Development Diary – Beaches, Ruins, and UI Improvements

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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

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Developer Diary – Pets, Hail, and UI Improvements

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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Developer Diary – Newsletters, Fishing, and Botany

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!

Developer Diary – Holidays, Postal Services, and Birdsong

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!

Developer Diary – Potions, Item Cards, and Critter Domestication

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!

Developer Diary – Furniture, Tree Shaking, and TV Shows

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Another week has gone by, and that means another version of the Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest! It’s late again, but that’s because I’ve been busting my butt off. Lots to share today, so let’s go to it.

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One of the bigger changes I made last week was to the furniture placement system; It’s now much easier and more intuitive to move furniture around your home. You can move furniture with either the gamepad or the mouse, and with the gamepad you can click in the right stick to snap back to the grid. It’s pretty neat!

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Speaking of house things, I’ve also started prototyping various upgrades to the overall structure of your house. Upgrades will generally fall under two categories – size expansions, and new functionality. In the above gif you can see an example of the latter: a hidden room you can install to any room.
Like with the rest of the house you can do whatever you want with your hidden room, but for me? A house isn’t truly a home until you have a secret room to eat cake in.
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I reworked how to make donations to the historical society and it makes a lot more sense than the old version. Currently only critter donations are possible, but they have their own little section to run around in now

I also greatly increased the spawn rate of new critters during an average day as during my playtesting I wasn’t finding a lot of them.

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Someone suggested last week that it’d be neat if villagers could say something as you walk by them, so I put in a barebones prototype of a system that could do just that.

Right now it’s pretty simple smalltalk, but in the future I could extend it to when villagers have something important to say, merchants that tell you about sales, inter-villager conversations that you aren’t involved in, and so on.

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In previous versions you had the ability to roll, similar to 3D Zeldas, and it served as a way to interact with some objects – like rolling into trees to knock stuff out of them.
In the upcoming version I’ve removed rolling entirely (it was causing a surprising amount of issues), but I still wanted a way to shake trees, so I added the ability to shake them by hand. The ‘loot table’ for a tree is pretty big, so you never know what’ll pop out…
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Finally, I put in a prototype for daily shows you can watch on TV. Each show has a timeslot (like early morning, afternoon, etc.) and they’ll differ greatly from one another. In the early morning you get the weather, which is useful, and in the late morning you’ll get the ‘news’, which is mostly silly writing making fun of things Good Morning America

It’s all very lightweight – maybe 2-4 boxes of dialogue per show – but when appropriate it’ll have continuous storytelling, running jokes, and more. Believe it or not, having daily TV shows was one of my earliest design notes I scribbled down!
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Well, I suppose I should wrap this up. I did even more than the above, like adding shadows to all the buildings, idle animations to the rest of the villagers, and more, but pretty soon you’ll be able to see all of this stuff yourselves.

On July 9th – In less than a week! – I’m releasing the last pre-alpha demo for Village Monsters. It’ll contain all the new stuff I’ve talked about for the last couple months and a lot more.

I define “pre-alpha” as being pretty rough and lacking some or most of the primary game loop,s systems, and core features. This is definitely my most polished and content-filled pre-alpha yet, but the release that comes after – in August or September – will be the first alpha release, and then we’ll be cooking with fire.

But! That’s neither here nor there. I hope you’ll all take a look and play around with the new release when it comes out this Sunday!

Developer Diary – Log Cabins, Churches, and Idle Animations

Another week has gone by, and that means another version of the Dev Diary Digest! It’s a bit late this time around, but hopefully you won’t hold that against me.

This week was a quiet one full of mostly back-end changes – a better collision system, lots of bug fixes, etc.

There are just 2 weeks left before the last pre-alpha demo is released on July 9th (with the first alpha demo coming out in September), so it’s been a balance of cramming in as much new content as I can while also making sure it’s not a jumbled technical mess.

Still, I do have a few things to share!

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I spent a fair amount of time this week re-iterating over a few buildings in the village as well as creating new ones.

This’ll be part of the overarching narrative, but the monsters didn’t actually create this village – they found it. As such, the overall design goal of the village itself is a mishmash of re-purposed buildings + new buildings the monsters created.

In the above gif you can see a church, a log cabin built by a Harpy-turned-carpenter, and the ramshackle town hall.

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Slowly but surely I’ve also been adding more and more furniture to the game. Another design goal is to have it so that every furniture piece has some way to interact with it, even if it’s very small like spinning the globe.

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Finally, after some feedback from last week I’ve decided to add some basic idle animations to the villagers. Because everything is so in flux I don’t want to spend too much time animating something that I might need to scrap and redo entirely, but I figure a little bit of animation is better than no animation at all.

(you can also see me get frustrated with that darn Sun Fly for getting in the way of my shot)

Developer Diary – Merchants, Critters, and a Calendar

Another week has gone by, and that means another version of the (newly renamed) Village Monsters Dev Diary Digest!

Without really meaning to this week followed a consistent theme – ensuring that every day (in the game!) feels different, or unique, or interesting, or surprising. That’s been a mantra of mine since I first started, and I’m increasingly in the position to make good on it

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First up, I changed the merchant around so its stock changes each day. I also split up the show floor so he sell both furniture and normal items now.

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Speaking of daily refreshes, similar to Animal Crossing there’ll be a number of things that reset each day. For example, each day a number of ‘diggable spots’ spawn around town that you can find treasure, monster fossils, minerals, and other goodies.

These spots used to be marked by a simple ‘x’, but this week I changed it up so that each category of items gets its own unique icon: treasure looks like a half-buried treasure chest, fossils look like half-buried bones, and minerals look like a half-buried rock

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Next up, I added a bunch more ‘atmospheric animals’ (which is a bad name). Unlike other critters, these animals are mundane and cannot be caught or donated, and they are mostly ambivalent to the player. They exist purely to add flavor and atmosphere to the village as you walk around each day. Like critters, the types of animals you’ll see differ based on time of day, weather, and season

Games these days typically achieve things like atmosphere and ‘sense of place’ via a strong or unique art style. It should be clear by now that I’m no artist, so I’m hoping to accomplish the sense of place by focusing on the little things and attention to detail.

For example, every so often you’ll see a bird fly overhead…

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But in the fall, things change slightly – instead of flying north, they fly south…

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Again, it’s a small thing, something that most folks won’t notice, but I want my game filled with these things to give it a realistic feel and personality

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​I don’t just want each day to feel different – I also want each time of day to have its own ‘feel’. The main way I’m accomplishing this is by giving villagers their own schedules (TBD) and having unique hourly music (also TBD), but I also want activities, both big and small, to change based on the time, season, and weather.

For example, the above campfire is a good place to hang out and roast some food, but it’s only available at night during the warmer seasons

In general, each day I want the player to wake up, check their calendar & weather report, and feel excited about the possibilities of the day. Oh, it’s clear tonight – that means the campfire will be open! Oh, it’s raining this morning – I bet I can catch that rare fish! And so on.

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Finally, I want to share a WIP behind-the-scenes thing – my design doc for the yearly calendar. I’ll have more to say as it becomes more fleshed out and finalized, but you’ll notice that there are 8 months (2 for each season) and that most weeks have 1-2 events or holidays to look forward to.

This might sound obvious, but what’s the best way to make a day feel unique and different? Make it a special holiday with unique activities, themes, music, and more. I’ll have a lot of them!

Shacks, Weather, and a New Exhibit: It’s the VMD3 for June 11th

Here’s last week’s screenshot roundup!

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By far the biggest thing I worked on last week was furniture and other decorations. The above gif is from the same house – your very first one, which is nothing more than a storage shed – that’s being furnished over time.

The final release will have a *lot* of furniture and will run the gamut between the modern – like TVs and fridges – to the more fantastical and unusual

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Work also continues on making the village itself more visually distinct. I’ve added two types of fences – normal brown and the classic white picket – and also fleshed out some more gardens. You’ll be able to customize your own garden that’s outside your home

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If you’ve played the current alpha you’ll know that the historical society is pretty desolate – it’s basically just a single room with a bunch of pedestals to place your stuff on.

Last week I iterated over it again and started adding actual exhibits. There are currently two – one for your critter collection, the other for fossil, treasure, and other archaeology donations

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Finally I want to talk about weather. I love love LOVE weather in video games, but one thing has always bugged me – even when a game does have weather it often is very same-y…maybe it’ll have just a single ‘rain’ effect, or when it is raining it rains for the entire level or day, that kind of thing. Weather is too interesting and diverse to be this boring!

The above gif shows off 4 different intensities of rain – drizzle, rain, heavy rain, and thunderstorm – that you can experience in Village Monsters. The latter two even come up darker lighting!

Each day will have 8 ‘slots’ for weather, so like real life a single day can have multiple weather changes, and it’ll even try to that make ‘sense’. For example, there’s a weather pattern that starts out with fog in the morning, then cloudy and burning off into sun in the afternoon, then back to clouds and drizzle at night – for anyone on the west coast of the US that should sound pretty familiar!

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But beyond differing intensities I want to also have more uncommon “weather” effects, and to do this I’m expanding my definition of ‘weather’ to mean any effects in the air and sky.

In the above you can see two such unusual weather types – flower petals that’ll occur in the spring, and tree pollen which falls in the spring and summer.

In total there are 19 weather effects ranging from sunny and overcast to meteor showers and aurora borealis, and they’ll differ from season to season, and even by time of day. A major design goal in Village Monsters is to have each day feel different and unique, and weather is a big way I’m accomplishing this

New Interiors, Dog Whistles, and the Moon Man: It’s the VMD3 for June 5th

A roundup of screenshots from the last week’s worth of work.

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Experimenting with a prototype for placing furniture in your home. There’s going to be a lot of options for furniture and other customization in the final game, though for now it’s all pretty basic[​IMG]
The above shot also shows off the new interior tileset. I like it a lot!

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Speaking of prototypes, here’s another experiment with a system for issuing commands to your faithful pup. Someone on the #indiedevhour suggested some sort of whistling mechanic, and to me that meant something akin to the Ocarina from OoT. It’s meant to be much quicker and has far less options than most Zelda instruments!

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…and here’s a tragic bug from that same testing. Poor little guy

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I’d say I have about 1/3rd of the villagers at least roughly implemented – there’s going to be 36 in total. However, beyond the 36 permanent residents there are also going to be plenty of ‘visitors’, like this guy. Visitors are not permanent and only show up during special times, like holidays, events, and other unique times

As you can see, this guy doesn’t even speak your language, which does make things tricky​

Critters, More Critters, and Blunder Buzz: It’s the VMD3 for May 31st

I’m a bit (very!) late on posting this developer diary, but here it is: Catching Critters in Village Monsters

You’ll notice I’m careful not to call it ‘bug catching’, and the reason is simple: you’ll be hunting and catching far more than bugs.

Sure, you’ll still catch the familiar and mundane Monarch Butterfly, or the less familiar but equally mundane Caeser Butterfly, but there are far more fantastical things to hunt out there.

Mountain gnomes, snow elementals, and even sentient loofahs (??) are all out there to just waiting to be caught.

But there is a 3rd category for creatures that don’t fit with either the mundane or the fantastic – they are called the misfects. Through data corruption and other mysterious forces, these previously normal creatures have been transformed during the long years of abandonment.

There’s the pitiful Half-Hopper, a frog that appears to only contain half of the normally necessary body parts. There’s also this strange snake-like creature that grows, dies, becomes reborn, and then starts the process again.

But uncovering creature variety is only half of the fun of this hobby – the other half is actually catching them.

The Village Monster calendar contains 4 seasons spread across 8 months, and each critter has their own seasonal appearances. Some have further requirements before they appear – like different weather, the presence of a certain item, or even specific world events like holidays.

In terms of actually catching them, the standard tool will be the bug net. You can upgrade your bug net, but the real powerful abilities come in the form of glitch powers.

Pretty crazy, right? Well, remember those misfects I talked about? More than simple creatures were affected by the data corruption, and not every glitch is bad.

As you catch critters you’ll earn experience – but the ‘experience’ will be your character mastering how the mechanic works within the game itself. This in turn allows you to unlock various glitch powers to bend said mechanics to your will – like the above Bug Net Buzzsaw.

I’m not going to go too crazy with creature behaviors. For the most part they’ll be lumped in three simple categories – indifferent, fearful, and secretive. Fearful critters will get spooked and you’ll need to give chase to catch them, while secretive critters will need to be lured out first.

This renowned big game hunter, Blunder Buzz, sponsors a critter hunting tournament each season

Each critter will have a unique description or – if applicable – backstory that you can learn if you bring it to the Historical Society. Some even come with some very special abilities – remember Snow Elemental above? Well, rumor says that it’s been known to summon entire blizzards to hide in when it’s especially fearful…perhaps there are other creatures with equally interesting abilities?

Dogs, Digs, and Dig Dogs: It’s the VMD3 for May 16th

There’s a lot to do in an average day in Village Monsters – activities range from as the mundane, like shopping or talking with villagers, to multi-stage quests, odd jobs, and even exploration.

However, the most involved type of activity is called a Hobby. Hobbies are generally ‘slow burns’ that you’ll work on each day, and they require effort, upgrading equipment, and leveling up skills. Thankfully, the rewards – like cash and items to donate, use or display in your home – are also greater than other activities.

In the prototype you can actually play with two such hobbies: critter hunting and fishing.

This week I’m working on a 3rd hobby: Archaeology! (Like most things the name is subject to change)

You’ve probably already guessed this by the name, but this hobby involves a lot of digging around. As you wander the village and surrounding areas you may find a digable spot in the ground marked by an obvious red “X” – you can then take your shovel to dig up whatever is buried there.

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Most of the time it’ll be things that you’ll want to sell off, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and find rare treasures. You may even find the remains of ancient mythological beasts and other monsters that can be donated to the Historical Society, displayed in your home as a trophy, or sold to the very curious (and very insane) scientist that lives outside of town.

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But perhaps the best thing to find in the dirt isn’t a treasure at all, but rather: a map! These special items are each the start of a unique treasure hunt quest that can span several days or even weeks in the game.

Each hunt will require you to solve riddles, find specific landmarks, or explore long-forgotten ruins, and some may even require help from other townsfolk.

The rewards are worth it, though: the treasure you find on your hunts will often be unique items with powerful abilities, like a book that can let you talk to ghosts, or a rod that can control the weather.

One last thing! Not too long after starting the game you’ll have the opportunity to get a dog companion. This pup isn’t just for playing with, but is also able to help you out in various daily activities.

I’m still working out the details with how this works with the other hobbies, but for Archaeology I’m leaning toward allowing the pup to find digable spots on his own and dig ’em up for you. Of course, he should probably fetch the items as well, but one step at a time, yeah?

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