Building a Village, 9/28/2019 – WE HAVE A RELEASE DATE

Yes, all the rumors are true and the wait is very nearly over.

Village Monsters will be hitting digital store shelves on November 12th, 2019!

It’s been three years nearly to the day since I decided to upend my entire life and make a major career change into indie development. In September 2017 I ran a successful Kickstarter for Village Monsters and now I’m preparing for its release into the wild.

It’s an overplayed expression but yeah, life really does come at your fast.

Early Access

When Village Monsters launches on November 12th it will do so in Early Access.

This decision wasn’t made easily. I first began considering Early Access after the delay earlier this year; delaying the game again was out of the question – both for you and for me – so it was important to explore all other options.

Despite crunching hard since May it became clear that Village Monsters would not be fully finished by the fall. At this point Early Access emerged as the best possible option for me, for you, and for the game.

To be completely candid, what helped push me over the edge was seeing similar games finding their groove with Early Access: games like LittlewoodKynseed, and My Time at Portia. These are games with thriving communities (most of which I’m part of!) and their success has given me tremendous hope of achieving the same thing.

Early Access isn’t the right solution for all games, but it’s the right one for Village Monsters:

  • I now have the breathing room to finish the game without resorting to unsustainable crunch or cut features
  • It allows me to test and iterate over new features and content much more quickly
  • Supporters can start playing the game way sooner than if I delayed it again
  • The community can influence and shape the game throughout the entire process

As a side bonus, EA will let me take advantage of the meta elements in Village Monsters – after all, the overall narrative is about an unfinished game that takes on a life of its own. Who knows what the future holds?

New Graphics

This month I’ve also been incorporating many new art assets I’ve been working on. I was going to share them in this update, but… I got cold feet at the last minute. So instead of sharing everything I’ll just give you a sneak peek at the new male player sprite (and yes, there are hats now too!)

I won’t give the “art is not my strength” speech because a) I’ve done it already and b) it’s pretty obvious. However! My goal at this point is to establish a consistent identity – I want everything in the game to look unmistakably Village Monsters-y. I’d describe my style as “simple and flat like Earthbound crossed with the whimsical designs of Animal Crossing”, and I think these new character models fit that nicely.

Final Housekeeping

Let’s end this update with a few quick-fire links!

  • Village Monsters has a Discord server. Join it now! It’s about to get real lively.
  • I posted a new trailer back in August. Did you see it?

Village Monsters Summer Demo – Feedback Release 1

Last week I released the first public Village Monsters demo in quite some time. The response has thus far been fantastic.

As usual, the release of a new demo always results in at least update. I’ve dubbed these Feedback Releases, and I’m happy to announce it’s now available! Download links and patch notes below.

DOWNLOAD: https://josh-bossie.itch.io/village-monsters#download

DISCORD: discord.gg/m5DEqsz

New

  • MAJOR: Added the Odd Jobs board near town hall. This board lists requests (in the form of minigames) from villagers. Completing them earns you silver and increased friendship with said villager
    • One job is available each day
    • Valentine needs help weeding his fields
    • Dr. Klaus is looking for a new test subject for… something
  • MAJOR: Implemented a refined new lighting system
    • Lighting color at night has been altered for a more cozy feel
    • Overlapping lighting will no longer appear as discrete circles
    • Artificial lighting now only pops when the transition to night lighting is finished
    • Interior lighting should now be more even
  • MAJOR: Changed the “Music Toggle” option in the system menu to a music level changer. You can change volume levels of background sounds from 0% to 100% (Default: 40%)
  • ULTRA-MEGA MAJOR: Tamed critters can now follow you on your adventures
    • You can only have one follower at a time and it may be especially prone to bugs
  • EXPERIMENTAL: Music will no longer restart upon entering a new area and is instead one continuous track.
    • It’s hard to explain and should be more obvious in-game. The upshot is you’ll be able to experience the entire track more easily and you won’t get sick of the first 30sec of a song if you frequent the same area a lot
  • Added a number of new fish and bugs to the demo spawn tables

Improved

  • MAJOR: Vastly improved gamepad movement by tweaking deadzone
  • MAJOR: Adjusted initial volume levels to be slightly less jarring
  • Increased player movement to be slightly faster than before
  • Modified intro message to be less obtrusive to your first moments with the game
  • Adjusted Edmund’s schedule so that there’s a greater chance of bumping into him in the demo
  • Also improved Edmund’s sprite and portrait
  • Added and improved some snippets of dialogue to encourage folks to check out the shrine south of town
  • Made some big changes to Pioneer Square’s layout
  • Added some inspect text to locked doors to make it more obvious that they are indeed locked
  • Reworked some of Gully Raine’s dialogue (the weatherman) to make his forecasts a bit more clear
  • Adjusted the trophy background to make it more readable in all resolutions
  • Made it a bit easier to catch critters by adjusting collision of your net
  • Added pleasing click sounds to every Journal list
  • Slightly lowered pause between a trophy showing up and being able to click through it

Fixed

  • MAJOR: Fixed crash related to butterflies fleeing
  • MAJOR: Fixed crash when attempting to “Sell All Junk” to Pishky
  • Added proper “blocking” to the very first room to prevent strange overlap
  • Corrected the price of the homestead deed
  • Fixed schedule placements for Tarn and Taswell
  • Fixed collision for pool table
  • Fixed an incorrect doorway issue in town hall
  • Fixed sprite issues when facing west while swinging your bug net
  • Stopped animating when standing still while stalking
  • Corrected a large number of truly embarrassing typos
    • A larger number of equally embarrassing typos still exist, though

Village Monsters gets a new Demo!

muddy footprints~

Holy smokes, it’s the first new demo since January!

You can download the demo from Itch.ioIt’s free and available to everyone – you don’t even need an account.

As with past demos it’s limited to three in-game days (about one hour) and there’s the usual caveats of any pre-release demo – expect bugs, placeholder assets, and some missing features. Still, this is the most finished demo yet, so I do hope people enjoy it.

New to this release is a Discord server for posting feedback and bug reports. You can still leave comments or send emails, but I had several folks tell me Discord is a lot easier for this kind of thing.

Have fun!

Building a Village, 6/29/2019 – Making of Monsters

Hello Villagers!

This dev log is sure to be my most game design-y one yet! Today I want to talk about monster design – ah, but of course with the obvious “twist” that in Village Monsters the monsters are the NPCs of the game!

Like the animals in Animal Crossing, there is only one human (you!) in this village, so just step aside, homo sapiens – this one ain’t about you.

Making Monsters

There’s a fine line to walk when designing monsters. You have tremendous creative freedom compared to designing humans, but this means it’s a lot easier to go off the rails. 

This isn’t a new problem. Many games designers – especially in the 80s and 90s – based their enemy creations off of monsters that already existed in our own folklore. Why reinvent the wheel, right? I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I learned of many mythological creatures and gods thanks to games like Final Fantasy and Castlevania.

Are we the monsters?

To keep myself grounded I came up with a few rules for designing the monster villagers of my game:

  • Keep to familiar monsters like designers of old
  • Monsters of a similar theme should be grouped together as friends or family
  • Our shared understanding of a given monster should inform their personality and role in the village

Grouping together monsters by theme has meant that in many cases a family (classification) of monsters becomes a literal family of monsters. ​Take for example the above family: Morris the zombie, his daughter, Ruby the vampire, her husband, Lindwyrm the dragon, and their kid, Victor the werewolf. Their theme is of standard or classic monsters that you can find in many video games, books or movies.

This family I lovingly call the “Maritime Family” – there’s Edmund the shark, Calista the siren, Oponna the pirate, and Cthylla the eldritch sweetheart. Their theme is pretty obvious: the ocean! You’ve probably realized that sharks and pirates aren’t exactly “monsters” in the traditional sense, but in video games they often are!

There are 32 villagers to befriend in Village Monsters. Most keep to the rules I outlined above, but not all. I mean, come on, these are monsters! They’re all about breaking rules.

​ Here’s Vara the succubus alongside her two kids – Zigi the ghost and Bugs the, uh… something. There’s no common thread connecting this family, and while a couple are based on existing monsters they are very different than what their origin might suggest. This actually plays into their personal story and will make sense as you get to know them.

Monstrous Personalities

Of course, a monster’s type doesn’t just effect how they look. By choosing familiar monsters it made sense to allow common expectations and “stereotypes” to inform their personalities, relationships, and roles in their community.

​​Take our good pal Golbrick here. He’s a mimic which means he’s hidden away from most social interactions. This becomes obvious when talking with him, and you’ll find he wants nothing more than to end a conversation and go back to hiding as an object.

The aforementioned vampire, Ruby, is both immortal and frequently stuck indoors due to the sun. Her immortality makes her passionate about history while being a hermit​ makes her a natural lover of the escapism found in books and other stories.  As such, it was natural to make her the village librarian – and yes, she covers the night shift.

The monsters of Village Monsters are purposefully viewed through the lens of a video game. Take Stapes, a skeleton and one of the town guards. Skeletons are a common monster in many cultures, but Stapes more represents the weak and wimpy skellies you might find lurking the first dungeon of an RPG. This makes his personality very cowardly and he begins absolutely terrified of you.

​ However, playing up to people’s expectations of monsters is never quite as fun as subverting them. Valentine is a robot, but he’s convinced he’s actually a cowboy. He’s the most rough and tumble of the village and is most at home living among nature – despite being the most sci -fi element in the game.

I can only hope you’ll have as much fun befriending monsters as I did designing them when Village Monster releases later this year.

Building a Village, 6/18/2019 – Timeline(s)

Hello Villagers!

Ah, summer – the season in which unexplained squares pour down from the skies

For this update we’re going for all killer no filler: it’s a short one focusing on the timeline leading up to launch. 

Road to Release

As I’ve mentioned before, for the past year I’ve been juggling dual responsibilities as both an indie game developer and a new stay-at-home dad. It’s been pretty great, but my day-to-day work schedule has been… well, chaotic.

Thankfully order is to be restored – at least temporarily. My wife – who is a teacher – will soon have the summer off. This is good news for a number of reasons, but for you all it means I can focus entirely on finishing development of Village Monsters

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the timeline for the next several months.

Summer Schedule

I’m planning to have quite a productive summer. June and July will be spent on wrapping up the remaining features & systems with the goal of being feature complete by the end of July. This same month I plan on releasing a new demo out into the wild, though there’s a chance it slips as the main priority will be on the aforementioned completeness.

August will be spent on lots and lots of content – creating new content, editing existing content, and so on. Examples of this include dialogue, collectibles, flavor, and secrets. Realistically, August will also be spent fine tuning features, but the idea is to add or change as few things as possible.

Fall Schedule

This brings us into the fall. My ultimate goal is to enter September with a finished game that I can poke and prod and break and fix. At some point I will also need some volunteer play testers for both feedback and testing of the near-finished game.

This work naturally leads to a launch date sometime in October or November. My plan isn’t too complicated – I will continuously test and polish the game until it feels right and then unleash it into the world. 

This is a firm plan that is unlikely to change too much. I’m finally close enough to that fabled finish line where even a hiccup here or there isn’t likely to cause much mischief.

Beyond?

Village Monsters will release as a complete and polished game, but there is always more to do!

December and January will be focused on fixing any bugs and annoyances that I missed in testing. After that I have a laundry list of ideas for future updates – things that include some kind of multiplayer, new areas to explore, and post-story content.

I can’t wait for you all to get lost in the immersive world of Village Monsters. Until next time!

I’m dreaming of fall already…