Desktop Tuesday: 2018 Update

Hey everyone, welcome to our first Desktop Tuesday of 2018! Today, let’s take a quick look back at 2017, and then take a peek forward to where we’re going in 2018.

2018 Update

Recap from the video:

As we did this time last year, let’s start with SH’s goal:

Stonehearth is a fantasy townbuilding/ant-farm game where you pioneer a living world that inspires warmth, creativity, and storytelling.

In early 2017 we stated that to achieve this goal we would need:

  • A really solid game loop, so you always know what you want to do next
  • Two: A satisfying conclusion, so you can celebrate your victories
  • Three: To understand multiplayer, so that we could figure out how to implement it.

Because a conclusion and multiplayer can’t exist without a solid game loop, we said that we’d spend all of 2017 “revising and expanding existing systems so that they create a virtuous loop of optimization, customization, breadth and depth.”

Looking back over the year, that’s exactly what we worked on: by introducing happiness, traits, conversations, appeal, and the new fine items, we created core systems that allow your hearthlings to tell you what needs to be built and optimized next. At the same time, hearthlings are now individuals, with their own quirks and preferences, so no town, and no optimization solution is the same game to game. Focusing our systems on the hearthlings also got us closer our goal of creating a world that inspires warmth, creativity and storytelling; merely open up a person’s character sheet now and you can read a whole backstory into their traits and preferences, adding significance to dangerous rescues and epic building accomplishments.

We also said this time last year that we were going to work on simulation features like water and building which we definitely did: Albert hammered hard on water’s stability, and on allowing it to interact with buildings, which means water parks and hanging gardens ho! Chris and now Justin and Nikki, in the meantime, have spent the last 9 months completely rewriting the base building code, from infrastructure to UX principles, with all the things they learned from building and patching the original, and we look forward to putting all their hard work in your hands soon.

In 2017, we also dedicated a significant amount of time to another important goal: understanding and evaluating multiplayer! Angelo resuscitated Tony’s original multiplayer code, and he and Richard created several prototypes that have shown us that Stonehearth’s multiplayer is best realized as a cooperative experience on a shared map, and will emphasize your ability to confront challenges and build things together.

So overall, we got a lot of things done this year that we meant to do. Of course, there is never enough time in a year to do all the things we wanted, and we also hear two major complaints from all of you:

  • that because the new building system hasn’t landed yet that building is still a problem
  • that thanks to our emphasis on systems as opposed to content, that the game world still feels empty.

So in 2018, with important foundational elements now in place, we’ll switch our focus away from systems to go hard on the the elements that make for an amazing building sandbox experience: building, multiplayer, and content.

Most obviously, let’s ship that new building experience! This will be our focus for Alpha 24. Chris has the infrastructure mostly working, and he and Justin and Nikki now working on putting a bunch of user experience pieces together: how stairs, roofs, and walls all relate to each other, for example, and how to get a building drawn as smoothly and easily as possible. After alpha 23 ships, look for this leap forward in Q1.

Meanwhile, and because we believe a building game is better when you’re building with your friends, our multiplayer team of Angelo, Linda, and Morgan will be working on getting multiplayer Stonehearth stable and secure, and making sure all the existing content is workable. Security and stability are really important for this, so expect this in Alpha 25, after we ship building.

Finally, our last sub-team, made up of Max, Luke, Allie, and Malley, will be working on our third key project: making the world around your town feel alive by filling it with interesting encounters, both friendly and dangerous. Originally, this started as a project that was about conclusions–as you see above, we originally thought that giving the game a satisfying conclusion was a prerequisite of making a great experience. But what does it mean to be really finished with a sandbox gaming experience? Making a conclusion is really hard when what we really want to see is how your actions and the simulation bounce off of each other. So instead, we’ll probably implement a final Town Tier as a progress marker: a time when the world acknowledges that your hearthlings have accomplished their goals and built an awesome city, so you can take a moment to celebrate before you keep going.

But keep going to what? Well, to address your points that the game feels empty, this team will focus on filling the world with life: more encounters with varied rewards, at least one friendly faction, and at least one really formidable end-game challenge: like a titan. This work will happen in parallel with our building and multiplayer efforts, so keep an eye on our unstable branch in the coming months as all these projects begin to manifest.

After all this key work, it will be time to do another pass on performance and bug fixing, and with this and a few other treats like pets and maybe our last faction and biome, we think we’ll have a really solid basic Stonehearth experience with lots of room for future growth and tons of mods.

Speaking of mods, did you know that in his free time while on holiday break, our amazing Tech Lead, Max, spent a chunk of his time updating community modders’ RepeatPan and Froggy’s still-amazing 2016 Frostfeast holiday mod to work with Alpha 23? You can pick up the updated mod from this link. Simply drop the mod in the mods folder of your game, and the holidays can live on in Stonehearth for as long as you’ve got the mod enabled through the settings menu’s mod manager. Come rediscover the warmth of the Church of Plenty, the awesomeness of chimneys and ovens, the mysteries of the evolving tree sculpture, and of course, the questionable motivations of Achenar and his rotated cultists.

In the meantime we’re doing finishing touches on Alpha 23, which focuses on appeal and fine items: before we close it out, look for another small update with improvements to workshops and a ton of new and improved animations that make hearthlings feel even more like real people.

I’m woefully behind in updating the roadmap, which I will attempt to do later this week, but before we go, let me schedule some dates for our next couple Europe streams:

  • Wed Feb 7th
  • Wed May 9th

And that’s it for this week! I’m very excited for all the things coming in 2018. We’ve always talked about how this game has been built with all of you; I look forward to taking it to the next step, in which we build stuff *in game* with all of you. In the meantime, we’d love to know what you think! Let us know which of the above you’re most looking forward to, or if there’s anything that’s more important that we’ve left out.

Other Announcements

Streams start up again this Thursday at 6:00pm PST on  www.twitch.tv/stonehearth.