Feature Friday on a Tuesday: Relationships

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday! Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, but “Teacher Tuesday” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yet again we’re taking a deep dive into one of the many features and systems you can find in Village Monsters

I unfortunately had to skip last Friday due to putting out my latest demo – thus the delay to Tuesday! – and to celebrate Valentine’s Day I want to dig into the relationship system

Sorry, buddy, but the answer is “No”. I’m not talking about that kind of relationship.

Village Monsters is filled with a variety of strange and personable monsters – and even some animated inanimate objects, like Signey here.

But you cannot date them.

When I say “relationship” I’m talking purely platonic. Let’s take a look.

Relationships

Each day brings something new in Village Monsters, but soon enough you’ll establish a routine: talking to villagers, solving mysteries, participating in events, completing your collection, and much more.

Nearly every action and activity helps build your relationship with the villagers you find yourself living with. Villagers that view you with distrust or suspicion will slowly thaw over time as you prove yourself to be a respectable member of monster society.

One important thing to note is that growing relationships is almost entirely passive. There is no “gift” system, at least not like you’d find in Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley.

I never want relationship building to feel like a chore, and have purposefully made it so that merely experiencing the game is enough to raise your relationships and status.

Benefits of Good Relations

You’ll probably want to be friends with everyone just because that’s what you do in video games, but there’ll be some tangible benefits as well

Story

There are generally two types of stories in Village Monsters – Personal Stories that each villager goes through, and the main story that you’ll slowly unravel through the course of the game.

Building relationships will be the primary way to advance both types of stories. You’ll develop both trust and reputation with the villagers, and in doing so you’ll be able to explore both their personal lives and the world they live in.

Don’t worry, though, there’s no risk of missing anything if you want to experience village life slowly. The story can go at a pace you feel comfortable with – building your relationships merely unlock the opportunities to advance it.

Exploring Buddies

There’s an entire part of the game that I’ve been pretty quiet on so far, and unfortunately for you I’m going to continue to keep my lips sealed.

But I will say this: there’s a lot to explore outside the village. You may just be looking to complete your critter collection or find some treasure, but they’ll be plenty of story reasons to go out and adventure.

If your relationship is high enough with some villagers they may even offer to come along with you. In fact, these villagers will often have special abilities or insight that helps you explore, collect, and unlock special shortcuts.

Activities, Items and More

Beyond story and adventure, building friends also has a more practical side – you’ll get gifts! Some villagers may be holding onto exclusive furniture or powerful items that they’ll only entrust to their close friends. Others may have an idea for a new activity or diversion that they’ll consider with your support.

This area especially will need to evolve over time as the game is developed, so I’ll have more to say on it later.

Tracking Relationships

The Bomber’s Notebook, from LoZ: Majora’s Mask 3D

While the final amount of villagers is still in flux, I can tell you that this isn’t going to be a small village – you’ll be looking at anywhere between 25 and 40 monster friends to live with. You’re going to need a way to keep track of this all, but how?

The answer is by keeping careful watch of your handy Compendium. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s such a big subject that I’ll need to save it for a future Feature Friday, but I can share some ideas with you now.

Do you remember the Bomber’s Notebook from Majora’s Mask? This handy book served as the primary way to track every townsperson in Clock Town and included their schedule, quest status, and more.

The Compendium will serve a very similar role in Village Monsters, and it’ll also be the primary way you can track your relationships.

One thing I really enjoyed about the Bomber’s Notebook is how it evolved over time – nothing was filled out for you, and instead you had to do the legwork to learn people’s schedules and problems.

Look forward to learning more soon!

Sprint 5 – Warming Up – Plan

The Runnin’ Postman in LoZ: Twilight Princess

WARMING UP

Week of February 12th, 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 now ~50 weeks away. Remarkable!

Longtime readers of the site may be confused as to how the ELE isgrowing instead of shrinking. We all know that I employ a huge team of highly-respected accountants, but shouldn’t the day I run out of money be getting closer instead of further away…?

The answer is that I’m actually spending far less than the estimates I made months ago. That was pretty intentional – overestimate spending and underestimate income and all that – but it’s pretty cool to see play out

Once upon a time I thought I’d be lucky to save up 3 months worth of salary to keep going. Now I’m looking at timelines longer than a year. Pretty crazy! But good! Crazy good!

Gonna keep this post pretty short this week as I’m late putting this up and I got stuff to do!

SPRINT GOALS

After a successful release of my 2nd demo I have a lot of feedback to churn through. In general, this week I hope to start putting levels of polish on the various systems in the game, including coming up with the concept of weeks, months, and even years and seasons.

Past that, it’s soon time to start exploring screens beyond the initial test area. Maybe even the village itself can start growing with time…we’ll have to see!

Let’s do our best this week.

Sprint 4 – Snowed In – Retrospective

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

SNOWED IN

Week of February 5th, 2017

OVERVIEW

It’s always going to be a good week when I put out a new demo. February’s Were-Release went up on Friday and I’m psyched out of my mind.

I cannot stress enough how motivational these releases are. Just the feeling of getting something out there is just so satisfying.

I’ll repeat the same warning I lay out in that post: it’s early – perhaps too early – and rough. But again, if you want to see what incremental and iterative game development is like, or if you want to provide feedback, then I’d love for you to take a look.

It’s now been a month since I quit my job. Has it been all worth it? Good god, absolutely. I have genuinely never been happier or more satisfied in my life.

I cannot say how long these good vibes will last. How will I feel when my savings start to dwindle, or if I face some unforeseen hardship? I hope I can face it with the same level of optimism and determination I have going for me now. We’ll see.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Release a new demo, one that I’m actually proud of!
  • Already had a chance to implement some feedback from my demo, including some bug fixes, animation cleanup, dialog changes, and more
  • Re-did my product map to more readable and analyzed
  • Added a neato dynamic camera
  • Completely revamped the dog to actually be usable
  • Added a crate, grabbing, and pulling
  • Made weather based off of a ‘forecast’ instead of hardcoded
  • Added idle chatter once dialog is exhausted
  • Fixed weather transitions
  • Whole buncha optimizations

LOWLIGHTS

  • Made a huge blunder by chasing some dumb optimization down a rabbit hole for 8 hours, only to roll it back when my new code was just as terrible and twice as unreadable
    • Lesson learned…?
  • As always, could have done more 🙁
  • Wish the demo had a bit more stuff to do in it. Next time, though…it’ll be different

SHOW & TELL

Were-Release #2 Out Now – “Snow”

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Happy full moon, everybody!

A new full moon means a new version of Village Monsters for you to explore. I’m happy to announce that the latest Were-Release (what is this?), code named “Snow“, is now officially released.

I’m very proud of what I can share with you today, but I also want to stress that this is still very early. It’s not exactly brimming with content quite yet!

Still, if you’re interested in following games in early development, and you want to provide feedback to shape a game in the making, then please take a look!

“Snow”

RELEASED: February 10th, 2017

Download: Windows | Mac (Soon!) | Linux (Soon!)

What’s New

Player & Actions

  • Basic character movement (WASD)
    • Includes sprinting (hold Shift), creeping (hold Control)
    • Press the Middle Mouse button to move the camera around
  • Dynamic Camera
    • Follows the player and slightly lags behind
    • Use the middle-mouse button to move it around
    • “Shaky Cam” system implement for some actions
  • Player Action – Talk
    • Get near a villager and use the key to talk to them. X also advances the text
  • Player Action – Interact
    • Currently the only object to interact with is Dragon’s Hoard, the claw machine in the building with Mock
    • Use the X key to interact with it
  • Player Action – Grab / Pull
    • Currently can only grab/pull a box.
    • Use the key when near a box to grab it
  • Player Action – Swing Net
    • Press to swing your net
    • Critters caught by your net are added to your inventory
  • Player Action – Throw
    • Press F to throw the ball
    • Requires to pick up the Dog Ball and make it active

Villagers, Dog & Other Critters

  • Two new Villagers
    • Mock, the depressed goblin
    • Sign”, the unnamed – but still angry – Sign
  • A more complete Dog
    • Dog snoozes when bored
    • Dog wags its tail faster when ball is picked up
    • Dog fetches ball and brings it back
      • To play fetch, first pick up a ball, make it active, and then throw it with F
    • Dog can be pet and spoken to with X
  • New Critters to catch
    • Half Hopper
      • Flee when you approach
    • Sea Fly
      • Spawn indefinitely near pool
      • Chase after the player when close
    • Candy Horn Beetle
    • Holiday Horn Beetle
      • Winter only
  • Initial pass at “ambiant critters” system
    • A occasional bird will fly across the screen

Menus & UI

  • Basic dialog system
    • Typerwriter text and tap noise
    • Different types of text
      • Dialog
      • Narrator
      • Emphasis
    • Portrait & animation
  • Basic inventory system
    • Press I or click the bag icon to bring it up
    • Use your mouse or arrow keys to navigate items
    • The F key allows you the currently active icon. Not all items may be used at this time
  • Basic world map menu
    • Press the map icon to bring it up.
    • Use your WASD keys and mouse wheel to navigate.
  • Notification system
    • Notices trigger for various important events, such as inventory management, day changes, and more
    • Like-notices are grouped together

Simulation & Systems

  • Two new major systems: Time & Weather
    • 8 times of day with their own daylight filters
    • A full day takes about 20 minutes, but there are ways to increase this in the demo
    • 4 weather patterns:
      • Clear
      • Drizzle
      • Heavy Rain
      • Snow
    • A clock UI element to monitor the time and weather
  • Prototype of a 3rd major simulated system – Seasons
    • “Winter” version of map with new visuals, new critters to catch, and new weather
    • Find a way to trigger Winter via an in-game mechanic

Village & Related

  • Completely new and revamped art style and layout of “village”
    • New trees, flowers, and other vegetation
    • Can no longer walk out of bounds
  • Two new buildings
    • Test inn. Contains Mock, Dragon’s Hoard, and some tables
    • Historical Society. Contains naught but spider webs
  • Dragon’s Hoard claw machine
    • Incredibly basic and buggy!

Other

  • Basic SFX
    • Wind noises
    • Footfalls
    • Dialog sounds
    • Pickup sound

Known Issues

  • The player always resets position when changing ‘rooms’
  • Very little is persisted
  • Huge amount of graphical bugs, especially incorrect overlapping and sprite flipping
  • Collision system is frequently dumb
  • Overall, it’s very fragile!

Feedback

There are many ways to provide feedback on your time with the game. All feedback will be read and considered – it’s my favorite part of this whole thing!

Email: josh@warpdogs.com

Comments: Click here. No registration required.

Twitter: @WarpDogs

Other: Scream loudly into the western sun. Let the ground shake with your fury, your blood hot with the magma of the earth.

What is – and isn’t – a Were-Release?

In a few days I’ll be releasing the next Were-Release for my project. This’ll only be my 2nd time doing so, and I think I had just one follower (myself) for the 1st release, so I wanted to take the time to explain about what you can – and can’t – expect out of this.

In short, a Were-Release is a very early demo of Village Monsters that is released on a monthly basis (the day of the full moon – thus the name!)

Each Were-Release serves as a snapshot of what the in-development game looks like at that particular point in time. Because it’s based on an arbitrary date, no extraneous work goes into these demos – you won’t find any misleading vertical slices, scripted demos, or any other type of smoke & mirrors.

Instead, I take the latest stable build I tested and upload it to my site. This allows players who love to watch the evolution of a game’s development experience Village Monsters and provide feedback without a lot of wasted work on my side.

It’s important to note that a Were-Release is not considered a ‘ship-able product’. You’ll never need to pay or sign up for anything to receive it, but it’s going to be rough, buggy, and things will frequently change from build to build.

From a feature, visual, and overall ‘feel’ standpoint, each Were-Release version is indicative of the final game: everything you encounter or experience will in the final game in some form.

However, please do not use these releases to gauge the quality of the final game. I frequently do a lot of experimentation, and certain elements may be bad or plain broken at times. This in no way reflects what you’ll see in the final release.

I hope as many people as possible can play these early demos, as there’s something really special about seeing a game spring to life over time. However, I also completely understand that some people simply want to wait for a more stable, more polished game – if so, please consider waiting for a different type of release later this year!

Above all, these releases are meant for feedback. All bugs, feature requests, complaints, and everything else will be read by me and added to the backlog for analysis. I’ll monitor comments and my email address for feedback. You can also catch me on Twitter at @WarpDogs

The Village of ???

Did some “worldbuilding” last night, this time fleshing out the village of…uh, unnamed, I guess.

This part has been without a doubt my favorite.

Names in bold are mostly final, whereas the unnamed villagers get just a short blurb describing their general idea.

There’s a lot of them – probably too many. They aren’t all major, and I could afford to make 2-3 cuts to bring it down if needed, but I’m pretty happy with how this looks currently and will be sticking with it for now.

Sprint 4 – Snowed In – Plan

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

SNOWED IN

Week of February 5th, 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 now ~46 weeks away. Remarkable!

An errant Comcast payment aside, this was another good week. All my planning and saving is apparently paying off, which is good! Maybe I wasn’t so crazy after all.

Maybe.

The end of this week marks the ~1 month mark since I started this venture. At first time went by slowly, but now it’s barreling down the highway as things settle in. There’s a long way to go until I reach the end of wherever this thing is taking me, but it sure feels closer now than it ever has.

SPRINT GOALS

Last sprint may have been the first one where I actually laid out what I hoped to achieve and – by god! – I actually did it! Let’s see if I can continue building on that success, however brief.

A new were-release is out this Friday, and for me that’s going to serve as a great motivator for focusing on tangible content. Last week was great, but it was very technical and very refactor-heavy – it’s fun to work on behind-the-scenes stuff, but it’s only fun for me, not for players.

Here are some goals that I think are achievable and provide some good bang vs. buck for the upcoming release…

  • Focus on UI elements, especially related to calendars and menus
  • Create little ‘proof of concepts’ of seasonal changes
  • Add the 1st draft run of Overflow, a central location that will be visited throughout the game

Look forward to a new version to play with by Friday. Who knows – I might deliver you an actual game! Wow!

Sprint 3 – The Emerald City – Retrospective

THE EMERALD CITY

Week of January 29th, 2017

OVERVIEW

This week had some of the highest highs as well as some of the lowest lows.

On Tuesday I had perhaps my most productive day so far on the technical front, and on Friday I finally reached the summit of Mt. Dialog and implemented that system I had put off for so long.

But I also spun my wheels a lot. Some days I’d look up and realized that hours had passed without much to show for it.

This coming sprint ends on a full moon – and with that, a new release. I’m hoping that such a big occasion helps clarify my focus and productivity…if only to avoid being embarrassed by what I eventually put out there for folks to try

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Solved a nasty FPS drop that was being caused by Vsync. Weird, right?
  • Accomplished a huge goal by designing and finishing a new dialog system
  • Experimented with some ideas related to diversions (like claw machines)
  • Implemented some feedback to reduce clock size, fixed up dog animations, and more
  • Bought a harmonica! More on that later…
  • Fixed our vacuum by splicing together a new plug – hey, it counts!!
  • Started adding layers of ‘flavor’ in the form of random birds that fly by
  • A lot of major and much-needed refactoring & improvements to the inventory, clock, and popup notice systems
  • Created a proof a concept for world map viewing, panning, and zooming

LOWLIGHTS

  • More than a few wasted days
  • Refactoring is pleasing from a problem solving standpoint, but I’m not exactly moving ‘forward’ when I do it. I should try to minimize the amount of rework to systems I’m doing

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: An early look at dialog

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’m going to talk about  how conversing and dialog will work. Let’s take a look.

 

You’re going to be doing a lot of talking in Village Monsters. There will be villagers to build relationships with, merchants to barter with, and lore to be learned around every corner.

The actual text itself is of course important, but even more so than that is the delivery. How text and dialog is presented to the player is of utmost importance to how the world is shaped in their head.

In this post I’m going to focus on two specific strategies for communicating dialog with the player: The use of portraits, and the use of narrator text intermixed with dialog.

Robust Portraits

I probably don’t need to tell you that my professional background isn’t in art. It’s, uh…it’s rather self-evident, right?

sorry

While I may be unable to animate an entire sets of sprite to communicate what’s going on in a scene, I should have enough talent to handle portraits. As such, this is going to be a major focus of my time and effort when it comes to producing art for this game.

By way of example, I want to talk about the wonderful Undertale. Like me, Toby Fox isn’t exactly an artist,

sorry, toby

but he uses an impeccable style and design to bring his characters to life. One of the many ways he accomplishes this is via his liberal use of character portraits.

Take a look of this list of Undyne expressions next to “artist interpretations”, by Tumblr user g0966

It doesn’t take much to communicate a wide range of emotions and personality of a character when making a portrait. There’s nothing in the way of animation here; it’s just purely good design. It’s a wonderful bang-for-your-buck approach that non-artists like me can use to make the most of our time.

It’s too early to share something of my own that’s the same level of quality, but here’s one little guy I’ve been working on – codenamed Signey

More on this guy later on in this post.

Narrator Text

Next up, I wanted to explain the usage of what I’m calling narrator text. Let’s use another example, this time with Obsidian’s excellent CRPG, Pillars of Eternity.

You can tell Obsidian was trying to make the most of their money and work within their own limitations. Like the Infinity Engine games before it, one of Pillars biggest limitations is its small animation set – you have your walking, fighting, and magic casting, but not much else.

Nearly every non-combat encounter with an NPC is them standing in an idle animation – no gestures, moving faces, or other animations are there to give them life.

Their solution to this was brilliant: they use narrator text intermixed with dialog to help paint the scene.

I think this is a genius. Without animating a single frame you can picture Maerwald as a frail and terrified old man who is likely losing his mind.

Pillars is a big, epic, D&D-style RPG, and its narrator text reflects this, going so far as being on the same caliber in style and volume to a fantasy novel

Frankly, Village Monsters is simply not that, so there will be some key differences. Notably, sentences will be shorter and much less descriptive overall.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in my game:

The above GIF actually shows what it looks like to combine both a portrait and narrator text to communicate with the player.

I have a lot of plans for narrator text in this game. For one, the narrator won’t be some detached voice – it’ll be its own personality and have its own opinions on what’s going on.

Bastion had a narrator that was dripping with personality

I’m also going to use it communicate other things beyond dialog to the player. For example, in most RPGs when a character is “done” talking they’ll just loop what they said last.

In Village Monsters, I can instead let the narrator do the talking. Instead of repeating themselves, I can instead use narrator text to tell the player something like, “I don’t think this character has anything more to say”, or “The villager looks at you kindly before returning to work”. Same effect, but in a way that’s a bit more effective than repeating text.

Summarized in a different way, narrator text will be yet another method to inject some flavor into what is hopefully a delicious meal.

Talking Back

One area I’m not quite ready to talk about is the ability to talk back to villagers. Instead, I’ll talk a little about my philosophy.

Most important to me: your character won’t ever have any lines of its own.

This is a very deliberate choice for the style of game I’m going for. Consider the below two possible ways for a character to accept a quest:

  • With a Voice: “Sure, I’d be happy to help look for your cat, Mrs. Seymour”
  • Without a Voice: You agree to help find the cat.

The 2nd option is without a doubt drier than the 1st, but this is intentional. I want you, the player, to project your own vision onto the character. Would your version of the character say “happy to help”? Would they be so formal in addressing a person by their last name? Maybe, maybe not, but I want it to be up to you.

Nintendo is infamous for using this ‘excuse’ for explaining why Link doesn’t talk in any of the Legend of Zelda games, but I think it’s a smart and ultimately correct strategy. You are the player – this should be true in all aspects, even speech.

Despite this, there will be plenty of ways to ‘talk’ without just saying yes or no. More to come on that, and much more, in the coming weeks.

Sprint 3 – The Emerald City – Plan

THE EMERALD CITY

Week of January 29th, 2017

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP continues to hold steady at ~insanely heckin’ good~
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now ~45 weeks away. Remarkable!

As my team of highly-respected accountants points out, this was the first week in the WARP CORP’s history that we had to start drawing from the reserves. It seems likely that from here out the money is only going to dwindle down, but we’re still in great shape.

The past two weeks have been wonderful and productive, but it’s time to get real here: There’s no way I can be successful just being merely “productive”. I need to switch from “good” to “great”, whether that’s in quality, output, analysis, and just a general overall ability to move tasks to the Done column.

I think I can do it. I don’t feel mentally taxed yet – if anything, it’s the opposite – so I still have plenty of brainpower I can consign over to the WARP CORP. My team of highly-respected accountants nod hungrily at this assertion, their blank expressions briefly betraying their attempts at humanity.

SPRINT GOALS

I keep trying to alter what I say in this section because it seems almost inevitable that whatever I say here won’t actually happen. I don’t know.

The next were-release – code named “Snow” – is set to release next week. This gives me added incentive to focus on things that are actually tangible so that players can begin testing them and trying them out.

There are a few longstanding issues that I think I’ll finally be able to address this week. Here are the top 3:

  • Address player movement and make it better than it currently is
  • Make the inventory feel far less ‘placeholder’
  • Actually finish the dialog system so it’s not so god damned weird

After those 3 big ticket items I think I can get started on more activities. I want to especially think about fishing, gathering, and maybe even the historical society system. It’s also important for me to begin constructing the actual town and start thinking about its personality and feel.

Finally, now that my day/night system is up and running I can start iterating over it and hooking up other systems to obey it. As always, there’s lots to do!

It’s going to be exciting. Please be excited.

Sprint 2 – Onward, to Glory! – Retrospective

ONWARD, TO GLORY!

Week of January 22nd, 2017

OVERVIEW

Another week in the books, and another good one at that.

This week was that of systems. The biggest – by far – was the enabling of the day/night cycle and related systems surrounding it. Slowly but surely this virtual world is waking up and becoming real. Soon it will grow far beyond my control, and I am very much looking forward to that!

The only thing I’m bummed about is this feeling of leaving money on the table – not actual money, of course, but rather the feeling that my time could have been spent better. I have a feeling that’s going to be a common thought as I grind through this new life of mine. I could always be doing more, always be doing better.

Well, I can at least always try.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • It cannot be understated how important getting a day/night system up and running was. I am so excited for what’s to come
  • I finished my first lore piece that details the history of a fictional (?) game company creating a fictional (?) game. Expect many more of these as development continues, though their content and style will vary wildly
  • I settled on a new possible game title through sheer coincidence. By simply reversing the original “Monster Village” I have stumbled upon the much better – and likely final – Village Monsters
  • I have begun – in earnest – to work through HeartBeast’s wonderful tutorials
  • Several new villagers have been thought out, written down, and constructed
  • The player has been shaven and then, paradoxially, received a stubbled beard in its place

LOWLIGHTS

  • I’m a 29 year old man and my days are still being derailed by naps that destroy me. I need to stop!
  • I had a tough day on Friday and it impacted me more than it should have

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: Hero of Time

Welcome to another edition of Feature Friday.

Today, I’m going to go over one of the constants in life and video games – the passage of time.

What Makes You Tick?

First up, I want to talk a bit about my overall design goals for the passage of time in my game.

Village Monsters is a mashup of genres, but above all it’s focused on one thing: being a village life simulator.

To properly simulate an interesting village life you really need a lot of systems that play off each other, and there is perhaps no more important system than that of time. It’s certainly the one that I’ve given the most thought to!

Early on, I knew what I didn’t want to do…

  • I didn’t want an Animal Crossing system of everything being in real time
    • It’s a neat idea, but didn’t fit my vision
  • I didn’t want the player to stress about what time it was
    • I see this frequently with the Harvest Moon “subgenre” where you always need one eye on the clock. This also didn’t fit
  • I didn’t want to stray too far from realism, either
    • There’s going to be some strange things going on in this digital world – I want to give player plenty of opportunities to latch onto things that obey predictable rules

My first decision was to abstract the concept of time itself. Behind the scenes I still keep exact measurements, but to the player there are only eight slices of time for each day: Early Morning, Late Morning, Early & Late Afternoon, Early & Late Evening, and Early & Late Night

A very early draft of the day-night wheel, ranging from Early Morning (the yellow slice with the sunrise) and Late Night

As the day marches on it’ll gradually transition from one time of day to another. There’s only eight of them (compared to, you know, 24 actual hours!), but that’ll let me give each one enough attention to make them feel distinct in their usage of music, color, lighting, and various happenings. In this way I can communicate the passage of a day without the player needing to think about the exact hour or minute.

Tick-Tock

The next challenge had to do with the length of day itself

It’s hard to make firm decisions this early on; after all, I have a single room with a couple interiors and not much to do – how on earth can I decide on a length based on that? Still, I needed something.

I ended up researching other games, such as Stardew Valley, Majora’s Mask, and Minecraft,  for inspiration

It seems an average virtual day can range from as short as 10 minutes to as long as 20. Ever the compromiser, I settled on something right down the middle

The current rate of movement allows for about 2.5 minutes per time of day, for a total of about 20 minutes for a full cycle. However, practically speaking an average day will be more around 15 minutes – you won’t find much success in working sunrise to sunrise.

This rate isn’t necessarily locked in stone, either, as there will be various ways to alter the flow of time in-game. I’m open to adjusting it as we go along.

The Clock Wheel

I wanted the UI element to be an important part of the time system itself. I have especially fond memories of Major’as Mask and how it communicates time to you with a big, simple visual at the bottom of your screen

I also wanted a visual like this, especially because of the game’s top-down perspective – you can’t see the sky, so communicating the passage of time (as well as the feel of each time of day) would fall heavily on the UI

I went through a lot of iterations of a circle-based “visual clock wheel” of sorts. Eventually, I settled for the below. This is it running at “real time”…

It ticks once a second

…and here it is rapidly cycling through an entire day.

Everything – especially the visuals and transitions – are very much works in progress, but this gives you a sense for what’s possible

Each slice corresponds to a specific time of day as well as the weather. You” have noticed that it doesn’t just display the current time and weather, but also upcoming weather as well. This is yet another strategy of communicating the flow and passage of a day without being too obtrusive.

In the future, it’ll even tell you of upcoming holidays, events, and other things that are time-dependent – all of this, rolled up into a fairly unobtrusive UI element. I’m really happy with how it came out!

There’s also the method I am using to create the time wheel itself. Instead of creating one static image of a wheel I’m instead drawing each “slice” separately and stitching them together as the game runs. This makes it trivial to add new graphics for each time of day, weather, or holiday, and should help me stay as “futureproof” as possible.

Mega Months

I’m not quite ready to talk in great detail about other forms of time – like weeks, months, or seasons. But I did want to give a sneak peak of what I’m thinking of.

Similar to abstracting of time of day I want to also abstract the passage of months. Many games already do this, actually – in fact, the majority use a simple “1 month = 1 season” system and have four such months per year.

I didn’t like how “quick” a year felt with this system. In Village Monsters, you’re going to have a lot to do on a given day, and there’s going to be a great amount of holidays and events. I didn’t want it feeling like a month – and, by extension, an entire season – was flying by.

The current system I’m experiment with is a “2 months = 1 season”. Similar to my “Early Morning / Late Morning” system, I’m going with Early Season / Late Season

The “feel” of the start of a season is very different than the end of a season, and this type of system really lets me capture those differences. It also lets you ‘breath’ in between various holidays, events, and other things that’ll take up your time.

There’s always the risk of taking too much time, though, especially as it relates to how much time I can realistically ask people to play to experience everything the game has to offer. It’s a balancing act!

More to come soon. Thanks for reading!