Sprint 12 – I am Thou – Retrospective


I AM THOU

Week of April 2nd, 2017

OVERVIEW

It was a good week this week. I got a lot of work  done on some things I had been meaning to since, uh, forever.

I have a theory about game development – and probably all development, actually. You know the warts in your code; not just the outward facing bugs, but also the terrible workarounds, the shameful lack of documentation, the abominable exploitation of innocent data structures.

But you need to ignore most of them if you want to stay sane…especially if you’re a solo dev with limited time (and a lack of skill in my case)

So you ignore them, and ignore them, and ignore them…until finally they drive you absolutely nuts, you reach a breaking point, and you’re forced to actually fix them.

Soon enough you realize that the above works for features, too. Before too long, all of your prioritization is based on what annoys you the most.

and you know what? The system really works. I fixed all my annoyances this week.

Sprint 12 – I am Thou – Planning


I AM THOU

Week of April 2nd, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • 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!

Hey, hi, hello! My name is Josh. I do, uh, video games…?

It really does feel like I’m back after weeks of floundering. Which is good, because there’s a new demo release right around the corner – April 10th, next week!

Anyhow, the state of our business is strong. We’re continuing to do well in the money department thanks to my team of Highly Respected Accountants, and I’m ready to put my head down and dive into work this week.

One possible hiccup? 2017 has been an insane year for really good games, and Persona 5 is hitting on Tuesday. Like any respected member of society I’m picking it up at launch, but I don’t expect to be nearly as distracted by it than I was with Zelda.  I’ve hopefully learned my lesson.

SPRINT GOALS

My goal this week is to wrap stuff up, polish what I can, and get this thing ready to ship on Tuesday. I also want to add a few more secrets that you can discover for yourself once it’s in your hands, so I’m gotta be hush-hush for now.

Sprint 11 – The Weather Man – Retrospective

THE WEATHER MAN

Week of March 26th, 2017

OVERVIEW

It only took me an entire month of failure, but I’m finally back to a normal and productive work schedule.

Without really meaning to I’ve been slowly transitioning to creating “content” instead of “systems”. This is a really cool and important change, and while I wouldn’t dare call my systems completed, I am really excited to start making stuff that is more outwardly interesting.

The biggest victory this week was creating an entire forest to explore. This included changes to lighting, creating a whole bunch of tree and vegetation sprites, and a lot of other changes. If you’ve been following along you’ll have noticed how insanely large the change list for the next version is! This week is my last full week before the next were-release on April 10th – please be excited for that!

Speaking of pleas for excitement, I sent out my first newsletter yesterday. If you’d like, you can sign up to get these in your inbox on a bi-weekly basis. They’re written “in-world”, meaning it’s trying to mimic an actual town newsletter, so you can expect a different style with new and interesting (?) information than what I post here or on Twitter.

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: Exploration

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday! Yet again I’m here to take you all on deep dive into one of the many wonderful features and systems you can find in Village Monsters

Today, I’ll be exploring (you’ll get this joke in just a bit) one of my favorite subjects: exploration! Let’s take a look…

Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich

I absolutely adore exploration in games – the good ones know how to really tap into that innate curiosity we have for discovery and adventure. Even if you aren’t so keen to explore the real world, it’s a whole lot easier (and often more fun!) to explore a virtual one.

Yet the genre is also notorious for being…well, boring. It’s a tough nut to crack; exploration by its very nature relies on novelty, and unlike reality, video games are very limited in content and place.

Eventually, you’ll have seen everything in a handcrafted world, or you’ll have begun to see the seams and patterns in a procedurally generated one, and the result is the same: your sense of discovery – and the resulting urge to explore – vanish.

Here’s a good way to make people hate exploring your world

Game designers are well aware of this pitfall, and you almost never see a pure exploration game. Instead, it’s often blended with another genre to give you other motivations to explore beyond just seeing what’s beyond the horizon.

A modern approach is to mix exploration with elements from the survival genre – Minecraft being the most popular example, as well as No Man’s Sky and Don’t Starve.

Other games – like the wonderful Eidolon – pair exploration with narrative elements from the ‘walking simulator’ genre.

My plan for Village Monsters is to try something different. Like the other games I mentioned I’m going to use genre blending, but instead of survival or story I’m going to pair exploration with a village life simulator.

Feedback Loop

So how do I keep you, the player, interested in exploring my world?

(Beyond just making it interesting, of course.)

The answer is by using exploration as means to feed back into the other systems in the game. This is way easier to describe via real examples, so let’s dig right in.

Exploring New Hobbies

A large part of your day-to-day life in Village Monsters will be spent on hobbies – catching critters, going fishing, finding treasure, and so on.

There’s a lot to do and find within the town and immediate outskirts, but if you want the really rare and valuable stuff you’re going to need to go out exploring.

Many creatures and fish will be native to a given area, and of course the best treasure and artifacts will be found far away from the village.

The loop here is simple: the more you explore, the more you’ll find to catch, collect, and sell. This in turn allows you to upgrade your skills and tools to become even better at catching and completing your compendium.

Meaningful Souvenirs

Several months ago I played the wonderful Uncharted 4 – I know this seems like a digression, but it’s relevant, I promise!

My favorite moment is from the very start where Drake is in his attic examining treasure and other souvenirs from his past exploits. This was neat from a nostalgia standpoint, but it also speaks to something we can all relate to – reminiscing over physical reminders of fond memories.

So how does that relate back to Village Monsters? Well, you’re going to have a house, and you’re going to want to furnish said house. Like in other games you’ll be able to purchase furniture in the relevant shops…but instead of buying a plain wooden chair to sit in, wouldn’t you rather lord around in massive, golden throne that you found in an abandoned castle?

I want every item in your house to tell a story and remind you of your adventures. As you explore the world, you’ll find opportunities to grab furniture and other items that you can bring back to your house. Often times they’ll be locked away by some puzzle or other obstacle, but that’s just to give you motivation to solve it!

Whether it’s the aforementioned golden throne, an orb of illumination you unearthed deep underground, or a strange TV you found in the middle of the woods…items become personal when there’s a story behind them.

Over time, your house will reflect your skill as an explorer and the progress you’ve made through the game.

Perhaps one day you’ll be able to drag this thing to a more convenient spot – like your living room

Unlocking Mysteries

The world of Village Monsters is set inside of an abandoned video game. It makes for an interesting place to explore, but it’s so filled with mystery that not even the locals really understand what’s going on.

“Mysteries” in this game are essentially like quests in other games. Many times these will come from villagers, but just as frequently you’ll stumble upon something in the world that’s unusual enough to investigate. You’ll likely need specialized skills, items, or even villager input to solve these discovered mysteries, but it’ll be worth it – some of the most valuable treasure and world-building lore can be found via these hidden discoveries.

Exploring with (Monster) Friends

You don’t always have to be alone when exploring.

As you build relationships with your villagers you’ll eventually unlock the abiltiy to go out exploring with them. Sometimes it’ll be to advance the story or make progress with a mystery, but more often than not you’ll bring them along for their unique abilities.

For example, adventuring with a harpy villager may allow you to cross gaps that were otherwise impassible. A huge, inconveniently-placed boulder can be pushed aside by your rock golem friend. A roving band of feral monsters may attack you, but they’ll (probably) listen to one of their own.

Spending time with villagers also further improves your reputation with them – this is yet another way that exploring can feed back into the other systems present in the game.

I can’t promise that exploration won’t eventually become dull and chore-like, but I hope that by giving you multiple objectives and rewards it’s something you look forward to for as long as possible.

A lovely little forest

I don’t often post screenshots to this blog (I usually reserve that type of thing for Twitter dot com), but I’m pretty happy with how these trees and other forest-adjacent sprites turned out!

 

And here they are, all together:

There’s going to be an awful lot to explore in Village Monsters, and you can expect to find more than a few forests to pick through

Sprint 11 – The Weather Man – Planning

THE WEATHER MAN

Week of March 26th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP has declined of late, but can still be considered ~pretty decent~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) has crept toward ~45 weeks away. Man!

It’s been raining non-stop over here at WARP CORP HQ, and I gotta tell ya, your boy is starting to go rain crazy

I always knew the seemingly boundless motivation wasn’t going to last, but I’m still surprised how hard it’s been to get some of it back since my accidental vacation. I’ve still been working nearly every day since my last post, but I haven’t bothered doing anything ‘sprint’ related as I felt too unfocused.

I’m hoping to fix that this week and go back to more focused and impactful work.

SPRINT GOALS

Much of this sprint is on ‘soft’ stuff – getting focused, going back to the pomodoro method, planning the next few changes, and so on.

In a couple weeks I’ll release the largest demo for Village Monsters since I began working on it. It’s absolutely packed with changes and features, so this week will also be focused on finishing up big changes so that next week can be dedicated mostly to polish

Beyond that, I’ve been creating a lot of art assets for the game, and while I’m still no artist I am feeling more confident. I hope to ride that feeling and churn out a whole bunch of sprites – trees, villagers, furniture, and a lot more

 

Sprint 7/8 – Accidental Vacation – Retrospective

Oops

ACCIDENTAL VACATION

Week of February 26th, 2017 & March 5th, 2017

I’m not dead.

It’s never a good sign when you have to start a post that way.

I’m calling the last week an accidental vacation. I didn’t mean to play Breath of the Wild nearly 8 hours a day for seven days straight, but that’s the reality we’re living in.

Such are the pitfalls of self-employment, huh? With my office job if I wanted to be a lazy degenerate I had to at least take the day off first, and I had just a limited number of those.

Well, after working nearly every day and night since January 13th the vacation was nice, I just, you know, didn’t really plan on it.

Next week is a new week, and unlike last time I’m feeling incredibly motivated to actually get stuff done

Sprint 7 – Breath of Fresh Air – Plan

Breath of the Hype

BREATH OF FRESH AIR

Week of February 26th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~49 weeks away. Outrageous!

It’s been about a month and a half and expenses have certainly evened out. It makes predicting the future a lot easier!

I mentioned this in the retrospective, but last week sucked hard. Doesn’t matter! This is a new week with new goals and aspirations and – what’s this? On Friday? Could it be…a console launch? And maybe even…A Legend of Zelda?

Yeah, this week is going to be distracting.

SPRINT GOALS

Biggest goal this week is to clean up my code. I’ve done a lot of experimentation and reworking and refactoring and all sorts of other words, and while I’m overall in a good place my codebase is big enough that some housecleaning is necessary

On the feature front, I want to finish up the fishing hobby and continue making new levels. I also plan to expand out the village, especially now that currency is on the table.

Should be exciting!

Sprint 6 – Precendent’s Day – Retrospective

Judge, from Ace Attorney

PRECEDENT’S DAY

Week of February 19th, 2017

OVERVIEW

Gotta be honest with you guys: this was a bad week.

I barely got anything done, and wasted too much time doing things of no value. Napped a lot. Was mostly distracted.

Like I said: it was a bad week.

I watch a lot of football. At the end of every loss you can count on at least one reporter asking the coach what they’re going to do differently in the next game. The answer back – like almost all presser answers – is some overwrought cliche about watching ‘the tape’ and learning from their mistakes.

But for especially bad games – like total blowouts, or where the quarterback throws 7 interceptions – they usually say they aren’t even going to bother watching, that it was such a bad performance the reasons why don’t even matter. They say they’re going to “burn the tapes” and start fresh and unburdened.

Tomorrow is the start of a new sprint, I’m going to burn the tape and move on.

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: The Compendium

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday! Yet again we’re taking a deep dive into one of the many features and systems you can find in Village Monsters

Today, I’ll be outlining the mighty compendium. Let’s take a look.

Much of your time will be spent in the cozy confines of the village – talking with people, attending events, upgrading your house, and so on.

But the world outside the village is even larger and full of things to explore, treasure to find, puzzles to solve, and much, much more. With so much to see and do on a given day, how do you keep track of it all?

The answer is with your compendium

Inspiration

Before I go much further I want to talk a bit about what has inspired me with regard to the compendium.

My favorite video game series is without a doubt The Legend of Zelda . Of them all, Majora’s Mask is the one that sticks with me the most. There’s no shortage of things to praise about that game, but for me the biggest draw is Clock Town.

It’s become something of a cliche to talk about NPCs that feel “alive” and well-realized, but Majora’s Mask has set a bar that few games have met in the decades since. Every single NPC has their own schedule, things to learn about, and problems to solve.

Similar to my game, Majora’s Mask needed a way for you to track it all, and it did so via the wonderful Bomber’s Notebook.

The thing I enjoy the most about the Bomber’s Notebook is how it starts out empty, requiring you to fill it out by observing people and talking to them. As such, filling out the notebook was not only a practical solution to finding heart pieces and masks, but was also surprisingly satisfying – in some ways, you felt like a detective.

This is the overall structure I’m aiming for with the compendium. I want you to also feel like a detective in Village Monsters as you observe things, talk to people, take notes, and gradually expand your knowledge of this world.

But what about the overall style? One issue I always had with the Bomber’s Notebook is that it felt very video game-y – I never actually felt like I was looking at a book.

To avoid this, I’m trying to base the compendium’s style on a traveler’s journal. If you’ve ever searched for notebooks online you’ve probably seen some version of the “well-worn traveler’s journal”. You know, something like this:

Ok, so this one is technically from Uncharted

There’s something oddly alluring about the idea of a travel journal or log. It begins blank and clean, and over time it’s filled in with text, pictures, scribbled notes and doodles and dog-eared pages. It becomes its own living recording of your time and place.

It’s also incredibly hard to muster the motivation and time to make one in real life, but in a video game? Well, the compendium will do all the heavy lifting for you, making it much easier to maintain.

Sections

The compendium is not just for people looking to track and complete their collections – it’s a vital tool used throughout the entire game.

To make it all manageable, it’s been split up into various sections to better organize all the information it stores. In total, there are 5 sections: Calendar & Events, Villagers, Mysteries, Lore & History, and Collections.

Calendar & Events

This section is the simplest, and serves as a basic reference guide to upcoming events and holidays. Use it to plan out your days and weeks to ensure you won’t be missing anything important.

You can also set your own reminders and notes here.

Villagers

The Villagers section keeps tabs on each villager you meet. It records details like their schedule, preferences, relationships, and more. This will become increasingly vital as you rely on building relationships to advance the story, improve the village, and solve problems.

At first, this section is will be completely blank. To fill it out you must meet new villagers, talk with them, solve their problems, and so on.

Mysteries

In Village Monsters, you can think of “Mysteries” as being very similar to quests. However, unlike quests they have the habit of being more complex and requiring more time to complete on average. Said a different way, mysteries tend to be a long term affair.

To keep track of it all, an entire section in your compendium is dedicated to all mysteries that you’re following. You’ll be able to see how the mystery started, the villagers involved, and your latest findings.

Lore & History

The world is big and there’s a lot to find out there. All knowledge that you learn about the various areas of the world will be recorded here. This includes area and item descriptions, key historical figures and events you learn about, and more.

Like the Villagers tab, this section will start out empty and must be filled in through some light detective work. You’ll want to put in the effort, though, as the various tidbits of lore and context may help you considerably when it’s time to solve the many puzzles out there.

Collections

From fish to bugs to treasure to artifacts, there’s a lot to collect, and the Collections tab is where you track it all.

Use this section to admire all that you’ve caught in time with the game. As you fill out the details you’ll also better understand the gaps in your collection, so refer back often to see what you’re missing.

The Future

I have only a basic prototype of the compendium currently implemented, but by the next Were-Release (“Crow”) I should have it completed for you to check out.

I’ll have more to share in the coming months as the rest of the game is fleshed out. Stay tuned!

Sprint 6 – Precedent’s Day – Plan

Judge, from Ace Attorney

PRECEDENT’S DAY

Week of February 19th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~really god damned good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at ~50 weeks away. Outrageous!

Nothin’ but good vibes over here at Warp Corp HQ. Cash outflow continues to be properly maintained and work is progressing at a good clip. Hard to ask for much better than that!

These next couple weeks will really test my ability to stay focused amid some Really Cool Stuff happening in the background; In less than 2 weeks the Nintendo Switch will be in my hands. In preparation I’ve been working every day so that I can feel better justified at taking a ‘vacation’ of sorts to enjoy the Switch – and Zelda.

Staying motivated and focused when you’re your own boss is an interesting thing. It’s at once difficult and also the easiest thing in the world.

SPRINT GOALS

Late last night I implemented an entirely new collision system. You don’t need to know a lot about game development to understand that a collision system is a big deal in any video game. Much of this week will be spent iterating over it and making it even better.

Beyond that, we’ve just expanded beyond the initial village into lands beyond. Work will also continue on expanding ever further, and ensuring that all the game’s various systems and variables can keep track.

I’d also love to nail down a working prototype of fishing, the next major hobby to be implemented in Village Monsters

As always, you can check my progress throughout the week by looking at the change log

Sprint 5 – Warming Up – Retrospective

The Runnin’ Postman in LoZ: Twilight Princess

WARMING UP

Week of February 12th, 2017

OVERVIEW – “SNOW” DEMO BY THE NUMBERS

This is going to be a different retrospective than usual.

A little over a week ago I released the first major (albeit super early) demo of Village Monsters, and I wanted to take today to break down some of the numbers. This might be only interesting to me, or maybe it’ll interest other folks who want to know about the nitty-gritter of running a game business.

First up is the Cumulative Flow chart – this graph shows you how many tasks were completed (put into “Done”) on each day. By the end of our 28 day cycle we ended up with 132 tasks completed for the Snow release.

Is that a lot or a little? I’m actually not sure yet, as it’s my first measurement of such a metric. I know for a fact that I wasn’t always so diligent at tagging my tasks correctly, so I’m sure I missed at least a few of them. We’ll have to see where the next release, Crow, takes us

Next up, we have the amount of times the demo was downloaded. In total, the file was downloaded 358 times. 

I am ecstatic about this number. My marketing “strategy” – such that it is – has been to be as minimally invasive as possible. As a consumer, I’ve been subjected to enough garbage and slimy tactics by companies that I know exactly what I don’t want to do.

I’m not so naive as to think such a relatively low number is any sort of indicator of success, but it is perhaps a sign that my strategies aren’t failing, at least. Over time, perhaps I can find success my own way

Finally, we arrive to what is probably the most useless metric – time spent with my IDE open. I’m frequently leaving it open while doing other things (like writing this post!) so it’s very misleading, but still…5 days? >120 hours? Wow. That’s, uh, that’s a lot!

SHOW & TELL