Development Diary – Merchants, Critters, and a Calendar

Another week has gone by, and that means another version of the (newly renamed) Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest!

Without really meaning to this week followed a consistent theme – ensuring that every day (in the game!) feels different, or unique, or interesting, or surprising. That’s been a mantra of mine since I first started, and I’m increasingly in the position to make good on it

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First up, I changed the merchant around so its stock changes each day. I also split up the show floor so he sell both furniture and normal items now.

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Speaking of daily refreshes, similar to Animal Crossing there’ll be a number of things that reset each day. For example, each day a number of ‘diggable spots’ spawn around town that you can find treasure, monster fossils, minerals, and other goodies.

These spots used to be marked by a simple ‘x’, but this week I changed it up so that each category of items gets its own unique icon: treasure looks like a half-buried treasure chest, fossils look like half-buried bones, and minerals look like a half-buried rock

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Next up, I added a bunch more ‘atmospheric animals’ (which is a bad name). Unlike other critters, these animals are mundane and cannot be caught or donated, and they are mostly ambivalent to the player. They exist purely to add flavor and atmosphere to the village as you walk around each day. Like critters, the types of animals you’ll see differ based on time of day, weather, and season

Games these days typically achieve things like atmosphere and ‘sense of place’ via a strong or unique art style. It should be clear by now that I’m no artist, so I’m hoping to accomplish the sense of place by focusing on the little things and attention to detail.

For example, every so often you’ll see a bird fly overhead…

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But in the fall, things change slightly – instead of flying north, they fly south…

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Again, it’s a small thing, something that most folks won’t notice, but I want my game filled with these things to give it a realistic feel and personality

​I don’t just want each day to feel different – I also want each time of day to have its own ‘feel’. The main way I’m accomplishing this is by giving villagers their own schedules (TBD) and having unique hourly music (also TBD), but I also want activities, both big and small, to change based on the time, season, and weather.

For example, the above campfire is a good place to hang out and roast some food, but it’s only available at night during the warmer seasons

In general, each day I want the player to wake up, check their calendar & weather report, and feel excited about the possibilities of the day. Oh, it’s clear tonight – that means the campfire will be open! Oh, it’s raining this morning – I bet I can catch that rare fish! And so on.


Finally, I want to share a WIP behind-the-scenes thing – my design doc for the yearly calendar. I’ll have more to say as it becomes more fleshed out and finalized, but you’ll notice that there are 8 months (2 for each season) and that most weeks have 1-2 events or holidays to look forward to.

This might sound obvious, but what’s the best way to make a day feel unique and different? Make it a special holiday with unique activities, themes, music, and more. I’ll have a lot of them!

Development Diary: Shacks, Weather, and a New Exhibit

Here’s last week’s screenshot roundup!

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By far the biggest thing I worked on last week was furniture and other decorations. The above gif is from the same house – your very first one, which is nothing more than a storage shed – that’s being furnished over time.

The final release will have a *lot* of furniture and will run the gamut between the modern – like TVs and fridges – to the more fantastical and unusual

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Work also continues on making the village itself more visually distinct. I’ve added two types of fences – normal brown and the classic white picket – and also fleshed out some more gardens. You’ll be able to customize your own garden that’s outside your home

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If you’ve played the current alpha you’ll know that the historical society is pretty desolate – it’s basically just a single room with a bunch of pedestals to place your stuff on.

Last week I iterated over it again and started adding actual exhibits. There are currently two – one for your critter collection, the other for fossil, treasure, and other archaeology donations

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Finally I want to talk about weather. I love love LOVE weather in video games, but one thing has always bugged me – even when a game does have weather it often is very same-y…maybe it’ll have just a single ‘rain’ effect, or when it is raining it rains for the entire level or day, that kind of thing. Weather is too interesting and diverse to be this boring!

The above gif shows off 4 different intensities of rain – drizzle, rain, heavy rain, and thunderstorm – that you can experience in Village Monsters. The latter two even come up darker lighting!

Each day will have 8 ‘slots’ for weather, so like real life a single day can have multiple weather changes, and it’ll even try to that make ‘sense’. For example, there’s a weather pattern that starts out with fog in the morning, then cloudy and burning off into sun in the afternoon, then back to clouds and drizzle at night – for anyone on the west coast of the US that should sound pretty familiar!

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But beyond differing intensities I want to also have more uncommon “weather” effects, and to do this I’m expanding my definition of ‘weather’ to mean any effects in the air and sky.

In the above you can see two such unusual weather types – flower petals that’ll occur in the spring, and tree pollen which falls in the spring and summer.

In total there are 19 weather effects ranging from sunny and overcast to meteor showers and aurora borealis, and they’ll differ from season to season, and even by time of day. A major design goal in Village Monsters is to have each day feel different and unique, and weather is a big way I’m accomplishing this

Development Diary: New Interiors, Dog Whistles, and the Moon Man

A roundup of screenshots from the last week’s worth of work.

Experimenting with a prototype for placing furniture in your home. There’s going to be a lot of options for furniture and other customization in the final game, though for now it’s all pretty basic[​IMG]
The above shot also shows off the new interior tileset. I like it a lot!

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Speaking of prototypes, here’s another experiment with a system for issuing commands to your faithful pup. Someone on the #indiedevhour suggested some sort of whistling mechanic, and to me that meant something akin to the Ocarina from OoT. It’s meant to be much quicker and has far less options than most Zelda instruments!

…and here’s a tragic bug from that same testing. Poor little guy

I’d say I have about 1/3rd of the villagers at least roughly implemented – there’s going to be 36 in total. However, beyond the 36 permanent residents there are also going to be plenty of ‘visitors’, like this guy. Visitors are not permanent and only show up during special times, like holidays, events, and other unique times

As you can see, this guy doesn’t even speak your language, which does make things tricky​

Development Diary: Critters, More Critters, and Blunder Buzz

I’m a bit (very!) late on posting this developer diary, but here it is: Catching Critters in Village Monsters

You’ll notice I’m careful not to call it ‘bug catching’, and the reason is simple: you’ll be hunting and catching far more than bugs.

Sure, you’ll still catch the familiar and mundane Monarch Butterfly, or the less familiar but equally mundane Caeser Butterfly, but there are far more fantastical things to hunt out there.

Mountain gnomes, snow elementals, and even sentient loofahs (??) are all out there to just waiting to be caught.

But there is a 3rd category for creatures that don’t fit with either the mundane or the fantastic – they are called the misfects. Through data corruption and other mysterious forces, these previously normal creatures have been transformed during the long years of abandonment.

There’s the pitiful Half-Hopper, a frog that appears to only contain half of the normally necessary body parts. There’s also this strange snake-like creature that grows, dies, becomes reborn, and then starts the process again.

But uncovering creature variety is only half of the fun of this hobby – the other half is actually catching them.

The Village Monster calendar contains 4 seasons spread across 8 months, and each critter has their own seasonal appearances. Some have further requirements before they appear – like different weather, the presence of a certain item, or even specific world events like holidays.

In terms of actually catching them, the standard tool will be the bug net. You can upgrade your bug net, but the real powerful abilities come in the form of glitch powers.

Pretty crazy, right? Well, remember those misfects I talked about? More than simple creatures were affected by the data corruption, and not every glitch is bad.

As you catch critters you’ll earn experience – but the ‘experience’ will be your character mastering how the mechanic works within the game itself. This in turn allows you to unlock various glitch powers to bend said mechanics to your will – like the above Bug Net Buzzsaw.

I’m not going to go too crazy with creature behaviors. For the most part they’ll be lumped in three simple categories – indifferent, fearful, and secretive. Fearful critters will get spooked and you’ll need to give chase to catch them, while secretive critters will need to be lured out first.

This renowned big game hunter, Blunder Buzz, sponsors a critter hunting tournament each season

Each critter will have a unique description or – if applicable – backstory that you can learn if you bring it to the Historical Society. Some even come with some very special abilities – remember Snow Elemental above? Well, rumor says that it’s been known to summon entire blizzards to hide in when it’s especially fearful…perhaps there are other creatures with equally interesting abilities?

Development Diary: Dogs, Digs, and Dig Dogs

There’s a lot to do in an average day in Village Monsters – activities range from as the mundane, like shopping or talking with villagers, to multi-stage quests, odd jobs, and even exploration.

However, the most involved type of activity is called a Hobby. Hobbies are generally ‘slow burns’ that you’ll work on each day, and they require effort, upgrading equipment, and leveling up skills. Thankfully, the rewards – like cash and items to donate, use or display in your home – are also greater than other activities.

In the prototype you can actually play with two such hobbies: critter hunting and fishing.

This week I’m working on a 3rd hobby: Archaeology! (Like most things the name is subject to change)

You’ve probably already guessed this by the name, but this hobby involves a lot of digging around. As you wander the village and surrounding areas you may find a digable spot in the ground marked by an obvious red “X” – you can then take your shovel to dig up whatever is buried there.

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Most of the time it’ll be things that you’ll want to sell off, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and find rare treasures. You may even find the remains of ancient mythological beasts and other monsters that can be donated to the Historical Society, displayed in your home as a trophy, or sold to the very curious (and very insane) scientist that lives outside of town.

Prototype / WIP
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But perhaps the best thing to find in the dirt isn’t a treasure at all, but rather: a map! These special items are each the start of a unique treasure hunt quest that can span several days or even weeks in the game.

Each hunt will require you to solve riddles, find specific landmarks, or explore long-forgotten ruins, and some may even require help from other townsfolk.

The rewards are worth it, though: the treasure you find on your hunts will often be unique items with powerful abilities, like a book that can let you talk to ghosts, or a rod that can control the weather.

One last thing! Not too long after starting the game you’ll have the opportunity to get a dog companion. This pup isn’t just for playing with, but is also able to help you out in various daily activities.

I’m still working out the details with how this works with the other hobbies, but for Archaeology I’m leaning toward allowing the pup to find digable spots on his own and dig ’em up for you. Of course, he should probably fetch the items as well, but one step at a time, yeah?

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Sprint 18 – Why Not Both?


Week of May 14th, 2017


  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~doin’ fine~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~39 weeks away. Rad!

I’m trying something new! That’s what working for yourself allows for, yeah? Pivots, baby!

Truth is, I was spending more time than I wanted to on these planning and retrospective posts. I mean, ok, it wasn’t that much time, but it was always something I kept putting off and putting off, and then when I actually did do it I always half-assed it.

I won’t get rid of the concept entirely because I think it’s important to my psuedo-agile approach, but I am combining the two. This new thing will go out each Sunday (except for, uh, this first one?) and it’ll look exactly like the Planning posts with the addition of a Show & Tell section. I’ll also try to weave in last week’s successes (and many failures) into the Goals. Ok, cool? Cool!

Not much to report on the biz side of things. The prototype release Flower has been out for about a week now, which is rad! Everything else is on schedule.


The latest prototype contains two hobbies – critter hunting, and fishing. Since the start I always envisioned three primary hobbies, and this week marks progress in that 3rd one: archaeology!

This’ll be the most involved of the hobbies, and includes things like digging up jewels, finding treasure maps and clues leading to even greater treasure, finding the remains of long-dead ancient creatures…there’s a lot!

More importantly, this hobby has the most ties with other systems of the game – like seeding the ground with things to dig up each new day, or adding new quests to the Compendium if you dig up a map, and so on. As such, focusing on something like digging will end up improving a whole lot of systems as I work through them all – it’s like five or six birds with one stone!