Author Topic: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!  (Read 424 times)

WarpDogsVG

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Hi all!

My name is Josh, and I'm a solo dev working on Village Monsters, a life-sim game very much in the style of other games in the genre, like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley.

Village Monsters is set inside the world of an abandoned video game. Over time, the monsters that served as enemies grew tired of waiting around for players, and eventually decided to throw away their axes and fireball spells. They now live a more peaceful life in a village that they created for themselves.

You play the role as someone booting up the game for the first time in decades. You've been invited to live in the village that the monsters created, so...when can you move in?

Here's an incomplete list of things you can do!
  • Kick your feet up and put down some roots in this cozy village populated with affable monsters
  • Furnish and upgrade your very own house. Hang up some new wallpaper! Plant a garden! Sit atop a golden throne you found in the woods!
  • Pick up a new hobby, like treasure hunting, critter catching, or fishing, then donate your findings to the Historical Society of Monsters
  • Meet a boatload of rambunctious and whimsical villagers with their own personalities, schedules, and problems to solve
  • Adventure through a bizarre and beautiful digital world that’s been transformed by its abandonment
  • Bring back the treasures from your expeditions to decorate your home and village
  • Experience total immersion thanks to a robust day/night cycle, seasonal changes, dynamic weather, and a packed calendar full of events and holidays
  • Unravel a unique story through dialog, environments, descriptions, and other esoteric means
  • Enjoy the deep satisfaction of dog ownership
  • Discover a world brimming with lore, where every single area, villager, and item has context and background
  • When you’re not relaxing, you can overcome obstacles, puzzle out puzzles, and solve strange mysteries
  • Complete a massive compendium full of collectibles, secrets, and much more

Links & Downloads
Itch.io page with more info, devlogs, and screenshots: https://warp-dogs.itch.io/village-monsters

I've been working on this for about 5 months now, and have put out new prototypes to play every 1-2 months. It's still in rough shape (thus the designation 'prototype', as opposed to 'demo'), but hopefully you can see where I'm going with this project. If you like playing early access games and want to provide feedback then I'd absolutely love it if you tried it out!

I'll be using this topic to post developer diaries, but also to solicit feedback and opinions on things. Let me know if you have any questions!

Screenshots





Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2017, 11:54:02 PM »
Welcome to Exilian, great to meet you :)

I'll have a go at the prototype soon and let you know what I think - looks very interesting. And also how I play games *anyway* - I'm the sort of person who will be playing full-on mass killing strategy games and then go off and try and spend the time sheep farming instead because it's more fun, so this very much appeals to me :P
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Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2017, 01:23:18 PM »
Right, had an initial wander round and met some characters, all very good fun and it had a nice look & feel to it: good job :)

Notes
  • Keyboard controls were confusing, and even for a pre-alpha a brief explanation would be good. The A and S keys appeared to do some things with the handheld+ items, but also be movement keys? I also seem to be able to scroll left through my inventory slots with the left arrow but not back right again. I know it's more designed for a gamepad, but I think you will need to have a full keyboard control set as well: I don't own a gamepad and I suspect a lot of other potential target audience won't either.
  • Really like the range of characters, and the style/theming is definitely fun.
  • Does the completable compendium mentioned in your notes exist yet/if so how is it accessed?
  • It felt odd that I could walk through some things that I expected to be solid (barrels most notably).

Bug reports
  • I got the following error message & crash after talking to the blob chef once, then trying talking to it again.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
  • Postbox text should start "if you had some mail"
  • Got stuck on the island with the chests - my raft ended up glitching onto land somehow so I couldn't get away again.
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2017, 05:54:22 AM »
Right, had an initial wander round and met some characters, all very good fun and it had a nice look & feel to it: good job :)

Notes
  • Keyboard controls were confusing, and even for a pre-alpha a brief explanation would be good. The A and S keys appeared to do some things with the handheld+ items, but also be movement keys? I also seem to be able to scroll left through my inventory slots with the left arrow but not back right again. I know it's more designed for a gamepad, but I think you will need to have a full keyboard control set as well: I don't own a gamepad and I suspect a lot of other potential target audience won't either.
  • Really like the range of characters, and the style/theming is definitely fun.
  • Does the completable compendium mentioned in your notes exist yet/if so how is it accessed?
  • It felt odd that I could walk through some things that I expected to be solid (barrels most notably).

Bug reports
  • I got the following error message & crash after talking to the blob chef once, then trying talking to it again.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
  • Postbox text should start "if you had some mail"
  • Got stuck on the island with the chests - my raft ended up glitching onto land somehow so I couldn't get away again.

Thanks for playing and providing such good feedback! I checked my logs and I'm pretty sure all the bugs you saw are fixed in the new release (which'll drop sometime in July). In fact, July's release is shaping up to be a proper 'alpha' in the sense that it'll be much more stable and contain more finished versions of every system and feature.

Tomorrow I hope to share a dev diary for one of the many hobbies you can partake in - critter catching!

Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2017, 10:23:59 PM »
Cool, look forward to seeing more :)
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2017, 02:15:01 AM »
I'm a bit (very!) late on posting this developer diary, but here it is: Catching Critters in Village Monsters


You’ll notice I’m careful not to call it ‘bug catching’, and the reason is simple: you’ll be hunting and catching far more than bugs.

Sure, you’ll still catch the familiar and mundane Monarch Butterfly, or the less familiar but equally mundane Caeser Butterfly, but there are far more fantastical things to hunt out there.

Mountain gnomes, snow elementals, and even sentient loofahs (??) are all out there to just waiting to be caught.


But there is a 3rd category for creatures that don’t fit with either the mundane or the fantastic - they are called the misfects. Through data corruption and other mysterious forces, these previously normal creatures have been transformed during the long years of abandonment.

There’s the pitiful Half-Hopper, a frog that appears to only contain half of the normally necessary body parts. There’s also this strange snake-like creature that grows, dies, becomes reborn, and then starts the process again.

But uncovering creature variety is only half of the fun of this hobby - the other half is actually catching them.

The Village Monster calendar contains 4 seasons spread across 8 months, and each critter has their own seasonal appearances. Some have further requirements before they appear - like different weather, the presence of a certain item, or even specific world events like holidays.

In terms of actually catching them, the standard tool will be the bug net. You can upgrade your bug net, but the real powerful abilities come in the form of glitch powers.


Pretty crazy, right? Well, remember those misfects I talked about? More than simple creatures were affected by the data corruption, and not every glitch is bad.

As you catch critters you’ll earn experience - but the ‘experience’ will be your character mastering how the mechanic works within the game itself. This in turn allows you to unlock various glitch powers to bend said mechanics to your will - like the above Bug Net Buzzsaw.

I’m not going to go too crazy with creature behaviors. For the most part they’ll be lumped in three simple categories - indifferent, fearful, and secretive. Fearful critters will get spooked and you’ll need to give chase to catch them, while secretive critters will need to be lured out first.

This renowned big game hunter, Blunder Buzz, sponsors a critter hunting tournament each season

Each critter will have a unique description or - if applicable - backstory that you can learn if you bring it to the Historical Society. Some even come with some very special abilities - remember Snow Elemental above? Well, rumor says that it’s been known to summon entire blizzards to hide in when it’s especially fearful…perhaps there are other creatures with equally interesting abilities?

Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2017, 12:30:30 AM »
Nice, I particularly love the snake referencing monster :) The half-hopper is a rather creepy idea, though one I like; are you planning to make the glitch stuff a fairly core part of the game and its story/plots?

Also, our May newsletter just came out and you may see some screenshots you recognise! :) (http://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=5166)
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2017, 10:33:53 PM »
That's awesome, man! That's really cool to see.

Yeah, I'd say the whole glitch angle will be central to a lot of the game, but I don't want to be too heavyhanded with it, either. The closest analogy I can think of is something like Animal Crossing - in that game you join a village of talking animals, which is also strange, but the game never really lingers on it or references it too heavily. That's what I'm hoping for as well.

Anyway, I have a new screenshot to share. I'm not artist and I recognize this limitation with myself, so the style I've selected is purposefully cartoony and flat - I'd say the Mother / Earthbound series are the biggest sources of inspiration there. That said, this flat style has the unfortunate side effect of making everything look very samey.

This last week or so I've been working on rectifying that problem. I've adjusted some of the colors, added shadows, new flowers and 'wind swaying' to both flowers and grass, and overall added a bunch more tile variety. There's still lots to work on, but I'm pretty happy with where it's at compared to what I had before!


Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2017, 12:45:47 AM »
Yes that does look nice, well done :) I know the feeling regarding art, my own adventure game (which is going into beta soon) is mostly very bad static pixel art in a primarily text-based engine...

Will you do some minor anim for the trees? It feels like if there's a breeze sufficient to blow the flowers, it ought to move smaller branches/leaves around too.
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2017, 10:21:39 PM »
I was thinking about it, but I'm having a hard time 'realistically' moving trees, at least in the style I chose. I may experiment with some things to see what works

Different weather types will be a big part of the game, and it would seem pretty odd if the grass and flowers are going crazy in a thundertorm but trees are just sitting there

Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2017, 11:03:13 PM »
Yeah, let me know how it goes, I look forward to seeing the results. :)
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2017, 09:51:50 PM »
Another week has gone by, and that means another version of the (newly renamed) Dev Diary Digest!

Without really meaning to this week followed a consistent theme - ensuring that every day (in the game!) feels different, or unique, or interesting, or surprising. That's been a mantra of mine since I first started, and I'm increasingly in the position to make good on it


First up, I changed the merchant around so its stock changes each day. I also split up the show floor so he sell both furniture and normal items now.



Speaking of daily refreshes, similar to Animal Crossing there'll be a number of things that reset each day. For example, each day a number of 'diggable spots' spawn around town that you can find treasure, monster fossils, minerals, and other goodies. These spots used to be marked by a simple 'x', but this week I changed it up so that each category of items gets its own unique icon: treasure looks like a half-buried treasure chest, fossils look like half-buried bones, and minerals look like a half-buried rock



Next up, I added a bunch more 'atmospheric animals' (which is a bad name). Unlike other critters, these animals are mundane and cannot be caught or donated, and they are mostly ambivalent to the player. They exist purely to add flavor and atmosphere to the village as you walk around each day. Like critters, the types of animals you'll see differ based on time of day, weather, and season

Games these days typically achieve things like atmosphere and 'sense of place' via a strong or unique art style. It should be clear by now that I'm no artist, so I'm hoping to accomplish the sense of place by focusing on the little things and attention to detail.

For example, every so often you'll see a bird fly overhead...


But in the fall, things change slightly - instead of flying north, they fly south...


Again, it's a small thing, something that most folks won't notice, but I want my game filled with these things to give it a realistic feel and personality



I don't just want each day to feel different - I also want each time of day to have its own 'feel'. The main way I'm accomplishing this is by giving villagers their own schedules (TBD) and having unique hourly music (also TBD), but I also want activities, both big and small, to change based on the time, season, and weather.

For example, the above campfire is a good place to hang out and roast some food, but it's only available at night during the warmer seasons

In general, each day I want the player to wake up, check their calendar & weather report, and feel excited about the possibilities of the day. Oh, it's clear tonight - that means the campfire will be open! Oh, it's raining this morning - I bet I can catch that rare fish! And so on.



Finally, I want to share a WIP behind-the-scenes thing - my design doc for the yearly calendar. I'll have more to say as it becomes more fleshed out and finalized, but you'll notice that there are 8 months (2 for each season) and that most weeks have 1-2 events or holidays to look forward to.

This might sound obvious, but what's the best way to make a day feel unique and different? Make it a special holiday with unique activities, themes, music, and more. I'll have a lot of them!

Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2017, 10:58:31 PM »
Lovely :) I think you could do with slowing the birds down - I think I'd feel startled mostly if something that fast shot across my screen - but they're a very nice touch.

Is your intention that every player on every playthrough can do more or less all these things, or not? I guess that's one of the design issues here - how much decision-making and development there is for the character. I tend to like having a lot of customisation but also feeling that I *can't* necessarily do and get everything; forcing players to choose can stop things being overwhelming, which is a risk when you have a game that's really packed with content.
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WarpDogsVG

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2017, 09:42:31 PM »
Hah, definitely don't want to startle with the birds - good advice, I'll slow 'em down.

That's an interesting question regarding the actual consumption of content. My original vision for the game back when I first started on it was that there would be two very distinct choices whenever you started a new day - it would either be a 'village day' where you hung out, did chores, shopping, etc., or it'd be an 'exploration day' in which you spent time outside of the town. I thought it would be interesting to give the player almost *too much* to do in a single day which in turn would make their choices feel meaningful

Buuuut, as the game came together I took more and more of that stuff out until the whole exploration bits disappeared entirely. It just felt too stressful to the player to make them miss out on content all the time, and it triggered some major feelings of 'fear of missing out' in me

My solution to this has been to design the game around short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals include things like "I want to go fishing", or "I want to rearrange my house", or "I want to attend this event". In general, you'll be able to do everything you want to in a given day, so long as you manage it well enough.

The choice comes from the long-term goals, which include things like "I want to complete my fishing collection" or "I want the largest house". It will not be possible to accomplish every single long-term goal in your first year by virtue of the fact that there simply won't be enough time in the day to do everything

The nice thing about having a cyclical game (meaning the calendar wraps back around to spring) is that for the hardcore players that do want to see and do everything, they can - they just need to put in more time. In general, the game will be tuned for that initial year so that the average player can experience everything the game has to offer, with subsequent years being available to catch up on things they missed or try something new entirely

Jubal

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Re: Village Monsters - Kinda like Animal Crossing, but with monsters!
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2017, 11:53:48 PM »
OK, so a fairly sandboxy style overall, essentially - that sounds nice :)

Could you/will you have some sort of metagame achievements system? That might help direct players through trying different new games and bits of content; they'll be drawn to things they might not have tried in order to get the achievement for doing so.
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