Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG
Hello Villagers!



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.



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.



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.



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



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.



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.



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.

Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.



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..



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.

Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG
This is a big month for ol' Village Monsters. A new and gigantic demo, rebanding including a better (actual) logo and new trailer. etc. etc.

But today? Today we're talking shrooms.

---

About a year ago I revealed what was then a new in-game hobby – Gardening. As I worked on the design I realized that while I knew what I didn’t want – I didn’t want it to be like Harvest Moon, and I didn’t want it to be just a mini-game – I couldn’t nail down what I did want.

With no clear vision the work on Gardening unsurprisingly stalled. Later this year it fizzled out completely and I considered just cutting it altogether.

Then one day I happened to be working on the village currency. I figured that monsters would be unlikely to use gold – that has way too much human baggage, right? – so I went with silver. Seems appropriately monster-y.

It was then that it hit me. Monsters wouldn’t grow turnips or flowers as hobby. Ridiculous! They’d grow mushrooms!



In this week’s dev diary I’m going to talk about this newly overhauled hobby.

Super Shroom



So you want to a Mushroom Gardener.

Well first you’re going to need some spores. You could buy them, sure, but you can also forage mushrooms out in the wild and use them in your garden.

Spores must be planted in a designated mushroom plot, but apart from picking a soil type it’s pretty low maintenance. You won’t need to water them or pick any weeds.

Instead of focusing on the more mundane aspects of growing I wanted to free up your time to instead work on the fun stuff – things like cultivating hybrids, discovering bizarre mutations, and cooking up all sorts of interesting effects.

Effects



You’ve already seen many examples of effects in the form of potions, but I’ve since overhauled the system so that any item has the ability to create some kind of effect. Mushrooms are now the primary way to access these effects.

Having trouble catching a fast critter? Bait your traps with a Snowberry Shroom and you’ll chill (and slow) the critter that eats it. Use your mushrooms in Cooking to make a meal that restores energy, makes you move faster, and slows down time.

(How can a mushroom slow down time? Ask you parents.)

There’s a huge amount of effects to discover. Some are practical, others are just weird. Some break the game. They’ve been fun to program and test, so I really hope you can enjoy them!

Breeding Hybrids

I love the idea of making plant hybrids. It’s like playing mad scientist, only instead of frankenstein you can make a seedless watermelon that resists the cold.

In the world of Village Monsters mushrooms as highly malleable. This means that a talented mushroom gardener can create brand new species with just a bit of effort. All you need are two fully grown mushrooms in the same plot as an empty tile. Then you just let nature take it’s course…………. if you know what I mean.



Mushroom plots always come in sets. So long as there’s both fully grown mushrooms and free spots in the set then hybridization is possible

The most practical benefit of growing hybrids is that the resulting new offspring can contain the attributes and effects of its parents. For example, a Spicy Shroom is a fast grower and it can pass down this benefit to its offspring.

There’s also breeding for aesthetics, like rare colors or glows effects. You can grow some pretty funky mushrooms, but some will require generations of hybrids to unlock.

Best of all you can usually process hybrids for their spores allowing you to plant your new strain indefinitely.

Mutation

There’s one other thing that can happen to your growing gardening – mutations.

Mutations are similar to hybrids in that they create unique mushrooms, but mutations are more unique, more bizarre, and certainly more unpredictable. Mutations also don’t require a ‘parent’ mushroom and can occur to any mushroom that’s still growing.



You can influence mutations by the type of soil you use and some unique upgrades. Like hybrids you can usually grab the spores from your newly birthed creation to permanently add it to your garden journal.

I’m considering adding a touch of procedural generation to get some truly weird mushrooms that even I can’t predict, but that might have to wait for a future free update.

That’s enough mushrooms for now. You’ll be able to play with them yourself when the next demo releases later this month.
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG
Hello Villagers!
The past couple weeks were so focused on the demo release that I went on a developer diary hiatus – but we’re back today, baby!

(Also, why not check out the demo if you haven’t already?)

You’ll notice a definite trend in what I’ve been working on this week: villager interactions. This’ll remain a major priority for probably the next month and includes things like player-involved conversations, quests, schedules, villagers interacting with the world alongside you, and more.

Let’s dive in.

Decisions, decisions…
Until now conversations have been a one-sided affair, but that’s changing with the addition of player choice in dialogue.



Do your choices matter? Well, sorta. They serve as a way to flesh out the personality of both your character and the villager, so there’s no risk of picking the ‘wrong’ option. Still, some options may be more important than others, so be sure to pay attention.

Talk to Me
The system governing when and how often you can chat with villagers has been improved. Villagers now gain new things to say as the day goes on, and they’ll even indicate when they want to talk via an icon above their heads.



No icon? Then they have nothing new to say right now so you can keep on walkin’, but check in with them later on.

Oh, Hello
If you’ve played previous demos you’ve hopefully noticed that villagers will occasionally say hi to you as you walk by. I liked this feature, but in truth it was pretty clunky and pulled from a tiny pool of generic things to say – that’s no good.



It’s been replaced in both look and function. Now each villager has their own things to say as you walk by that reflect their personality or situation. I’m also considering hooking it into the friendship system so that your relationship slightly improves each time you say hello.

The Landswill
You can sell practically anything at Pishky’s, but he’s a respectable merchant cat and has his standards. So what to do with all your failed cooking experiments, fished up trash, and other detritus that he won’t buy?



You head on over to your local Landswill, of course! Nobody knows where exactly Zabbal the Trash Hog came from, but he provides an important service by eating anything you put in his pen – no questions asked.

It’s worth checking out even if you don’t have anything to dump; you never know what you might find. As they say: one hog’s trash is another man’s new teddy bear.
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG
Hello Villagers!

New demo coming July 30th

I've got big news to share! The next demo of Village Monsters - code name Summer Sherbet - is coming out on July 30th. And for the first time since last year this demo will be made available to everybody!

I've been working my butt off on this release since the end of spring, and it is by far the biggest and meatiest demo yet. I hope you look forward to visiting this little slice of village life at the end of July.

Onto the dev log!

Just Say the Word


It's one thing to write a bunch of words. It's quite another to actually implement them in the game.

The majority of the past two weeks has been spent adding dialogue to the game and making sure it looks and reads correctly. It's quite a bit of busy work, but it's also had benefits as it turns out some lines that seemed fine in my editor didn't have the same impact when spoken by the villager.

I've done as much editing as I have implementing, and I think that's a good thing.

Reading Rainbow


Speaking of words: bookcases can now be interacted with! Have fun browsing hundreds of titles.

Foraging


Foraging has been in the game for a long while now - in fact, it was one of the very first features I created - but it's always been a silly little placeholder system that wasn't very interesting. Until now.

Each season now brings its own thematically appropriate items to forage. Similarly, the items you can find in each part of the world are now different - you can find mushrooms in the forest, seashells on the beach, and vegetables at the farm.

Foraged items are also far less predictable in where and how often they grow, so you'll have to do some exploring if you want to make a hobby out of it.

Camera Woes


I really, really hate dealing with camera issues. You're probably thinking, "It's a 2D game - what camera?", but when it comes to pixel art you need to make sure you can scale your display without any kind of distortion or weird looking pixels.

This past week I ran into a doozy of a problem with scaling the UI, but there was a silver lining: the fix ended up solving a whole crop of other bugs. If you've experienced UI issues with past releases (such as the dialogue box disappearing, or the clock display getting cut off), then you'll be happy to know these are now fixed.

There's also a very real chance I introduced a host of other camera bugs. I think I must have broken a cursed camera when I was a kid.

Long Weekend


Unlike past demos, Summer Sherbet is not unlimited. You have just three days to get to know the village and its surroundings, so make 'em count!

There's at least one more dev log coming next week followed by a weighty patch list just prior to release. I'm so pumped for people to play this demo, so I'm going to stop writing these words immediately and get back to work.
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG


Hello Villagers!

Welcome to another (slightly late) weekly developer diary of Village Monsters!

Another productive week is under the belt and we’ve had so many of those in a row that our stomach is full to bursting. I let that analogy get away from me, so let’s cover our losses and proceed with the update!


New New You



If it feels like I’m making changes to the player sprite each week then that’s because I am.

After some feedback on my previous update I’ve made some changes to the head and eyes. I’m slowly inching toward a final sprite ‘template’ which’ll allow me to create even more variations (so you can pick your gender, skin color, hair, etc.)

Villager Journals



You like invading people’s privacy, right? Of course! We all do. That’s why I’m giving each villager a journal for you to secretly read when they’re not looking.

Some journals may be very well hidden, or in rooms that you won’t have access to right away. Be ever vigilant, you nosy parkers!

Movement Changes



I’ve made the following changes to movement. Overall the goal was to make things feel better – in this case “better” means easier and more precise.

  • Default movement is now faster
  • Sprint is now a toggle (will be an option in final version)
  • When using gamepad, tilting the stick partway will result in walking
  • Tilting all the way transitions to run automatically
  • You can walk via the keyboard by holding Control

Helpful Helper Icons



I spent a lot of time coming up with little icons for each interaction. Unfortunately for me, I later realized I hated them all and they weren’t very helpful.

They’ve been replaced by much more helpful button icons which tell you what you need to press. The helper text remains unchanged.
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG


Hello Villagers!

Welcome to another weekly developer diary of Village Monsters. It’s been a productive week over here at Village Monsters HQ. Maybe it’s because my area has escaped the heat that as seemingly conquered the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because my new developer pipeline is really starting to shine.

Maybe I just had a lot more Red Bull than usual. I don’t rightly know, but I’m sure I shouldn’t question it. Let’s take a peek!


The Old Man and the Sea



Ask any master fisherman what his greatest tool is and he won’t talk to you about lures, hooks, or rods. No. He’ll instead talk about that nearly indescribable fisher instinct, or fishtincts as they’re called by the masters.

These fishstincts are now finally represented in the game. A special icon is displayed and a distinct noise is played when it’s time to snag that tasty fish, and you’ll somehow intrinsically know whether your timing was too late, too early, or if the line broke.

History Books



The Historical Society has been renamed the Library, though it’s more than just a semantics change. You’ll have to see for yourself the next time you visit.

Skulliver!



Quick – what’s the village currency called? You don’t know, do you? Of course not! I barely do and I created the damn things.

Well it doesn’t matter now as they’ve been replaced by silver coins known as Skull Silvers, more commonly referred to as skulliver or even just skullies.



You can earn skulliver by pursuing hobbies, helping villagers or working part time, and they’re used to pay for everything from your mortgage to a hot drink in Overflow.

How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters



Making friends with your (monstrous) neighbors has long been an important feature of Village Monsters, and this week was the first time in awhile that I tweaked how it works.

You can now gain “Bonus Friendship” for actively maintaining your relationship with a villager by talking with them every day. Think of it like a combo streak: the more days in a row you talk to them the faster your friendships grows.

The catch is that this bonus resets if you break the streak. You’re allowed to miss a day or two – I get it, we’re all busy – but after that your streak is reset. You’ll never lose friendships, but don’t let that keep you from being a good friend, human!

Begone, Bugs!


  • Fixed an issue where a villager’s intro dialogue wasn’t triggering correctly
  • Time now pauses while the main menu (or your journal) are open
  • Fixed some goofy problems when sprites changed states
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG


Hello Villagers!
It’s a partly sunny / partly cloudy day here at Village Monsters HQ, and it’s perfect weather to reflect back on a productive week of work.

I’m trying something a bit new this week: instead of a handful of items with detailed explanations I’m going for a lot of items with just a screenshot and blurb about the change. The idea is to make these logs easier to write and more entertaining to read.

Let’s boogie.

Helpful Hints



Each release I like to add a big, goopy layer of quality of life changes. This week I decided to add many more instances of the little ‘helper notices’ that direct how you can interact with the world.

These were in previous releases, too, but now you’ll see them for talking with villagers, picking up items, interacting with furniture, and much more.

New tool belt…



Speaking of quality of life, the tool belt menu has been lacking for awhile. To make it a bit friendlier I went ahead and removed unnecessary tools and changed up the size and transparency to make it look nicer.

…and new you!



The human (you) has received another face lift. Well, maybe it’s more of body lift? He’s now slightly wider, taller, and has new eyes.

I get asked this a lot, so let me be super clear: there will be plenty of appearance options to choose from in the final game! You’ll be able to choose your gender, skin and hair color, and much more.

Swing City



While I was messing with the player sprite I took time to redo the net swing animation. My original intention was to always have something akin to Link to the Past, so I did just that!

As I watch this gif it’s made me realize I need a little FX to play when a critter is caught, so that’s been added to the backlog.

Begone, Bugs!



There’s also a flurry of bug fixes that happen before a new release, and this one is no different. Here’s what I squashed this week:

  • Collisions of exterior elements (like fences and trees) have been improved
  • The camera is now less prone to “half pixel syndrome”
  • Selecting items via the tool belt menu will no longer caused you to “interact” with whatever object you’re next to
  • A number of dialogue typos have been corrected
  • A number of temporary objects left behind in Beta 1 have been cleaned up
As usual I probably introduced a fun stable of bugs alongside the ones I fixed, so if you do notice any weirdness then be sure to send me a message!
Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG


Happy Summer, villagers!

The days are getting longer and hotter here at Village Monsters HQ, and that makes it easy to tell I’m a game developer: all I want to do is spend my days inside working on a computer.

As with previous weeks this is a very dialogue focused update, but I also managed to sneak in some new furniture and decorations, so let’s get to it!

New Decorations
Each release I try to at least make an effort at adding new furniture and decorations, but this past week I sat down with purpose and added a whole bunch at once.

You can now find pumpkin garland, teddy bears, dinner plates, instruments, rugs, plants and a whole bunch more stuff. Villagers having many more options to decorate their homes means that you do, too!



(Not literally, though; I fixed the bug that allowed you to rob villager homes stupid of furniture and items.)

Everything you find in a villager home can be bought at the store and used in your house, but if you see something you really like you could always wait until the Spring Cleaning event and haggle for it with the villager themselves!





Smarter Conversations
I’ve written lots and lots of dialogue so far, but that’s really only the first step – after all, you probably want to read dialogue in a game, not an Excel spreadsheet, right?

Lately I’ve found that implementing dialogue has been a great way to come up with new ideas and systems. This has turned into a very jolly feedback loop where I’ll write some words, get an idea, prototype the idea, and then write even more words!

Here are some examples of things I’ve worked on or plan to soon

  • Villagers can now wake up in special ‘states’ – like being sick, grumpy, energetic, and so on. This’ll change their dialogue for the day.
  • Certainly topics of conversations are now reserved for higher friendship levels. This includes personal stories, juicy gossip, and lore about the world.
  • Spoken conversations are now more gradually reshuffled back into list of available topics. This further minimizes repetitious dialogue and encourages finding new conversations if you frequently talk with a villager.
The downside to all this is that testing new dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult due to the amount of it and the complexity of the systems. In my spare time I’ve been creating a dialogue testing tool to minimize the amount of manual confirmation I need to do.



Dialogue Don’t Stop
I talk a lot about dialogue, and it’s for a good reason: I’m writing an awful lot of it!

But it’s not always easy to share screenshots of dialogue – it’s often not very interesting to read out of context, and of course I’d prefer you to discover villagers and their personalities in-game for yourselves.

So! Here’s another way of sharing my work: stats and charts! Who doesn’t love stats and charts? Right? …right? :(

Ok, well, let;s first look at dialogue sets I’ve created per villager



Here we can see that most villagers currently have about 20 different things to say – though some have far less and a few have far more. This is a result of my preference of picking a different villager every few days and writing a bunch of text for them while ignoring the others.

My unofficial goal is to have 100+ different things for each villager to say, so I best get back to writing soon!




This next graph breaks out topics by category. Unsurprisingly, general topics are the most common followed by seasonal topics, story, weather, and village gossip.

The goal here isn’t necessarily balance – after all, there’s only so many things you can say about rain – but I do want to make sure there are no underrepresented topics.



We’ll end with a simple one – a word count of the script. At 11,000 words we’ve smashed short story status and we’re all on our way into novella. Will we reach novel status before release? It seems terrifyingly likely.

That’s it for this week! Before I leave you, check out a sneak peek of a few (very!!) work-in-progress pictures of the new logo. I’m not sure which direction I like most yet, but you can hopefully see where I’m going with it.



Village Monsters - WarpDogsVG
Hello Villagers!

Did you know Village Monsters is on Kickstarter? It's true! And it needs your help!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/389391560/village-monsters-a-monstrous-life-sim-game

The campaign will end on October 12th, which is just around the corner. There are still rewards left that let you create your own furniture, put your name or phrase in the game, or create a unique monster that will be added to the game.

If you like the idea of Village Monsters and haven't backed yet, please consider doing so!

As a reminder, all backers at $25 and above will receive access to future Alpha and Beta demos leading up to release. All backers will also have the option to receive a Steam key for their copy of the game.
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