of this level as it will tremendously shake things up and introduce a really cool mechanic to the boss fight - we hope you will think the same thing when you play it.

CONCEPT ART - "Pyromancer"
This enemy will be found in the earlier part of the game and is actually a concept art that I revised this week from an earlier version. The Pyromancer is planned to be an intermediate enemy that gives the player a run for their money with a variety of attacks and is just a handful of AI-IQ away from a miniboss. She may not be a miniboss, but players should still feel the burn. Heh. Bad pun? ...okay

Something that I thought some of you may find interesting is the part where a level is actually designed, or "blocked out" as we refer to it internally. Here is a preliminary sketch that "blocks out" the progression of Stage 2 - "The Forest". Since this is mostly for the people interested in the level design part, this is all made in Clip Studio Paint EX, formerly known as Manga Studio by Smith Micro Software. (I really love the workflow with my Surface Pro.)

If you've played the demo, you will see there are some slight differences between the concept and the demo version. The first noticeable difference is there are no spikes in the first couple of pits, as we decided we wanted this to be more of how the player learns the patterns of the Dryads since they can be really difficult in the treetops, and the second pit is for a hidden subweapon.

The rest is mostly the same, except there is no longer a bridge after the second elevator, which is now replaced with the ruins area that also marks the checkpoint in the demo. The bridge was just simply too flat and wasn't interesting at all. The third and fourth elevators were removed entirely and replaced with more treetop jumping. This area is a loving little nod to Eruga's Forest in the NES version of Rygar. (Amazing game btw, one of my personal favorites by Tecmo.)

Lastly, the final piece of the layout was changed a bit and it leads to the boss of this area. All in all, the blueprint was followed pretty closely, but as you actually implement the concept to gameplay, some things just feel like they need a change.

Click to Enlarge

As some of you know, this project has went through a ton of changes since its original conception in October 2014. We've learned a lot of new tricks along the way and keep finding ways to improve as we go along - which is great, but unfortunately, it slows down the development process. Luckily we're not on a strict deadline so we can make this game the best we possibly can with the resources available to us.

This image is what basically started it all. We had a few character concept arts, a few ideas and a general vision for the narrative. Some of the best games out there tend to start in a Graveyard (Ghosts 'n Goblins anyone?) so that was the initial vision here. Here is the initial concept from the first version of Anathema all the way to what it is today.

Original Mockup (Not In-Game)

In-Game Screenshot from First Version of Anathema

Concept Render for Revamp After Being Greenlit (This was also due to the new availability of the NVidia iRay Render Engine)

Revamp Mockup (Not In-Game)

In-Game Screenshot from Current Version of Anathema

As you can see, this has came a very long way over the course of development. We feel that as time goes on, we do make the most of the time we're dedicating to development and improving as much as we can along the way. Being just a three-man team (currently, hoping for more soon) it makes things challenging to achieve our exact vision so we have to find ways to get it as close as possible within our available resources.

As mentioned above we have a developer's meeting this weekend. We will be discussing much in the way of the story, cutscenes and anything else we haven't previously finalized. Concept arts are getting closer and closer to finished and the script is getting close to its finishing point also. At which point we can gather everything and put the final touches on them and have the script editing taken care of so we can get with our cast to knock that out. Having everything planned out like this is going to make the development of the rest of the game much faster. In hindsight, I really wish we had taken this time to plan at first instead of along the way but we were eager to get things going and wanted to dive right in. Lesson learned. They say the main three rules of real-estate is "location, location, location". Well, the three rules of game development are actually "plan, plan, plan".

Thank you all for reading and following. If you would like to help contribute to the project, please share with your friends and help spread the word! We really appreciate you all and hope you stick with us for the rest of the ride!

See you in April!

Feb 1, 2018
Anathema - Esperware
Hello all,

As mentioned in the December post, our goal is to bring you regular updates throughout the course of development. Our first update is some general information regarding concept art and a new tool in development for Anathema.

CONCEPT ART - "The Ossuary"
If you're like me, you've played the demo and you're familiar with the first few areas of the game. It's incredibly refreshing to be able to create new areas and concept art. I'm bored of looking at the areas in the demo and am so happy to sink my creative teeth into new areas.

The first new area concept art that I would like to unveil is The Ossuary. This is planned to be the stage immediately following the swamp area and will probably have the most gothic aesthetic in the game. The image speaks for itself, but among the litters of bones will be numerous traps and hazards waiting for the player. While we have made a conscious effort to make Anathema more original and lesser of a Castlevania clone, I can't help but feel the original inspiration will shine through here.

CONCEPT ART - "Revenant Knight"
The first new enemy that I will share isn't anything that far out of left field (I have to save some of the juicy bits for along the way) but gives further insight into The Ossuary.

This Revenant Knight will be a basic enemy of the level, however I have a few ideas for its attack patterns. While a lesser enemy, it will also have a bit more variety and unpredictability to its aggression.

During our last team meeting in January, I proposed that we take a little time so that I can create a level editor for Anathema. As some of you know, Anathema is developed in Clickteam Fusion 2.5. The level editor (aka Frame Editor) in the engine can be cumbersome when building a game such as this. CTF is built with rapid prototyping in mind, and the Frame Editor is what I have always used in the past but it leaves me longing for more intuitive controls to rapidly test level design ideas.

Over the last few weeks I've been designing and programming this level editor with the rapid approach in mind. The image you see is far from finished, but already is incredibly powerful. I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Super Mario Maker and its design approaches. The level editor will be entirely mouse-driven so that I can create levels from my Surface Pro 3 using just the pen. I found the aspect of "drawing/painting" a level in Super Mario Maker to be very satisfying.

While creating this tool will slow development down on the front-end, it will greatly speed up the actual creation process in the future. So taking a month or two now to make it will actually save many more months of development time in the future.

I have several more enemy concepts completed but have several stage concepts left to create. The Level Editor has taken full priority right now over the concept phase, but I don't expect the level editor to take too much longer to finish.

While I work on the editor Josh and Nic are hammering away at the final script. We had long deliberations about what exactly we wanted to do with the story and characters. We want the story and characters to be memorable so we had to take extra care with much of the plot-points, character interactions and their story arcs.

After the editor is finished I will resume with concept art which will be remaining enemies, bosses, stages, level layouts and everything in between. The goal is to have a mostly 100% blueprint moving forward so that we can just start hammering everything out. We made the unfortunate mistake at the beginning and throughout development by just working as we go. It caused a lot of hiccups, delays and doubt. While we had an approximate idea of what we wanted, it wasn't thorough enough. The steps we're taking now will ensure that development progresses at speedy rate once we finish the current stages.

Thank you all for reading. I will be bringing these updates to you monthly now as I find this will strike the best balance of providing new information as we work on Anathema, while still allowing for time to develop the game. We still have our day jobs so we only get so many hours a day to work on the game but are glad we have the ability and opportunity.

See you in March!

Anathema - Esperware
Hello all,

First, I must apologize for the silence. Working on Anathema in our spare time means that we don't usually get to invest as much time on development on a daily basis as we would like. Our goal is to really change this in 2018 and we've spent the last few months really planning the rest of the game out to the most minimal detail. During the course of these meetings and plans, we've refined many of the details of the game on many of its layers and hope to wrap up the planning completely. Up until now, most of the game was planned as we went and drastically slowed development down, in tandem with working within the confines of our means available to us. The goal is to have everything planned out so from there forward it is simply a matter of making it happen.

I will be making it a goal to issue monthly updates in a blog style format to really showcase what we have been working on and to keep you informed about the development. It's tough to make a game - it's even tougher to make a game without a lot of resources or people on the team.

That said, there are some very exciting things in the works and we're looking forward to showing them off in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Anathema - Esperware
Hello Everyone!

Apologies for the delay in the patch. We had hoped to release it last week, but there were unforeseen delays with our group of external testers so we did as much internal testing as possible. Unfortunately, there are only so many bugs that we could squash in this patch and really wanted to get more external testing in. So please note that this patch has only been moderately tested and you may run into some bugs.

Please do not hesitate to forward any information on bugs you find as it will help us ensure a higher quality experience. Being that we're just a few guys and rely on the goodwill of outside testers when they can test, it's tough to catch everything. But please know that we do want to whip this into top shape, we just don't have many avenues to get the feedback needed before releasing to you publicly but this may be the best avenue. Below is a list of everything changed/updated/added in this patch. Thank you all so much for playing! Hopefully this will expand play for many more users that had issues with the prior version.

  • Added launcher so players will be aware of what options can be adjusted. Players seemingly overlooked these options in the pause menu.
  • Added DirectInput Controller support.
  • Added support to use the left analog stick on controllers for movement.
  • Added keybinding for Xinput and DirectInput controllers. (Keyboard keybinding already existent.)
  • Refined "Controls" sub-menu.
  • Improved video file compatibility so that cutscenes should play on all machines now.
  • Darkened "Continue" on Title Screen to reduce confusion as this function isn't used in the demo.
  • Fixed a bug where the crow placement in the Title Screen was not proper.
  • Fixed a bug in the Options Menu where the sound volume could be set below 0.
  • Fixed a bug where zombies didn't provide souls if killed using the crossbow.
  • Removed controller rumble as it would cause certain controller types (such as the wired Xbox 360 controller) to become unresponsive and you must disconnect/reconnect the controller to regain input.
  • Added controller refresh. If controller becomes unresponsive, unplug, replug and press F5, wait 1-3 seconds and functionality should return. NOTE: This is implemented in response to a rare issue we've heard about where a controller randomly stops responding that isn't related to the rumble bug listed above. We've been unable to reproduce this to discern if it is a software issue or a hardware conflict on the user end.
  • Discovered a conflict if you have multiple instances of controllers installed. Open "Device Manager" and select View > Show Hidden Devices. If you have multiple instances of the same controller, uninstall all of them and reconnect your controller to install the drivers. You should then not have any further issues due to multiple driver installations.
  • Deathbringers now operate on a recharge system, rather than using souls. They will recharge automatically over time, although only the Bone Dragon is available in the demo.
  • Changed the effects for the deathbringer power-up animation. The prior effects were hitting the frame-rate hard.
  • Revised Options menu UI text to make it cleaner and more legible.
  • Revised boss name text to make cleaner and more legible.
  • Added additional checkpoints before bosses.
  • Added a soul font to power up players should they respawn at the boss.
  • Buffed your main attack against the wood witch boss.
  • Improved load time between opening cutscene and stage 1.
  • Statue removed at the beginning of stage 1. Players were confused by its purpose.
  • Increased hitbox size on whip swing latches to make it easier for players to connect a hit.
  • The game can now be exited using Alt+F4.
  • Pause can now be activated via the "Escape" key.
  • Added physics to the crates in the Stage 1 Lookout Tower...why not? They also give souls. Look for the secret.
  • Reduced frequency of in-game vocal effects.
  • Reduced volume of sound effect when player lands on the ground from higher falls.
Jul 14, 2017
Anathema - Esperware
Enough talk, the demo is now live on our store page!

Available a day early for everyone on Steam!

Thank you all for your support and Greenlight votes. We've got some great things in store for you!

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