Alpha 21: A Window Into The Soul
Hearthlings are people too!
Welcome to the Steam latest (unstable) branch debut of Stonehearth Alpha 21! With this release we are continuing our work towards making hearthlings feel more alive. This release sees the new Trait system being added with associated updates being made to embarkation and loadout selection. There’s still a lot in progress and more to come throughout this release cycle, so we definitely welcome any feedback you may have!
Hearthling Traits: Be somebody!
Something that we really want for Stonehearth is to cultivate feeling that you’re helping guide a town of individuals with their own unique quirks and personalities. To that end, we’re introducing a new system of Traits to the game. When a hearthling is born into the world, they’re given a set of traits that may influence how they behave and react to events in the world.
This initial release focuses on a small numbers of these traits, many of which feed directly into the Happiness system from Alpha 20, and the hope is to grow the list slowly over time as new systems come online. From now on you may find your settlement inhabited by such characters as a night-owl who may or may not be a member of a secret cult, or a hearthling who is great at farming but only eats red meat. While the possibility space is small for now given the limited traits in this build, it will soon be huge!
Embarkation: Roll, roll, roll your boat
When setting off with a new group of pioneers, not only will you be able to more clearly see their new stats and traits, but you’ll also have the ability to re-roll individual hearthlings! No longer will you be required to do a bulk party reset in your quest to find a balanced party.
We’ve also made a change to the stat allocation algorithm, so that the hearthlings in your starting party should all have reasonable to good stats, while the hearthlings that join you later may be a bit more… extreme in their capabilities. As a result, we’ve removed the “Randomize Hearthling Attributes” option from the gameplay menu. The hope is that this change will breed more interest in the new hearthlings’ arrival, while allowing us to have more consistent control of the difficulty of the starting party. You may notice that the embarkation screen has an additional change coming on it that we weren’t quite ready to turn on in this first build…
Loadouts: Take only what you can carry!
This patch introduces a major new concept to the embarkation flow: loadouts. Instead of being presented with a store that players can purchase items from, they’ll instead be selecting from a group of loadout packages, each tailored towards a particular playstyle.
We’ve presented three loadouts with this patch, and expect to add more in the future as we gather your feedback. Our hope is that this new approach will have players making stronger choices about how they want to grow their town, without also requiring them to have a nuanced understanding of the Stonehearth economy.
These loadouts are easily expandable, so modders who are interested in creating explicit starting scenarios for their games will be able to utilize this system in cool ways as well. We do expect this first batch of loadouts to not be perfectly balanced, so definitely expect some changes to them as we work towards release.
Space: The less cramped edition
With Alpha 20 we introduced a system that allowed hearthlings to have a concept of how big or small their homes were. While we’re happy with how this system is developing, we did notice that the initial implementation was causing players to do some odd things with the layouts of their home to make the hearthlings feel more at ease. While placing your bed in the center of your room is a bold stylistic choice, it’s not exactly the most cozy one, so with this patch we’ve updated the space calculation to better handle walls and corners.
Now hearthlings will not feel cramped simply because they are against a flat surface; the room they are in will actually need to be pretty small and windowless. This should let you have freedom in your room layouts once again, while still rewarding you for spending more resources to build larger, more windowed homes for your citizens.
Follow Camera: I have my eye on you!
When you select a hearthling, you can now follow them throughout their day with the new Follow Camera! By pressing J after selecting a hearthling, your camera will swivel over to start following the hearthling automatically from a bird’s eye view. This should help you track a hearthling better than you currently can, and any camera movement will disengage this camera mode. We’re definitely look for feedback from each of you on how this camera feels and if you like it, so please contribute to the conversation!
Topology Service: Knowing where to go, and when.
Alpha 21 introduces the new bit of backend tech called the Topology Service, which allows entities to skip pathfinding to unreachable items. Figuring out how to get to places in a dynamic world like ours takes a lot of time, and before this tech was introduced it wasn’t unusual for a hearthling to spin and spin and spin on trying to figure out a way to get to that berry bush, only to realize too late that no pathway to said bush even exists. This tech short circuits that test, letting the pathfinder know before it even starts that certain items are not reachable. As a result we’ve seen quite the improvement in the amount of CPU time large towns require to function properly.
Key Rebinding: We encourage your input!
For the past month we’ve been going into the depths of our code base, tearing out and rewiring a bunch of the infrastructure. As a result of that work we now are on the path to having a unified input system, which will in turn allow for rebinding of almost all inputs in the game! This work is still in progress, so there’s no UI available for it yet, but you can begin mucking around with this early by adding your own “user_bindings” to your user_settings.json, using what’s in stonehearth.json as a reference. These keybinds will work both for in-game and UI events, and we will develop this outwards to support a wide range of control input types over time.
As with all pushes to the unstable branch, it’s likely that there will be many bugs and mistuned systems. Your feedback is extremely valuable in helping us get the build ready for larger release, so please join the conversation on our forums at discourse.stonehearth.net! It’s only with your continued help and involvement that Stonehearth will be able to reach its full potential.
Thank you once again for your support!