Planning Out Beta 1

It’s a new year. People are coming up with (and perhaps already abandoning) new years resolutions, so what better time to talk about what Q1 of 2018 looks like for Village Monsters?

Earlier this week the last Alpha demo was released into the wild. In contrast to the Pre-Alpha demos before it, the Alpha series has been the first time the game has started to look, feel, and smell like an actual, real-life video game.

So what does Beta look like? Well, it’s a pretty big deal! There are just 2 more major releases between now and release, so it’s important to really nail both of them. By the time Beta releases, Village Monsters should undeniably be a video game that can be played for several hours.

Today I’m just going to be talking about the goals for the first 3 months of the year, all of which culminate into the first Beta release – Beta 1!

A Game Loop

There’s no beating around the bush here – Village Monsters lacks a traditional game loop. That’s a problem.

Some of this is by design. After all, my primary goal is to create a faff about simulator, and that means a game in which you have freedom to interact with the game as much or as little as you please.

But it lacks connective tissues between it’s many systems and activities. There’s really no “main thread”, and as a result things feel disjointed; the whole experience lacks cohesion.

Worse, there’s very little motivation to go and explore things on your own. You can catch critters, but why would you? You can head down to the lake, but why would you? You can talk with villagers, but why would you?

Village Monsters needs an economy. It needs routines. It needs motivations to engage with its systems. It needs to do better at explaining things to you, the player.


  • The economy should serve as the main driver for engaging with the game
  • The player should start with very little in way of currency or possessions
  • The player should start with a room in Overflow (the town’s pub / inn) and have to earn a home
  • Items – especially furniture – should have actual costs and sell rates
  • Rare items should be valuable and exciting to find
  • There should be interesting ways to spend money outside of items, furniture, and upgrades

Daily Routine / Activities

  • The natural cycle of the day should be a key part of game loop
  • There should be activities you naturally do in the morning, in the afternoon, etc.
  • Activities should change depending on the time of day you do them
  • Villagers should also have routines / do activities, and they should talk about them

Your Journal

  • The journal should do a better job at surfacing details about the the world
    • A list of critters should contain their habitats and when they spawn
    • A list of fish should contain where they can be caught and any tips to catch them
    • A proper mini-map and a proper world map would do wonders
  • The collection section should be completely overhauled and be designed to encourage its completion
  • The journal should contain hints / tips for what you can do in a given day
  • The journal should contain more help information that it currently does


  • Each hobby should have clearly defined ‘daily goals’ and ‘long-term goals’
  • The controls and objectives of each hobby should be better surfaced to the player
  • Hobbies should have skill levels with proper rewards / bonuses for becoming skilled with them
  • It should be easier to identify the rarity of an item you catch or create
  • You should be able to display the products of your hobbies in your home
  • You should be able to gift certain products of hobbies to villagers

Odd Jobs & Mysteries

  • Villagers should be able to assign basic, mostly procedural generated jobs
    • Fetch Item X from Villager Y
    • Find lost item
  • Odd jobs should reward the player with money, furniture, and rare items
  • The mystery system should be fleshed out and implemented

The Historical Society

  • The historical society should be nuked from orbit and rebuilt
  • A ‘flow’ of the donation process should be considered and implemented
  • The historical society must have strong in-game motivations to complete it
    • This includes ‘set bonuses’ for completing sub-sections of your collection
  • It’d be neat if the historical society played a more active role in your collection – perhaps by giving you jobs / requests for items?

A Livelier World

While the game is already chock full of things both big and small to make it feel alive, there one major issue: the big things are mostly disconnected from each other.

It’s a similar problem to the one I described above for the game loop. It lacks a basic cohesion, and when things are disconnected they run the risk of feeling tacked or meaningless.

A good example of what I’m talking about is the weather. It might be interesting to look at, but it doesn’t have any appreciable effects on the villagers, critters or fish, the village, or anything else.

That’s not good design. In order for the world to truly feel alive, the world’s systems must feel connected to one another. They must influence one another. They must be interesting to observe.


  • Villagers should have complete schedulers
    • These should reflect their situation or personality
    • They should differ day-to-day or week-to-week
  • Villagers should react to the world around them, especially for obvious things (like weather or holidays)
  • They should try to perform the same hobbies as the player
  • They should have some autonomy in choosing what to do each day
  • Villagers should actually walk around and move between areas as they follow schedules
  • Visitors should stop by the village – and leave after a period of time
  • Villagers should become friends or rivals with the player. Their interactions should reflect this relationship

The Village

  • The village should be split into several districts
    • Each district should have its own look and feel
    • Districts should feel connected, with perhaps multiple ways to “get there from here”
    • A district should strive to have several purposes, and overall I should avoid having the player ‘pinball’ between them
  • The village’s overall feel should change throughout the day
    • Houses should be locked at night
    • Merchants shouldn’t be open every day
    • Windows should be lit orange / yellow at night
    • Smoke from chimneys
  • The village’s overall feel should also change with the weather
    • Fewer people should be outside if the weather is poor
    • Shops could put on special rainy day sales
  • Villagers should have homes that are more obviously theirs
    • Interiors – but also exteriors – should reflect their personalities
    • Homes should feel lived in, and contain furniture / decor initially unavailable to the player

Critters & Fish

  • Overall critter spawn rates should be greatly reduced
  • Each critter should have a specific window – time of day, weather, month, etc. – when it spawns
  • All critters should have proper movement behaviors and animations
  • Certain critters should have special spawning capabilities – eg., spawning in herds instead of individually
  • Creatures should interact with other entities more
    • Predator / Prey relationships would be interesting
    • Critters should interact with villagers in fun ways

Time & Weather

  • There should be different music to accompany specific weather patterns
  • Time transitions should be more gradual
  • Each season should have a specific look and feel that goes beyond a new tileset
  • Major holidays should completely change the village in terms of decor and function

Intelligent RNG

  • True randomness should be reduced and replaced by algorithms with logical, describable rules
  • The game needs to better tailor its RNG in response to the player
  • Whenever possible, the game should be able to identify ‘interesting’ results of RNG and surface those to the player

Content Milestones

The Beta release needs a lot more content. To ensure I stay on track and strike the right balance of content, I’ve created the below milestones for me to reach before release.

  • 32 villagers to meet in the village
  • 20 unique sets of dialogue for each villager
  • 50 critters to collect
  • 30 fish to catch
  • 12 crops to grow
  • 24 recipes to cook
  • 40 archaeological items to discover
  • 3 mysteries to solve
  • 80 pieces of furniture to decorate your house with
  • 60 items to buy at the general store

Anything Else?

Oh yes. There’s still a lot to do between now and October, and I haven’t even touched on entire parts of the game – house upgrades, player customization, exploration, holidays, etc.

There are also plenty of behind-the-scenes changes I plan on making – there’s technical debt to pay off, a bunch of cleaning up to do, and so on. I also will continue to iterate over the various art assets and other graphics to improve the look of the game.

Just because an item isn’t on the above list doesn’t mean it won’t be addressed in the Beta 1 release. If past releases are any indication my attention will wander, and things will no doubt changes in the 3 months between now and release.

I’m very existed for what 2018 means for Village Monsters. This’ll be the biggest year yet for me, and it all culminates in a release at the end of the year.

Sprint 13 – Pink Moon Rising – Planning

Click pic for image source


Week of April 9th, 2017


  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~pretty good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~44 weeks away. Neat!

Today’s a big week, y’all – it’s a new release! Of my game! Village Monsters!

It’ll be my first one in 2 months and only my 3rd overall, and unlike those other releases I’m actually not full of shame and regret. Well, to be fair, I am still filled with those things, but it’s for other reasons.

Anyway, things are going pretty pretty good again. I’m back on a good working schedule and have made a ton of progress. Taxes are done and about to be filed…things are looking up for the WARP CORP


Really just one main goal this week – release a dang game demo.

Beyond that, I’ve got a big ol’ backlog of analysis-related tasks that I’ve kept putting off.

Sprint 4 – Snowed In – Retrospective

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


Week of February 5th, 2017


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.


  • 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


  • 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


Sprint 2 – Onward, to Glory! – Plan


Week of January 22nd, 2017


  • 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.


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!

Sprint 1 – Here We Go! – Plan


Week of January 15th, 2017


  • 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!


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.



Week of January 8th, 2017


  • 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.


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?



Week of January 1st, 2017


What a good week. First, I had a ton of success in learning GameMaker and porting old code and concepts over to it. I had been worried that I wouldn’t ‘jive’ with the GameMaker Language or GMS in general, but I genuinely love it and find it really interesting and easy to work with

As promised, this time I have actual GIFs to share again, so you know things are going great 🙂

This was my 2nd-to-last week at work, and was also the first chance I had to tell my coworkers I was leaving. As was expected, it was crushingly melancholy. I’ve said this a few times, but it would be so much easier if I was leaving my job for another job, or if I was leaving because I hated my boss or my coworkers or whatever.

But I don’t! I love them all. They were all so supportive and genuinely interested in what I was doing, and it’s making leaving even harder.

I also now know more than ever that I’m making the right move. What remains is one last workweek – 5 days more days of ties and commutes and Outlook. After that? Well…

…guess we’ll find out


  • Learned a ton in GameMaker. I seriously learned more in these last 7 days then the last 7 years previous
  • Discovered a new user of MindMaps: Using it to create a Product Map of sorts.
  • Did a lot of coding, adding in basic movement, dialog, and a tileset I had created long ago
  • Continued to use tools and processes such as Pomodoros and KanbanFlow


  • Really none, other than the sadness of my transition




Week of January 1st, 2017


  • The state of our WARP CORP has increased to ~otherworldly~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) has been pushed back to 34 weeks away. A new record!

New year, new life. This is the year I make the big switch.

Each year I try to make some semblance of resolutions – lose weight, read more books, that type of thing – but this year it all feels so much more intense. It’s like I really got to mean them this time, you know? There’s some magic to big decisions, and I’m hoping some of it rubs off on these resolutions.

Anyway. Enough of that wishy-washy stuff. Resolutions for me are as follows:

  • Have a Kickstartable by December 31st
  • Adopt the slogan, “Let’s do our best today”
  • Start a “gratitude journal” to remind me what matters in life
  • Practice mindfulness, whatever that means for me
  • Lose 80 pounds
  • Oh, and celebrate the insanely good vibes about video games


Last sprint I committed to GameMaker Studio for my game’s engine. This sprint, I’ll work on learning all the ins and outs of GMS while also porting over my Lua code. I’ve said this a few times already with little success, but I really and sincerely hope to have much more to share at the end of this sprint

On the non-coding front, I plan to continue iterating over the various mind maps and other analysis artifacts in prep for the big day. I want to be laser-focused and dialed in and all those other cliches the very day I quit, and to do that I need to have the full breadth of analysis completed and ready to go.

Beyond that, I hope to use these last 2 weeks of relative stability to help out the more foundational aspects of my move – budgets, getting health care sorted out, working on my writing, that kind of thing. These are aspects that will become harder to focus on as the anxiety of my move sinks in, so it’s important to figure it out now.

That’s it for now. Let’s do our best today, ok?



Week of December 25th, 2016


Well, it’s official, then. I’ve put my two weeks notice in. Quitmas has come and gone, and now all that remains is a two week limbo before things really hit the fan.

I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m somehow both thrilled about how much money I saved + dismayed that I didn’t save more. It’s complicated.

In terms of laying a foundation this week could not have gone better. KanbanFlow has been fantastic and I’ve developed a real repeatable system almost overnight. I love it.

The decision to use GameMaker Studio was also an important one. I’ll begin learning the ins and outs in earnest and will hope to have some actual dev progress screenshots up.

MEGA-MONTH is officially over after tonight. As is 2016. The end of my employment and old life follow soon after that. Then…uh, well, then it’s onto something new. Exciting!


  • Laid a fantastic foundation for work via KanbanFlow and Pomodoros in general
  • Set up a new YouTube channel, VGM Pomodoro, for both myself and the general public
  • Decided (officially!) to use GameMaker Studio for my development language
  • Continued to find success in focus and meditation, though the latter has also been putting me to sleep a bit too frequently
  • Played, beat, and analyzed Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Inside, and a few demoes
  • Christmas was rad!
  • Oh yeah, and I quit my job


  • Still no dev, but this is likely the last week for that to be the case
  • What is game…?
    • UPDATE: I dunno
      • UPDATE: TBD



Week of December 25th, 2016


  • The state of our WARP CORP is holding steady at almost freakishly strong
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at a remarkable 28 weeks away. Still unbelievable!

Not much to say at this point! Everything is happening so fast…this Friday is the day I put my 2-week notice in. I have a lot of thoughts on the matter – too complicated, too personal, and frankly too boring to share even here.

I will say this: I am grateful for the time I had with this job. I am very grateful for the time I had with my coworkers. I’m grateful for the money I was able to save up.

Most importantly, though, I’m grateful that I figured out things weren’t working before it was too late.

It’s hard not think of it in terms of one life ending and another beginning – cliches, but they feel true.

This is the last week of MEGA-MONTH. This is the final stretch, the last chance to cut spending and save as many pennies as I can find.

Let’s do it.

Thank you.


I usually list out multiple goals here, but this sprint has one major one:

  • Figure out which engine I’m using!

Since November I’m been futzing about with Love2d and Lua. I’ve flipped flop mightily on this, as while I love (pun intended) Love2d and Lua as a language, it’s not exactly future-proof. It runs on PC, Linux, and Mac, but what of console ports? What of support generally? Do I feel comfortable enough basing my entire life on a relatively unproven platform?

The other engine in contention is Gamemaker – specifically Gamemaker Studio. Why? Well, it’s an engine I know how to use. I feel pretty comfortable with it. And I know it’s proven with other commercial games – a huge point for me.

We’ll see. It seems like Gamemaker is the ‘obvious’ choice, and at this point I think I’ll need to be talked out of it to change my mind.



Week of December 18th, 2016


After months – like, literally months – of saying I was going to focus on (ironically) focus and concentration, I finally go around to doing it. And it’s been great! I’ve studied up and practiced meditation. I’ve re-incorporated the Pomodoro system, this time with some legit success.

The end result? I’m getting stuff done!

My work to improve concentration also yielded a surprising side benefit: I discovered a new tool called KanbanFlow. I have fairly specific requirements when it comes to workflow tools – as a single developer who loathes bloat, it’s hard to strike a balance between features I want and a bunch of crap I don’t.

KanbanFlow is wonderful. It’s everything I want and nothing I don’t. It’s free. It’s fast. It’s going to legitimately help me from here on out.


  • Discovered KanbanFlow, a new tool to manage my work
  • Good work done on (mostly) keeping my blog updated and in running order
  • Began to find success in meditation, something I hope to use to improve focus, among other things
  • Finalized the pitch, which can now be found here


  • Still no dev, and contemplating a major engine change which may unfortunately set me back even more
  • What is game…?
    • UPDATE: I dunno




Week of December 18th, 2016


  • The state of our WARP CORP is almost freakishly strong after a last-minute push of savings
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now at an incredible 28 weeks away. Unbelievable!

MEGA-MONTH lumbers past the halfway mark and aims its way forward to the finish line. With two paychecks and a birthday under its belt, you would think its insatiable hunger would, indeed, be satiated, but the look in its eyes is anything but satisfied…


There’s less than two weeks until I give my two week notice. Assuming my math checks out, that leaves me with just under four weeks to prepare for a graceful and prepared exit.

Unlike previous attempts at sticking to a series of goals, I’ll instead just dump out a stream-of-consciousness about what I hope to accomplish between now and the end of the year

  • A fully realized ‘pitch’ of what this game actually is
  • Mind Maps!
    • Mind Maps for the various features, themes, and emotions of the game
    • Mind Maps for the various loops of the game
    • Mind Maps, generally
  • A social media presence that’s not super embarrassing
  • A final name, and probably a URL to go with it
    • Also maybe look into rules and standards about names
  • Comment and cleanup existing code
  • Do some “fun coding”
  • Document coding procedures to better iterate over them
  • Write more posts. Write more everything
  • Focus on focus
  • Read as much as I can
    • Books on games
    • Books on game design
    • Books on life
    • Books generally
  • Cleanup and prepare
  • Hangup pictures and other decorations
  • Think real hard about scope
  • Do more pixel art
  • Learn how to do pixel art generally
  • And much, much more

Time to get to it.