Alpha 23 Lands on Steam Stable!

Hey everyone, welcome to Alpha 23! This alpha is about making objects in the world appealing to hearthlings, so that they can finally appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into making them fancy dressers and beautiful rugs. It also includes a systematic update to our AI, improvements to our crafting and hauling systems in the form of prioritized input and output bins, a new fine item system, updates to the unit frame, water updates that enable water parks, facial animations and updated combat animations, and some of the foundational infrastructure changes required for multiplayer, though multiplayer itself will not be playable in this alpha. Let’s get to it!

A23 is Appealing & Full of Fine Items

Hearthlings love well-made items. Many craftable items now have an appeal score, visible from the crafting menu and their unit frame. When hearthlings are sleeping, eating, crafting, or generally hanging out in areas that are appealing, they will get happy thoughts. When they’re in areas that are full of rotting food and haphazard stockpiles, they will get mild unhappy thoughts. You can see a hearthling’s opinion of their current surroundings in their character sheet. You can also turn on an “appeal vision mode” from an icon in the lower right corner of the UI that will allow you to query the general appeal of the area around your cursor.

Hearthlings also have likes, loves, and dislikes, which they must discover by encountering objects in the world, and which can be viewed in their character sheets. Hearthlings who are surrounded by things they love will be happier and more productive. Hearthlings who aren’t…

To make sure that you still have aesthetic freedom to decorate as you like, we’ve separated an item’s appearance from whether or not it is “fine.” This means that high level crafters will occasionally make better versions of items that are visually identical to the normal item, but that are more appealing to hearthlings and that sell for higher prices in stores. To distinguish these better items, they are flagged with gems in the inventory menu and in their tooltips.

The pre-alpha-23 fine item models from the carpenter are still present, but as separate “Ornate” recipes that require fancier ingredients to craft. They have also been touched up to better reflect the Ascendancy’s style.

Priority Bins: Keep Crafters Well Stocked

One of the first things that Designer Luke wanted to fix when he first started playing with our crafting system is the crafter’s time efficiency, or rather, inefficiency. When you create a crafter, they spend a LOT of their time collecting ingredients and then hauling their creations back to a central stockpile. One fix for this problem is to create a bunch of crates, restrict them to certain types of items, and then haul the crates around. However, how do you know which crates to prioritize filling? Can we prioritize the work so that crafters can focus their valuable time on crafting while workers do the hauling?

To fix this problem we’ve added two new kinds of special crafter storage, called input and output bins! Input bins are are shelves, vases, crates and other flavorful items that, when placed, issue high-priority requests for idle hearthlings to restock whatever raw resource the player designates. The bins only store about 12 items, so your hearthlings won’t stock that item forever, and visually show the items that are stored, so you can tell at a glance when you’re running low.

Output bins, in turn, are shelves that you can place near crafters. Crafters prioritize placing completed items into them over other stockpiles, increasing their time efficiency as well as providing a place to showcase a crafter’s finished goods. Other hearthlings then drain the output bin of things when placing furniture or using items.

Each crafter has an assortment of input and output bins that all function the same, and can be set to any raw resource, but are thematically different models so that each crafter’s workshop can look and feel unique.

Bins can be used to improve other town functions: for example, place a bin for wood beside a building to decrease the distance workers have to travel to get resources.

Water Improvements: Build Giant Bathtubs

This release also includes a significant update to our water simulation: that water now interacts properly with buildings. Create water towers, giant bathtubs, waterslides and more! Water doesn’t yet reproduce itself, so rivers and lakes will eventually drain away, but hopefully we’ll get to this in a later build.

Animation Improvements

About a year ago, Artist Malley pointed out that as the game is a community builder, and that the motivation for optimization actually comes from the needs of the people in your town, that hearthlings would actually feel a whole lot more relatable (and less like dolls, or escapees from a horror game) if they had facial expressions. We prototyped a number of options, but our favorites depended on the eyes’ ability to stretch, shrink and deform themselves. Since our animation system was written from scratch, we didn’t have technology that would allow one part of an entity to scale while the rest of the entity remained the same until months later when the input/output boxes required scaled down materials to appear inside of them so that you could see how many you had at a glance. Though the focus of the release remained on the appeal, AI, and fine item systems above, Malley came in on nights and weekends and secretly added hearthling eye colors and a new facial animation system. Hearthlings now close their eyes when they sleep, and make a number of different expressions while fighting, talking, working, and more.

While there, he also touched up a bunch of our combat animations! For a while now, he’s been bothered by the fact that it can be a bit difficult to tell what’s going on in a melee when you’re watching it from a camera angle distant enough to allow you to follow the whole battle, so he used the scale technology to make weapons get just a little big bigger as they swing, so that they pop more. He also tweaked most of the hearthling animations so that each animation better telegraphs itself as it happens, so combats are generally easier to read.

AI & MP Infrastructure Changes

We have made a ton of foundational changes to our AI and its prioritization. To that end, please make crafters and buildings, mine, harvest, and loot, and see if stuff feels different to you! We’ll be looking for your feedback on our forums on Steam and on discourse.stonehearth.net.

If you see weird errors, please report those also! Most functions in the game were touched in the process of making the game safer to play in a multiplayer environment, so please let us know if you get a surprise message.

Other Improvements

  • Added a fancy new unit frame
  • Stoic and Hothead are now exclusive traits
  • Changed Artistic Inspiration and Artistic Excellence level perk names to “Journeyman’s Knowledge” and “Master’s Insight”
  • Added progress bar for crafting so you can tell how far along an order is
  • Made crafters resume their in-progress orders at the same workbench
  • Updated the visual effects on lanterns
  • Changed building templates so that the filename is a randomly generated string instead of creating the files directly from the template name. Fixes issues with some unicode characters preventing building template preview images from appearing correctly. The templates list window will still display player created template names as usual.
  • Fewer clay bricks are needed to construct clay brick buildings.
  • Tweaks to the potter’s crafting recipes and crafting time, so Rayya’s Children doesn’t take so painfully long to get started
  • Descriptions wrap in the unit frame, so they aren’t cut off with ellipsi…