Well well, it’s already March eh? Bonkers. Let’s have a little look at what happened recently with Hokko Life!
January and February have mainly been spent fixing up a build of the game to send to publishers. This has meant a lot of bug fixing and clean up of old systems, as well as a few re-writes here and there.
Speaking of re-writes; I got stuck in and rewrote the “Maker” part of the game. This is the tool with which players create their own custom furniture and other items and it’s existed for a long time. Originally the game was intended to be played with a gamepad, and so all the systems were built around very logical and straight forward interactions. You would switch into different “modes” depending on what you wanted to do; for example you would be in the “placement mode” which would give you a menu of pieces to choose from to add to your creation, or the “edit mode” allowing you to select and move around pieces you’ve already added. With the switch to mouse and keyboard as the control method we moved into a situation where the player can click anything on screen at any time, jumping between these different modes and breaking the very logical menu flow there was there before. I had gotten around this for a while, and sort of patched it up so it worked but it was definitely very shaky. So I sat down and rewrote the whole thing from the ground up to work with keyboard and mouse and by golly it’s so much better now! I also added things like grid snapping and reworked the UI a bit too. I’m still not happy with it, but I wanted to test out the idea of having different “drawers” that contain all the pieces you can add to your creation; like in a real-world workshop.
Along with the Maker tool being reworked, I got hold of the dialog system and gave that a freshen-up too. It had gotten to a stage where it was just one big file containing a lot of if statements and mess. As is always the way it’s hard to really know what the problems or use-types will be with something until you’ve sat with it a bit, and as with the dialog system it took a few months of using to realize it was getting a bit messy and needed rewriting. The new version is very similar to the old, but allows for more custom and personal dialog, and less “randomly generated” feel. It also lets me specify different versions of conversations that will get randomized when talking to villagers. This ensures there’s more interesting variety in dialog than there was before. I’m going to be doing a little write-up on the dialog system in a blog post soon that will go into more detail about it.
I decided to change the way the shop worked; instead of it being just a big ol’ menu screen with lots of items on I wanted to have the items actually in-world in the shop itself, that the user can go up to and interact with to buy. I think this makes the connection with the player better, and allows you to see what the item you’re building looks like before parting with your hard earned cash. The contents of the shop change every day, which keeps the inventory fresh and gives you a reason to check out the shop often.
I did some tweaks to the way resources are spawned from things like trees or ore-rocks. Similar to other parts I recently cleaned up, the old implementation was terrible and buggy, so this also got a cleanup. With this I added physics to the spawning resources, giving them a little push when they’re spawned from their source. This gives them a nice randomness to the way they fly off when you’re mining for example. My original intention was handle this through simple animations, but I like the random and sometimes funny movement you get when done with physics simulation.
I added a little cutscene to when you win the fishing minigame and successfully catch a fish. I had a really boring screen before, and thought it would be way more fun to have an in-game animation for when you win. This way you can also see the fish you caught and its actual size too!
While working with this I created the first fish for the game, a common bleak, with a few tweaks to make it more colorful and cute!
With the new updates to Unity and their nested prefabs, I was able to get started on putting together the house types you can place in game for your residents. I had put off working on this as the old way would have been very inflexible and real pain if I wanted to go back and change any details of the houses. With the new nested prefab workflow I can create houses out of a collection of parts and iterate on those parts without having to go back and re-configure each house if I make any small changes. I put together a few house types to test the system and get a feel for the style I’m after.
With this I started trying a different way for players to place buildings. Up until recently the town had a lot of plots, or areas where you could place houses. This meant the player was forced to place houses only in specific locations. Though this is cleaner and less problem-causing than allowing players to place houses wherever they want, it also meant that each town would be a bit similar to any other town, and would limit the creativity of the player, making it feel less like they had control of their own town. So in the new flow the player purchases a home permit from the store, this then marks out an area of land to be used for a home. The player can then interact with that plot to choose the type of house they want to place down, and then customize what appearance they want the home to have. I like this several stage approach, as it allows players to achieve the goal of placing a new home step-by-step, which feels a bit more natural.
As I mentioned at the beginning I’ve been busy putting a build together for publishers. This is done now, and I’ll be doing another (more thorough) round of contacting publishers to see if anyone is interested in working with me on Hokko Life. In other news I’m going to be jetting off to Japan for a much needed vacation and inspiration trip soon. I’ll be there for 6 weeks absorbing the cuteness, the tradition, the sunshine and the delicious food too. It’ll be a bit quiet over those weeks, though I’ve got a few little gifs lined up for your viewing pleasure!
Thanks for all your kind words and support!