titancast

DT: The Titan

It’s here. 😀 To celebrate finally being in Beta, the quest spawns at the end of the orc campaign. Go play if you want to experience it unspoiled; watch for details about what it is and how we got to this version of the design.

The Titan

Recap from the video:

This peaceful Rayya’s children’s town was made with building templates from the amazing Vasedro mod, by Queface. And check it out, in one of the recent updates to the orc campaign, Erdene now delivers this cool gong, which… hm.

(Psst, watch the video to see the Titan being all evil and stuff; this part isn’t narrated)

So there it is, everyone! As of last week, along with our very first Beta release, the long awaited titan encounter is now on the Steam unstable branch. The team didn’t want to talk much about it before you got a chance to play with it, because we wanted your first experience of it to be completely unspoiled. Now that you’ve seen a bit, though, let’s talk about how the titan encounter became what it is today. And if you haven’t played it yet and want to experience it completely fresh, now would be the time to close the window and come back when you’ve tried it.

Creators Tom and Tony first came up with the titan while they were making the Kickstarter video. They wanted a cool, end-game challenge to threaten your towns, so they picked a cthulu like monster because it was a neat twist on the standard “town defeated by dragons” fantasy meme. There was a synergistic reference in there as well, because Lovecraft is often associated with madness, and giant madness spirals are how most games of Dwarf Fortress, by which SH was heavily inspired, end.

We didn’t actually start working on the titan encounter until January of this year, until we had a reasonable idea of the tier progression and of what the end-game looked like for your towns. Artist Allie and Engineer Angelo re-created the original Kickstarter model (because as some of you may remember, Tom is notorious for not saving his work and the original model for the titan was lost in one of his many moves) on a stream, and modified it to be chunkier, to better fit our evolved aesthetic. The first time we tried adding the titan (now named Gary) to the game, however, we immediately ran into gameplay problems. First: how big was Gary supposed to be? Here we’ve got him mocked up at various sizes, and at the size we felt he ought to be–larger than a house, it would make sense if he destroyed your buildings, but would that be fun or enjoyable, if you’d spent a lot of time creating them? What if you couldn’t kill him in time to save your amazing basilica? Also, Animations and pathfinding that worked for a character of hearthling proportions looked terrible and clipped through everything when the titan was the size of a house. Furthermore, how were you supposed to defeat this giant thing? If it’s in the world like all the other monsters, the obvious answer is combat, but without a major overhaul, existing combat was super unsatisfying against this giant model–the knights would run and hit his ankles, and the feeling in general was that you ended up paper-cutting this supposedly epic monster to death. Clearly a dramatically different design for this challenge was required.

The answer that Designer Luke, Artist Malley, Engineer Max, and Artist Allie eventually came up with was actually quite similar to a picture QA Analyst Relyss made for a discourse contest back in 2013: instead of having the titan appear in the world, we’d have him appear off the edge of the map. He’d have a giant health bar (he in fact, turns the sun and all the weather into himself) and this health bar is whittled down by defeating enemies he’s placed in the world–forgotten shadows that are summoned into Hearth through gates. One thing that was still unsatisfying about this though, was that Designer Luke felt strongly that Stonehearth was a game about everyone in your town coming together to fight off a great evil, and so, if you weren’t a militarily focused group, how could your other hearthlings contribute? We originally had intended to have twenty titans, in fact, so we’d come up with all sorts of things those monsters could do that were not combat oriented: perhaps there would be evil plants that would spread and take over the world if you didn’t harvest them or mine down to their roots to kill them, or maybe there’d be traps that caught your hearthlings that you’d have to defeat, or blights that would go after your crops and force you to diversify your food sources. Maybe instead of having the titan physically attack your houses, he could send agents into the world that would destroy them and you’d have to rebuild.

We eventually decided to combine all of these ideas to make a single, strong encounter that could be overcome in many ways, as opposed to many more linear encounters which might completely hose unprepared towns. In so doing, we feel we fulfill the spirit of Stonehearth by enabling every member of your town to participate in defeating the boss monster and protecting their corner of Hearth. So now, when you trigger the orc gong, expect a wide variety of challenges: from tentacle traps to house destroyers to monster portals, to evil storms, to horrible plants and roots all spawn all over the map, and eradicating each through a combination of mining, harvesting, and combat will eventually help you drain the titan’s energy until his hold on the land is lessened.

And that’s what’s going on with the team this week! We’re incredibly excited to be getting the titan to you at last, and we look forward to your thoughts! In particular, the version of the titan encounter that’s on the steam unstable branch is still very early in terms of tuning, so we’d love your feedback on it’s difficulty, how easy it is to tell what’s going on, and whether in general, everything feels right! We’d also love to hear how your towns fared against it. Send pictures!

Other Announcements

THE GAME IS IN BETA! It’s been five years, so thank you to everyone who has been patient with us as we’ve gotten here. It’s been a very long road.

When not working on the titan, the rest of the team is working on performance and bugfixes. In particular, we’ve updated our minimum and required specs. You can find the updated versions here and on Steam. Thanks to all of Max’s recent work on performance, the CPU requirement on the minspec has actually gone down, meaning that large towns run better than they maybe ever have been before. We also discovered that for optimal Stonehearth performance, use a newer graphics card, and ideally run the game off an SSD.

Another ask from us to you: If you have a spare moment this week or next, please hammer the game with your largest saves and send us saves that are still choppy or in which hearthlings are still idling. Any laggy save you send us will make a huge difference, because everyone plays the game differently, and performance work happens in every file all over the codebase–it may be that we’ve optimized for the way we play, but not for the way YOU play.

Finally, this week’s Thursday stream should happen as usual. It’s Artist Allie, so bring all your Titan/Rabbit Clan/Northern Alliance questions. 🙂