February 2018

Hi there! Welcome to February’s update!
There will be lots of different animal characters in Wonderscope, and in February I got a few new ones in to help demonstrate the variety and what to expect from the full game. These new characters included the Baker, Shopkeeper, Shopkeeper’s son, the Fisher and the sports and fitness loving Pig! Here they all are hanging out in the bakery.
I got a few more quests in to help demonstrate what the full game will be like when showing it to people at GDC; it also helped me test the systems I had built. Everything works pretty robustly but I’ve got a few ideas on how to make building quests even better. New quests created include providing a birthday cake and party for the shopkeeper’s son; helping clear out the fishing areas so the fisher can start fishing again (and so you can unlock fishing gameplay!) as well as assisting with some not-so-heavy lifting for the sporty pig who’s done a few too many push-ups…
Speaking of characters, I took a little time this month and started to think properly about the characters in the game. I spent a while going through lists of plant and flower names, digging out the ones I liked for use as character names. I’m estimating around 20 – 24 characters are going to be in the first release of the game; these characters will be divided into primary and secondary characters. Primary will include characters with set professions that have gameplay attached to them. These characters will have longer story lines and quests, through which you’ll unlock parts of the game. The secondary characters will have quests and dialog centering more around their personalities, and do not have gameplay unlocks attached to them. By separating the characters I’m hoping to get a good balance when it comes to the work required, and to get a nice variation in the game too.
Shops and crafting got worked on during the month. I have set up resources in the game, and items can require resources to be purchased, crafted, or when used as a piece when designing something like furniture. This meant that shops can now sell items to you as long as you have enough cash; and characters can craft items for you if you have the right resources. 
After playing the game over the month, and getting some playtest feedback from friends I realised that separating designing from crafting was actually somewhat hard to understand. In its old implementation (from January, so not that old, haha) the player would design an object, once they were done with that they would exit the designer, go and collect or buy the resources they needed to craft the object, and then interact with a character or table to actually create the object. This became confusing and somewhat messy. When you’re designing something, you’re doing it because you want that object as a result, you’re not going to be designing something for no reason. So adding an extra step of crafting it was frustrating. Also, when playing you collect and buy resources which logically you would use when designing. In the old way, you placed imaginary pieces and the disconnect between what you had and what you were designing with was confusing. So this all got changed in February. Now you use the pieces and resources you’ve collected to create an object; when you’re done, you have that object in your backpack! 
Along with these changes have come polish and improvements to the whole making-things interface and process too which I feel have made things a lot smoother. Part of these changes has been moving the interface into the world. Before you’d be sitting in a separate interface designing your object. This was clean, but lacked a relatability you get when seeing your creation in the world; it also was tricky to gauge scale when you have no points of reference. Now you create objects in the world, so if it’s a cake, you do it on a table in the bakery; if it’s furniture it’s in the workshop. It both looks and feels a lot better now. 
Right near the end of the month I gave in and added scaling to the design/making process. In the beginnning I had wanted to present the player with a lot of lego-block like pieces they would combine to make their creations. The player could then choose what material each of these blocks would have. This got kinda messy, with there having to be a lot of different blocks to satisfy the player’s needs. The process of choosing a material for a block also was somewhat unrelatable. You’d place a wooden block, and then “paint” it metal, or plastic or whatever. This is not how you do things in real-life, felt a bit odd, and was hard to explain. To add to the confusion, each “paint” or material, would consist of resources you’d need to collect adding even more complexity, which when added to the separated design/making problems I mentioned earlier, became just horrible. Now the player has a set of interesting pieces as starting points that they can scale, rotate and move to get their desired result. Each of these pieces is made of a material, and that material you need to have collected in order to use. Metal pieces are made of metal, wood of wood, and paints are just paints that get applied on top of your pieces; a lot simpler and easier to understand!
I got a first implementation of changing lighting in for time-of-day. A simple system blends the sun and ambient light colors based on what time it is, to show the passing of time. This will be expanded later to include weather and season too, but right now it’s just sunshine.
I built a simple event system that will be used for in-game events. These depend on times and quest progress to happen. For example in the shopkeeper son’s birthday quest, the party starts at 8pm. This means that if you enter their house at 8pm, and you’ve done the quest, certain characters should be there, and certain dialog should be presented. A first implementation of this got in this month, and now there’s a little “party” at 8pm if you’ve completed the shopkeeper son’s quest!
Near the end of the month I decided to start iterating on the town layout. Up until now the “town” had consisted of just a flat green area and a few houses. I wanted the town to be interesting to explore, and offer lots of spaces for the player to build houses and customize, as well as areas for resource gathering, and fishing. I scribbled down a map and got to work making it in 3D. I built the layout and got it in game as quick as possible to get a feel for it. I placed out enough buildings and homes for each of the villagers, and after that I noticed the whole are was a lot bigger than I had expected! It’s going to be something that gets constantly rejigged, and tweaked to find the right balance of small and cosy, as well as providing enough variation and interest. It’s wonderful to actually have a town now, as this helps move the game towards something that feels like more complete, rather than a bunch of debug houses on a flat plane!
Next month I’ll be off to GDC for a week, and I have been sending out emails and contact requests to publishers, I’ve had a handful of replies, and gotten one or two meetings booked in too now. As I can’t bring my work PC with me to the states, I’m going to need to bring my not-at-all-powerful laptop with me to demo the game. I’ve been tweaking the game a bit over the last month to get it running at an ok speed on the laptop, and over the next two weeks will be making builds for it to ensure it runs fine in time for GDC.
I’m very much looking forward to getting away from the snow and cold and enjoying some time in San Francisco!
Thanks for reading! 
Hop into the Discord server if you want a cozy place to chat and hang out, and to see more of what I’m up to!
And as always, if you know of anyone who might be interested in the game and what I’m up to, please share this with them!

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