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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!

Building a Village, 11/05/2019 – Talkin’ Specifics

Building a Village, 11/05/2019 – Talkin’ Specifics

Hello Villagers!

Let’s talk Early Access.

One of the biggest flaws with Early Access is how broad of a classification it is. Some games in EA can barely be called tech demos, while others are practically all finished and just need a bit more polish. It can be tricky as a consumer to know which variety you’re going to get.

While I can’t speak for other games, I can speak for Village Monsters. This dev log will dive into what’s available in EA so you can make an informed decision come November 12th!

Did I mention November 12th is when Village Monsters releases? That’s right. 11/12. Has a nice ring to it.

November 12th.

More Finished Features

These are features and systems that have seen the most work.

Core Game Loop

Village Monsters is a game about goals. You have small goals, like “I want to catch a bigmouth bass”, and big goals, like “I want to mend this broken world so my monster pals can be happy.”

It’s up to you how you want to play the game, but everything you do contributes in some way to accomplishing a goal and improving yourself; talking with villagers makes you better friends, fishing makes you a better fisherman, and so on.

Achieving goals earns you rewards that in turn let you progress in the game or accomplish other goals faster.

I’m calling this the core game loop and it is (as you might expect – or hope!) one of the more finished aspects of the game.

Hobbies

All four main hobbies (Critter Collecting, Fishing, Treasure Hunting, and Mushroom Gardening) are implemented in the game, though some features are more finished than others.

Seasonal & Time Changes

The simulation parts of Village Monsters were the first things I worked on and are some of the most complete.

Spooky / Scary

There are 128 days in a Village Monsters year split across four seasons. Each season brings about new tile sets, weather, decorations, dialogue, flavor, and much more.

The days themselves are split into four chunks (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) with many things also changing depending on the time of day.

Villagers & Dialogue

There are 30+ villagers to befriend and all of them are available at launch. Each one has their own unique personalities, relationships, likes & dislikes, and secrets to hide.

They also have a lot to say – there will be over 2,000 lines of dialogue at release! Dialogue is highly contextual and is designed to rarely repeat even on subsequent playthroughs.

Exploration

The village itself is quite large, but that’s only the start of your little adventure.

Of course, the world in Village Monsters is in rough shape. You’ll need to find a way to fix things before you can go too far.

There are currently 10 areas outside the village for you to explore. Each area has their own look and feel, things to discover, and lots of unique critters, fish, and treasure.

Music

Each season has four tracks (one for each time of day) and many areas have their own unique tracks as well. They’re all very good, and I can say this because I didn’t make any of it – Josh Woodward did!

Flavor

There are many ways to make a game world feel alive. I’m just one guy, so I can’t rely on things like visual fidelity or complicated physics. Instead I’ve focused my efforts on injecting flavor into the world of Village Monsters.

For example, let’s take something as simple as a rainstorm.

  • You can hear muted rain sounds while inside
  • You track mud when coming in from the outside
  • Puddles form on the ground
  • You can catch a cold if you stay out there too long
  • The fish bite a little bit faster in the rain
  • Certain flowers don’t wake up without sun – and certain villagers don’t even leave their house.

The game is full of these kind of details, and because I’m an absolute madman I’ll be adding even more.

Less Finished

These are features that need more work and will benefit the most from Early Access.

Pacing & Balance

I mentioned above that the core game loop is mostly finished, but what I left out is that it still needs a great deal of balance.

How many Patchlings should be required to fix a bridge? Is the economy working right? Is this item too rare or not rare enough? What about this fish? How long should it take to tame a Pocket Horse?

These are questions that are very difficult to answer as a solo developer. Much of this balancing work will be accomplished through Early Access.

“Level” Design

Each area outside the village looks and feels pretty different, but they still need a great deal of work to be considered complete. Some areas may go through radical changes, and a few areas don’t even exist yet.

The same can be said for villager homes. I want each house to have multiple rooms bursting full of personality, but I’m a ways off from accomplishing that.

Specific Hobby Features

Hobbies are some of the biggest activities you can do in the game. While all four of them exist in general terms, there’s quite a bit that still needs work.

For example, you can grow mushrooms but you can’t mutate or hybrid them yet. You can unlock fishing abilities, but there’s only 3 abilities to start.

Player homes (and customization in general)

While you can purchase a home, it’s missing many of the upgrades I’ve planned for the future. You’ll also be able to customize much more than just your home in the future, but none of those features will be available at the start of Early Access.

User Interface

UI work is always difficult and annoying, though I’m hardly the first person to share that sentiment. I won’t make any excuses for the UI, but I can promise to continuously work on improving it while in Early Access.

Graphics

The way I do art seems to be different than most others. I like to implement art early and then iterate over it constantly until I’m satisfied. These aren’t quite placeholders, but they also aren’t finished.

It works for me, but the end result is that the game still has a bunch of rough art assets that will be improved with time.

Story

There are plenty of story elements and lore to find (especially among villagers), but the “main story” and the ability to roll credits will have to wait until the final release.

Hopefully this dev log will help you understand what is and isn’t finished in Village Monsters for its upcoming Early Access release. If you ask me it’s a very fun game already and will only get better, but I’m perhaps not the most objective reviewer.

See you on November 12th!

Village Monsters Launch: Why Early Access?

Village Monsters Launch: Why Early Access?

Village Monsters is releasing November 12th, 2019, and when it does it will launch in Early Access.

Hello Villagers!

Village Monsters is releasing November 12th (!!!) and when it does it will launch in Early Access. In this update I will explain more about this decision as well as what the next few months will look like.

oh no

Why Early Access?

Village Monsters has always been a large and ambitious game – especially for a solo developer’s debut project. Even still, this is my absolute dream game and I have a tremendous amount of passion and energy that’s been sustaining me for years.

But passion isn’t the same thing as skill, nor does it automatically grant you good sense.

One of my biggest weaknesses has been with planning. As a gamer myself I get annoyed when a Kickstarted game is indefinitely delayed or the creator gives the “it’s done when it’s done” speech. I think backers are owed more than that.

I sought to avoid this by giving short, aggressive timelines and… well, joke’s on me. Setting aggressive timelines meant I was always working aggressively. This has its benefits sometimes, but it’s not a sustainable way to work on a big project.

Each week I was getting a ton of work done, but I was rarely finishing things all the way through – I kept feeling tremendous time pressure to move onto the next task. This came to a head at the end of August when I sat down and evaluated the state of the game. Village Monsters was fun to play and had so many cool features, but things weren’t flowing well together. Everything felt so fragile and clumsy, like a Jenga tower missing many of its pieces. It was clearly not ready for release.

I needed to drastically change my strategy. I didn’t want to crunch for 16 hours a day to finish the game, and I didn’t want to have yet another delay – to be frank I’m not sure my bank account could handle it. 

Early Access emerged as the best choice with the fewest downsides.

  • It lets me avoid another delay which means you can play the game earlier and I can start supporting myself
  • The community can act as a sounding board and become heavily involved to shape the finished game
  • I can do quicker, smaller updates which let me constantly improve things
  • It’s far easier to find bugs and experiment with new ideas
  • It keeps me highly motivated and – more importantly – accountable to my supporters

I’m certainly biased, but I think Village Monsters is a pretty good game already, and with your help Early Access will make it even better. I went from stressed and anxious about Early Access to being genuinely very excited for it – I hope you’ll feel the same!

How finished will Village Monsters be at launch?

All major systems and features planned for the game exist in some capacity. What remains is a massive amount of iteration: expanding and adjusting features, adding new areas, improving graphics, fixing bugs, and lots of polishing.

If I had to assign a percentage I’d estimate Village Monsters is 70% finished. There’s actually a lot of game to play already – you have a big, cozy world to explore and relax in with a bunch of things to collect, secrets to find, and *tons* of villager dialogue and lore.

I’d compare it to something like a fixer-upper; it makes some strange noises, the faucet leaks, the appliances need replacing and the wallpaper is just dreadful. But the foundation is solid and with some tender loving care it could be something real special.

Your in-game home is something of a fixer upper, too

How will updates to Early Access work?

The overall structure of Village Monsters lends itself very well to frequent, incremental updates. As such, I am aiming for weekly updates while in Early Access. To keep this sustainable – which has been the key word in all my planning – I will be alternating between major (Sunrise) and minor (Sunset) updates.

Sunrise updates will bring big changes changes like new features and story content.

Sunset updates will focus on smaller changes, improvements and bug fixes – especially those related to new additions from the past week.

Longtime followers of the game may recognize this pattern from how I’ve released demos (each major demo was followed by a feedback release) so I know this is a model that works well for me.

Just in case you forgot how a calendar works from before

How long will Village Monsters remain in Early Access?

It’s important for me to not stay in Early Access for a long time. It’s an easy trap to fall into which results in stagnation.

I predict staying in Early Access for one year. Unlike my previous estimates this one includes a great deal of buffer and accounts for both planned and unplanned work. My priority will be as follows:

  • Finish remaining tasks to bring the game to 1.0
  • Incorporate community feedback and fix reported bugs
  • Balance the game and polish to a mirror sheen
  • Work on additional extra features that aren’t necessary for 1.0

Future updates (2021 onward – wow, we are living in the future) are still planned and will always be free.

That’s all for now. Thank you all again for your support and love. There’s now just a month to go until release… so I gotta get back to it! Happy Spooktober!

Why Early Access?

Village Monsters has always been a large and ambitious game – especially for a solo developer’s first game. Even still, this is my dream game and I have a tremendous amount of passion working

Since starting work on Village Monsters in 2017 I’ve released 14 demos.

Games like Littlewood, Kynseed, My Time in Portia, Graveyard Keeper, and others. These weren’t just releasing in Early Access – they’re thriving, with fantastic communities that have helped shape the games in development.

Early Access is the right place to finish creating Village Monsters.

How will updates to Early Access work?

The overall structure of Village Monsters lends itself very well to frequent, incremental updates. After all, each in-game day brings new opportunities – some days more literal than others!

I am aiming for weekly updates while in Early Access. To keep this sustainable I plan on alternating between major and minor updates – I am dubbing them Sunrise and Sunset.

Sunrise updates will bring major changes – new features, story content, and so on.

Sunset updates will focus on smaller changes, improvements and bug fixes – especially those related to new additions from the Sunrise update.

As soon as I finished this I realized that you already know what a calendar looks like. Sorry.

Longtime followers of the game may recognize this pattern from how I’ve released demos (each major demo was followed by a feedback release) so I know this is a model that works well.

How long will Village Monsters remain in Early Access?

It’s important to me not to stay in Early Access for a long time. It’s an easy trap to fall into that can result in stagnation and loss of focus.

I predict staying in Early Access for one year. This includes the time necessary to finish remaining features while ensuring there’s plenty of opportunities for the community to shape the game in their image.

Future updates (2021 onward – wow, we are living in the future) are still planned and will always be free.