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Windows [Releasing to EA November 12th!] Village Monsters - A Monstrous Life Sim Game

Discussion in 'Work in Progress' started by WarpDogsVG, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    [​IMG]

    There’s no way to actually prove this, but I’m pretty sure more people have played fishing mini-games than have actually gone fishing.

    You can fish in Zelda, in Nier, in Red Dead Redemption 2, in Pokemon, in Deadly Premonition, in Torchlight, in Yakuza. You can hardly walk into a Gamestop without tripping over a pile of rods and tackle boxes.

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    And of course fishing is especially prominent in life sim games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Stardew Valley. Village Monsters is no different – fishing was one of the first hobbies I added to the game.

    There’s a lot to draw inspiration from, and if it seems the tone of this post is overly negative it isn’t because I don’t like fishing mini-games… it’s because of how intimidating they are! With so many different standards and expectations there are almost too many options, and this left me feeling paralyzed when designing the system for my game.

    The good news is I’ve finally settled on a system, and I’m super excited to talk about it.

    But first let’s talk about how bad of a designer I am.

    Failed Prototypes
    I prototype every feature – often before I even analyze or document it – and fishing was no different. In a lot of ways prototypes are ‘meant’ to fail (seeing what doesn’t work is more valuable sometimes than seeing what does), but my fishing prototypes took the word ‘failure’ to a whole new level.

    My very first prototype was similar to what you find in Breath of Fire. You’d be presented with a side view of the body of water you’re fishing in and your goal was to guide your hook to a fish and reel it back to shore.

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    1st Prototype, 2017

    It was… fine. It was certainly unique compared to my contemporaries, but the more I played with it the more I realized this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It was equal parts clunky and boring, and I scrapped it shortly before the Kickstarter.

    The prototypes that followed were all over the place. I experimented with “fish HP” and “rod HP”, I put in timed button challenges, I tried out things like line strength and fish stamina and generated all sorts of random numbers.

    [​IMG]
    Another fishing prototype
    I wanted to capture the full cycle of fishing – the relaxation of waiting, the excitement of hooking, the struggle of reeling in a big one – but nothing I tried was working. You might even say I was floundering… heh… heh… ugh.

    Then one day inspiration struck. Perhaps it was Poseidon himself that whispered in my ear, or perhaps it was that 4th Monster energy I just drank. Whatever the case was, the outline of fishing should look like revealed itself before me anchored by three words…

    Dash, Mash & Clash
    Fishing in Village Monsters can be broken up into three distinct phases which I lovingly call Dash, Mash, and Clash.

    After casting your line in a body of water the music dims and you can let your mind wander as the outside world fades into the periphery – that is, until a fish bites. That’s the Dash, referring to how you must quickly hook the fish before it gets away.

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    After hooking the fish it’s time to Mash, which is exactly what it sounds like. Your job is to reel in the fish as fast as possible. There’s no subtlety required, so mash that reel button as hard as you can. A little fishing meter tracks your progress.

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    Of course, most fish won’t be too pleased about the hook in their mouth and they’ll often try to fight back. This leads to our next stage, Clash, which finds you being challenged with a series of button prompts as the fish attempts to get away.

    If you miss a prompt then you’ll start losing the progress you made reeling the fish in. Miss too many and the slippery fish will make their escape..

    [​IMG]

    However! If you manage to get a “Perfect” during this stage then the fish’s defenses are shattered which makes it much easier to reel in. This gives the clash stage a high risk / high reward component and acts as a test of skill compared to the previous test of stamina.

    These two stages cycle back and forth until the fish is caught or gets away. How often they cycle and for how long depends on the fish. Easier or smaller fish need less reeling in while legendary fish require several clashes before they submit.

    And there you have it! Fishing is finalized in forthcoming folly, Fillage Fonsters.

    What’s Next?
    Finalizing any gameplay mechanic is sorta like writing the 1st draft of a story – it’s a great feeling of accomplishment, but there’s lot of editing and polish to do.

    Now that I have all these levers and nobs to play with it’s time to give each fish a “personality” – heavy fish that are hard to reel in, fish with extremely quick ‘hook windows’, and so on.

    There’s also an entire range of possibilities for upgrades: lures that attract fish faster or rods that make reeling in easier. Then I can start looping back into other parts of the game, like a potion that slows down the clash stage, or a mushroom that attracts rare fish when used as bait.

    You’ll be able to play with the new fishing system yourself once the latest Village Monsters demo hits later this month.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    Hello Villagers!
    There's a new demo coming to town. It's nicknamed Pumpkin Pie and it's out today!

    It's silly for me to keep saying things like "this is the biggest and most full featured demo yet!" After all, if I'm making forward progress then by definition each demo will be bigger than the one before it.

    And yet... this is seriously the biggest and most full featured demo yet. It contains tons of new things and improves loads of existing things, but more than that it's finally representative of the kind of game you can expect next spring.

    Latest Download
    Beta 3.0 “Pumpkin Pie” (November 30th, 2018)

    Windows | Linux | Mac

    Here's some of the headlining changes.

    New Fishing

    [​IMG]

    The fishing hobby has changed – again – but this time it’s final. I promise!

    You dash to hook the fish before it escapes. You then mash to reel it in as fast as possible. And when the fish fights back, you clash for victory.

    Grab your fishing rod and head to any body of water to test it out.

    Mushroom Gardening

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    A new hobby has been added to the game: Mushroom Gardening.

    Mushrooms are grown from spores you can purchase from the general store. Once planted they require very little effort and will happily grow by themselves. Grown mushrooms can be harvested and then sold, eaten, or cooked.

    To get started check out the mushroom plots over in the Agrarian Acres. Check out the book “Mad for Mushrooms” in the library for more info.

    Cooking

    [​IMG]

    Another new hobby has been added to the game: Cooking.

    Of all the hobbies this one is the least finished (you can only cook basic soups for now), but future releases will add to your cookbook.

    To get started, visit the kitchen in Overflow and interact with the cooking pot you see there.

    House Purchase

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    You are no longer stuck at the inn! The shack east of town has been put up for sale and the deed can be purchased from the general store.

    Keep in mind it’s not cheap – even this basic plot of land costs 10,000 Skull Silver. You’ll need to find a way to make some money; catching and selling fish and critters is a good place to start.

    Effects

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    A new “effects engine” has been added to the game. You’ve always been able to quaff potions, but this is an entirely new system with complex interactions and features.

    Many items now bestow different effects when used or eaten:

    • Eat a Snowberry Shroom and you’ll become chilled to the bone.
    • Stay up too long without sleeping and you’ll become exhausted and unable to run – though you can eat food to offset these penalties.
    • Drink a Potion of Fast Feet and you’ll zoom around the map.
    Check the player page of your journal to see which effects you’re under.

    Up All Night

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    Your unfair curfew has finally ended.

    Instead of teleporting back to bed in the middle of the night you can stay up indefinitely. To balance things out you now have an energy meter that ticks down throughout the day.

    Running out of energy makes you exhausted which has a bunch of negative impacts, so you’ll want to keep it up by sleeping or eating food.

    You can sleep at any time from a bed you own. Sleeping will also quickly advance time.

    Improved Interiors

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    Many interiors – including villager homes, the village inn, and general store – have been improved. Enjoy new furniture, cozier layouts, and more personality in each building.

    macOS Support

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    This marks the first demo where Windows, Mac, and Linux versions will release simultaneously!

    Dialogue Improvements

    [​IMG]

    Dialogue took a backseat with this release, though this is because its systems are largely finalized.

    One big change is how villagers talk before and after you become friends. Villagers may at first come across as rude or distant, while others might be overly formal or reserved. On the other hand, you may witness complete personality changes in some villagers as they warm up to you and become close friends.

    Note that you won’t be able to see these changes in the demo as they happen over the long term.

    Quality of Life

    [​IMG]

    As always a host of quality of life changes have been added to the game. Here’s a handful of them:
    • The passage of time has been further slowed to make the game more relaxing
    • “Helper Text” has been added to even objects in the game
      • Doors now tell you where they lead
      • Items for sale now display their name
    • Many interactable objects now can only be interacted with when facing a specific direction. This prevents a lot of accidental interactions
    • You can now sell multiple items at once to the merchant
    UI Changes

    • Inventory and System menus have been combined into an improved Journal
    • Many UI elements have been cleaned up and improved
    • New & improved fonts
    And a whole bunch more

    There’s way more changes than I can document in this post. More accurately there’s more than I want to document. But here’s a few more things you can expect:
    • New weather types and tileset for fall.
    • Trees and vegetation have been improved.
    • You can flush a toilet.
    • Lighting has been tweaked.
    • Loads of new furniture and decorations have been added to each home.
    • Bonfires and torches now extinguish in heavy rain.
    • Pishky bought a new hat.
    • New secrets.
     
  3. ReidDC

    ReidDC Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2017
    Posts:
    103
    Love it man, absolutely love the style, art,mood,music, etc. has a cozy feeling to it and a hearty atmosphere. Well done.
    one thing maybe, the characters you interact with feel to close together in a sense, like crowded I guess. Maybe if they
    where doing something? Like walking around or interacting with the world in some way? Maybe you plan on doing this already, so.
     
    Red Phantom likes this.
  4. Bentley

    Bentley Member

    Joined:
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    823
    Game looks awesome. Unique and I love the art
     
    Red Phantom likes this.
  5. Lucia

    Lucia Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2018
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    wow! Congratulation for your KS! Very happy for you!
     
  6. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    Definitely on the docket. Right now villagers just have idle sprites and very basic 'schedules', by next release the hope is to put in movement and proper scheduling so you can encounter them while you're exploring

    Aww, thank you!

    Thanks! Crazy to think that was a year ago already. Time flies.
     
  7. Lucia

    Lucia Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2018
    Posts:
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    Is the budget aready empty? XD
     
    sitebender likes this.
  8. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    Happy 2019, y'all. Consult your calendars - that's right, it's Year of the Monster! please ignore any calendars that state contrary information

    As of today (the 13th) Village Monsters has officially been in development for 2 years, and 2019 is the year it finally releases. To that end, have another demo!

    Downloads: Here!
    Release Notes: Here!

    And here's some screenshots! Wow!


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  9. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    Hello Villagers!
    [​IMG]

    I really love the passage of time in video games. Day / Night cycles, seasonal changes, NPC schedules, and so on – I eat that stuff up.

    There was a time in the late 90s and early 00s where it seems every game – regardless of genre – included the passage of time as a big bullet point. It was fantastic time to be alive!

    I’ve no doubt already spoken at length about the time system in Village Monsters as I’ve been tweaking and perfecting it since the very start, but I’ve yet to put it all in one place in an easily digestible post.

    Until now.

    Structure
    Let’s start with how time is structured!

    The calendar of Village Monsters is kept purposefully familiar: there are four months in a year which correspond to each of the four seasons. Each month has its own distinct vibe and flavor that makes them dramatically different from each other.

    A month has 4 weeks which in turn consist of 8 days. Here we deviate a bit from reality to include an ‘extra’ 8th day called Baldursday. This new day is sandwiched in between Saturday and Sunday and is meant for relaxing and catching up on projects. It’s often the day of the week that village holidays and festivals fall on.

    [​IMG]

    A day in Village Monsters is split up into four main slices – Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Night. While it’s far more granular behind the scenes, I purposefully kept it simple so it’s easier to keep track of things like villager schedules, critter spawning, and other time-sensitive tasks.

    The exact length of the day is incredibly important and is something I’m constantly tweaking. It currently sits at 12-15 minutes. This’ll be constantly adjusted right up to release, but my goal is a length that isn’t too rushed.

    [​IMG]
    Impacts

    As in real life, a ticking clock and changing calendar means big aesthetic changes. The sun rises and sets which changes the lighting. The tiles change with the season, as do the look of vegetation and buildings and decorations. Even the music changes to fit the mood.

    [​IMG]

    It’s not an exaggeration to say that every single piece of the game is dependent on the time and season. Here’s some of them:

    • Which types of of critters and fish you can catch change with the days and seasons
    • Villager routines and shop schedules depend not only the time of day but things like the weather, whether its their day off, and so on
    • Some tasks – like growing mushrooms, training critters, and building / upgrading your home – require time to pass
    • Each season has unique weather systems and frequencies
    • Visitors come and go throughout the year, and some may even show up during festivals
    • Speaking of festivals, each season has multiple events ranging from town-wide celebrations, feasts, villager birthdays, and so on!
    • Certain areas transform dramatically depending the time of day or season
    [​IMG]

    Villager schedules have been a big priority these past couple weeks as it’s one of the last technical hurdles I have. It’s a humongous task and unfortunately I’m not yet ready to share what it looks like, but even the incomplete (and wonky) system has breathed so much life into the game.

    The final system is going to be pretty rad.

    [​IMG]
    Control

    The biggest draw to time cycles is creating a strong sense of immersion. But this is still a video game – and in the case of Village Monsters, a video game that’s canonically coming apart at the seams. That means it’s ok to break some 4th dimensional rules every now and again.

    There are a number of special items you can buy or craft that control how fast or slow time passes.

    [​IMG]

    You may also find certain areas of the world that aren’t playing by the same rules of time; some areas may be locked into a certain season all year round. Others a certain weather pattern. This can be especially useful late game when you’re trying to find specific items or critters, fish, and mushrooms.

    Finally, here’s a question I get a lot: is there a time limit as far as the story goes?

    The answer is no! Story beats (and progression in general) are independent from the passage of time, so you won’t bump against any kind of restrictions. Take as long as you’d like.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. RangerX

    RangerX Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Posts:
    2,597
    Lovely progress as usual. I shall try the lastest demo :)
     
    Red Phantom likes this.
  11. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
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    Every single day for the last 2 years I've hated my branding of Village Monsters and every single day for the last 2 years I've wished I actually did something about it instead of nothing

    I am happy to report that dragging my feet for 2 years paid off. This piece by breakfastbat (Twitter) is absolutely perfect. It's beautiful and it captures the comfy cozy vibes that I am juxtaposing with goofy monsters. I love it so much. I hope you love it, too!

    And if you do love it, why not wishlist this dang game on STEAM or ITCH?

    [​IMG]
     
    Red Phantom, ReidDC and CMAllen like this.
  12. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Posts:
    182
    [​IMG]

    Hello Villagers!
    I’m trying something a little different with today’s dev diary. Instead of featuring things I’ve added or improved I’ll be talking about things I’ve removed.

    I think it’s fun to talk about the process of trimming the fat; examining how and why things were cut can be pretty revealing to the overall design of a game. There’s a whole wiki dedicated to this subject, so I guess I’m not alone!

    Let’s take a look at a handful of some of the bigger removals in Village Monsters so far.

    Beyond the Mundane
    You know what the most my common reason for getting rid of something is? It’s just too… mundane.

    Critter Catching was the very first hobby I added to the game and it worked exactly as described – you could catch flies, frogs, butterflies, beetles, etc. I also created a variety of weirder critters like the Candy Horn Beetle and the Fairy Doof, but it was a 50/50 split between real and imagined.

    Things changed with the Pocket Horse.

    [​IMG]

    Believe it or not I was trying to make a squirrel, but I had messed up so royally that I accidentally warped time and space and created a small, pocket-sized… horse.

    I absolutely fell in love with it, and all of it a sudden it hit me – why was I putting so much effort into squirrels and butterflies when unique critters like this are far more interesting?

    [​IMG]

    Most of the mundane critters were cut in favor of their more interesting cousins. But they didn’t quite leave the game – in some cases they now spawn as non-catchable critters that just add flavor to an area.

    A similar situation happened with Mushroom Gardening which was originally just called Gardening. I think I can admit this now… at first I was just shamefully cribbing from likes Stardew Valley and Havest Moon. “People like farming, right? Then I gotta include farming!!”

    But it never felt right. It was just so bland! Did it really make sense for snarky goblins and robotic cowboys to be growing bell peppers and turnips?

    [​IMG]
    The only kind of monster rancher I want to see

    Mushrooms felt far more thematically appropriate in every way imaginable. They were weird and underground – like monsters – and they allowed for really fun features like mutations, hybrids, and special effects. They’re also really low maintenance which helped fill the niche of a relaxing and hands-off hobby.

    Keep it Simple, Stupid
    It’s easy to cut something that’s generic to make room for something more interesting. It’s a lot harder to cut something that could be cool but adds a lot of unnecessary complexity.

    [​IMG]
    This old GIF is from a 2017 demo

    Such was the case with home customization. The original idea here was to give you complete freedom in how your house looked – any piece of furniture in the entire game could be bought and placed in any space you owned.

    But it was messy. From a technical perspective I was constantly running into issues with collision and layering and saving your layout, and for the player it actually felt harder – not easier – to make a cohesive looking house.

    So I made the decision to axe the feature entirely. It’s been replaced by a series of structured (or “pre-fab”) upgrades – like buying a completely furnished kitchen or attic, expanding your garden, and so on.

    [​IMG]

    This focus on a more handcrafted home bled over to the villagers as well. I no longer had to worry about making simple homes with furniture and upgrades that the player could get. Instead I had the freedom to cut loose and give them all sorts of unique furnishings and layouts.

    Another (though far earlier) complexity casualty was that of a more advanced time system. Oh man, you should have seen my early design notes – I envisioned a full 12 month calendar with each day having 8 distinct times ranging from “early morning” to “deep night”.

    I wish I could tell you what exactly I was thinking. I guess I assumed more granularity meant for a stronger and more rewarding simulation? I don’t know. In the end I boiled it down to the most important features. I talk a bit more about the time system in this post.

    Too Much Work
    So there are things that are cut because they’re too boring and there are things that are cut because they’re too complicated. Then there are things cut because they’re simply too much work – and boy, do these hurt the most.

    You won’t find me saying too many nice things about Dragon Age 2, but one thing it experimented with wonderfully was the notion that butting heads with a party member was just as valid a relationship as pandering to them.

    [​IMG]

    There was already a deep relationship system in Village Monsters, but this idea of a so-called “Rival” really appealed to me and fit really nicely with the theme of “a lone human in a world of monsters”.

    After all, this is a village of over 30 quirky monsters; it’s entirely reasonable that you’ll find a handful of personalities you simply don’t jive with. I wanted to give you another option to talk with these villagers without feeling the need to be friends. You’d even get unique cutscenes and dialogue if you became rivals.

    [​IMG]
    The original levels of relationships

    But it was simply too much. It’s already a nearly insurmountable task to write dialogue and cutscenes for 30+ villagers as they become friends with you. The idea of writing even more dialogue as they become rivals… ugh, I just don’t have that many fingers.

    [​IMG]

    So, tragically, I had to move on from the system. My solution was to instead make the initial disposition of villagers a little bit colder – for some villagers this means being more neutral or detached, for others they’re grumpy or even antagonistic. They’ll change as you become friends, but if you choose not to befriend them then they’ll remain cold.

    It’s not the same as creating a charming rivalry, but the general idea – that you don’t need to make friends with everyone – is at least partially maintained.

    Like with all cut content, it is gone but not quite forgotten. The rivalry system in particular very well may make a return in a future free update. How’s that for a pitch? “In this new update some villagers will be mean to you!”
     
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  13. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
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    Posts:
    182
    Hello, hey, hi! Guess what? Did you guess?

    Village Monsters has a release date!

    --> November 12th! <--

    [​IMG]

    Another important announcement is that VM will be releasing in Early Access. This Kickstarter post explains a bit of my logic and I'm still working on a more comprehensive "how and why" post, though I suppose as a forum full of indie devs you probably understand better than most.

    It's disappointing I can't release a finished game quite yet, but it's also exciting thinking of the benefits EA will bring. I plan on being in EA for about a year.
     
    Booyaa, RangerX, Red Phantom and 3 others like this.
  14. Booyaa

    Booyaa Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2018
    Posts:
    14
    Hope I will be finished with RDR 2 during that time! Looking foward to it.
     
  15. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
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    182
    I played RDR2 at launch and wish I could somehow make myself forget the experience and play it all over again

    What a good game
     
  16. WarpDogsVG

    WarpDogsVG Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
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    Today is release day! And I've been running around like a chicken with its head lopped off!

    Village Monsters is officially out now on Steam Early Access

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/679830/Village_Monsters/

    It's been an insanely overwhelming day. I know it's just Early Access, but I still feel so vulnerable putting something up for sale!

    Anyway, because this is EA it means my job is starting instead of ending, but I feel like I'm in a really good place. Hope people enjoy what I have so far!
     
    RangerX, mikix and IndianaBones like this.
  17. Zizka

    Zizka Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2019
    Posts:
    21
    I've skimmed through the whole thread and while I'm on the fence about the art I was hooked by the writing. I kept wanting to read what the characters were saying. I seldom consider games to be well written but this is close to earthbound level here! The only thing I dislike is the descriptions in dark grey. It's too late now but I think it's better with just the dialogue. You write well enough for that.
     

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