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 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.

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!