Sprint 7 – Breath of Fresh Air – Plan

Breath of the Hype

BREATH OF FRESH AIR

Week of February 26th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~49 weeks away. Outrageous!

It’s been about a month and a half and expenses have certainly evened out. It makes predicting the future a lot easier!

I mentioned this in the retrospective, but last week sucked hard. Doesn’t matter! This is a new week with new goals and aspirations and – what’s this? On Friday? Could it be…a console launch? And maybe even…A Legend of Zelda?

Yeah, this week is going to be distracting.

SPRINT GOALS

Biggest goal this week is to clean up my code. I’ve done a lot of experimentation and reworking and refactoring and all sorts of other words, and while I’m overall in a good place my codebase is big enough that some housecleaning is necessary

On the feature front, I want to finish up the fishing hobby and continue making new levels. I also plan to expand out the village, especially now that currency is on the table.

Should be exciting!

Sprint 6 – Precendent’s Day – Retrospective

Judge, from Ace Attorney

PRECEDENT’S DAY

Week of February 19th, 2017

OVERVIEW

Gotta be honest with you guys: this was a bad week.

I barely got anything done, and wasted too much time doing things of no value. Napped a lot. Was mostly distracted.

Like I said: it was a bad week.

I watch a lot of football. At the end of every loss you can count on at least one reporter asking the coach what they’re going to do differently in the next game. The answer back – like almost all presser answers – is some overwrought cliche about watching ‘the tape’ and learning from their mistakes.

But for especially bad games – like total blowouts, or where the quarterback throws 7 interceptions – they usually say they aren’t even going to bother watching, that it was such a bad performance the reasons why don’t even matter. They say they’re going to “burn the tapes” and start fresh and unburdened.

Tomorrow is the start of a new sprint, I’m going to burn the tape and move on.

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: The Compendium

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday! Yet again we’re taking a deep dive into one of the many features and systems you can find in Village Monsters

Today, I’ll be outlining the mighty compendium. Let’s take a look.

Much of your time will be spent in the cozy confines of the village – talking with people, attending events, upgrading your house, and so on.

But the world outside the village is even larger and full of things to explore, treasure to find, puzzles to solve, and much, much more. With so much to see and do on a given day, how do you keep track of it all?

The answer is with your compendium

Inspiration

Before I go much further I want to talk a bit about what has inspired me with regard to the compendium.

My favorite video game series is without a doubt The Legend of Zelda . Of them all, Majora’s Mask is the one that sticks with me the most. There’s no shortage of things to praise about that game, but for me the biggest draw is Clock Town.

It’s become something of a cliche to talk about NPCs that feel “alive” and well-realized, but Majora’s Mask has set a bar that few games have met in the decades since. Every single NPC has their own schedule, things to learn about, and problems to solve.

Similar to my game, Majora’s Mask needed a way for you to track it all, and it did so via the wonderful Bomber’s Notebook.

The thing I enjoy the most about the Bomber’s Notebook is how it starts out empty, requiring you to fill it out by observing people and talking to them. As such, filling out the notebook was not only a practical solution to finding heart pieces and masks, but was also surprisingly satisfying – in some ways, you felt like a detective.

This is the overall structure I’m aiming for with the compendium. I want you to also feel like a detective in Village Monsters as you observe things, talk to people, take notes, and gradually expand your knowledge of this world.

But what about the overall style? One issue I always had with the Bomber’s Notebook is that it felt very video game-y – I never actually felt like I was looking at a book.

To avoid this, I’m trying to base the compendium’s style on a traveler’s journal. If you’ve ever searched for notebooks online you’ve probably seen some version of the “well-worn traveler’s journal”. You know, something like this:

Ok, so this one is technically from Uncharted

There’s something oddly alluring about the idea of a travel journal or log. It begins blank and clean, and over time it’s filled in with text, pictures, scribbled notes and doodles and dog-eared pages. It becomes its own living recording of your time and place.

It’s also incredibly hard to muster the motivation and time to make one in real life, but in a video game? Well, the compendium will do all the heavy lifting for you, making it much easier to maintain.

Sections

The compendium is not just for people looking to track and complete their collections – it’s a vital tool used throughout the entire game.

To make it all manageable, it’s been split up into various sections to better organize all the information it stores. In total, there are 5 sections: Calendar & Events, Villagers, Mysteries, Lore & History, and Collections.

Calendar & Events

This section is the simplest, and serves as a basic reference guide to upcoming events and holidays. Use it to plan out your days and weeks to ensure you won’t be missing anything important.

You can also set your own reminders and notes here.

Villagers

The Villagers section keeps tabs on each villager you meet. It records details like their schedule, preferences, relationships, and more. This will become increasingly vital as you rely on building relationships to advance the story, improve the village, and solve problems.

At first, this section is will be completely blank. To fill it out you must meet new villagers, talk with them, solve their problems, and so on.

Mysteries

In Village Monsters, you can think of “Mysteries” as being very similar to quests. However, unlike quests they have the habit of being more complex and requiring more time to complete on average. Said a different way, mysteries tend to be a long term affair.

To keep track of it all, an entire section in your compendium is dedicated to all mysteries that you’re following. You’ll be able to see how the mystery started, the villagers involved, and your latest findings.

Lore & History

The world is big and there’s a lot to find out there. All knowledge that you learn about the various areas of the world will be recorded here. This includes area and item descriptions, key historical figures and events you learn about, and more.

Like the Villagers tab, this section will start out empty and must be filled in through some light detective work. You’ll want to put in the effort, though, as the various tidbits of lore and context may help you considerably when it’s time to solve the many puzzles out there.

Collections

From fish to bugs to treasure to artifacts, there’s a lot to collect, and the Collections tab is where you track it all.

Use this section to admire all that you’ve caught in time with the game. As you fill out the details you’ll also better understand the gaps in your collection, so refer back often to see what you’re missing.

The Future

I have only a basic prototype of the compendium currently implemented, but by the next Were-Release (“Crow”) I should have it completed for you to check out.

I’ll have more to share in the coming months as the rest of the game is fleshed out. Stay tuned!

Sprint 6 – Precedent’s Day – Plan

Judge, from Ace Attorney

PRECEDENT’S DAY

Week of February 19th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~50 weeks away. Outrageous!

Nothin’ but good vibes over here at Warp Corp HQ. Cash outflow continues to be properly maintained and work is progressing at a good clip. Hard to ask for much better than that!

These next couple weeks will really test my ability to stay focused amid some Really Cool Stuff happening in the background; In less than 2 weeks the Nintendo Switch will be in my hands. In preparation I’ve been working every day so that I can feel better justified at taking a ‘vacation’ of sorts to enjoy the Switch – and Zelda.

Staying motivated and focused when you’re your own boss is an interesting thing. It’s at once difficult and also the easiest thing in the world.

SPRINT GOALS

Late last night I implemented an entirely new collision system. You don’t need to know a lot about game development to understand that a collision system is a big deal in any video game. Much of this week will be spent iterating over it and making it even better.

Beyond that, we’ve just expanded beyond the initial village into lands beyond. Work will also continue on expanding ever further, and ensuring that all the game’s various systems and variables can keep track.

I’d also love to nail down a working prototype of fishing, the next major hobby to be implemented in Village Monsters

As always, you can check my progress throughout the week by looking at the change log

Sprint 5 – Warming Up – Retrospective

The Runnin’ Postman in LoZ: Twilight Princess

WARMING UP

Week of February 12th, 2017

OVERVIEW – “SNOW” DEMO BY THE NUMBERS

This is going to be a different retrospective than usual.

A little over a week ago I released the first major (albeit super early) demo of Village Monsters, and I wanted to take today to break down some of the numbers. This might be only interesting to me, or maybe it’ll interest other folks who want to know about the nitty-gritter of running a game business.

First up is the Cumulative Flow chart – this graph shows you how many tasks were completed (put into “Done”) on each day. By the end of our 28 day cycle we ended up with 132 tasks completed for the Snow release.

Is that a lot or a little? I’m actually not sure yet, as it’s my first measurement of such a metric. I know for a fact that I wasn’t always so diligent at tagging my tasks correctly, so I’m sure I missed at least a few of them. We’ll have to see where the next release, Crow, takes us

Next up, we have the amount of times the demo was downloaded. In total, the file was downloaded 358 times. 

I am ecstatic about this number. My marketing “strategy” – such that it is – has been to be as minimally invasive as possible. As a consumer, I’ve been subjected to enough garbage and slimy tactics by companies that I know exactly what I don’t want to do.

I’m not so naive as to think such a relatively low number is any sort of indicator of success, but it is perhaps a sign that my strategies aren’t failing, at least. Over time, perhaps I can find success my own way

Finally, we arrive to what is probably the most useless metric – time spent with my IDE open. I’m frequently leaving it open while doing other things (like writing this post!) so it’s very misleading, but still…5 days? >120 hours? Wow. That’s, uh, that’s a lot!

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday on a Tuesday: Relationships

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday! Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, but “Teacher Tuesday” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yet again we’re taking a deep dive into one of the many features and systems you can find in Village Monsters

I unfortunately had to skip last Friday due to putting out my latest demo – thus the delay to Tuesday! – and to celebrate Valentine’s Day I want to dig into the relationship system

Sorry, buddy, but the answer is “No”. I’m not talking about that kind of relationship.

Village Monsters is filled with a variety of strange and personable monsters – and even some animated inanimate objects, like Signey here.

But you cannot date them.

When I say “relationship” I’m talking purely platonic. Let’s take a look.

Relationships

Each day brings something new in Village Monsters, but soon enough you’ll establish a routine: talking to villagers, solving mysteries, participating in events, completing your collection, and much more.

Nearly every action and activity helps build your relationship with the villagers you find yourself living with. Villagers that view you with distrust or suspicion will slowly thaw over time as you prove yourself to be a respectable member of monster society.

One important thing to note is that growing relationships is almost entirely passive. There is no “gift” system, at least not like you’d find in Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley.

I never want relationship building to feel like a chore, and have purposefully made it so that merely experiencing the game is enough to raise your relationships and status.

Benefits of Good Relations

You’ll probably want to be friends with everyone just because that’s what you do in video games, but there’ll be some tangible benefits as well

Story

There are generally two types of stories in Village Monsters – Personal Stories that each villager goes through, and the main story that you’ll slowly unravel through the course of the game.

Building relationships will be the primary way to advance both types of stories. You’ll develop both trust and reputation with the villagers, and in doing so you’ll be able to explore both their personal lives and the world they live in.

Don’t worry, though, there’s no risk of missing anything if you want to experience village life slowly. The story can go at a pace you feel comfortable with – building your relationships merely unlock the opportunities to advance it.

Exploring Buddies

There’s an entire part of the game that I’ve been pretty quiet on so far, and unfortunately for you I’m going to continue to keep my lips sealed.

But I will say this: there’s a lot to explore outside the village. You may just be looking to complete your critter collection or find some treasure, but they’ll be plenty of story reasons to go out and adventure.

If your relationship is high enough with some villagers they may even offer to come along with you. In fact, these villagers will often have special abilities or insight that helps you explore, collect, and unlock special shortcuts.

Activities, Items and More

Beyond story and adventure, building friends also has a more practical side – you’ll get gifts! Some villagers may be holding onto exclusive furniture or powerful items that they’ll only entrust to their close friends. Others may have an idea for a new activity or diversion that they’ll consider with your support.

This area especially will need to evolve over time as the game is developed, so I’ll have more to say on it later.

Tracking Relationships

The Bomber’s Notebook, from LoZ: Majora’s Mask 3D

While the final amount of villagers is still in flux, I can tell you that this isn’t going to be a small village – you’ll be looking at anywhere between 25 and 40 monster friends to live with. You’re going to need a way to keep track of this all, but how?

The answer is by keeping careful watch of your handy Compendium. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s such a big subject that I’ll need to save it for a future Feature Friday, but I can share some ideas with you now.

Do you remember the Bomber’s Notebook from Majora’s Mask? This handy book served as the primary way to track every townsperson in Clock Town and included their schedule, quest status, and more.

The Compendium will serve a very similar role in Village Monsters, and it’ll also be the primary way you can track your relationships.

One thing I really enjoyed about the Bomber’s Notebook is how it evolved over time – nothing was filled out for you, and instead you had to do the legwork to learn people’s schedules and problems.

Look forward to learning more soon!

Sprint 5 – Warming Up – Plan

The Runnin’ Postman in LoZ: Twilight Princess

WARMING UP

Week of February 12th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now ~50 weeks away. Remarkable!

Longtime readers of the site may be confused as to how the ELE isgrowing instead of shrinking. We all know that I employ a huge team of highly-respected accountants, but shouldn’t the day I run out of money be getting closer instead of further away…?

The answer is that I’m actually spending far less than the estimates I made months ago. That was pretty intentional – overestimate spending and underestimate income and all that – but it’s pretty cool to see play out

Once upon a time I thought I’d be lucky to save up 3 months worth of salary to keep going. Now I’m looking at timelines longer than a year. Pretty crazy! But good! Crazy good!

Gonna keep this post pretty short this week as I’m late putting this up and I got stuff to do!

SPRINT GOALS

After a successful release of my 2nd demo I have a lot of feedback to churn through. In general, this week I hope to start putting levels of polish on the various systems in the game, including coming up with the concept of weeks, months, and even years and seasons.

Past that, it’s soon time to start exploring screens beyond the initial test area. Maybe even the village itself can start growing with time…we’ll have to see!

Let’s do our best this week.

Sprint 4 – Snowed In – Retrospective

The wonderfully cozy house of Papyrus, from the equally wonderful Undertale

SNOWED IN

Week of February 5th, 2017

OVERVIEW

It’s always going to be a good week when I put out a new demo. February’s Were-Release went up on Friday and I’m psyched out of my mind.

I cannot stress enough how motivational these releases are. Just the feeling of getting something out there is just so satisfying.

I’ll repeat the same warning I lay out in that post: it’s early – perhaps too early – and rough. But again, if you want to see what incremental and iterative game development is like, or if you want to provide feedback, then I’d love for you to take a look.

It’s now been a month since I quit my job. Has it been all worth it? Good god, absolutely. I have genuinely never been happier or more satisfied in my life.

I cannot say how long these good vibes will last. How will I feel when my savings start to dwindle, or if I face some unforeseen hardship? I hope I can face it with the same level of optimism and determination I have going for me now. We’ll see.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Release a new demo, one that I’m actually proud of!
  • Already had a chance to implement some feedback from my demo, including some bug fixes, animation cleanup, dialog changes, and more
  • Re-did my product map to more readable and analyzed
  • Added a neato dynamic camera
  • Completely revamped the dog to actually be usable
  • Added a crate, grabbing, and pulling
  • Made weather based off of a ‘forecast’ instead of hardcoded
  • Added idle chatter once dialog is exhausted
  • Fixed weather transitions
  • Whole buncha optimizations

LOWLIGHTS

  • Made a huge blunder by chasing some dumb optimization down a rabbit hole for 8 hours, only to roll it back when my new code was just as terrible and twice as unreadable
    • Lesson learned…?
  • As always, could have done more 🙁
  • Wish the demo had a bit more stuff to do in it. Next time, though…it’ll be different

SHOW & TELL

Were-Release #2 Out Now – “Snow”

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Happy full moon, everybody!

A new full moon means a new version of Village Monsters for you to explore. I’m happy to announce that the latest Were-Release (what is this?), code named “Snow“, is now officially released.

I’m very proud of what I can share with you today, but I also want to stress that this is still very early. It’s not exactly brimming with content quite yet!

Still, if you’re interested in following games in early development, and you want to provide feedback to shape a game in the making, then please take a look!

“Snow”

RELEASED: February 10th, 2017

Download: Windows | Mac (Soon!) | Linux (Soon!)

What’s New

Player & Actions

  • Basic character movement (WASD)
    • Includes sprinting (hold Shift), creeping (hold Control)
    • Press the Middle Mouse button to move the camera around
  • Dynamic Camera
    • Follows the player and slightly lags behind
    • Use the middle-mouse button to move it around
    • “Shaky Cam” system implement for some actions
  • Player Action – Talk
    • Get near a villager and use the key to talk to them. X also advances the text
  • Player Action – Interact
    • Currently the only object to interact with is Dragon’s Hoard, the claw machine in the building with Mock
    • Use the X key to interact with it
  • Player Action – Grab / Pull
    • Currently can only grab/pull a box.
    • Use the key when near a box to grab it
  • Player Action – Swing Net
    • Press to swing your net
    • Critters caught by your net are added to your inventory
  • Player Action – Throw
    • Press F to throw the ball
    • Requires to pick up the Dog Ball and make it active

Villagers, Dog & Other Critters

  • Two new Villagers
    • Mock, the depressed goblin
    • Sign”, the unnamed – but still angry – Sign
  • A more complete Dog
    • Dog snoozes when bored
    • Dog wags its tail faster when ball is picked up
    • Dog fetches ball and brings it back
      • To play fetch, first pick up a ball, make it active, and then throw it with F
    • Dog can be pet and spoken to with X
  • New Critters to catch
    • Half Hopper
      • Flee when you approach
    • Sea Fly
      • Spawn indefinitely near pool
      • Chase after the player when close
    • Candy Horn Beetle
    • Holiday Horn Beetle
      • Winter only
  • Initial pass at “ambiant critters” system
    • A occasional bird will fly across the screen

Menus & UI

  • Basic dialog system
    • Typerwriter text and tap noise
    • Different types of text
      • Dialog
      • Narrator
      • Emphasis
    • Portrait & animation
  • Basic inventory system
    • Press I or click the bag icon to bring it up
    • Use your mouse or arrow keys to navigate items
    • The F key allows you the currently active icon. Not all items may be used at this time
  • Basic world map menu
    • Press the map icon to bring it up.
    • Use your WASD keys and mouse wheel to navigate.
  • Notification system
    • Notices trigger for various important events, such as inventory management, day changes, and more
    • Like-notices are grouped together

Simulation & Systems

  • Two new major systems: Time & Weather
    • 8 times of day with their own daylight filters
    • A full day takes about 20 minutes, but there are ways to increase this in the demo
    • 4 weather patterns:
      • Clear
      • Drizzle
      • Heavy Rain
      • Snow
    • A clock UI element to monitor the time and weather
  • Prototype of a 3rd major simulated system – Seasons
    • “Winter” version of map with new visuals, new critters to catch, and new weather
    • Find a way to trigger Winter via an in-game mechanic

Village & Related

  • Completely new and revamped art style and layout of “village”
    • New trees, flowers, and other vegetation
    • Can no longer walk out of bounds
  • Two new buildings
    • Test inn. Contains Mock, Dragon’s Hoard, and some tables
    • Historical Society. Contains naught but spider webs
  • Dragon’s Hoard claw machine
    • Incredibly basic and buggy!

Other

  • Basic SFX
    • Wind noises
    • Footfalls
    • Dialog sounds
    • Pickup sound

Known Issues

  • The player always resets position when changing ‘rooms’
  • Very little is persisted
  • Huge amount of graphical bugs, especially incorrect overlapping and sprite flipping
  • Collision system is frequently dumb
  • Overall, it’s very fragile!

Feedback

There are many ways to provide feedback on your time with the game. All feedback will be read and considered – it’s my favorite part of this whole thing!

Email: josh@warpdogs.com

Comments: Click here. No registration required.

Twitter: @WarpDogs

Other: Scream loudly into the western sun. Let the ground shake with your fury, your blood hot with the magma of the earth.

What is – and isn’t – a Were-Release?

In a few days I’ll be releasing the next Were-Release for my project. This’ll only be my 2nd time doing so, and I think I had just one follower (myself) for the 1st release, so I wanted to take the time to explain about what you can – and can’t – expect out of this.

In short, a Were-Release is a very early demo of Village Monsters that is released on a monthly basis (the day of the full moon – thus the name!)

Each Were-Release serves as a snapshot of what the in-development game looks like at that particular point in time. Because it’s based on an arbitrary date, no extraneous work goes into these demos – you won’t find any misleading vertical slices, scripted demos, or any other type of smoke & mirrors.

Instead, I take the latest stable build I tested and upload it to my site. This allows players who love to watch the evolution of a game’s development experience Village Monsters and provide feedback without a lot of wasted work on my side.

It’s important to note that a Were-Release is not considered a ‘ship-able product’. You’ll never need to pay or sign up for anything to receive it, but it’s going to be rough, buggy, and things will frequently change from build to build.

From a feature, visual, and overall ‘feel’ standpoint, each Were-Release version is indicative of the final game: everything you encounter or experience will in the final game in some form.

However, please do not use these releases to gauge the quality of the final game. I frequently do a lot of experimentation, and certain elements may be bad or plain broken at times. This in no way reflects what you’ll see in the final release.

I hope as many people as possible can play these early demos, as there’s something really special about seeing a game spring to life over time. However, I also completely understand that some people simply want to wait for a more stable, more polished game – if so, please consider waiting for a different type of release later this year!

Above all, these releases are meant for feedback. All bugs, feature requests, complaints, and everything else will be read by me and added to the backlog for analysis. I’ll monitor comments and my email address for feedback. You can also catch me on Twitter at @WarpDogs

The Village of ???

Did some “worldbuilding” last night, this time fleshing out the village of…uh, unnamed, I guess.

This part has been without a doubt my favorite.

Names in bold are mostly final, whereas the unnamed villagers get just a short blurb describing their general idea.

There’s a lot of them – probably too many. They aren’t all major, and I could afford to make 2-3 cuts to bring it down if needed, but I’m pretty happy with how this looks currently and will be sticking with it for now.

Sprint 4 – Snowed In – Plan

The wonderfully cozy house of Papyrus, from the equally wonderful Undertale

SNOWED IN

Week of February 5th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now ~46 weeks away. Remarkable!

An errant Comcast payment aside, this was another good week. All my planning and saving is apparently paying off, which is good! Maybe I wasn’t so crazy after all.

Maybe.

The end of this week marks the ~1 month mark since I started this venture. At first time went by slowly, but now it’s barreling down the highway as things settle in. There’s a long way to go until I reach the end of wherever this thing is taking me, but it sure feels closer now than it ever has.

SPRINT GOALS

Last sprint may have been the first one where I actually laid out what I hoped to achieve and – by god! – I actually did it! Let’s see if I can continue building on that success, however brief.

A new were-release is out this Friday, and for me that’s going to serve as a great motivator for focusing on tangible content. Last week was great, but it was very technical and very refactor-heavy – it’s fun to work on behind-the-scenes stuff, but it’s only fun for me, not for players.

Here are some goals that I think are achievable and provide some good bang vs. buck for the upcoming release…

  • Focus on UI elements, especially related to calendars and menus
  • Create little ‘proof of concepts’ of seasonal changes
  • Add the 1st draft run of Overflow, a central location that will be visited throughout the game

Look forward to a new version to play with by Friday. Who knows – I might deliver you an actual game! Wow!