Sprint 3 – The Emerald City – Plan

THE EMERALD CITY Week of January 29th, 2017 WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~insanely heckin’ good~ The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now ~45 weeks away. Remarkable! As my team of highly-respected accountants points out, this was the first week in the WARP CORP’s history that we had to start drawing from the reserves. It seems likely that from here out the money is only going to dwindle down, but we’re still in great shape. The past two weeks have been wonderful and productive, but it’s time to get real here: There’s no way I can be successful just being merely “productive”. I need to switch from “good” to “great”, whether that’s in quality, output, analysis, and just a general overall ability to move tasks to the Done column. I think I can do it. I don’t feel mentally taxed yet – if anything, it’s the opposite – so I still have plenty of brainpower I can consign over to the WARP CORP. My team of highly-respected accountants nod hungrily at this assertion, their blank expressions briefly betraying their attempts at humanity. SPRINT GOALS I keep trying to alter what I say in this section because it seems almost inevitable that whatever I say here won’t actually happen. I don’t know. The next were-release – code named “Snow” – is set to release next week. This gives me added incentive to focus on things that are actually tangible so that players can begin testing them and trying them out. There are a few longstanding issues that I think I’ll finally be able to address this week. Here are the top 3: Address player movement and make it better than it currently is Make the inventory feel far less ‘placeholder’ Actually finish the dialog system so…

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Sprint 2 – Onward, to Glory! – Retrospective

ONWARD, TO GLORY! Week of January 22nd, 2017 OVERVIEW Another week in the books, and another good one at that. This week was that of systems. The biggest – by far – was the enabling of the day/night cycle and related systems surrounding it. Slowly but surely this virtual world is waking up and becoming real. Soon it will grow far beyond my control, and I am very much looking forward to that! The only thing I’m bummed about is this feeling of leaving money on the table – not actual money, of course, but rather the feeling that my time could have been spent better. I have a feeling that’s going to be a common thought as I grind through this new life of mine. I could always be doing more, always be doing better. Well, I can at least always try. HIGHLIGHTS It cannot be understated how important getting a day/night system up and running was. I am so excited for what’s to come I finished my first lore piece that details the history of a fictional (?) game company creating a fictional (?) game. Expect many more of these as development continues, though their content and style will vary wildly I settled on a new possible game title through sheer coincidence. By simply reversing the original “Monster Village” I have stumbled upon the much better – and likely final – Village Monsters I have begun – in earnest – to work through HeartBeast’s wonderful tutorials Several new villagers have been thought out, written down, and constructed The player has been shaven and then, paradoxially, received a stubbled beard in its place LOWLIGHTS I’m a 29 year old man and my days are still being derailed by naps that destroy me. I need to stop! I had a…

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Feature Friday: Hero of Time

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday. Today, I’m going to go over one of the constants in life and video games – the passage of time. What Makes You Tick? First up, I want to talk a bit about my overall design goals for the passage of time in my game. Village Monsters is a mashup of genres, but above all it’s focused on one thing: being a village life simulator. To properly simulate an interesting village life you really need a lot of systems that play off each other, and there is perhaps no more important system than that of time. It’s certainly the one that I’ve given the most thought to! Early on, I knew what I didn’t want to do… I didn’t want an Animal Crossing system of everything being in real time It’s a neat idea, but didn’t fit my vision I didn’t want the player to stress about what time it was I see this frequently with the Harvest Moon “subgenre” where you always need one eye on the clock. This also didn’t fit I didn’t want to stray too far from realism, either There’s going to be some strange things going on in this digital world – I want to give player plenty of opportunities to latch onto things that obey predictable rules My first decision was to abstract the concept of time itself. Behind the scenes I still keep exact measurements, but to the player there are only eight slices of time for each day: Early Morning, Late Morning, Early & Late Afternoon, Early & Late Evening, and Early & Late Night As the day marches on it’ll gradually transition from one time of day to another. There’s only eight of them (compared to, you know, 24 actual hours!), but that’ll let me give each one enough attention to…

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Luckstone Lore #001: For you, it was Saturday

[Isaac, thx for getting in touch.  Found the below on the old rig. Rough draft, rougher than I remember. Mind the grammar]

“For you, it was Saturday. But for me? It was the start of the rest of my life”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just experienced my first “Robert-ism”, a name given by the peers of John Roberts to the quips and idioms he repeats at every opportunity.

Roberts, a stocky man in his mid-30s with a closely-cropped beard, is disarmingly pleasant. The first thing you notice about him is how he is always smiling, always ready to laugh at some hidden joke that only he can hear. 

His eyes glimmer as he waits for me to ask which Saturday he’s referring to. I eventually relent, and do so.

“August 22nd, 1987,” he says without hesitation. “You know what happened that day? The Legend of Zelda was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It changed everything for me.”

Our interview is in his office, an expansive room nestled in an equally expansive office building. His desk –  a solid slab of mahogany polished to an almost blinding sheen – is unadorned save for a notepad and single picture frame facing him.

“I was always a big gamer,” Roberts recalls, “Pac-Man at the Pizza Horn in my hometown. Rogue and Castle Wolfenstein on my brother’s PC. But Zelda was more than a game. It was a world, you know? It was a feeling! Freedom and exploration and adventure. It taught me what games could be. I never saw them the same after that.”

The walls of his office are as bare as the desk, save for one spot directly behind him – a framed poster of The Legend of Zelda


“Five years later, when the 3rd one released – Link to the Past – it’s like I had this vision of the future of video games. I didn’t want to just be an outsider anymore. So I gathered a bunch of coworkers at Shockley-Bell and we all quit together. Formed the studio that same day”

Luckstone Software, founded in 1992, has become something of a legend among hardcore video game enthusiasts. 

Roberts downplays it now, but his business connections – thanks in part to his father and successful businessman, James Roberts – propelled his ragtag team of developers into a multi-million dollar studio.

“My connections got my foot in the door”, Roberts is careful to concede, “but I’m the one that gave the door a shove.”

That “shove” was the game pitch that Roberts has since become famous for. Securing initial funding of $10mil, then an additional $25mil after that, Luckstone Software and its debut project – The Tale of the Monster Slayer – quickly became the most funded video game and studio of its era. 

But perhaps more famous than its inception and funding is the secrecy surrounding both studio and game. Very little is known about The Tale of the Monster Slayer other than “it’ll be a world you live in, not a game you play” – another Robert-ism often recounted in interviews.

There are also hints that there’s been a great deal of trouble behind the scenes. It’s been delayed twice – once for 6 months, missing its initial holiday 1995 window, and then again after that. No new release date has been offered.

Roberts appears to be nonplussed by the delays. “The price of innovation,” he explains, “It’s a non-story. It’ll be done when it’s done.”

Our 5-minute interview – the longest Roberts would agree to – is nearly finished after that. I thank him before being escorted out of the office as the next interviewer in line is ushered in behind me.

This would be the last time that I – or anyone else – would speak with John Roberts for 4 years.


The Roberts of 2000 appears to have aged two decades since we last spoke. His hair – now more white than brown – reaches to his shoulders in an tangled mess. His beard is unkempt and stained near the edges. There is no smile this time, no Robert-isms as we sit down to talk.

Luckstone Studios shuts down this week. It was able to survive nearly 7 years of bad publicity, lawsuits, and even rumored reports of arson. But few companies can survive the incarceration of its owner.

“I’m not dead yet, though. Not dead yet.” A hint of a smile – of the Roberts I spoke to back in ’96 – creeps onto his lips. “They’ll need to

[Cuts off mid-sentence – very dramatic! Sorry, buddy, this was the only page I could grab. The rest of the draft is corrupted.

I’m working on the recovering the other documents. There’s also the transcript of my convo with Lovette. I’ll send them as soon as I can. Hope this helps! -J]

Sprint 2 – Onward, to Glory! – Plan

ONWARD, TO GLORY! Week of January 22nd, 2017 WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS The state of our WARP CORP is still ~insanely heckin’ good~ The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is at a new all-time record of 48 weeks away. Indescribable! This week’s chart is a bit misleading! I didn’t spend a cent from the overall nest egg I’ve saved up, but this isn’t because I’m some sort of financial mastermind. Rather, I had some leftover money in the line items I did spend from, so I had no need to dip into the coffers. This week, and the weeks thereafter, will likely be a great deal more spendy. I had a great first week, and I can only hope this next one is just as productive. I really like this being my own boss thing. At this point the biggest risk to the whole operation is losing steam, so I’m plowing forward with reckless abandon. SPRINT GOALS Last sprint I laid down the foundation and began to implement various systems, such as critter catching, creature interaction, and notifications. This sprint will be more of the same, but with different systems. The current plan is something as follows: Better conversation system and overall dialog management Fishing and related systems An actual village map Historical Society and related systems If last sprint was any indication these goals will spawn way more tasks that I can’t even think of yet, but the hope is, as always, to just get a boatload of things done. Gonna do my best today!

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Sprint 1 – Here We Go! – Retrospective

HERE WE GO! Week of January 15th, 2017 OVERVIEW My first sprint is over, and I think I can with a straight face that it was a resounding success. I got a ton done! Given that I now have 8+ hours a day to work on this project instead of ~2-3 then I guess I better have, but still, it was really nice to see come true. Working from home and being my own boss is cool. And hard. Each morning I try to get up and get dressed as if I’m going to a real job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wearing a tie or anything, but I do wear shoes and a nice(ish) pair of pants and shirt and the like. My chair is not nearly as ergonomic as my previous work chair, but then again this cost $10 at Goodwill and not $1,000 from an office supply store. It’s working for me. Anyway, let’s move onto the highlights and lowlights HIGHLIGHTS The game looks and feels and plays nothing like it did before – and that’s good! The whole project was ripped open, rebuilt, polished, and put back together I have entire systems working now, such as bug catching, interior transition, creature interaction, notifications, and more I got way more art done than expected, and ended up replacing every piece of placeholder art with my own stuff Everything is still WIP, but it’s also much, much closer in style and tone to the final product I have a much deeper understanding of GML in general, but also specifically the powers of scripting Everything went really great and I sincerely had a blast doing this all week. I am so genuinely happy about what I’m doing LOWLIGHTS I tried working in the city for one of the days…

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Feature Friday: An Early Look at Catching Critters

This is the first of what will be many Feature Fridays. Each Friday I’ll take one major feature or interesting mechanic that I’ve been working on in Monster Village and really dive into it. Today, I’m going to talk about the first of at least three hobbies: Critter Catching! What are “Hobbies”? At its heart, Monster Village is a village life simulator. With this in mind. you’re probably already expecting a fair amount of “stuff” to do, and you’d be correct to think so. The game is going to be chock full of activities, pastimes, and a whole lot of other tasks that you can do on a daily basis. Today’s feature is about one category of activities called hobbies. Hobbies are more involved than other activities, and there are a few things that really set them apart: They require several specialized & upgradable tools to perform There’s progression in the form of skills, titles, and other upgrades Most important, the end result of each hobby is to find collectibles for your Compendium, the museum, your house, or just to sell At present there are three hobbies in the development: Critter Catching, Fishing, and Treasure Hunting.  As you may have guessed already, today’s Feature Friday is digging into the first one!   Tools of the Trade: Nets, Traps, & Bait There are many type of critters out there to catch and collect. Some, like the annoying Sea Fly, require no hunting – they’ll find you However, most critters aren’t so easy to catch. Take the Half-Hopper, pictured below. One look at the player and they’ll bolt away before you can catch them. Your net is your primary tool to capture critters. Sometimes you’ll need to chase the creature, and other times you’ll need to sneak up on them unawares. But what if you can’t catch them with just a net?…

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Sprint 1 – Here We Go! – Plan

HERE WE GO! Week of January 15th, 2017 WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS The state of our WARP CORP is still ~insanely heckin’ good~ The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is at an all-time record of 42 weeks away. Indescribable! The Pre-Sprints have been completed – we are now in the full sprint mode. A last minute rearrangement of finances was able to get the cash reserves to record levels. I now have 42 weeks to, bluntly, “figure this shit out” and figure it out I will! I spent so much time on foundational work that it’s time to reap the benefits. This sprint won’t be bogged down by getting things up and running, and instead will pick up exactly where I left off. One thing I am unsure of is exactly how much I can get done now that I have a full 40-60 hours worth of time to work. I, uh, presume it’ll be a great deal more than I was able to get done previously, but just how much more? We’ll have to do a real proper retrospective in 7 days time! SPRINT GOALS With the Were-Release paradigm firmly locked into place, this next week will be laser-focused on iterating over the Wolf build and turning into something that resembles an actual game. I’m loathe to use the term ‘vertical slice’, and prefer instead to think of this as a ‘horizontal slice’. Things will be very rough still, but that’s ok, because between now and release we’re going to iterate a whole bunch of times. In looking at my Kanban board, I want to get some core gameplay loops up and running ASAP. This includes bug hunting, fishing, dog commands, and basic movement around the game world. By the end of this sprint it should undeniably look like a game. Ok, let’s do our best today.

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PRE-SPRINT-14 – IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR – RETROSPECTIVE

IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR Week of January 8th, 2017 OVERVIEW This is it, friends. This big ol’ life change no longer needs to be spoken of in future tense or hypotheticals – it’s real. (and yeah, it’s spectacular) The career is dead; long live the career. All in all this sprint was absolutely wonderful. I was able to get some real good work done, and I even published the first were-release – it’s not very good, of course, but it exists. Just the act of putting up a build helped bring my goals and ideas into sharp focus. I now have a great sense for what the next release (code named “Snow”) has in store, as well as some strategies for getting there. This is the final “Pre-Sprint”. What starts tomorrow is Sprint 1, and we’ll keep chugging away until this thing is finished or the wheels come flying off going highway speed. Thanks for following along HIGHLIGHTS The first official release has been, uh, released – no matter how rough, it’s impossible not to be proud of that Lot of good work, like with a new text system, a very basic dog fetch, sea fly AI, and more Oh, and I actually quit my job to dedicate my life to this new thing – guess that’s important? LOWLIGHTS Leaving work was incredibly melancholy. There are certainly some things I won’t miss, but those people? The people I sat with and worked with for 6 years? I miss them all terribly Had some very frustrating Git moments in which I completely hosed my “master” branch seemingly by accident Lesson learned? Treat master with a bit more respect and branch more often SHOW & TELL  

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Flavors of the Week

Well, it’s officially official now – you know, the whole terrifying thing of quitting my job to work on games full time. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’ll have more to say pretty soon. For today, I want to talk a bit about how I’m going to manage my time now that it’s truly mine to spend. I know myself: I don’t necessarily respond all that well to rigid structures, but I do respond well to gimmicks and patterns. Weird, right? So, in order to succeed at this being-my-own-boss thing I plan to assign each day of the week a theme or focus. This way my days are always different, yet (hopefully!) are always focused on the right thing. Here’s the plan, one day at a time: Start it on Sunday Sunday is pretty straightforward – it’s time to plan for the upcoming week. I’m guessing that planning is going to be pretty important for solo work, so on Sundays I’m going to go through my Kanban board and plan out exactly how I want the week to go. What features should I focus on? What bugs need fixing? Is there a release or other special event going on this week? I don’t want to wait for Monday to think about these things, so instead I’ll start it all on Sunday. (I will try to avoid working too much, though!) Motivational Mondays Here’s an obvious statement for you: I don’t like Mondays. Who does? Now that I’m on my own I’m trying to twist it around, because Mondays don’t need to be bad. In fact, I’m going to attempt to use Monday to get motivated How? Well, a whole bunch of ways! I’m going to do fun things, like play video games, or inspirational things, like play video games, or something related to my work, like….well, you…

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Introducing the Were-Release

No development can be done in a vacuum, and with games player feedback isn’t just important – it’s absolutely necessary. Doesn’t matter how much I think a thing is fun if nobody else does! To this end, I’ve committed myself to publish a new build to this site for everyone to play with each month. This fits well with my overall “sorta-Agile” strategy of iterative and rapid development, and it’s the right length of time to delivery substantially new releases. But then I thought – you know what? Just doing something every 30 or 31 days is kinda boring. What if I tied to some monthly thing so it’s easier to remember and a bit more of an occasion? Then it hit me – in a manner of speaking The full moon happens each month! Sometimes twice! Tying a monthly release to the full moon seemed to strike the right kind of balance between “weird” and “sorta makes sense, actually” that I try to live every day by. I’m calling it the Were-Release. I don’t like that name anymore than you do, but it’s here, and we best just get used to it, ok? The latest Were-Release can always be found on this page, and guess what? There’s already one there! The Were-Release for January, Wolf, has been uploaded to the site and is ready to be downloaded. Be warned: This release, and likely all Were-Releases, will be rough and are not exactly release candidates. But play around with them and make noise in the comments if things are cool, suck, or just plain broken.

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PRE-SPRINT 14 – IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR – PLANNING

IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR Week of January 8th, 2017 WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS The state of our WARP CORP is still ~otherworldly~ The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) has been pushed back to 34 weeks away. A new record! Nearly 14 weeks ago (hey, that number looks familiar!) I made the decision to quit my job and pursue my lifelong dream to create, play, and become immersed in all things video game. Didn’t seem real then, but it sure feels real now, and boy does it feel spectacular. I’ve often wondered about what I’m suppose to feel – anxiety? Dread? Excitement? Some sort of mixture? I have probably felt just about every emotion there is to feel these last few months, so what’s leftover is nothing but pure, unadulterated excitement. I’m so god damned ready for this to begin. After this week…it does. SPRINT GOALS The biggest goal this week is to get through my last workweek successfully. Beyond that… This week marks 2017’s first full moon, and thus begins my weird experiment to release a build of my game each lunar cycle. I’m calling it the Were-Release for now, but there is surely a better name I’m also going to take the final steps to transfer my life to fulltime development On the feature front, I want a hero that moves around and has basic actions, like dialog. I’m also planning out a basic UI, basic collision, basic room transition, and a whole lot of other basic things By the end of this week, I’ll have something that actually & honestly looks like a game. For real! That’s it for now. Let’s do our best today, ok?

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