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Shards of Destiny

A lovingly crafted, nostalgic pico-size RPG adventure

Cart #shards_of_destiny-4 | 2020-06-09 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA


This is my second game jam game, and second Pico-8 game (I'll get around to publishing the first one at some point). It was a frantic development in early mornings and late evenings for four days, but I got it into a more or less playable shape. Then I worked on it for about one month, making it less bare-bones and more of a game. It's a very tiny open-world RPG with light puzzles, dungeons and a very vague and generic (on purpose) back story. It basically combines the look of early Ultimas with my take on very light RPG/adventure gameplay. Pico-8 is basically the perfect platform for this type of game, and I've already got ideas for a sequel :)

Dev log


Ok, after some more playtesting I decided that done is done. The game can be played from start to finish, all features I wanted are in and there don't seem to be any deal-breaking bugs. There will probably be minor updates here and there as I find embarrassing stuff that should've been fixed ages ago, but nothing major is coming. So thus I completed my first RPG ever. Tiny and simplistic, but still. Time to pat myself on the back and move on.


So I'll call it beta now. I've added a new special item, rearranged the location of all items, added the most powerful sword and shield and changed victory conditions, which I will not spoil here, but I hope that the in-game clues point to it clearly enough. I also tweaked the final battle somehow, but I'm still not 100% sure whether it's good enough, I'll probably tinker with it some more. I've also added a small tribute to one of my favourite game music composers, which you can see when you finish the game (with the good ending).


I realised that what I uploaded yesterday was a buggy mess and I had to correct some things. Hence, version number with an ominous "b" at the end. Also, I added a level up message thanks to a helpful comment by @jeb


We're still in alpha and I'm adding features left and right, as the pico-ness of Pico-8 allows me. Here's the gist:

  • Added separate dungeon music
  • Improved enemy 'AI'. While they are still (intentionally) dumb as rocks, they now have the ability to properly surround you if there are no obstacles in their way.
  • Added two magic items: a healing ring and a wand that will severely hurt all monsters within one space of the hero. You have to dig around to find them.
  • Added nicer win messages
  • Improved some locations to prevent the "invisible wall" effect
  • Added more dialogue, replaced some useless lines like "please help us" with clues regarding new items
  • Added "tough" versions of monsters to some dungeons, they are palette-swapped versions of normal monsters (don't judge, I'm already at the sprite limit, and I'm using the entire map) with increased stats

The roadmap still includes several items, such as better ending, some simple special abilities for monsters, more weapons and shields and whatever I can fit in the token limit (it's great that the limit is there, it's a clear boundary where you simply have to stop).


Today I released a new version of the game. Let's call it 0.1.0 alpha or whatever greek letter is appropriate. This version contains several improvements, most notably:

  • No more obvious crippling bugs, that is you can't load a game when there's nothing to load, to crash and burn, and you can't fall off the edge of the world because I forgot one mountain tile.
  • Improved music which now fits on less patterns internally (invisible), and added game over music (definitely audible).
  • Raised the cost of purchasable items and decreased gold left by monsters. Otherwise the gold was pretty much pointless. It kind of still is, but I'm working on it.
  • Added another item which is not required to win the game, but you can get several nice finds using it, if you know where to look!
  • Added some semi-hidden extras for the intrepid explorers of the pico-kingdom

There's still a lot of work, but that's what I call progress!


The work is progressing as fast as my almost-one-year-old allows me to :) Today I focused on the music, I wanted to extend the loop a bit, and also I intend to add some dungeon music and jingles for game over and win screens. By the way, a better win screen would be nice as well, but one thing at a time here...


I am in the process of bringing the jam version, which was incredibly rushed and buggy, to a more polished state. I started by removing two breaking bugs (one was the ability to load game when no saved game was available, and the second was a spot where you could go outside the end of the world and crash the game) and cleaning the code a bit, the next step was to add a nicer game over graphics (I have quite a bit of room left in the sprite section, so why not use it). Now I am reworking the balance of the monsters and the "economy". As is, it's all over the place, it's a miracle that it even kind of works. But the thing is that gold is irrelevant, because everything is super cheap right from the start, and the monsters don't feel that powerful. They are purposefully very simplistic, but perhaps too simplistic? I might end up sprinkling some special abilities here and there, not too much in order not to break the simplicity of the game, but I used just above half of the tokens - might as well add a little bit more content. Speaking of content, I also added a pickaxe which you will be able to use to dig in some special rock tiles, and maybe find some goodies (which are very limited as they are now). I'll post it when I test it reasonably thoroughly.

Previous versions - for reference

Version 0.2.0

Cart #shards_of_destiny-4 | 2020-06-09 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Version 0.1.3b

Cart #shards_of_destiny-3 | 2020-05-28 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Version 0.1.0

Cart #shards_of_destiny-1 | 2020-05-21 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Version 0.0.1

Cart #shards_of_destiny-0 | 2020-05-15 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

P#76608 2020-05-15 12:36 ( Edited 2020-06-12 08:25)

All Comments

Love this Ultima quest gameplay. Well done !

P#76642 2020-05-15 17:33

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it! There's still much polish to be done, but I'm quite happy with it. I've always wanted to make a game like this, and somehow last week I just spewed it out in a coding frenzy :)

P#76664 2020-05-15 19:36

Ok, so this is the first game in my life that I did not abandon completely after finishing, let's say "a version". I will post an updated cart soon!

P#76768 2020-05-17 16:43

what a lovely throwback to some classic rpgs. it is simple as you mentioned, but so charming as a result. the music is perfect for the style and it made me oddly nostalgic for another era. i couldn't help but play to completion.

thank you for making this and sharing!

P#76822 2020-05-18 09:33

@anydayhappyday Thank you, it really means a lot!

P#76918 2020-05-19 19:23

Great game. Loved it. Well done! One wish (after 2 failed attempts) : an in-game map.

P#76929 2020-05-20 00:54

@alexr Thank you! The world isn't so big, you can do it :)

P#76934 2020-05-20 07:14

I never played the old Ultima games but this makes me think of Excelsior. Very exciting!

I did a quick test and two things:

  • Add a level-up sfx!
  • Maybe tricky, but I'd like some keyword highlighting in the dialogues. Such as, "there is a HEALER in the EASTERN VILLAGE ...". Would help both with attention span and with readability.
P#77266 2020-05-27 11:36

@jeb Thanks! I haven't heard of Excelsior, but it looks interesting, I must check it out in the future. It might surprise you, but I haven't played the old Ultimas either, not in any real way. I just like the look and feel of these games. When I tried them in the mid 90s, I had no access to any manuals or maps, and my English was much worse than it is now, so I had no idea what to do and I just gave up.

The game is based just as much on my experiences playing various ZX Spectrum adventure game ports on my C64, like Firelord and Starquake. I had no clue what to do or where to go, but I really liked the aesthetics and it felt amazing to explore these micro-worlds and just kind of take in the views. So that's where Shards really come from.

As for your suggestions - thanks for taking the time to write a comment and make them! The level up sound is necessary, you're right. But as for the clues - two things. First, Pico-8 has only uppercase letters, so I'd have to make them another colour or something, and I'm not sure I want to do that because (second) I explicitly wanted to avoid big hovering exclamation marks over people's heads and big fat arrows pointing you in the right direction. The same with maps and journals - you want a map, get some pencil and graph paper and draw it. You want a journal, take a notebook and write it.

I played Might and Magic I a bit some time ago, and it was immensely fun to map the dungeon on paper and take notes of any clues. I encourage you to try it!

P#77267 2020-05-27 12:27 ( Edited 2020-05-27 12:34)

Yes, definitely! Game development is a lot about taste, so it's important that you design it the way you want.

Just to clarify what I meant though, I made this example:

I did it by parsing the lines looking for a word prefix (I used "_") to change the color of that word.

The music is really nice, I kept it running in the background as I was working :)

P#77304 2020-05-28 07:47

I saw someone playing through this cart on youtube and I had to immediately go find it. ^^ I really enjoyed the game and the secrets. I still never figured out how to get to the stairs in the winter mountains! I beat the game finally but it took a few tries, heh. Very well done game that makes me want to try to make my own. ^^

P#97861 2021-09-26 19:35

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. As for the secret stairs - look in the swamp for something looking not-quite-right :) Also, if you saw "someone" playing it on youtube, that someone was probably myself :)

P#106038 2022-01-31 12:29 ( Edited 2022-01-31 12:29)

I also found the Youtube video and yes - this game has so much charm. Love it! Great job.

P#106041 2022-01-31 14:08

Ok so I got the full mirror, but still got the bad ending?

P#122026 2022-12-08 13:44

i cannot load up the new version?

P#122028 2022-12-08 14:30

This was one of the first games I played on Pico8 -- Its still my favorite.

  • loverly ultima music.. easy to listen to.
  • simple gameplay which i like.
  • great secrets and discovery.
  • is a full game and fun to replay also..
P#127123 2023-03-14 10:37

@Antibodies Thank you very much! It's an incredible feeling that my game is someone's favorite game on the system!

P#127124 2023-03-14 10:39

So, I got all the items and got to the end, and got a bad ending saying I didn't have the mirror. Then I got all the things again and went back at it, but now there are an infinite number of enemies being generated in the final room so I can never get to the boss. :(
Other than these hiccups, this was an amazing adventure experience. I love all the little secrets, though I got the level 5 shield very early on and got the level 3 sword after the level 5. The music is great, the look is great. Great variety of very simple enemies, and great dialog on the NPCs. Awesome game.

P#127350 2023-03-20 05:05 ( Edited 2023-03-20 05:07)

@UnitVector Yeah, the boss part is a little bit too vague and underdeveloped. You need to use the altar that's positioned behind the boss, not kill the boss itself. If you find yourself swarmed by monsters, try to save and reload. The monsters only spawn when you enter the dungeon, but if you die and get resurrected thanks to the wand, they stay there (which is something I should probably fix). But saving and reloading will remove them, as no monster data is saved. Then it shouldn't be too bad.
Anyway, I'm glad that you enjoyed it despite its flaws. Thank you for playing!

P#127354 2023-03-20 08:23 ( Edited 2023-03-20 08:23)

Finally beat this game. Great little retro adventure!

P#141101 2024-02-04 05:31

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