Browsed by
Category: Development Diary

Building a Village – The Opposite of Vacation

Building a Village – The Opposite of Vacation

Hello Villagers!

It’s now officially summer! Maybe for some of you it’s been summer for awhile already, but here in Seattle, summer always starts later than you’d hope.

This is a very important summer for me! These next three months will be spent on working as hard as I can on Village Monsters to prepare for the release of version 1.0 this fall.

With today’s dev diary I’d like to share the roadmap I’ve been working in preparation for what’s to come.

Roadmap

In case you missed it, June’s big update – the Foundations Update – released a few days ago. You can find the big ol’ list of changes here.

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!

Building a Village – Heart to Heart

Building a Village – Heart to Heart

Hello Villagers!

Let’s talk friendship.

There are 32 monster pals in Village Monsters that you can befriend, but until now there hasn’t been much of a benefit beyond watching their little heart icons fill up.

That’s about to change.

Today’s dev diary is going to feature one of the biggest and most exciting new additions coming in Village Monsters v0.75: Heart-to-Hearts events!

Heart-to-Hearts

As you deepen your friendship with a villager you may sometimes trigger special events called Heart-to-Heart conversations. These are unique cutscenes with each villager where they open up to you about a problem they have or a goal they’re working on.

Most Heart-to-Hearts take the form of a short story arc for that character, and no two events are ever the same – they depend heavily on the villager themselves.

Bugs needs your help in hunting down a rare (and very deadly) critter. Mayor Sudo wants you to “volunteer” as campaign manager for his reelection. Golbrick is trying to find ways to deal with his pessimism. Oponna has a lead on where to find the lost treasure of Pine Tar Percy.

Heart-to-Heart conversations can also result in the personal growth of the villager which can change many things: their personality, their daily schedules, even their involvement in story events. This feature didn’t make it into v0.75, but it’s something that I should be able to finish in the next big update.

I don’t want to get too into ~spoiler territory~, but you can expect multiple Heart-to-Heart events with every single villager. Yep, all 32 of them! It’s quite the undertaking, and the initial release will only include a small handful. New events will be added throughout Early Access (including retroactively).

I expect that for many players, unlocking and enjoying Heart-to-Heart conversations will comprise the bulk of their playtime.

Lockhearts

While talking with a villager you may notice that they have some sort of “lock” placed on their heart icons.

These are called Lockhearts, and they represent a blocker that stops villagers from further opening up their hearts to you. You’ll be unable to progress your friendship any further until it’s cleared.

Don’t fret! It’s not a bad thing, it just means the villager is busy processing their own personal situation. In fact, Lockhearts almost always indicate that a new Heart-to-Heart event is ready to be viewed. These events let villagers address their problems and deepen their friendships with you

However, there are other situations where a Lockheart must be cleared via another method. Some villagers may just need a little extra time to pass, others may require you to first reach a specific friendship level with another villager, while some may even require a special item, village upgrade, or something else entirely.

From a game design perspective, Lockhearts allow me to make villager relationships more natural and meaningful. More Lockheart features will be added in later updates.

Romance?

I’ve promised you monster romance. You’re going to get monster romance.

But not yet.

Dating villagers will use a very similar system as normal Heart-to-Hearts, but I’m not quite ready to reveal this in a public release. You’ll have to wait just a little longer.

But you won’t need to wait very long for everything else I’ve described. Village Monsters v0.75 is releasing this Thursday, June 25th.

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!