The next major update coming to Village Monsters is already well underway, so I wanted to share a dev diary outlining some the cool stuff I’m working on.
I’m calling this release the Living Lands update, and its focus is on making the world of Village Monsters feel immersive and alive. After all, it may be a virtual world, but that’s no reason it has to feel artificial!
The Living Lands update will come out at the end of October. Let’s take a look at the new things it’ll bring with it.
Holidays & Events
While the calendar itself has ostensibly been full of events since launch, you may have noticed that they never seem to actually… happen?
That’ll soon change as holidays, tournaments, festivals and feasts come out of hibernation. For this particular release I’m aiming for at least 4 major holidays and a handful of tournaments and minor events sprinkled throughout the year.
In addition, you may even see some interesting changes during real world holidays as well. I wonder if there are any of those coming soon…
Villager Interactions & Hobbies
Villagers will no longer stand around twiddling their thumbs (or claws) while they wait for you to talk to them.
Your monster palls will now pursue activities and hobbies just like you. They’ll go fishing, catch up on books at the library, head to the general store and bakery, and much more. They’ll even change up their routines depending on the season or weather.
For the first time, villagers will now have conversations with each other instead of just with you! Feel free to eavesdrop on them to learn the learn, or just keep walking.
Bigger & More Interesting Seasonal Changes
Currently, the changing of the season is largely a difference in aesthetics: you get a new tileset, new music, slightly different colored UI elements, and so on.
We can do better! New and more dramatic changes are coming to give each season an unmistakable feel and identity. From seasonal items at the general store to season-appropriate hobbies and activities, you can actually look forward to the changing of the calendar.
A new type of seasonal weather called extreme weather will challenge your common sense – will you brave the obviously dangerous blizzards and hurricanes in search for extremely rare items?
Travelers & Visitors
Travelling bards, merchants, and even the occasional ne’er-do-well will now frequent the village more often. And they’ll finally start leaving their rooms at the inn!
Better yet, you’ll even start encountering NPCs out in the wilds. Perhaps if your village is attractive enough they’ll consider sticking around for an extended stay.
In addition to the above, I’m also planning on fleshing out the lore and history of the world. I don’t have a ton to share quite yet, but you can expect many new secrets to discover when the Living Lands update drops at the end of the month.
It’s time for another major update! Welcome to Village Monsters v0.80, also known as Part 1 of the Village Restoration Project.
This release is all about the village and how it can change and evolve over time. It also includes frequently requested features, like donating items to the library, character customization, and improved fishing and critter traps.
Unfortunately, I had to shelf several features I had planned to include. There are also several incomplete features in this release. This is because the release was already taking much longer to finish than I had predicted, and I knew it was better to release what I had now rather than making you all wait even longer.
Adding “Part 1” was a last minute change that I thought might help set expectations.
Let’s take a look at these tasty patch notes!
The biggest change in this update is the completely renovated library! The library is finally accepting donations for all kinds of artifacts, critters, fish, plants, and everything else that you can find around town.
The library expands its exhibits as it levels up, and over time you’ll even start seeing rewards for your patronage.
The library has been greatly expanded with the addition of 5 new exhibits
Players can donate a wide variety of items and creatures to the library. Talk with Library Services to learn more
Exhibits can be visited and each display can be interacted with for info, trivia, and more
The library starts out small, and will expand its floor space as it achieves higher ranks
Contributing to the library now raises its level. You’ll unlock special bonuses as you increase its rank
Books, scrolls, and other readable objects can be read by interacting with them
Added a huge number of new artifacts to discover
(Identifying artifacts in the library now serves an actual purpose!)
Expanded the Library Services desk with new explanations and tutorials
Added a number of new jewels, amulets, rings, etc. to discover
Lindwyrm and Ruby now work on an actual schedule
Improved the look of the library
At long last, you can finally change the appearance of your character!
By far the most requested feature since launching in Early Access, players can now freely switch between 5 different ‘presets’ of looks. Assuming there are no problems found with the new sprite system, more types will be added continuously through Early Access.
You can now, finally, change the appearance of your character
Currently, you can select your new appearance from a several presets of various genders, skin color, and clothing options
New players can select their appearance during the intro cutscene
Existing players can change their appearance via a special device near the Wall of Text (north side of town) or via the basement upgrade for your home
Village Restoration Project
The village now changes and evolves over time.
Stores will improve their stock the more you use them. Visitors will start appearing in the inn and town square. Villagers will plant flowers and set up decorations as they begin to feel pride in their town.
Your village now has an overall rank depending on your completion of all various goals and projects available to you. This rank will ultimately have story and gameplay impacts, though this is yet to be implemented.
This release is considered “Part 1” of the final Village Restoration Project. Part 2 will release later this month and will include even more features related to village progression.
Parts of the village will now improve and change over time as your rank improves
The general store will now renovate itself into a larger, more impressive store after reaching a certain level
The bakery starts out closed and opens up sometime after the initial town meetings
The bakery will start offering more advanced items as it levels up
The stock of items sold at the general store changes with its level
Changes, improvements, and additions to the village will trigger as each building ‘levels up’ via usage
The current Village Rank is now displayed on the end of day summary
Several new home upgrades have been added for purchase at Pishky’s. In addition, the interior and exterior of your homestead have been steadily improved.
Added the Stash to the list of purchasable home upgrades
Added a Home Expansion to the list of home upgrade projects
Added a Basement to the list of home upgrade projects
The expanded home includes new furniture and opens up even more upgrade options
Basements have no immediate use yet, but will be a great place for workshops and storage
A large number of various changes to hobbies are also included in this release. You’ll enjoy some long-awaited improvements to traps, energy costs, spawn rates, and more.
Greatly reworked how fishing and critter traps behave:
Traps are no longer a separate tool. Instead, trap locations will be displayed when you have the ‘main tool’ (Net for critters, fishing rod for fish) equipped
Interact with a trap location to learn a bit on how they work and to arm them if you have the appropriate number of traps
Added a new ability to help you predict when a trap will finish catching a critter or fish
You can now inspect in-progress traps
Rebalanced the energy costs for fishing
The length of time it takes for a trap to catch a critter is now variable
You can now view the number of remaining traps you have via the toolbelt menu
Increased the amount of experience gained from catching critters
Decreased the amount of experienced gained from fishing
Added a number of new dig spots throughout the world
Rebalanced spawn rates for buried items
Added a large number of new foragable items
Removed journal pages for treasure hunting and gardening
Rebalanced how often critters spawn by default
Removed the concept of “subtools”
Improved collision of garden plots
Improved animation and hitbox of the shovel
Additions & Improvements
And like always, I also added a whole bunch of other new stuff that didn’t neatly fall into a category. These changes range from graphical improvements, improved UI and controls, or brand new features.
Added a large number of new furniture and interactive objects
Added some new interactions to the end of day summary
Re-balanced how fast time flows
Added a number of new potions to the Pots & Pie stock
Added a number of new gift items to the store
Seasonal changes now have a greater impact of vegetation and trees. Flowers and crops come and go, trees and bushes have snow on them, and so on
Added a large number of new flavor critters that you can encounter on your journey
Greatly improved how stairs look and operate
Added the option to quit during the end of day summary
Added a number of new interacting and flavor text
Added proper winter variations for each tree and bush
Certain flowers now change their look depending on time and weather
Shift + A / S now brings up the toolbelt menu
Improved interacts / inspects near the player’s feet
Improved the look of the winter tileset
Improved the look of a large number of new furniture and interactive objects
Made a few ‘canonical’ glitches (like Valentine’s way of speaking) more obvious
Save files from v0.75 are placed in a special backup folder – just in case
Fixed major issue that was causing villager sprite issues during Summer, Autumn and Winter
Phew, it’s been a while, huh? Seems like summer is already over.
In today’s dev diary, I’m going to talk about the most substantial update I’ve worked on so far: Village Monsters v80.0, aka the update that finally implements the long-awaited Village Restoration Project. And it’s releasing soon: September 8th!
But before I get into that, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Kept you waiting, huh?
Back in June I posted a roadmap for the updates I planned to do this summer. At the time, this particular update was scheduled for July. Well, it’s now the end of August… so… what happened?
The problem was twofold. First, I had far less work time this summer than anticipated. All the uncertainties with COVID (and my wife being a teacher) meant that we tried to cram as many chores and appointments as we could into the summer. It left little time for steady work.
But more importantly than that, the features I’ve been working on for this update are by far the most crucial aspects of the game. Seriously, I can’t afford to mess this one up. As such, I’ve been much more careful in both my design and testing. All this extra pressure has, predictably, resulted in a much slower work schedule.
(Re)building a Village
As mentioned up top, Village Monsters v80.0 is all about the Village Restoration Project. In the story, this refers to the community effort to revitalize a struggling town. However, it’s really just a catch-all term to describe all the features and systems that let you improve or upgrade different parts of the game.
I love town building in games, and when designing Village Monsters I was heavily inspired by the likes of Suikoden, Animal Crossing, Dark Cloud, and Xenoblade Chronicles. I’m a big believer in progression systems that constantly add new features or options to a game as you advance through them.
In fact, you could argue that the entire game loop of Village Monsters is designed around the core concept of improving your friendly monster village. Just take a look at this helpful octopus chart for proof:
Every aspect of the game – whether it’s improving your friendships, donating items to the library, or even just upgrading your home – feeds back into your village rating. This means you’ll rarely need to go out of your way to contribute to the village – these are things you’d be doing anyways!
You’ll notice that several of the features in the above graph are actually already in the game. What Village Monsters v80.0 really focuses on is tying it all together and making your progress much more tangible. It’s no fun improving a village if it still looks and feels the same after you’re done, right?
Save our Library!
Let’s look at a more concrete example to help explain how progression works: the village library!
The library, like every other part of the village, is at its lowest point when you first start the game. It begins as nothing more than a dusty ol’ collection of books in a rarely visited part of town
However, the library plays a very important role in the Village Restoration Project.The library’s main goal is to prove out the historical and ecological value of the town and surrounding area. In gameplay terms, it serves as the place to donate and display everything that you can collect (via hobbies or discovery) in the game.
There are spots and exhibits for fish, critters, plants, history, treasure, and of course books.
As you donate new items, the library will expand with additional wings and exhibits. While it’s always fun to just admire your collection, you’ll also enjoy some real tangible benefits as the library ‘levels up’.
For instance, any item you donate will sell for more silver in the general store (think of it like your items being properly appraised). At a certain level you’ll even start receiving weekly deposits of silver automatically – your share of the revenue that your contributions pull in.
The core ‘loop’ of the Village Restoration Project is as follows: level up a building, relationship, or other aspect of the game -> Receive rewards and new features that make leveling things up even faster -> Repeat!
Each area of town requires a slightly different method to level up. For example, some stores – like Pisky’s general store – simply require you to buy and sell items like you normally would. Over time, as the village becomes more prosperous, Pishky can expand his store with new items, new services, and much more.
Grading on a Curve
Your village is graded on a scale ranging from D to SSS. Each grade has a + version resulting in ten distinct levels you can be ranked at.
You can check your current grade any time by visiting the town hall. You can also learn a bit more about how to improve the village in case you want some clearer direction.
Everything you do in the game contributes to the overall village grade, but not everything is graded equally. For example, improving your friendship with one villager will have a smaller impact than purchasing and completing an expensive community project.
This is where the village suggestion box (also called the Vox Monstrum, or “voice of the people”) can come in handy. The suggestion box provides you with more specific hints directly from the villagers on areas that lacking.
Your village grade serves one last major role: it dictates which of the 4 different endings you get. It’s way too early to talk about them in any sort of detail, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out more about them.
Of course, I should put quotations around the word “ending” – this wouldn’t be much of an open world sandbox game if it ended after the credits roll! You’ll be able to continue playing the game for as long as you’d like, and that’ll include increasing your village rating to hit the max level.
That’s all for today! Village Monsters v80.0 releases on September 8th. I’m really looking forward to having you all play it!
But we’re not here to talk about the past! Let’s look to the future.
The next major update to Village Monsters will be coming in July. This update will focus on four very related features.
First up are library exhibits – aka a place to finally record and display your marvelous finds & creations! Next are projects for restoring the village and improving your home. These features already exist, but they need to be added to, expanded, and connected with the story.
I’ll then wrap the month up by finally adding in player customization which is by far the most frequently requested feature (and rightfully so!)
August will be spent on wrapping up the two biggest remaining features: villager schedules (including movement and activities), and special events and holidays. Both of these things should go a long way to making the village feel less static and more alive.
New activities, part-time jobs and minigames will also be added in August – including villager hangouts. The common theme here is that I want there to be much more to do and see in a given day.
This will also be the month I finish implementing all the contributions from the very generous community of Kickstarter backers. This means new visitors, interactive furniture / items, holidays, and more.
It’s hard to forecast this far out accurately, but I anticipate September being entirely focused on release prep. This will be the month for any last minute additions, changes, and testing.
September will also be when I decide if I can hit a fall release. The last time I made a release prediction I was overly confident and stupidly naive. This time I want to be completely transparent – which is why I wanted to share my roadmap!
I am optimistic about releasing version 1.0 this fall, and I hope this roadmap shows you that this is a realistic goal. But many things are still up in the air, and I won’t know for sure until September.
October is the big boy month. There are two possible outcomes: me losing my mind with excitement and nervous energy as I prepare for my first-ever game launch, or me drowning my sorrows in a bucket of fun-sized Kit Kats while I attempt to figure out a new release date.
THERE WILL BE NO IN BETWEEN.
Future Release Freeze
I’ve been averaging a new major update every three weeks (with minor patch releases in between) and it’s been working really well.
However, once September hits I plan to put a freeze on new releases. This would mean no new (public) updates until I hit version 1.0.
There are a bunch of practical reasons for doing this. Getting together a new release takes a lot of time and energy, and it’s an enormous interruption to working on the game itself. I’m going to need all the focus I can get in September and October.
There’s also the issue of spoilers (both story and mechanics) that I really want to avoid. A freeze will let me to add the biggest, juiciest secrets to the game without having to worry about them leaking out before release.
Finally, I would very much like all players – existing and new – to experience the full game with fresh legs and enthusiasm. Village Monsters 1.0 should be an exciting and anticipated release, not just another patch.
It’s going to be a busy summer, but I am absolutely ready for it. Until next time!
A big release is always a magnet for new bugs, and yesterday’s update was no different. Today’s patch is a hotfix to address all the bugs that were reported (mostly cutscene related) in the last 24 hours.
As always, a huge thank you to all the players who reported bugs via Discord and email!
Fixed major crash when a cutscene is triggered during a room transition. The cutscene will now wait until a room transition is completed before triggering
Fixed a major issue where a cutscene would freeze or crash during the cleanup phase
Fixed major issue causing some cutscenes to have enormously large pauses between actions
Fixed major issue that was corrupting gardens and resulting in unpredictable behavior, including crashes
Corrupted plants are lost forever, but they’ve been replaced by a mutated Uhoh Plant that you can sell for a high price as way of apology
Fixed a potentially major issue that could result in stabled critters from also being corrupted. There were no reports of this, but this should prevent it from happening in the future
Fixed a number of collision issues (including getting stuck) when fishing against objects
Fixed a number of embarrassing typos. Story of my life