Building a Village: Open Heart Development

Building a Village: Open Heart Development

Hello Villagers!



This week, I reached a very exciting milestone: there are now less than 200 items remaining on my “Required for v1.0” to-do list!

There were once over 1,200 items on this list, so being below 200 is a really big deal and signifies we’re close to the end.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m doing something I hope you’ll find pretty cool: I’m making my entire Trello board public!

This means that anyone can follow along as I grind down the remaining tasks for v1.0.

Wait, what’s Trello?

Trello is a project management tool that many developers use for tracking tasks, ideas, goals, and other things needed to make a game.

You can think of it as a big, virtual to-do list. And because it’s virtual, I can easily share it.

Whoa, there’s a lot there! Too much! What should I pay attention to?

Most people will want to stick to the cards in the first column of the board. They are labeled “Read This First!” and “Burn Chart”




The Read This First card will explain what you’re looking at and how to parse my crazy chicken scratch.

The Burn Chart is probably the most meaningful thing here. This is a graph that tracks how many items are left on the Required for v1.0 list on a day-by-day basis, as well as a forecast for future days.




This number serves as a countdown, and when it hits 0, that means Village Monsters is ready for release. For example, the above chart predicts completion by September 9th.

Of course, some items are much harder to complete than others, and cards are constantly being added, modified, or removed from the list as new things are found and priorities shift.

So don’t be too surprised if you see this prediction swing wildly around. What we really want is for it to be consistently trending downward.

Does this board contain spoilers?

Sort of. Like I said, this is the same exact tool I’m using to keep track of development, so it’s bound to contain info or hints about features and things you haven’t seen yet.

However, almost all of it is in my shorthand and wouldn’t be easily recognizable unless you know what you’re looking for. Still, if you want to go in fresh then you shouldn’t let your eyes wander too much.




That’s all from me for now! The march to v1.0 continues, only this time you get to watch me marching from the comfort of your own home.

An Honest & Obvious Update on Release Dates

An Honest & Obvious Update on Release Dates

Hello Villagers!

Today I want to give everyone an update on the schedule of the upcoming Village Monsters version 1.0 update.

I’m moving the release window from Spring 2021 to Summer 2021. Given that I’m posting this on the literal summer solstice… well, it’s probably not a surprise.

The game is in very good shape, and this decision wasn’t easy to make. However, this small delay is ultimately best for Village Monsters and for myself, even if it’s somewhat embarrassing to have to announce.

Keep reading if you want to know more about the reasons behind this move.

So, what’s taking so long?

Since April I’ve had real life friends and family playing the final game. It’s been a ton of fun and extremely valuable, but their feedback has caused my “Required Before v1.0” to-do list to grow by leaps and bounds.

By May, I realized that the math wasn’t working in my favor. I put off announcing a delay in case I could crunch my way to victory, but it hasn’t been sustainable, and it’s not healthy for me or for the quality of the game.

Villager Monsters is my first game, and it’s incredibly special to me. I’ve been working on it full time for 4 years, but even years before that I was dreaming and doodling about the game.

I know it’s a fool’s errand to chase perfection, but I still want it to be the best game it can possibly be. It has to be something I’m proud of, even if it means it takes longer to come out.

What’s next?

My main goal is to finish work on v1.0. Everything else takes a backseat until then.

However, relaxing the release schedule also means I can stop crunching as hard, which will give me more time for social media, Discord, and dev diaries.

It’s a somewhat tragic irony that the closer I get to the release the less time and energy I have to talk about it, so being able to to catch my breath is actually very important and valuable.

I have a group of playtesters that I’m going to have play v1.0 in the upcoming weeks and months. This group will expand as the game gets closer to release, so if it’s something you’re interested in then keep an eye out.

Until then, stay cool, villagers!

Building a Village: A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words

Building a Village: A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words

Hiya Villagers!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a proper devlog, so I want to start with something small. So small, in fact, that it’s only 48×48 pixels: today I’m talking dialogue portraits!

Portraits are an important part of any game with a lot of dialogue text, but for a solo project like Village Monsters it’s absolutely essential.

I have neither the skill nor money to create fancy animations or sexy cutscenes. Instead, I have to rely on writing and dialogue portraits to convey the personality of a villager and the tone of a conversation.

Until recently, the portraits in game were just a villager’s overworld sprite scaled and touched up. It was a cheap solution, though a surprising number of people enjoyed the low fidelity look.

But I knew I had to completely redo them for version 1.0, so for the last month or so I’ve been chipping away at my giant to-do list and improving portraits one by one.

With over 32 villagers (and nearly that many minor NPCs), this has been no easy task! So let’s take a look at a few examples of what I have so far.

Before // After

As you can see, I opted to give each monster a full makeover as I went through them. I’m trying to minimize how many “rework” type tasks I’m doing this close to release, but I’m really happy with how these updated portraits are looking.

I limited myself to a 48×48 base, but villagers are allowed to exceed these boundaries if they have particularly large distinguishing features. I mean, these are monsters – you can’t force them to fit into a box.

Lip Sync

Before I end today’s post, I want to share one last thing I’ve been experimenting with: lip sync during dialogue!

Here’s an example:

The new portraits make it easy to add (basic) movement like this, and I think it makes conversations feel much more dynamic. However, I worry it may be a bit too distracting, so I may tweak or get rid of it altogether.

What do you think?

In any case, Village Monsters v1.0 can be seen on the horizon, so I’ll have much more to talk about very soon. Later tater!

Playtesters needed!

Playtesters needed!

Hiya villagers!

Village Monsters v1.0 is right on track. In fact, even as we speak the hype train is barreling down said track at over 400 miles per hour. Don’t worry, I have been repeatedly assured by the conductor that this is all perfectly safe.

I’m now ready to recruit volunteers to help playtest the near-final version of the game! I’ve really benefited from the whole Early Access process, but playtesting is a different beast and requires a much smaller, more dedicated type of group.

I’m looking for ~10-12 testers to play and share their thoughts on the game. Priority will be given to Kickstarter backers and Early Access owners of the game, though I do have a couple of slots reserved for new players.

Your only requirement is to play the game normally and provide feedback + answer questions in a short survey. In return, I can offer some modest benefits: your name will be included in the credits under “Playtester” and you’ll get a Steam key of the game.

The testing period will be this May and will be conducted through Steam’s new playtesting feature.

If you are interested in becoming a playtester, then please fill out this form by May 3rd!

Patch notes for Village Monsters v0.90.X

Patch notes for Village Monsters v0.90.X

Patch Notes for v0.90.1

  • Fixed crash when talking with the Clam Before The Storm
  • Fixed crash when attempting to change your name on Three Wall Island
  • Stopped villagers from referring to you as “Josh”
  • Fixed incorrect placement for the skill exp bars in some resolutions
  • Fixed mail keys from not working properly
  • Added the option to change both your character name and “username” at Three Wall Island

Patch Notes for v0.90.3

  • Greatly improved performance on Linux and Mac
  • Added several new odd jobs to the board listing
  • Worked and added new story cutscenes to the start of the game (New Games only)
  • Reworked how critter feeding works. In general, food storage now lasts much longer
  • Changed up critter food trough to visibly show when food is running low
  • Combined the Fish and Critter collection pages into one journal section
  • Added new titles for each hobby skill level
  • Moved the records page of your journal to the System tab and added a whole bunch of new records to track
  • NOTE: Some records for loaded games will be incorrect as they weren’t being tracked until this release
  • Reworked how the pass out mechanic works
  • You are now given one last chance between losing all your energy and forcing yourself to stay awake. When you see the “Exhausted” effect it’s time to eat some food or get some rest immediately
  • Improved the garbage dump
  • Villagers now universally hate being gifted trash
  • Added new winter variants for a number of buildings
  • Improved look of puddles
  • Improved the look of flower and grass sway
  • Improved the look and behavior of several critters
  • Added new nicknames to the critter name generator
  • Fixed “pest” critters (Fraley Snake, Tank Treader, Queenly Ant, and Sour Worm) from displaying erroneous sprites when stabled
  • Fixed a number of incorrect pronouns
  • Fixed a rare crash in Bonfire Beach
  • Fixed additional situations where the player’s name wasn’t used correctly
  • Fixed doughies displaying their descriptions instead of their names
  • Fixed graphical bug on the calendar

Patch Patch Notes for v0.90.5

  • Small improvements to the new library job
  • Small improvements to the dump and Garboar
  • Fixed item ratings / attributes being lost when stored or retrieved from your stash
  • Fixed rotation issue with the calendar page of your journal
  • Fixed crash related to the Sunken Treasure perk
  • Fixed issue when giving gifts to Lindwyrm
  • Fixed phantom door near Edmund and Calista’s home
  • Fixed a number of blank entries for regional drinks
  • Fixed a further number of issues with pronouns
  • Fixed a number of incorrect exhibits in the library
  • Various other fixes and improvements

Village Monsters v0.90.0: The Living Lands Update + The Lunar New Year Sale!

Village Monsters v0.90.0: The Living Lands Update + The Lunar New Year Sale!

Hello Villagers!

I am beyond excited to announce that Village Monsters v0.90 is finally done cooking. It’s the biggest and tastiest update yet.

(These notes are quite large, so I tried to focus mostly on the highlights. If you want the full scoop then I got you covered at the bottom.)

To celebrate this release, and of course the Lunar Near Year, Village Monsters is on sale 40% OFF between now and February 15th!

Before we get to the patch notes, let’s get to a very exciting announcement…

Important Scheduling Update

Village Monsters v0.90 will be the final major update in Early Access. That’s right: after this release is finished I’m hunkering down and working on version 1.0!

I’m still planning a Spring release, but I think most people (myself included!) would love seeing the full game as the next update instead of a hypothetical v0.95.

Now, let’s get back to those patch notes!

A Living Land

The world is no longer a static place that remains unchanged throughout the year. Plants, trees, even animals and birds now change as the seasons go by.

A new type of weather called extreme weather has been added to the game. During extreme weather, stamina drains quicker and you run of risk of getting sick (or worse!), but your chance at stumbling upon something rare and valuable is much higher. Do you take the chance and risk exploring? Or do you order a cup of hot coco and spend all day inside?

The look and feel of all weather types has also been improved. Puddles form in the rain, packs of critters scatter during thunderstorms, and plants sway violently during storms. Several new weather patterns have been added to the game, especially during the stormy months of Autumn and Winter.

20+ new music tracks have been added to capture the mood of each season. Dozens of new sound effects and ambient noises to draw you into the world. New animals, bugs, and other small critters also now populate the world – as well as many other mysterious things you might stumble upon.

Village Improvements

Your village level now has a more tangible impact. At lower levels you may see trash outside (pick it up and dump it for a boost to your reputation!), while at higher levels you’ll see more flowers, decorations, visitors, and improved buildings.

A new Village Projects desk has been added to Town Hall. Here you can purchase projects that benefit the entire village, such as building a camp site for wandering monsters to stay in.

Villagers now change their schedules depending on the season and weather. Everyone stays inside during storms, while most monstrum can be found on the beach during the warm summer days. Villagers also can now pursue their own hobbies, and you may catch them fishing, reading, or woodworking.

Many new visitors have been added to the roster, including some that provide in-game services.

Villager Interactions

Several big changes have been made to how you can interact with villagers. Talking with a villager brings up a new menu where you can choose to talk, give them gifts, return lost items, and more.

Villagers can now interact with each other via banter. You’re free to eavesdrop, interact with them, or keep moving. In addition to banter, villagers will now more frequently hang out with friends and family, making the world feel alive even without your intervention.

There are many new ways to improve your friendship with villagers, and it’s overall easier to raise your hearts with them. More Heart-to-Heart events have also been added to the game.

Hop on the Hobby Horse

Numerous changes have been made to improve and expand all four major hobbies. There are many more critters to capture, fish to catch, treasure to discover, and plants to grow.

A new “Perks” system has replaced Skills / Abilities. As you gain experience in your various hobby skills (fishing, treasure hunting, and so on) you’ll automatically unlock various perks that grant you new or improve abilities.

Dozens of community suggestions, quality of life changes, and bugfixes regarding hobbies have also been worked on. Mastering each hobby should feel more satisfying than ever.

But Wait, There’s Lore!

I love finding and reading lore in the games I play – and it turns out I like writing it even more. Many new pieces of lore and backstory have been sprinkled throughout the game in the form of villager dialogue, books, interactions, item descriptions, and more.

New types of artifacts called “GrimWare” offer a unique glimpse of what the world looked like prior to your arrival.

And finally…

Over 40 bugfixes! Improved graphics and lighting! Tons of new tutorialization and helpful controller icons! And lots and lots and lots more! Don’t believe me? Here’s the full list of changes!

Full Patch Notes


More Realistic World

  • Re-added the concept of lunar phases. Each month transition from a new moon to a full moon and back to new
  • Many new pieces of vegetation, plants, trees, etc. have been added throughout the world
  • Trees, crops, plants, and other outdoor vegetation now change colors / types as the seasons pass
  • Greatly improved the look of bonfires and torches
  • Added a number of new trees in each area to better fence them in
  • Improved the movement of ‘flavor’ critters like squirrels and chickens
  • Rebalanced how fast time flows. Generally, it flows more slowly, and pauses more frequently
  • Tweaked the flow of time for the first 3 days so that new players don’t feel as rushed
  • Made is far less likely for critters, birds, etc. to spawn on top of the player character
  • Added an enormous number of new pieces of art
  • Added an enormous number of new pieces of furniture and interactable objects
  • Added a ginormous number of new lighting objects, like stone torches, torches, fireplaces, and so on
  • Standardized many sprites in terms of how black outlines are used
  • Exterior windows now display a wide variety of weather and lighting changes
  • You can choose from multiple channels to watch on TV. Note that available channels change throughout the day
  • Instruments now play music when interacted with

Dialogue & Villager Interactions

  • Interacting with a villager now brings up a contextual menu
  • You may use this menu to talk to villagers like usual, or select a number of new actions
  • Dialogue choices now have icons to make each option more clear
  • Players now have a “Reputation” that is increased for each good deed they do in the village, as well as naturally increasing over time
  • Reputation provides a multiplicative increase to all relationship gains. This allows you to make friends much faster, especially during the mid-game after you’ve established yourself as a pillar in the community
  • Villagers will now banter among themselves. There is a slight chance of being able to overhear it as you walk by them
  • Banter can be ignored for no ill effects, and will auto-dismiss when you move far enough way, or after enough time has passed
  • Villager schedules now properly change with each season and weather event
  • A greater variety of choices have been added to villager schedules
  • Check your current reputation in your journal
  • You may now give villagers gifts via a new dialogue option
  • Villagers now display a brief comment on getting a gift depending on how they like it
  • You may only give a gift once per day via this method. You may send additional gifts via the mail
  • Valentine has been given a new house in Avalon Acres
  • Villagers now send a larger variety of responses to your letters. They may even hint at gift likes / dislikes, lore, and hidden gameplay mechanics
  • Added pronouns to each villager’s profile page
  • Mail sent by villagers now has a sent date
  • Gave Yggette a much needed makeover
  • Villagers now periodically contribute to the community fund based on their friendship levels

Weather

  • Snow Day: A new type of extreme weather during the winter featuring blizzard-like conditions
  • Firestorm: A new type of extreme weather during the summer
  • Hurricane: A new type of extreme weather during the fall
  • Your luck is maxed out during extreme weather, making it much easier and likely to find rare things
  • Items in the General Store are offered at a steep discount during extreme weather
  • During extreme weather events, there is a high chance of getting a negative effect while outside
  • These negative events cause a variety of annoyances on their own, but if you persist outside then you may find your day cut short after running out of energy
  • Staying inside for a time is a good way to rid yourself of your ailment
  • New (non-extreme) weather types and forecasts have been added throughout the game
  • Medicine (purchased at the store) can also clear out an extreme weather ailment
  • Greatly improved thunder SFX during storms
  • Improved the look of rain, especially heavy rain
  • Improved the look of the Autumn tileset, in terms of colors and brightness
  • Improved the look and logic of puddles during rain storms
  • Plants and trees now move more realistically during storms

Village Improvements

  • Litter now appears throughout town at lower levels (it’s most common at D/D+ rank)
  • Trash can’t be sold, but it can be brought to the dump. Not only is it the right thing to do, you’ll even improve your reputation with villagers!
  • Buildings now change throughout the season
  • You can now fund village projects from the desk at town hall
  • Lucy is a wandering artist who can help you change the dialog box’s theme
  • Ambrosia is a siren that can change the sounds made during dialogue
  • Improved the look of livestock found in Avalon Acres
  • Tutorial jobs now ‘expire’ if not taken before the 1st week

Hobbies

  • Traps no longer disappear when you don’t have the relevant tool category selected
  • Critters and fish received from traps are now properly ranked
  • Critter spawns have been bumped up significantly, especially after long period
  • Guide books will now add 1-3 entries upon use, and they are all guaranteed to be new entries
  • Fishing may now bring up non-fishy catches from time to time
  • Improved the look and feel of the trophy screen (displayed when you catch a fish or critter)
  • Added a number of new critters to catch, tame, and donate to the library
  • Added some helpful text to the fishing minigame
  • Fish can now be consumed (raw?!) to restore stamina
  • Traps now “refresh” on a per-day rate instead of per-hour
  • Digging out buried treasure now produces little piles of dirt to make your progress more satisfying
  • Added a large number of new possible dig sites throughout the world and rebalanced spawn chances
  • Rebalanced dig site HP. In general, spots with more valuable loot take longer (and more energy) to unearth
  • Plant growth now “ticks” on a per-day rate instead of a per-hour. All growth and cultivation values have been rebalanced
  • You now harvest multiple plants from the same plot. The text when harvesting displays the estimated amount you’ll get
  • The amount of plants in your harvest depend on the quality of the plant
  • You can now change the soil before planting new seeds in your garden
  • Different soils offer different benefits and maluses
  • “Abilities” have been renamed to “Perks”
  • Ability points have been removed. Now, perks are now granted automatically as you level up each skill
  • Plant Quality is a new attribute that can be increased via better soil, watering, infusing the plant, and via your gardening skill
  • Added the concept of Luck which can impact hobbies, friendships, money, and other random events
  • Luck is determined at the start of the day, but can be modified by other factors
  • Several new Gardening Perks have been added to the game
  • Added a confirmation when pruning a plant from your garden
  • Greatly improved the flow of dialogue boxes when managing your garden
  • The spore extractor is back online, but you must first purchase a basement for your home to use it
  • Stormy weather (especially extreme weather) now suppresses (and in rare instances, reverse) plant growth. However, the good news is that stormy weather will also clear out weeds – free of charge!
  • Rebalanced experience points needed for each skill level

Lore & Worldbuilding

  • Renamed Agrarian Acres to Avalon Acres
  • Renamed Balefire Beach (back) to Bonfire Beach
  • New items called GrimWares have been added to various treasure spots throughout the world
  • The day of the week “Sanctuary” has been renamed to Ludosday
  • GrimWares are enchanted books that were once used for communication. These relics contain conversations that greatly expand the backstory of the monsters of their world

User Interface & Quality of Life

  • Items are now grouped together more frequently, so long as they are identical with an existing item (eg., same ranking, attributes, and so on)
  • Improved the look of helper icons
  • Added some new SFX to various interface windows
  • Re-did moon phase icons on the clock and calendar
  • You no longer immediately pass out upon losing energy or reaching the end of the day. Instead, there is a small minigame where you can resist falling asleep
  • However, it gets increasingly harder to stay awake, so eat an apple or go to bed as quick as you can!
  • Added “Available Skill Points” to the Skill page in your journal
  • The mouse cursor is now visible when moving it
  • Added more information to the Feedback / Bug Report email
  • Added tons of new ambient tracks to the end-of-day summary
  • Added new details to the Feedback / Bug Report email
  • The “invisible” effect now greatly boosts chances of eavesdropping on villager conversations
  • New options for dialogue “voice” SFX (like tapping and beeps, or just silence) have been added to the game

Bugfixes

  • Fixed a rare crash in Bonfire Beach
  • Fixed crashes related to fetching critters during specific times of day
  • Fixed some Pishky-related issues at the General Store
  • Fixed in-world dialogue so it is less intrusive
  • Fixed a number of tile issues in Mock & Birdie’s home
  • Fixed seasonal music not playing when loading a game
  • Fixed dialogue errors related to villagers talking about their current schedule status
  • Fixed payment issue with the Test Subject odd job
  • Fixed incorrect Hobby levels being displayed in your journal
  • Fixed a number of bugs when tallying up experience at the end of the day
  • Fixed a bug that caused dialogue boxes to persist when a cutscene started
  • Fixed overlapping schedule issues for Mock & Birdie during rainy days
  • Fixed issue where puddles and other weather effects wouldn’t trigger properly
  • Fixed several collision issues with furniture
  • Fixed / adjusted collision against water
  • Fixed a number of overlap issues caused by buildings
  • Fixed Effect Icon placement in some resolutions
  • Fixed a number of issues that could arise when a cutscene triggers while the player is doing something else
  • Fixed issue where some weather types displayed an incorrect or no icon on the clock
  • Fixed collision issue with the player bed in the first home purchase
  • Fixed issue where certain items in the world would erroneously display a “Pick Up” text
  • Fixed goofy movement issues with chickens, squirrels, etc.
  • Fixed collision issues with some critters, like chickens, squirrels, etc.
  • Fixed certain UI elements from not disappearing during cutscenes
  • Fixed a number of issues with the end of day summary
  • Fixed lost items from not triggering a conversation with its recipient
  • Fixed the ability to ‘permanently lose’ a lost item by mistake (you can still dump it, though)
  • Fixed Golbrick’s placement blocking the seasonal cash back stuff in Pishky’s
  • Fixed Sprint / Walk toggles from resetting when changing direction
  • Fixed a number of spots in Firetree Forest where players could get stuck while sprinting
  • Fixed “Met So-and-So” from repeating over and over long after you’ve already met the villager
  • Fixed issue where an empty garden could get overtaken by random plants
  • Fixed a number of issues that caused the background music to overlap
  • Fixed a number of wonky collisions in Bonfire Beach
  • “” is no longer a valid name for your character
  • Made it less likely for glitched trees to appear in impossible-to-reach locations