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Building a Village – Garden Variety

Building a Village – Garden Variety

Hello Villagers!

We all neglect things they really shouldn’t. Maybe it’s a hard task you don’t know how to start. Maybe it’s just cleaning your room.

For me? It’s the mushroom gardening hobby in Village Monsters. It’s “technically” been in the game since releasing in Early Access 6 months ago, but you wouldn’t know it. I’ve barely touched it since then and most players aren’t even aware it exists.

That changes now. Let’s talk gardens, and then afterward let’s clean our rooms!

Gardening

What was onceMushroom Gardening will now be known as simply Gardening. Yep, you can now cultivate all sorts of new plants beyond just fabulous fungi!

But don’t expect to be planting boring crops like turnips or corn. No! Instead, you’ll be growing suitably monstrous plants: man-eating pitcher plants, never-ending creeper vines, fruit that glows eerily in the dark, and yes: mushrooms.

To help you with growing all these new plants, garden management has received a complete overhaul in both look and design. Check it out:

Each garden now has its own plot (above) that you can interact with to manage all the plants inside. From this screen you can plant new seeds, view the status of growing plants, cultivate the soil, and eventually harvest any mature plants. 

You’ll be able to purchase multiple plots of varying configurations, but at the start you’re limited to the basic 2×2 model.

Your garden won’t require a lot of attention if you only care about the basics. You may need to weed it on occasion, and cultivating it with water and fertilizer will definitely help it grow faster, but gardens are otherwise self-sufficient

After all, gardening is meant to be a passive and relaxing hobby. Of course, there are all sorts of benefits if you want to be an active gardener – let’s look at them now.

Breeding

I’m super excited to talk about the new plant breeding mechanics! That’s not weird, right? You’d tell me if that was weird??

In all seriousness, I love breeding plants in video games. I’m not sure why – it’s not like I have much interest in real life botany – but I always get really into it whenever it’s offered. Adding this feature to my own game was a no-brainer.

In Village Monsters, getting started with plant breeding is actually super easy. You just need a male plant, a female plant, and an empty space. Nature can handle the rest!

Your experience as a gardener governs how fast plants grow and crossbreed, and in the beginning of your career it will be pretty slow; plants take several days (and in some cases longer) to grow, and new starter packs are quite expensive and sometimes hard to find.

Don’t fret, though! Gardening is designed for exponential growth, and over time a skilled gardeners can completely outpace the other hobbyists. 

Hybridization

Hybrids are a very rare type of crossbreed where two plants combine to form a brand new plant

As you can see from the chart above, hybrid plants generally inherit the shape of the mother plant + the color / design of the father plant.

It takes a lot of skill & patience to successfully breed a hybrid; they’re often considered the end goal for most gardeners. There are dozens of unique hybrid combinations, so you’ll be plenty busy trying to discover them all.

The uniqueness of a hybrid makes them highly sought after, and Pishky will pay you very handsomely when you’re ready to sell. Better yet, you’re almost guaranteed to win any Garden Festival if you put one of these guys in your display.

Future Gardens

There are two more big features I’d like to add to gardening, but they won’t make the next release (v0.70). Still, this is a dev diary, so I may as well talk about ’em.

The first feature is something I’m tentatively calling Symbiosis. The idea here is that gardening should provide benefits to all your other hobbies – and vice versa! Everything is connected.

For example, you should be able to use certain plants as bait to catch rare fish or critters. Other plants could help you see hidden treasure in the dark. Maybe domesticated critters could provide fast-growing fertilizer for your plants (don’t think about this one too much.) 

It’ll take some time to get it all sorted out, but you can expect this in a future update before release.

The second upcoming feature is called Mutation. Mutations will be similar to hybrids with one key difference: they are completely random! Randomized names, randomized look, randomized benefits, and so on. Procedurally generated plants!

This’ll take some time, and it may even have to come in a post-launch patch. I’ll keep you updated.

Hey, isn’t this like –

Yes, almost certainly!

I really love playing video games, and I’m proud to wear my inspirations on my sleeves. I’ve borrowed tons of elements from games like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, even Cookie Clicker and Monster Rancher. If you recognize a gardening element from one of your favorite games then it almost surely is on purpose.

Video games rule.

When can I play with the new gardens?

Very soon!

Everything I described above will be available in Village Monsters v0.70, which will be releasing in the next couple of weeks. Look forward to playing it then!

A Note on Save Compatibility

A Note on Save Compatibility

Hello Villagers!

How’re your gardens doing this year? My physical garden has been shamefully neglected (per the usual), but as for my virtual garden…?

It’s literally never been better!

Since my last update I’ve working super-duper hard on the next version of Village Monsters – which, incidentally, will feature a brand new Gardening hobby for you to enjoy.

It should be ready in a couple weeks, but before then I have a bit of bad news to share.

What’s the issue?

Save files created in the current version of Village Monsters (v0.65) will no longer be compatible with this upcoming version, v0.70.

This means you will need to start a new game once the update is released.

Are there any workarounds?

Yes. I will continue to make v0.65 available for those that don’t want to start a new game:

  • Steam players will be able to opt into a beta channel running v0.65
  • Itch.io / GameJolt players can simply download the older version

In addition, I’m working on a Save Import feature where certain items from your old save are carried over into a new game. I’m not sure yet what exactly I’ll be able to bring over, but you won’t need to start fully from scratch if you don’t want to.

But why break saves?

Your save file is a snapshot of what’s going on at a given time, and in a game like Village Monsters there’s a lot to keep track of. This becomes a big risk for a game in active development – large changes to the game can cause older saves to become incompatible.

It’s something I’ve been able to avoid so far, but the changes I’m making to the game are only getting bigger and grander.

For example, I’ve completely revamped the Gardening hobby so much that any mushroom gardens in your current saves are no longer compatible. There are mushrooms you planted that don’t even EXIST anymore, man!

So the question for me was this: do I continue to break things feature by feature from now until release, or do I rip it off like a band aid and get it over with? Well…

Will save files break again?

Save files should not break again while in Early Access. The point of breaking them all at once now is so that we don’t need to go through this again later.

There is the question of what to do about transitioning from EA to 1.0, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Until next time. Stay safe, keep cozy, and have fun!

Building an Island 04/01/2020: Fresh Frontiers!

Building an Island 04/01/2020: Fresh Frontiers!

Hello Villagers!

For a very long time now – as far back as March 20th, at least – I’ve wanted to make big, sweeping changes to Village Monsters. Well, today seemed as good of day as any to finally announce these exciting changes.

Without further adieu, let’s take a look!

New Focus!

Living in a forgotten game world is cool and all, but how would you like to live on a deserted island? An island that you could personalize, decorate, even terraform, and it all happens in real time?

Is such a thing even possible with today’s technology?

These are questions nobody has been brave enough to ask – until now. Introducing Village Monsters: Fresh Frontiers!

New Features!

The eponymous village of Village Monsters is transforming into an island getaway, so I’ve added a host of new features to support this new venture.

The first is called the “Better Than Nothing” (BTN) crafting system! With BTN, you can craft new items and furniture using raw materials found around town. These user-created items are very ugly, break quickly, and nobody likes creating them – but they’re better than nothing!

The BTN system also lets you terraform your island – or the entire world – to your heart’s content. Simply boot up your copy of GameMaker Studio 2, load the Village Monsters source code, and go to town – literally! 

It's easy to make anything into an island - just add water!
It’s easy to make anything into an island – just add water!

Don’t know how to use GameMaker Studio 2? No problem – I don’t either!

One of the bigger things I’m working on is a “real life” time system. This means that one minute in real life equals one minute of in-game time; the game world even keeps going when you’re not playing.

To ensure maximum realism, I’ve programmed advanced AI for each villager so that they can feel new emotions like abandonment, loneliness, and despair. Just be sure to never change your system’s date or time!

I said don’t change the system clock! Ugh. Haven’t you ever seen Black Mirror?

Let’s talk multiplayer. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing to be releasing a game in 2020 that doesn’t have a robust and fully featured online multiplayer mode. I’m a solo developer, so it’s not exactly easy for me to make such a thing… but I think I’ve found a pretty sweet workaround.

Do you have a USB flash drive? Sure you do! Check your junk drawer, everyone has at least a couple these days.

Just plug it into your computer, copy over your VM:FF save file, and mail it to your friends! After 3-5 business days it should arrive at your friend’s place where they can load up your island and explore it as much as they want. 

After they’re done, they just mail the USB drive back – this time with their own save file! 

We’re living in the future! The best part: no subscription fees!*

*Postage not included

New Hor- Fresh Frontiers!

While it may seem like a bad idea to reinvent and re-brand a game mere months before it releases, I think you’ll agree that these changes to Village Monsters will be well worth it.

Look forward to hearing more info at a later – oh, wait a sec, the UPS guy is here. It’d be rude not to answer the door. Computer, pause dictation.

Fresh Frontiers! Royal Edition!

Well folks, it’s been several hours since I first made this post, but I’m already pleased to announce another brand new update that supersedes everything I just said. Surprised? Don’t be! Things move pretty quickly here at Village Monsters HQ.

I’m beyond pleased to introduce to you Village Monsters Royal! Bet you never saw that coming.

Details are still in a rough draft form, but I’m scrapping the whole island idea in favor of a high school! You’ll be able to take classes, date your classmates (who are still monsters), and even fight demons using a fully formed JRPG combat system! Please enjoy this new logo while I flesh out the rest of the details.

Until next time!

Building a Village, Update 21 – Homesteadin’

Building a Village, Update 21 – Homesteadin’

No preamble today! Let’s talk updates. But first:

A Brief Message about COVID-19 From Our Founder & CEO

It stinks and I hate it.

What’s New and What’s Next?

Since my last post here I’ve put out a number of updates for Village Monsters. The latest & greatest is v0.65.0 which you can read all about here. There’s too many changes to list here, but highlights include:

  • Vast improvements to game feel
  • Cutscenes
  • New features related to treasure hunting, villager mail, critter catching, weather, effects, and more
  • Lots of bugfixes
  • Graphics & UI improvements

That version number isn’t just for show – I really do believe the game is about 65% of the way finished. The good news is that this means I’m on track for v1.0 to be ready by this fall

The next upcoming release – v0.70 – will be focused on expanding existing features. While many of the previous updates have added new features, this one will try to expand on what’s already there. 

For example, you’ve been able to grow a mushroom garden since release, but the ‘shroom system is shallow and needs a lot of work before it can be considered finished. Many of the features in the game right now fall into this category which is why I want to spend an entire release making these shallow features… well, deep!

This update is scheduled to release in early April.

v0.65 introduced cutscenes to flesh out both story and tutorials

The version after that (v0.75?) will be all about customization – new looks / gender for the player, better house and village personalization, critter customization (like hats?!), and so on. This one is scheduled for late April or Early May.

As always, each update brings with it a host of improvements to the art and graphics of the game. You folks are some of my longest supporters, so I don’t need to tell you how weak my art has been. I’d like to think I’ve improving with each update, but I’m not so naive to think my job is done! 

I’ll continue polishing pixels with each new release.

A few villagers, old vs. new

…And That’s It

Listen, there’s no use pretending there aren’t a million more important things to pay attention to than some dumb indie game. I feel foolish for even wasting the bandwidth sending a Kickstarter update. I tried to keep it this short and sweet, and if you made it this far then I want to say thanks.

We’ll get through this, villagers. Stay safe, keep cozy, and have fun!

Building a Village – My Cozy Valentine

Building a Village – My Cozy Valentine

Man, it’s been some time since I’ve written a dev log! Of course, this is because dev logs have evolved into patch notes (so many patch notes) since Village Monsters released into Early Access, so I haven’t really had need of them.

But for whatever reason I was feeling especially motivated to write something up for the next update – which, by the by, is coming out on the scariest day of the year, Valentine’s Day.

Let’s take a look at what’s coming up!

Be My Valentine

One of the biggest new additions is the ability to send mail and gifts to villagers.

Just mosey on over to the post office (located in the town hall) and send a nice letter to whoever you’d like. This is also how you send gifts!

Villagers have only minor preferences in terms of the letters and gifts they receive, but this will be expanded upon later. For now, it’s a great way to increase your friendship.

Just don’t be a jerk, ok? Villagers can “read” letters and may even store them as keepsakes, so you wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself.

Steamy Skeletal Smooches

Village Monsters has been in development for three years and every single day I receive the same questions over and over again:

  • “Can I smooch a skeleton?”
  • “When will I be able to embrace an eldritch?”
  • “Why can’t I hug a harpy or romance a rotter?!”
  • “LET ME WED A WEREWOLF!!!”

On and on and on. I’ve given you the ability to pet your tamed critters, is this not enough?!

Ok, in all seriousness I’ve been analyzing how love and romance will play out in Village Monsters.

When I first designed the village I did so without thinking of player romances – instead I wanted a well-established villager with tons of preexisting relationships for you to discover.

I’m not against player relationships, but I don’t want to break up existing relationships just to make room for the almighty player.

So: a compromise! Players will be able to romance the few single villagers as well as visitors and other special NPCs! If you do romance a visitor you’ll even be able to invite them to live in the village after a certain point.

This next update won’t contain the final romance system, but I am laying the groundwork and I may be able to include some things to get your hearts thumpin’

Love Thy World

They say that if you love the world then the world will love you back. Actually, they don’t say that because I just made it up, but feel free to put it on a poster.

I’ve added a new kind of daily change called World Modifiers. These are (temporary) special bonuses and other changes to the rules of the world.

For example, the “Restless Critters” modifier means you’ll encounter many more critters out in the field, while “Hen’s Teeth” has fewer critters but they’re guaranteed to be rare. “Good Vibes” makes it so you earn friendship points faster.

The ultimate goal for World Modifiers is to encourage players to branch out and try something new each day. We’ll see how it works!

I <3 U(I)

I’ve targetted the following UI elements as “desperately needing love, attention, and care” for this update:

  • Village profiles
  • Player page
  • Dialogue boxes & choices
  • Collection pages

The Village Profiles page of your journal will get some extra special attention. I’d like these pages to get gradually filled out organically the more you learn about a villager – we’ll see how much I can get done before release.

Heart-to-Hearts

Finally, I would absolutely love to get a working version of the cutscenes system in the game. This will allow for story moments, friendship skits, future romance scenes, and so on.

However, it’s by far the most complicated system I have left to do. I have a few working prototypes already, so I may just include one of them and see how it goes, or I may hold back until I get something done that I’ve proud of. We’ll see!!


That’s about the shape of it! Of course, as with all my releases I tend to work on a bunch of other random stuff that suits my mood, so who knows what else will be included? A whole lot of bugfixes, I can tell you that much!

Look forward to its release on February 14th!

Games of the Year 2019

Games of the Year 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Games of the Year, but with Village Monsters released and no travel for the holidays I finally had time to tackle it again.

Here are some selected games of this year that I enjoyed.


Best Game that Should Have Been Bad But Wasn’t

Days Gone

Runners Up: Death Stranding

It’s impossible to overstate how bad Days Gone should have been. A zombie game… that’s an open world… with survival elements… and cover-based shooting. Uh huh. Was this game designed via a Markov chain?

But it works. It all works. Much of it is held together by Deacon St. John – an utterly fantastic protagonist that realistically depicts a shattered man in a depressing situation.

The lore is incredibly cool, the story is way longer and more interesting than you’d expect, and the gameplay holds up for the entire length. I really couldn’t have asked for anything else.


Worst Game that Should Have Been Good But Wasn’t

Outer Worlds

Runners Up: Staxel

What a stinker.

In many ways The Outer Worlds is the bizarro version of Days Gone: on paper this should have been an absolute hit. I mean, the makers of the “good” Fallouts getting together to make their own universe free of the constraints of publishers? That seems mathematically impossible to screw up.

And yet screw up they did. They told a story about evil capitalists yet settled on a message of “eh, could be worse”. They created a world with lore that was at best overwrought and at worst nonsensical.

The companions were hot garbage, world reactivity was nonexistent, and the gameplay was somehow even worse than all of that. And the end of the game… holy crap. How did this game even get approved for release?

At least the title screen had cool music.


The “Confirmed By Hideo” Award

Death Stranding

Runners Up: N/A

Death Stranding is not the best game I’ve ever played, but it certainly is the most compelling.

Part of me hated this game before it even released. Kojima isn’t the easiest guy to root for at times, and it was hard to tell how much of the game was genuine and how much was a “let’s see how much money we can blow on actors and weird shit.”

But it was in fact completely genuine from top to bottom. The story, the gameplay, all the social aspects – ugh, I loved every moment and cried like a baby when it was done.

It’s impossible to be cynical about Death Stranding.


The “It’s new to me!” Award

My Time at Portia

Runners Up: Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana, The Messenger, Yakuza 0

It’s not easy to blend genres together, particularly when said genres are tricky to do on their own. Yet Portia somehow manages to do so repeatedly.

This one game is part Harvest Moon, part Minecraft, part Factorio, and part free-to-play MMORPG from the early 2000s.

I can’t say Portia handles all these blends masterfully, but it’s still an extremely good effort and a very addicting game. It was constantly surprising me until the very end.


Game I Most Regret Not Playing

The Outer Wilds

Runners Up: Disco Elysium, Katana ZERO

Every time I remember The Outer Wilds is an Epic exclusive I get sad all over again.

One day I shall play what seems like an absolute banger of a game, but it’ll be whenever that dumb exclusivity period ends.


Game of the Year

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Runners Up: Death Stranding, Judgment

I have played 315 hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. That’s a lot.

I have killed hundreds upon hundreds of bandits, beasts, and a dragon or two. I have watched something like 100+ relationship cutscenes – often multiple times due to multiple playthroughs – and I’ve never once skipped one.

Three Houses is a top 10 game of all time for me. The gameplay loop is expertly crafted, the voice acting is maybe the best I’ve ever heard (respective to its size), and it’s just so much god damn fun. Is it too much to hope that every Fire Emblem from here on out mimics this Persona-esque formula?

All I know is that I wish it never had to end. btw Edelgard did nothing wrong.