WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

My sincere apologies for the lack of updates. I’m almost done with the gamepad support, but there are still a few bugs that I need to fix. In modern games, we expect a gamepad to be plugged in and just work, and we also want to be able to go back to using the mouse without having to jump through hoops, and the pointer to know exactly where to go at all times.

Turns out there are a few magic tricks involved to make these things happen, and many opportunities for bugs. For example, if I plug my gamepad in the middle of a drag & drop operation, it should be cancelled, and so on. These are things I’m still learning as I progress, hence the difficulty in predicting when I will finish. In retrospect, my “in two weeks” estimation at the end of March was extremely naive.

To my defense, the strangely apocalyptic beginnings of 2020 did not help either. I hope that you are all doing well in these trying times.

This delay should not affect the planned updates I discussed a few weeks ago. I hired videogame artist Daniel Thomas for another 10 weeks and he started working on the new buildings. Here’s a preview of the barn and the greenhouse:

WoMen in Science - ben
Once again, no weekly update while I’m focused on the full-gamepad support, but a little post about some of my sources of inspiration.
When thinking about farming RPGs, the Harvest Moon (1996) series and Stardew Valley (2016) inevitably come to mind. But for older gamers, there are even earlier memories of RPGs that included some agriculture and crafting. For me, it was Ultima VII (1992). That is probably the first RPG game where most objects could be moved or interacted with, and the player was free to explore a huge world filled with non-linear adventures.

The world was so realistic that you could decide—instead of being an adventurer—to harvest wheat, mill it, put the flour on a table, add water (or beer!) to make dough, and put it in an oven to make bread that you could consume or sell. It would quickly become boring, but there was a special feeling associated with letting your weapons aside and just craft for a while.

Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley are definitely the main source of inspiration for WoMen in Science, though. Graveyard Keeper (2018), the dark humorous farm-sim game where you manage a cemetery, is where our point system comes from.

Another—maybe more surprising—source of inspiration is Baldur’s Gate 2 (2000). In the dialogues with the imp Cespenar, the game will scan your inventory and branch to funny comments depending on the objects you carry.

I implemented a similar system when you bring an artifact to Carl Von Linné in the museum, so that he will not just explain the artifacts but also make comments on other items. In the future I’d like to build on this system, and create something like a small database of all that happens in the world, so that NPCs can react to it in surprising ways.

My own life
I think that it’s important to put a little part of yourself in what you create. I was always interested in agriculture and biotechnology, and that was actually my first career choice, before I went into software development. I played with hydroponic and aeroponic setups, and a few other elements that you will find in game in real life. In fact, the game’s university is based on Gembloux Agro-Bio-Tech, in Belgium, where I was a (far too unreliable) student for a time.

“Blooming Chestnuts”, the title of the summer soundtrack, is inspired by that time. The teachers would tell students that they need to start studying for the finals before the chestnut trees are blooming. Once you see the flowers, it is too late, you failed already, they said. The funny thing was that for the untrained botanists we were trying to be, the blooming happened quite suddenly, triggering the unprepared into a panic state.

The winter theme, named “Nelligan’s garden of frost”, is a reference to my emigration from Belgium to the province of Quebec (Canada), 20 years ago. One of Émile Nelligan’s most well-known poem is “Soir d’hiver”, where he describes his window being a “garden of frost”. He’s not talking about the Canadian winter though, but about his own vulnerability.

I hope that this little incursion into my world was not too boring! There are of course many more things that I find inspiring. So many in fact, that I have a notebook where I have been writing every idea that comes to mind since the beginning of this project, and that will inspire future updates.

PS: If you read the post about Anne Droyd, you already know that many of the scientists' characters were part of a card game I worked on in 2015. I forgot to mention that there is also a https://luanagames.itch.io/wis-card-game.
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

A small update this week : you may have noticed that rabbits and chickens don't go outside when it rains or during the winter. That means they can't find anything to eat by themselves. From now on you can put green material in their feeder inside the coop, and they will take some at the end of the day if they can't go outside. If the feeder is empty when they need food, their hearts will decrease a little bit (which means less egg production from hens).

The full gamepad support should be ready early next month. It's the first time I program an interface to respond to a gamepad - truth to be told, I didn't even own a gamepad until two month ago! - so I had quite a lot to learn. Once that is out of the way, I will be back to full speed updates.

We will have our very first "Weeklong Deal" starting Monday, if you haven't bought the game yet (or our nice soundtrack composed by Irene Chan), there will be a 20% discount. If you bought the game recently and are still eligible for a refund (played less than 2 hours and purchased less than 14 days ago), know that Steam considers than asking a refund to buy the discounted version is totally acceptable.

Take care,
WoMen in Science - ben
No update this week, instead I will discuss my plans for the major updates that will arrive later this year.

Buildings update
The first major update will be released before the end of July and will permit to add buildings to your farm. You will have to purchase the plans, then decide where you want to build. Then you’ll have to bring the materials to complete each step of the construction.

Once you have bought a building's plans, you can build as many as you want as long as there is enough free space around your farm, but you will still have to collect or buy the materials.

Buildings will include the chicken coop, a barn (with 2 new animals), a greenhouse and a multipurpose shed. This is pretty standard for farm sims, I’ll probably add some more exotic buildings and upgrades for the existing ones later. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to share in the comments.

World Update
The next update is planned for the end of the year, and will extend the map. It will be about 200% larger, with many new areas and more variety.

Map of the current world.

The NPCs will also be updated with new dialogues and more quests, that will evolve according to your friendship status.

This is a major update that will probably not be compatible with old saved games (since the map will be very different). Luckily, it is possible to keep multiple version of a game on Steam, so I will make sure that those who want to continue to play the previous version can easily do so.

End Game
Next year I would like to work on progress and replayability, two important aspects of the farm sim genre.

Currently, the game lacks an endgame, a goal that gives you a reason to continue playing and feel that you are getting somewhere, like the Community Center in Stardew Valley.

I’m thinking that it would be nice if you could be elected mayor of the community, and choose how it will evolve. You could decide if you let the community grow, or if you keep it small, if you prioritize productivity or the environment or something in between. You could also decide what festivals should take place during the year, what new shops or industries can open in town, etc.

I’d like to make the changes to the community pretty epic. You could end up with an ultra-modern town with robots and technology everywhere, or turn it into an ecological sanctuary for endangered species, each change on the way having both advantages and disadvantages.

It would give both a sense of progression, and a good reason to replay the game and see what happens to the town and its inhabitants when you make different choices.
WoMen in Science - ben
I thought that it could be fun to discuss how some characters and other parts of the game came to be. Let me know if you want me to write more about some aspects of the game or the work I do.

I love Stardew Valley, and the way ConcernedApe captured the very essence of Harvest Moon and other classics of the genre in his masterpiece, with great attention to details, is really inspiring. In 2017, having just finished a card game about female scientists (free print & play pdf), the idea to create a game “like Stardew Valley but with Science and Robots” came to me quite naturally.

At first, I wanted robots to help with farming. They would need to be recharged frequently, you could customize them with extra batteries or extra backpack space to transport items, and so on, so they could plant, harvest and water the crops. But in a game where you can plant and build anywhere, it can quickly become a pathfinding nightmare, and I decided to put that idea aside for a while and use flying drones instead.

The first version of the robot was a bit ... scary!

Another problem came from the choice of NPCs. Using real life scientists make it easy to add personality and fun facts in the dialogues, but it makes it much harder to have comic relief. I wanted humor to be an important part of the game, to balance the scientific content.

I could make fun of the scientists, but I could not make them completely ridiculous. But a robot was fair game. And that is how Anne Droyd was born.

Her humanoid look with a rotating hand and a clamp is in part inspired by … Ada, from Fallout 4! I made no secret that I’m a big fan of Bethesda, as you probably guessed during the first encounter with Alexa. Plus it totally makes sense, since the name of Fallout’s robot is inspired by Ada Lovelace, a famous Woman in Science.

Anne Droyd’s personality was inspired by reddit’s group r/totallynotrobots, a community of humans pretending to be robots pretending to be humans (are you still following ?). The group is hilarious, and that was exactly the kind of robot I wanted. Later in game, Anne’s strange logic develops further in a quest inspired by the Antivax movement.

The current dialogues are far from complete, and I’m particularly impatient to further flesh out Anne’s personality. She will most probably join Albert “Totally not Einstein” - the lovable and surprisingly naive genius - , and Melon Husk (or is it Elon Musk ?) - a billionaire whose ambitious plans tend to fail spectacularly - in a comic trio.
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

This week I updated the museum and fixed a few bugs :
  • feature : artifacts now appear in the museum
  • fixed : artifacts disappearing when you reload a game
  • fixed : inaccessible artifact spawner on the island(s) is not an error (you can get there … once you are able to walk on water), but it should not have been clickable from far away.
I’m still working on the full gamepad support (no mouse), it’s actually the main use of my time currently. If you are a gamepad user, please know that I did not forget you.
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

We passed the mark of 10 reviews on Steam and earned a rating of “Positive” (80%). I want to thank all of those who took the time to write a review, it means a lot! If you haven’t yet, please consider adding yours. Steam’s algorithm uses reviews to decide if a game is worth showing to other potential players, for small indies it’s a lifeline.

Here’s the list of changes for this week:
  • Feature : Opening the inventory, quest panel or skill panel now pauses the game. The game still runs in the map section, because I think it’s nice to see the NPCs moving.
  • Feature : Genetic mutations will now randomly appear in crafted seeds. The better quality the fruits/vegetables used, the better chance to have interesting mutations in the seeds.
  • Fixed : The bar showing points doesn’t always appear when moving the mouse on the top of the screen.
  • Fixed : NPCs disappear when you come back from the BotArena minigame.
  • Fixed : Black screen when entering a house
  • Fixed : Sometimes you have to clic more than once to use the hoe
  • Fixed : Friday Night quizz game doesn’t start or ends abruptly
  • Fixed : Animal names are now limited to 25 characters
  • Fixed : Toolltip for the (raw) egg told that it could be consumed with a right-click, which is false.
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

This week's feature is being able to pet animals to make them happy (Happy hens will lay eggs more often.), name them, and remove them by killing (producing meat) or selling. I put a list of 20 random funny names for the rabbits and the chicken, but only in English for now. If you have suggestions for other languages, I'll be happy to add them!

I also adjusted the growth time and productivity of each plant. The growth time now appears on the seed's tooltip.

  • Feature : You can pet animals by clicking on them and that makes them happy, with a second click you access their menu with possibility of selling, killing or renaming the animal.
  • Feature : Show the seed growth time.
  • Fixed : Could not use the barbecue
  • Fixed : Plants dying of thirst for no reason.
  • Changed : increased the probability of finding Battery Cells in Recycle Bins when Anne gives you a quest.
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

There have been a few demands for faster movement, so I increased the character speed by 25%. Also, you might have noticed that items sold in the cart gave twice as much money than those you sold directly to Albert, that is now fixed.

When I'm not fixing bugs, I'm still working on the full gamepad support. There is much more to do than what I expected, but I'll get there.

This week's changes :
  • Modified : Player speed increased by 25%, let me know if that is still not fast enough (but keep in mind that there will be faster ways to travel in the future)
  • Fixed : Items put in the cart were sold at full price instead of ½ price as intended
  • Fixed : Norman Borlaug's dialogue was replaced by the last opened dialogue.
  • Fixed : Norman Borlaug gets out from the wrong house, and stays at the door for hours.
  • Fixed : drones stations can now be removed and placed somewhere else
  • Fixed : multiple drones no longer try to water the same spot
  • Fixed : drones now have a quota of 50 plants to water, and will water them even if you go to sleep before they finish
  • Fixed: red and blue grapevine names and descriptions were inverted
  • Fixed : “Navets” plant was named “Betteraves” in French translation
  • Fixed : the price of soap was way too low
WoMen in Science - ben
Howdy Scientists!

The most noticeable change this week is the map. This should make questing much easier.

There are a few of bugs I haven’t fixed yet. In some cases, the difficulty is that I need to be able to reproduce the bug on my computer to know what is wrong and to check if the changes I make have fixed the problem. And sometimes, the problem just doesn’t happen on my configuration, and it takes much more time to analyze what’s going on and fix the issue. Please know that a delay in fixing a bug you submitted doesn’t mean I’m not working on it, I intend to track and fix all of them!
  • Feature : A map! Press M in game to show the map with all NPCs. You can hover people to show names and building to show the people inside. In the future I would like to add the map functionality to quests, to make it easy to know where you are supposed to go.
  • Fixed : Anne Droyd walks for no reason.
  • Fixed : Alex continues to appear named as alexa even after meeting
  • Fixed : daylight flashes briefly at night, when getting out of a building
  • Fixed : dead plants get alive again when game is saved and reloaded
  • Fixed : tooltips from the shop stay on screen after the shop is closed

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