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’

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

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

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.

New Major Patch: Early Access 0.50.0!

Hello villagers!

Today marks the release of the first major update to Village Monsters. You’ll notice the version number is now set to 0.5 – is this officially the halfway mark?!

This update was guided by players like you! Last week I asked what I should work on next and you weren’t shy in giving me an answer: bug fixes, quality of life improvements, and improvements to Odd Jobs.

Part of these changes were already released last week, so this week’s patch is meant to cap that one off!

The next planned major update is for Friday, December 6th. I’ve yet to send out a poll on what that should include, but I should have that out later this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow US villagers!

NEW

  • Something is causing villagers to suddenly misplace items. If you find a lost item you should return it to its owner for a nice relationship boost.
  • A large number of new villager conversations have been added to the game
  • Fish and Critter ratings now alter their price – the higher the rating, the higher the sell price
  • Tutorial Odd Jobs have been added to the game.
  • A new option has been added to make dialogue text instant

IMPROVED

  • Made the first attempt at re-balancing the economy. In general: individual items are worth a great deal more money, but you’ll see fewer of them per day. For example, critters spawn less, it’s harder to fish, and so on.
  • System Options (Music levels, sprint toggle preference, etc.) are now properly saved
  • Caught critters are now given a rating like fish
  • Doubled the rate in which you gain relationship points with villagers
  • The day and season of your save is now displayed under the Continue option
  • The dialogue box now fades away a bit slower when you walk away from the speaker, and fades up a bit faster when you walk back toward them
  • Notifications now trigger for additional actions (like giving away an item from your inventory) to make it clear something triggered
  • Stamina only decreases during the Attack phase of fishing. Bad attacks expend more stamina, while critical attacks are free
  • It now requires more stamina to clear weeds from overgrown garden plots
  • All available Odd Jobs are now listed at the Job Board. You can still only take one one job a day (for now)
  • Odd Jobs that have a timer will now give out partial rewards when the timer runs out
  • Certain Odd Jobs will stick around for a bit instead of changing out each day to give you a chance to take them

FIXED

  • Fixed issue where music levels would reset themselves when changing areas
  • Fixed crash related to checking Critter / Fish traps after loading your save
  • Fixed crash when placing a Critter trap
  • Fixed crash with the Weeding job
  • Fixed issue where mushroom plots would appear to “switch” on area transition
  • Fixed issue with trap visibility
  • Fixed issue with music sometimes changing to the wrong track on area transition
  • Fixed potential performance issue in Town Hall
  • Prevented occasional issue where you can act (and cause errors) as an Odd Job finished
  • Adjusted controller deadzone to prevent certain movement errors
  • Fixed notifications from spawning in strange spots
  • Stopped casting your fishing rod when fishing traps are equipped
  • Stopped controller rumble while fishing when a keyboard is being used
  • Fixed issue preventing a few fish types from spawning
  • Tweaked collision of a number of items to make them easier to pick up
  • Fixed a few issues related to foraged items spawning incorrectly
  • Cleaned up collision on Three Wall Island
  • Cleaned up collision on a number of external objects
  • Stopped fish from incorrectly stating you could eat them for stamina
  • Stopped Seaweed from appearing in freshwater
  • Fixed Komatoa collision in Overflow
  • Fixed collision issue in Baba’s Bakery
  • Fixed issue with Odd Jobs not sending you back to the right place
  • Fixed flavor text issue for tamed critters
  • Fixed issue with “flavor critters” spawning in incorrect locations
  • Fixed occasional issue with teleporting home at end of day
  • Stopped critters from spawning when time is paused
  • Improved Odd Jobs in general to be less error prone
  • Usual misc. fixes, performance and stability improvements
  • Usual misc. typo corrections

Village Monsters is OUT NOW on all platforms and storefronts!

Hello Villagers!

You’d have to be pretty incompetent to forget to update your own website about your game launch…

*ahem* Well! Better late than never.

Village Monsters officially released on November 12th, but depending on your platform or storefront it may have taken a bit longer than that. I ended up staggering each release to make it easier for me to support and manage. You know the phrase “not my first rodeo”? Well, this is my first rodeo, and I didn’t want to get bucked off the bull.

I’m happy to report that Village Monsters is out for everything now. Windows, Mac, and Linux? Yep, all supported. Steam, Itch.io, and GameJolt? Them too!

Early Access means that launch day is the just start of a new and even more exciting journey. As I’ve mentioned previously I’m planning to remain in Early Access for about a year – and I plan for it to be a very busy and productive year at that. In the 2 weeks since launch I’ve already released five patches with a big update on the way on Wednesday, November 27th.

I’m really happy with where things are at right now. Hopefully going forward I’ll be a bit better at keeping this site updated…

Thank you to everyone – Kickstarter supporters, Twitter followers, friends, family, all of you – for your love and support. Village Monsters would be nothing without you, and I’ll never forget that.