Seasons, Village Changes, and the Compendium: It’s the VMD3 for August 20th

It’s the weekend, and that means another edition of the Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest (VMD3)

This edition is an extra-large one. I typically try to pick out the 3 most important things I worked on to share, but I was a real whirling dervish of productivity this week, and just 3 things ain’t going to cut it. Enough talk, let’s dig in.

A Preview of Seasons

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Up until now, every screenshot I shared has been from ‘Spring’, but it’s been somewhat misleading as Village Monsters is a game of many seasons and colors.

This week, I wanted to experiment with what different seasonal tilesets might look like, so I whipped up the above to test them out.

It’ll likely change a few times between now and the final release, but I’m pretty happy with the colors and mood of each season.

New Additions to the Town

Last week’s addition of the beach inspired me to do some further work to the village and surrounding areas.

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The ‘civic district’ – such at that is – has seen some love. A new town plaza sits empty, but that won’t be for long. A graveyard was added to the church, though I’m not sure what the monsters are planning for it.

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The ‘residential district’ has also seen a new house pop up seemingly overnight. That skull really sticks out like a sore thumb, and Stapes & Saley (you know, the skeletal warriors that guard the gates) have been told to do something about it. Maybe next week.

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Finally, a new area has been spotted east of the Crossroads. It’s called the Overlook, and it’s one of the best ways to get a view of the land outside the village. As with the beach, this area is usually pretty quiet. Maybe one day it’ll make for a good gardening spot?

Compendium Vol. 2

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The Compendium is a very important book that is much more than just a menu. It is a complete log of your adventures and exploits in the world. It tracks quests, villager profiles, critter and fish collections, a map, and much more.

The Compendium Vol. 2 does all these same things, but with a fresher coat of paint and some increased usability options.

I’m unsure at this stage how fleshed out the Compendium will be by Alpha 1’s release, but at minimum you can expect some light tutorializing to via quests to be handled by the Compendium

A Grab Bag of Other Goodies

Stalking Critters

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By holding the ‘Swing Net’ action you can now enter stalk mode. You move much slower, but animals will almost never run away from you. Be sneaky, but still be quick about it!

A System-level menu

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Escape no longer dumps you from the game instantly. It now brings up a menu

Reworked Choices

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Choices in dialog now works a bit differently. You simply hold the direction of the answer you want to give


Well, that’ll do it for this week. Just a few more weeks before PAX, Alpha 1, and something pretty big. I’m pumped!

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Beaches, Ruins, and UI Improvements: It’s the VMD3 for August 13th

It’s the weekend, and that means another edition of the Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest (VMD3)

There is now less than a month to go until the version I’m working on releases for you all to play with. This’ll mark the very first Alpha version that I make public, and I’m pretty excited about it.

September is shaping up to be quite the month, and it’s not just the Alpha release; stay tuned for more information on that very soon

A Day at the Beach

Due to the nature of the game it’s not often that I get to create a new area, so it was a real nice change of pace to work on one this week.

Introducing…the beach.

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The beach is just a short walk away from the village – just head south from the gate and keep going until you reach the surf.

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Though you or I would consider such a trip to be a nice day out, it seems that monsters haven’t really taken to the human notion of spending the day in the sun and sand. Unless there’s a special event going on you’re likely to find the area to be largely empty.

Still, you’ll probably enjoy the solitude. You can catch fish, work on your tan, and nosh on some whoopie pies in peace.

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Ancient Ruins of Soon

Longtime followers of the game know that I often try to slip in as many ‘meta’ elements as I can. After all, this is a game in which the conceit is that the NPCs have taken it over and the digital barrier between our worlds is thinner than ever – I’m hoping it gives me some artistic liberty

Alongside beaches I added another new area to visit, though this one won’t make it to the final game. It’s called the Ancient Ruins of Soon, and it’s an area you can visit to consult stone tablets on prophecy…

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…in other words? You can view my plans on future features and changes from the game instead of going to my website or elsewhere.

I tried to split it up by category, so if you want to know what the future holds for hobbies or story or your house then you can view just that information.

Even More UI Changes

This marks the 2nd week in a row in which UI changes made it to the top of my priority list. Here’s a sampling of what I worked on this time.

Notifications have been slightly resized and now rotate so that the newest is always displayed at the bottom

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Meeting villagers for the first time now produces a notification

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The inventory now has context-sensitive prompts depending on the mode or item

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Finally, I did an initial pass on an in-game version of the world map.

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Ok, that’ll do it for this week. Hope you’re enjoying these dog days of summer, because I’m definitely not. I hate the heat. Autumn can’t come fast enough!

Until next time

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Pets, Hail, and UI Improvements: It’s the VMD3 for August 6th

It’s the weekend, and that means another edition of the Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest (VMD3)!

Like last week I have a bit of housekeeping to do before diving in. Longtime followers know that I’ve tried several different ways to present progress updates, but none of them have really ‘stuck’. However, it seems this weekly format has really been working for me.

As such, I went ahead and created an archive for every Dev Diary Digest I’ve posted since I started doing them. If you missed earlier editions, or if you just want to see how far I’ve come, then please do take a look!

http://warpdogs.com/developer-diaries/

Anyway, onto the update

Pets

I may have shared this anecdote before, but the road to pets was a serendipitous one

A few weeks ago I was working on debugging critter behavior, and for whatever reason I was testing it in the player’s house. As I kept going in and out of the house it occurred to me how much I actually liked having a critter there – it was sort of like having a pet! Wouldn’t it be cool if that was an actual feature?

This week I was able to prototype this idea:

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Here’s how it works: first, you gotta catch a critter. Then, walk up to an special item (currently a pet bowl) and select the pet you want to tame. You can only tame one at a time, so choose wisely

At first, all critters start out as “Wild”, and they’ll act much like they did before you caught them. Over time, if you feed them and treat them well they’ll increasingly become tame and more affectionate.

Tamed critters will also continue to behave similarly to their wild versions, and they’ll retain any unique attributes. For example, if you catch a Snowflake Elemental he’ll make your entire house cold; good during the summer, but not so good if you have a lot of fish on display…

Hail / Thunderboomers

I always enjoy working on weather systems, so I took a detour to add a new weather type – Hail

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I had to improve the weather system to handle the little hail pellets, and these improvements should help with any ‘ground based’ weather effects in the future…leaf piles in the fall, snowdrifts, rain puddles, and so on.

I then went ahead and added more sound effects to the various weather types. I also added a minor feature where weather sounds can still be heard indoors at a lower volume. It’s surprisingly atmospheric, especially during thunderstorms!

UI Improvements (Map, Inventory, Notices)

Finally, though I generally don’t like it, I also spent a great deal of time on UI work. I’ve never enjoyed UI work, not even at my last job where functionality was preferred over looks, but I’m actually pretty happy with how things shook out this time.

First, I added a map for the village to the Compendium. It’s very basic and just lays the foundation for future maps:

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I then added movement to various notifications. I like it a lot better than the notices just appearing suddenly.

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Finally, I completely blew up and reworked the inventory. I actually did this some time ago, but I added an extra layer of polish and usability this week. It’s unquestionably better than the old inventory, but that’s not saying much – the old one was really bad!

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Anyway, that’s it from me. As usual I also added a lot of minor things, quality of life improvements, and bugfixes, but nothing I need to call out. Have a good week!

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Newsletters, Fishing, and Botany – It’s the VMD3 for July 30th

It’s the weekend, so that means I get to share everything I worked on last week in yet another edition of the Village Monsters Developer Diary Digest (VMD3)!

Before I begin, I wanted to quickly plug something. You might not know this, but I have a newsletter for Village Monsters, and I would absolutely love it if you signed up for it!
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Newsletter Signup: https://tinyletter.com/Village-Monsters

I try to reserve the newsletter for only big ticket items, so you’ll be the first to know of releases and other important news.

Anyway, back to the update!

I had a few really productive weeks this month, so I guess I was ‘due’ to have a slow one. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I had hoped, and I ended up getting caught in a few technical quagmires; still, I have things to share, so let’s get on with it!

Fleshing Out Hobbies

From day 1 of development I knew that hobbies were going to be a major feature of Village Monsters. When you aren’t talking with villagers, improving your house or solving mysteries, you’ll probably be progressing your skills (and making money) with one of the various hobbies

Critter Capturing was the first hobby I put in, followed by Fishing and Archaeology. I had a bunch of ideas for other hobbies to add to the mix, but I wasn’t sure which ones would work best. Well, until now.

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(icons are very much 1st draft)

Village Monsters will now contain five hobbies for you to enjoy: Cooking, Critter Capturing, Botany, Fishing, and Archaeology. This post details some new updates to two of them.

Botany Prototyping

Botany is one of the new hobbies I’ve been working on, and it includes everything plant related.

The reason I’m going with Botany instead of something like Gardening is that you’ll be able to do way more than grow a simple garden

This week, I played around with planting & watering trees, as well as managing growth as time progresses – assuming you make sure to water and care for them each day
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Like all prototypes it’s a big work-in-progress. However, thanks to feedback from a user at another site I’ve had some intriguing ideas that I’m keeping under my hat. Stay tuned next week, yeah?

Fishing Revamp

Fishing was one of the first hobbies I implemented, but I haven’t touched it since. It’s in a sorry state as of the last demo, and I’m pretty embarrassed by how bad it is.

What began as a ‘revamp’ quickly turned into a ‘refactor’ which the became a total ‘rewrite’. I tossed out all my old code and rewrote it from the ground up.

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It was a slow process, but fishing is in a much better state in terms of stability and mechanics. Work will continue on this system this week as well.

I’ve always been dissatisfied with fishing minigames in other life-sim games, so I’m going in a different direction. You can expect a system that’s much more inspired by JRPGs than any existing life-sim out there.

Quality of Life

To wrap up, I also included a grab bag of bug fixes and quality of life improvements that I received from demo feedback.

Trees should behave better and no longer give you a permanent hug. Birds fly a bit slower. The keyboard control scheme was reworked. Critters should hopefully not crash the game as much. Your bit (currency) balance is now shown when you add or subtract from it

And so on.

I also got a lot of writing in this week as well. Every item – every single item – has a unique description and flavor text. Some even have detailed backstories. Pretty nuts, right? Well it’s been a ton of fun, so there’s no stopping me now.
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Until next time!

Holidays, Postal Services, and Birdsong – It’s the VMD3 for July 22nd

It’s the weekend, so that means I get to share all I worked on last week in another edition of the Village Monsters Developer Diary Digest (you know, the VMD3)!

Event & Holiday System

It seems like I’ve been putting off a holiday / event system for at least the last 6 months. It’s one of the systems I’ve been most anticipating, but it relied on too many other moving pieces to work on…well, until now!

At the dawn of each day, the game now checks if there’s an event scheduled, and if so it fires off any scripts related to it. It’s pretty robust, and the scripts can do things like create holiday-specific visitors, add new music or decorations, change dialog, and a lot more.

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As I wrapped it up, I realized that I needed a way to inform the player about upcoming events and what they were all about. This naturally lead into the next thing I worked on…

A Postal Service

You can now receive letters from villagers, visitors, and other friendly monsters in the game. The goal is to integrate the mail system into as many other parts of the game as I can. For example, you’ll get a flyer the day before each holiday that explains it:

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Letters you receive from villagers will reflect their personalities as well as their disposition toward you. Most will be helpful or friendly, but others, like Taswell,

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probably won’t be at first.

As I said above, I want mail to be integrated into as many other systems as I can. As I was browsing my list of features I got to “The ability to submit feedback from in-game” when I suddenly had an idea…

Sending feedback via in-game postal service

…wouldn’t it be cool if you could write letters to the developer from inside the game itself?

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Now obviously there’s a lot of things to consider here – security, spam protection, etc. – but the idea is so cool to me that I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.

It’s hard enough to encourage users to submit feedback, so providing something in-game that’s also contextualized via a system they’re going to be using every day can only help!

Bird Song

Finally, I’ll end this week sharing a new ‘flavor’ feature.

If you’ve played any of the demos you’ve likely seen birds flying about every so often. But unlike real life, they’ve been totally silent.

Well not anymore! Birds that fly overhead will now chirp and caw and sing. I obviously can’t record sounds via gifs, so I tried my best to provide an alternative:

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Well that’ll do it for this week. Enjoy your weekend, y’all!

Potions, Item Cards, and Critter Domestication – It’s the VMD3 for July 16th

It’s the weekend, so that means I get to share all I worked on last week in another edition of the Village Monsters Developer Diary Digest (VMD3)

Since I released the demo on Sunday I’ve been working on experimental prototyping; not all of it will survive, but it’s a fun excursion.

Potions!

The most successful prototype has been a ‘potion’ system. The idea of Village Monsters is that it’s set inside an old video game, so I’m always thinking of things that could be ‘artifacts’ from the original game. Potions seemed like a neat way to have that + add all sorts of fun and unexpected ways to play with the systems in the game

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Potions will range from useful to the bizarre. You can control time, change your look and other attributes, and even do things you wouldn’t – like control the weather. Like I said, it’ll get pretty weird!

The system I made for potions allows me to whip up new effects in only a few minutes, so expect to see a lot of them.

Item Cards

Work on potions lead to improve the amount of item info I give players on items, so I began to prototype the idea of item cards

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But I also want to use item descriptions as a way to tell stories. This is something other games have certainly done (Souls and Nier come to mind), but I’ve yet to see it done in a life-sim game where your items aren’t swords and shields but rather furniture, decorations, and collectiblesI want a chair that you earn via a quest or hard-to-do challenge to be more meaningful and interesting then one you bought at the store; stories are one way I’m hoping to do this.
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All items with stories can have their item cards ‘flipped over’ to view a short snippet related to it
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While messing with item-related stuff I went ahead and crossed off some of the smaller features on list: selling items, an expanded inventory, and basic dialog choices.Finally, I had something of an incidental inspiration that I’m really happy about!

Critter Taming

I worked a lot of critter behaviors this week – things like patroling around, running away from humans and other predators, and so on.

I ended up using the player house to test things instead of a debug room, and after I was done I left the little guy there and went to do other things. Each time I came back to the house I saw him running around, and it hit me – wouldn’t it be cool to allow critters to become pets?

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You were always going to have a dog, cat and guinea pig as pet choices, but the idea of letting other critters be ‘domesticated’ into a pet really struck a chord with me. It also makes catching critters a bit more interesting after you donate them, and gives a valid path beyond just selling them

I worried a bit about feature creep, but I have the systems there to hook it up pretty easily and I dunno, if I keep it lightweight enough I think it could be really cool! Pets are definitely something games like Animal Crossing really lack in

Until next time!