Furniture, Tree Shaking, and TV Shows: It’s the VMD3 for July 3rd

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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!

Log Cabins, Churches, and Idle Animations: It’s the VMD3 for June 26th

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)

Merchants, Critters, and a Calendar: It’s the VMD3 for June 18th

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?