Phew, it's been a while, huh? Seems like summer is already over.
In today's dev diary, I'm going to talk about the most substantial update I've worked on so far: Village Monsters v0.80.0, aka the update that finally implements the long-awaited Village Restoration Project. And it's releasing soon: September 8th!
But before I get into that, let's address the elephant in the room.
Kept you waiting, huh?
Back in June I posted a roadmap for the updates I planned to do this summer. At the time, this particular update was scheduled for July. Well, it's now the end of August... so... what happened?
The problem was twofold. First, I had far less work time this summer than anticipated. All the uncertainties with COVID (and my wife being a teacher) meant that we tried to cram as many chores and appointments as we could into the summer. It left little time for steady work.
But more importantly than that, the features I've been working on for this update are by far the most crucial aspects of the game. Seriously, I can't afford to mess this one up. As such, I've been much more careful in both my design and testing. All this extra pressure has, predictably, resulted in a much slower work schedule.
(Re)building a Village
As mentioned up top, Village Monsters v0.80.0 is all about the Village Restoration Project. In the story, this refers to the community effort to revitalize a struggling town. However, it's really just a catch-all term to describe all the features and systems that let you improve or upgrade different parts of the game.
I love town building in games, and when designing Village Monsters I was heavily inspired by the likes of Suikoden, Animal Crossing, Dark Cloud, and Xenoblade Chronicles. I'm a big believer in progression systems that constantly add new features or options to a game as you advance through them.
In fact, you could argue that the entire game loop of Village Monsters is designed around the core concept of improving your friendly monster village. Just take a look at this helpful
octopus chart for proof:
Every aspect of the game - whether it's improving your friendships, donating items to the library, or even just upgrading your home - feeds back into your village rating. This means you'll rarely need to go out of your way to contribute to the village - these are things you'd be doing anyways!
You'll notice that several of the features in the above graph are actually already in the game. What Village Monsters v80.0 really focuses on is tying it all together and making your progress much more tangible. It's no fun improving a village if it still looks and feels the same after you're done, right?
Save our Library!
Let's look at a more concrete example to help explain how progression works: the village library!
The library, like every other part of the village, is at its lowest point when you first start the game. It begins as nothing more than a dusty ol' collection of books in a rarely visited part of town
However, the library plays a very important role in the Village Restoration Project. The library's main goal is to prove out the historical and ecological value of the town and surrounding area. In gameplay terms, it serves as the place to donate and display everything that you can collect (via hobbies or discovery) in the game.
There are spots and exhibits for fish, critters, plants, history, treasure, and of course books.
As you donate new items, the library will expand with additional wings and exhibits. While it's always fun to just admire your collection, you'll also enjoy some real tangible benefits as the library 'levels up'.
For instance, any item you donate will sell for more silver in the general store (think of it like your items being properly appraised). At a certain level you'll even start receiving weekly deposits of silver automatically - your share of the revenue that your contributions pull in.
The core 'loop' of the Village Restoration Project is as follows: level up a building, relationship, or other aspect of the game -> Receive rewards and new features that make leveling things up even faster -> Repeat!
Each area of town requires a slightly different method to level up. For example, some stores - like Pisky's general store - simply require you to buy and sell items like you normally would. Over time, as the village becomes more prosperous, Pishky can expand his store with new items, new services, and much more.
Grading on a Curve
Your village is graded on a scale ranging from D to SSS. Each grade has a + version resulting in ten distinct levels you can be ranked at.
You can check your current grade any time by visiting the town hall. You can also learn a bit more about how to improve the village in case you want some clearer direction.
Everything you do in the game contributes to the overall village grade, but not everything is graded equally. For example, improving your friendship with one villager will have a smaller impact than purchasing and completing an expensive community project.
This is where the village suggestion box (also called the Vox Monstrum, or "voice of the people") can come in handy. The suggestion box provides you with more specific hints directly from the villagers on areas that lacking.
Your village grade serves one last major role: it dictates which of the 4 different endings you get. It's way too early to talk about them in any sort of detail, so you'll have to wait a bit longer to find out more about them.
Of course, I should put quotations around the word "ending" - this wouldn't be much of an open world sandbox game if it ended after the credits roll! You'll be able to continue playing the game for as long as you'd like, and that'll include increasing your village rating to hit the max level.
That's all for today! Village Monsters v0.80.0 releases on September 8th. I'm really looking forward to having you all play it!