Project Information

Zeil is a rogue-like seafaring adventure game about exploration in a procedurally generated ocean. 

As a player, you control the direction of the wind for your ship. Defeat enemies, collect gold, make trade deals and upgrade your ship. With the Major Arcana guiding you, you’ll be sure to overcome your struggle through the ocean.

ZEIL is a personal project that I worked on as a duo together with Tom Vissenkom under the name KEYPOINT STUDIOS.

MY ROLE(S) WITHIN THE PROJECT: General Design, Quest Design, Level Design, 3D Modeling

PLATFORM: Android (intended), PC



 ENGINE: Unity

ACHIEVEMENTS: Top 4 games at the 2020 White Nights Conference.

My Work In The Project

Designing for Mobile

With Zeil, we wanted to create a game for mobile. We wanted to use swipe controls that are unique to the mobile phone as a constraint. I thought about how the player controls the wind in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and thought that would be a cool idea to start from. We initially had the idea to create a relaxing sailing experience with no real goal. However, after we added enemies to the mix, we discovered that it was a lot more fun, we went on to create a roguelite.

The wind is normally operated by swiping in a direction across the device.

Smart Design & Scope

Our concept of a boat on a sea came with a lot of advantages. We didn’t need animations for the main character or the enemies and we could simulate a procedural world with islands that would have some random elements on them. For example, every island can spawn with different colours, a random rotation and with or without houses. This resulted in not having to create too many islands and keeping the game small in size. We did have a bit of an issue with shooting and how difficult it was.

In the end, a lot of balancing went in just how much aim-assist we should provide the players with after a lot of testers found the game way too hard.

For the White Nights Conference, we ported the game to PC for showcase purposes.

Quest Design & On-boarding

On-boarding through Quests

We took a lot of inspiration from Alto’s Adventure, who does quests very similar to how we did it. Complete quests, get coins and new quests after your run ends. However, because we wanted to give the game linear progression, we decided that we might as well use it as on-boarding. The first quests include finding specific statues, sinking an enemy ship and picking up the coin that it drops. After those quests, players will learn that they can upgrade their ships and that buying an upgrade repairs their ship.


Tarot Thematic

From the start on out, we liked the idea of Tarot cards having a prominent role. All of the quests got designed from that constraint. For example, The Lovers quest requires players to not destroy enemy ships while focusing on exploration, where the Death quest requires the player to die once and revive, by watching an ad. Designing with these constraints made it easier for us to come up with fun solutions to problems.

Asset Creation

Learning Blender & Optimizing for Mobile

Because we were developing a 3D game for mobile, we had to keep the polycount low. I learned Blender and made low-poly assets for the game, such as trees, houses and islands. The individual assets all have a very low polycount but together still create a very cute aesthetic. The houses are just a box with subdivisions for the windows and doors, which we sometimes colour in with the texture, or sometimes don’t.


Islands and Colour Palettes

To give the feeling of discovery and exploration, we created a few colour palettes that would always work with each other. Islands could then spawn with any of these colour palettes attached to them. Further in development, we added function to these colours as well. Red houses would mean damage upgrades; blue colored houses would mean reload and so on. That way, experienced players could quickly identify what kind of upgrade that island would sell by focusing on their intended ‘build’.

Lessons Learned: Mobile Game Development

With Zeil, we got invited to showcase our game at the White Nights Conference, and got invited for the Deconstruction Workshop alongside three other games presented there. We received a lot of feedback and learned an important lesson.

Developing for Mobile is a lot different from what we have learned for Console or PC games. Most importantly, the monetization model that you’re going to offer to players. Games for mobile should also be a lot easier than we’re used to. The audience isn’t usually as competitive as console or PC gamers and has way less time to invest in your game. It’s not uncommon for players to only play the game for about 3 minutes, so you want to reel them in and get them hooked during that time.