Building a Village, 11/24/2018 – Clash of the Cods

Hello Villagers!

There’s no way to actually prove this, but I’m pretty sure more people have played fishing mini-games than have actually gone fishing.

You can fish in Zelda, in Nier, in Red Dead Redemption 2, in Pokemon, in Deadly Premonition, in Torchlight, in Yakuza. You can hardly walk into a Gamestop without tripping over a pile of rods and tackle boxes.

And of course fishing is especially prominent in life sim games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Stardew Valley. Village Monsters is no different – fishing was one of the first hobbies I added to the game.

There’s a lot to draw inspiration from, and if it seems the tone of this post is overly negative it isn’t because I don’t like fishing mini-games… it’s because of how intimidating they are! With so many different standards and expectations there are almost too many  options, and this left me feeling paralyzed when designing the system for my game.

The good news is I’ve finally settled on a system, and I’m super excited to talk about it.

But first let’s talk about how bad of a designer I am.

Failed Prototypes

I prototype every feature – often before I even analyze or document it – and fishing was no different. In a lot of ways prototypes are ‘meant’ to fail (seeing what doesn’t work is more valuable sometimes than seeing what does), but my fishing prototypes took the word ‘failure’ to a whole new level.

My very first prototype was similar to what you find in Breath of Fire. You’d be presented with a side view of the body of water you’re fishing in and your goal was to guide your hook to a fish and reel it back to shore.

1st Prototype, 2017

It was… fine. It was certainly unique compared to my contemporaries, but the more I played with it the more I realized this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It was equal parts clunky and  boring, and I scrapped it shortly before the Kickstarter.

The prototypes that followed were all over the place. I experimented with “fish HP” and “rod HP”, I put in timed button challenges, I tried out things like line strength and fish stamina and generated all sorts of random numbers.

Another fishing prototype

I wanted to capture the full cycle of fishing – the relaxation of waiting, the excitement of hooking, the struggle of reeling in a big one – but nothing I tried was working. You might even say I was floundering… heh… heh… ugh.

Then one day inspiration struck. Perhaps it was Poseidon himself that whispered in my ear, or perhaps it was that 4th Monster energy I just drank. Whatever the case was, the outline of fishing should look like revealed itself before me anchored by three words…

Dash, Mash & Clash

Fishing in Village Monsters can be broken up into three distinct phases which I lovingly call Dash, Mash, and Clash.

After casting your line in a body of water the music dims and you can let your mind wander as the outside world fades into the periphery – that is, until a fish bites. That’s the Dash, referring to how you must quickly hook the fish before it gets away.

After hooking the fish it’s time to Mash, which is exactly what it sounds like. Your job is to reel in the fish as fast as possible. There’s no subtlety required, so mash that reel button as hard as you can. A little fishing meter tracks your progress.

Of course, most fish won’t be too pleased about the hook in their mouth and they’ll often try to fight back. This leads to our next stage, Clash, which finds you being challenged with a series of button prompts as the fish attempts to get away.

If you miss a prompt then you’ll start losing the progress you made reeling the fish in. Miss too many and the slippery fish will make their escape..

However! If you manage to get a “Perfect” during this stage then the fish’s defenses are shattered which makes it much easier to reel in. This gives the clash stage a high risk / high reward component and acts as a test of skill compared to the previous test of stamina.

These two stages cycle back and forth until the fish is caught or gets away. How often they cycle and for how long depends on the fish. Easier or smaller fish need less reeling in while legendary fish require several clashes before they submit.

And there you have it! Fishing is finalized in forthcoming folly, Fillage Fonsters.

What’s Next?

Finalizing any gameplay mechanic is sorta like writing the 1st draft of a story – it’s a great feeling of accomplishment, but there’s lot of editing and polish to do.

Now that I have all these levers and nobs to play with it’s time to give each fish a “personality” – heavy fish that are hard to reel in, fish with extremely quick ‘hook windows’, and so on.

There’s also an entire range of possibilities for upgrades: lures that attract fish faster or rods that make reeling in easier. Then I can start looping back into other parts of the game, like a potion that slows down the clash stage, or a mushroom that attracts rare fish when used as bait.

You’ll be able to play with the new fishing system yourself once the latest Village Monsters demo hits later this month.

Building a Village, 11/05/2018 – Mushroom Gardener

Hello Villagers!

About a year ago I revealed what was then a new in-game hobby – Gardening. As I worked on the design I realized that while I knew what I didn’t want – I didn’t want it to be like Harvest Moon, and I didn’t want it to be just a mini-game –  I couldn’t  nail down what I did want.

With no clear vision the work on Gardening unsurprisingly stalled. Later this year it fizzled out completely and I considered just cutting it altogether.

Then one day I happened to be working on the village currency. I figured that monsters would be unlikely to use gold – that has way too much human baggage, right? – so I went with silver. Seems appropriately monster-y.

It was then that it hit me. Monsters wouldn’t grow turnips or flowers as hobby. Ridiculous! They’d grow mushrooms!

Secret of Mana even contains a whole village of ’em!

In this week’s dev diary I’m going to talk about this newly overhauled hobby.

Super Shroom

So you want to a Mushroom Gardener, huh?

Well first you’re going to need some spores. You could buy them, sure, but you can also forage mushrooms out in the wild and use them in your garden.

Spores must be planted in a designated mushroom plot, but apart from picking a soil type it’s  pretty low maintenance. You won’t need to water them or pick any weeds.

Instead of focusing on the more mundane aspects of growing I wanted to free up your time to instead work on the fun stuff – things like cultivating hybrids, discovering bizarre mutations, and cooking up all sorts of interesting effects.

Effects

You’ve already seen many examples of effects in the form of potions, but I’ve since overhauled the system so that any item has the ability to create some kind of effect. Mushrooms are now the primary way to access these effects.

Having trouble catching a fast critter? Bait your traps with a Snowberry Shroom and you’ll chill (and slow) the critter that eats it. Use your mushrooms in Cooking to make a meal that restores energy, makes you move faster, and slows down time.

(How can a mushroom slow down time? Ask you parents.)

There’s a huge amount of effects to discover. Some are practical, others are just weird. Some break the game. They’ve been fun to program and test, so I really hope you can enjoy them!

Breeding Hybrids

I love the idea of making plant hybrids. It’s like playing mad scientist, only instead of frankenstein you can make a seedless watermelon that resists the cold.

In the world of Village Monsters mushrooms as highly malleable. This means that a talented mushroom gardener can create brand new species with just a bit of effort. All you need are two fully grown mushrooms in the same plot as an empty tile. Then you just let nature take it’s course…………. if you know what I mean.

Mushroom plots always come in sets. So long as there’s both fully grown mushrooms and free spots in the set then hybridization is possible

The most practical benefit of growing hybrids is that the resulting new offspring can contain the attributes and effects of its parents. For example, a Spicy Shroom is a fast grower and it can pass down this benefit to its offspring.

There’s also breeding for aesthetics, like rare colors or glows effects. You can grow some pretty funky mushrooms, but some will require generations of hybrids to unlock.

Best of all you can usually process hybrids for their spores allowing you to plant your new strain indefinitely.

Mutation

There’s one other thing that can happen to your growing gardening – mutations.

Mutations are similar to hybrids in that they create unique mushrooms, but mutations are more unique, more bizarre, and certainly more unpredictable. Mutations also don’t require a ‘parent’ mushroom and can occur to any mushroom that’s still growing.

You can influence mutations by the type of soil you use and some unique upgrades. Like hybrids you can usually grab the spores from your newly birthed creation to permanently add it to your garden journal.

I’m considering adding a touch of procedural generation to get some truly weird mushrooms that even I can’t predict, but that might have to wait for a future free update.

That’s enough mushrooms for now. You’ll be able to play with them yourself when the next demo releases later this month.

Building a Village, 10/15/2018 – Home Improvement

The power of ten thousand souls flows through me as I open GameMaker. A cursed scream escapes my throat as I watch my possessed fingers furiously writing lines of flawless (though haunted) code. A demonic entity bursts free from my chest in a ring of fire. His terrible visage turns toward me and whispers, “This walk cycle could use some work.”

All this can only mean one thing: it’s the officially month of monsters.

Happy October, y’all.

Keep Reading

Building a Village, 08/25/2018 – Trash Hog

Hello Villagers!

The past couple weeks were so focused on the demo release that I went on a developer diary hiatus – but we’re back today, baby!

(Also, why not check out the demo if you haven’t already?)

You’ll notice a definite trend in what I’ve been working on this week: villager interactions. This’ll remain a major priority for probably the next month and includes things like player-involved conversations, quests, schedules, villagers interacting with the world alongside you, and more.

Let’s dive in.

Keep Reading

Building a Village, 07/20/2018 – Words Words Words

Hello Villagers!

New demo coming July 30th!

I’ve got big news to share! The next demo of Village Monsters – code name Summer Sherbet – is coming out on July 30th. And for the first time since last year this demo will be made available to everybody!

I’ve been working my butt off on this release since the end of spring, and it is by far the biggest and best demo yet. I hope you’ll all enjoy this little slice of village life at the end of July!

Onto the dev log!

Just Say the Word

It’s one thing to write a bunch of words. It’s quite another to actually implement them in the game.

The majority of the past two weeks has been spent adding dialogue to the game and making sure it looks and reads correctly. It’s quite a bit of busy work, but it’s also had benefits as it turns out some lines that seemed fine in my editor didn’t have the same impact when spoken by the villager.

I’ve done as much editing as I have implementing, and I think that’s a good thing.

Reading Rainbow

Speaking of words: bookcases can now be interacted with! Have fun browsing hundreds of titles.

Foraging

Foraging has been in the game for a long while now – in fact, it was one of the very first features I created – but it’s always been a silly little placeholder system that wasn’t very interesting. Until now.

Each season now brings its own thematically appropriate items to forage. Similarly, the items you can find in each part of the world are now different – you can find mushrooms in the forest, seashells on the beach, and vegetables at the farm.

Foraged items are also far less predictable in where and how often they grow, so you’ll have to do some exploring if you want to make a hobby out of it.

Camera Woes

I really, really hate dealing with camera issues. You’re probably thinking, “It’s a 2D game – what camera?”, but when it comes to pixel art you need to make sure you can scale your display without any kind of distortion or weird looking pixels.

This past week I ran into a doozy of a problem with scaling the UI, but there was a silver lining: the fix ended up solving a whole crop of other bugs. If you’ve experienced UI issues with past releases (such as the dialogue box disappearing, or the clock display getting cut off), then you’ll be happy to know these are now fixed.

There’s also a very real chance I introduced a host of other camera bugs. I think I must have broken a cursed camera when I was a kid.

Long Weekend

Unlike past demos, Summer Sherbet is not unlimited. You have just three days to get to know the village and its surroundings, so make ’em count!

There’s at least one more dev log coming next week followed by a weighty patch list just prior to release. I’m so pumped for people to play this demo, so I’m going to stop writing these words immediately and get back to work.