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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsVillage Monsters - A Monstrous Life Sim Game!
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Josh Bossie
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« Reply #80 on: February 23, 2018, 02:25:56 PM »

Lately I've been writing a lot of dialog. Like, just a ridiculous amount of dialog.

I want to talk a bit about the tool I built to make it. Maybe this'll help one of you guys!


Before I built my own tool I looked at what others have used. If you've done the same then we've probably seen the same tools - Scrivener, articy draft, even Evernote.

None of them worked for me. For one, they were clearly meant for professional writers and for writing more 'traditional' story structures - first you say Dialog A, which leads to Dialog B, then branches to Dialog C1 or Dialog C2, and so on.

I'm not a professional writers, and Village Monsters isn't a game that values this kind of structured dialog. The player may talk to every villager every day, or they may never talk to them, and there are a seemingly infinite amount of possibilities in between

For my game, contextual conversations were much more important; I want villager conversations to reflect the current state of the world. If it's raining, they should talk about rain. If a big story beat happened, they should talk about that. And so on.

All this lead me to developing a dialog system of categories, topics, and tags. To create this, I used a tool I was intimately familiar with from my office days - Excel


I won't dive into huge detail for each column, because that'd be pretty boring, but here are the key points:

- Each set of dialog gets its own ID in case I need to reference it later

- Each is categorized by its main topic - General, Weather, Tutorial, Seasonal, Story, etc. This is used by the code to serve up the correct topics of conversation depending on the game world

- Each gets a series of tags. These are just for my benefit. For example, "Defining" means this particular conversation is a defining one for speaker's personality (in this case, a socially awkward mimic merchant that doesn't like his job)

Tags also help manage changes to the world. For example, if I have a character talk about another character I make sure to add them as a tag. That way if the character changes in a substantial way I can filter by tag and make sure each conversation about them makes sense.

- Finally, the last 3 columns are for implementation purposes. The Count is a character count to ensure a specific chunk of dialog isn't too rambling. The Status is whether it's a draft, implemented, or polished line. And the Formatted column spits out a GameMaker-friendly version of the line which allows me to copy / paste it right where I want it

In short, this system works really well for me and my requirements. In reality this is just the foundation with which I built something a lot more interesting - a dialog engine that can serve up conversations in an intelligent way - but that's something for a later day!

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« Reply #81 on: February 24, 2018, 08:14:00 AM »

Sounds awesome! Contextual comments like that are what really brought games like Harvest Moon 64. And sometimes the situation where they say it and what they say come together to create magical moments the developers probably didn't even plan for, too. I guess that's what they call "emergent gameplay" (but usually people use that in reference to fast-paced mechanics, not dialogue and imagination, but it's kinda the same idea).

Also the buckle on the mimic looks like a cute octopus mouth!
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« Reply #82 on: February 25, 2018, 03:52:41 PM »

Yeah, that's a good way of phrasing it. I'm aiming for a system that's a blend of emergent and structured. Meaning, the topics themselves are 'random' - or, more accurately, I don't dictate them - but the conversations within a topic are ordered.

This gives me the freedom to have a conversations that feels emergent and contextual while also being able to write evolving stories without fear that dialog can happen 'out of order'
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« Reply #83 on: February 26, 2018, 05:12:13 AM »

Really interesting and useful info on the dialogue! I wondered how you were going to manage to keep it feeling natural and sort of "unscripted".
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« Reply #84 on: March 01, 2018, 02:59:42 PM »

I really enjoy iterating over systems, and there's always value in improving what you have vs. making something new

...but sometimes it makes sense just to nuke a system altogether. And that's what I've done regarding my fishing minigame.

My early idea was something along the lines of Breath of Fire - fishing would take you into a minigame of sorts, and you'd be able to catch as many fish as you wanted in a single session. Catching a fish would be a balance between line tension and fish stamina

But it just wasn't working. Worse, this design clashed with a lot of my other goals; i was making this world that strives to feel alive with weather cycles and animals running around and villager schedules, and then I was covering it all up with a minigame screen. Very silly!

I don't have a new solution in place yet, but I'm going to stop overthinking it and instead mimic fishing you can find in other games of my genre: you toss your line, wait for a bite, and try to time it correctly. I will likely have some kind of "struggle" mechanic after you hook a fish, but it'll be very lightweight. We'll see how it goes

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« Reply #85 on: March 13, 2018, 12:07:38 AM »

I lurk the SA game dev thread and have been following your progress since the very beginning. Just wanted to say I love reading updates on this, I can see how much passion you put into it and it's cute as heck!
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« Reply #86 on: March 18, 2018, 12:49:51 PM »

It’s been too long, villagers, and that’s entirely my fault.

I mentioned last month that I was being unusually productive, and that has continued into March. This is, of course, a good thing!

However, the downside with being a one man operation is that when you’re productive in one area you tend to the let the others stagnate.

I’ve tried (and failed) at many different approaches to balance dev and social since the Kickstarter completed, and it’s time to admit it’s just never worked. So! I’m going back to the old style that I know worked for me and for you: weekly updates that focus on the three most interesting things I worked on that week.

Enough preamble! Let’s get back to it.

Areas of Exploration
The area outside the village has been receiving several design passes in an attempt to make it more diverse and interesting to explore. Let’s take a mini world tour to look at some of the areas you’ll be able to visit.


Here we have the Memorial Meadows, a somber area that houses grave stones, memorials, and other monuments to death. Parts of it are carpeted in flowers and overgrowth, and it’s overall a very peaceful place… albeit a disquieting one.


These are the Agrarian Acres, a large plot of arable land just outside the village. The farm provides food for everyone, and as you establish your reputation in the village they’ll allow you to use some of these fertile fields to your own benefit.

The Acres will also be an key area for folks that are interested in critter catching, collecting, and training. More on that later!


The forest outside of the village has been expanded. It is now known as Firetree Forest, and it stretches far to the north and south. Northern Firetree is currently inaccessible due to a bridge that burned down, but perhaps there’s another way…?

Personality & Flavor
A great many things have been locked down in the last month: the areas you can explore, villagers you can meet, activities to do, and so on.

Now that the world is a bit more concrete it’s allowed me greater flexibility in adding flavor and personality.


Many villager homes are now properly furnished and decorated. This’ll still change continuously as I add more furniture and decor to the game, but it’s already a large improvement over the mostly empty homes they’ve had to endure in the past.


The effort to write villager dialog has been going splendidly, especially as it relates to contextual dialog. You can expect villagers to comment on the weather, time of day, holidays, recent events and exploits, and much more.


The village has enjoyed addition levels of polish and detail to each of its districts. Here we can see the civics district, home to the town hall, event plaza, traveling merchants & visitors, and much more.

A Novella of Dialog
Sometime toward the end of February the Village Monsters script reached 18,000 words. I’ve since stopped counting because at some point the answer is the same: there’s a lot of words here.


Not all of it is implemented into the game, and most of it won’t be encountered by folks just playing the demo.

Still, this is a major part of the work left to do on the game, and I’m thrilled with the amount of progress I’ve made on it.


At the risk of promising too much, I think you’ll be extremely happy with how dialogue is handled in Village Monsters compared to other life sim games. I’m going to great lengths to ensure dialog comes across as natural, immersive, and avoids common pitfalls such as coming across as repetitive or generic.

I’m very happy to go back to these weekly updates, so I’ll see you all next time <3
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« Reply #87 on: March 18, 2018, 01:46:29 PM »

Don't worry, it's quite an update Smiley
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« Reply #88 on: March 20, 2018, 03:40:13 AM »

Love seeing all the new features and polish you've been adding! It's really grown so much since the early demo
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« Reply #89 on: March 25, 2018, 07:53:43 PM »

Welcome to another edition of Building a Village, the weekly dev log for Village Monsters.

It’s wrap up time here at Village Monsters HQ. There’s an astronomically large demo coming down the pipeline this month, so I’ve been hard at work putting the finishing touches on it.

Let’s take a look!

Journal Improvements
The journal is a very important tool in the game. It tracks everything – from your collection progress, to areas you’ve explored, quests you’ve done, and so on.

Until now it’s languished as just a secondary feature, but this week I began to give some much needed love to the journal.


Improving UI isn’t the sexiest of work – especially when I do it – but it’s an important one. There’s certainly a ways to go before it becomes your trusty sidekick, but it’s getting closer every day.

Improving Villager Interactions
There are a lot of villagers for you to meet and befriend in the game, so if it seems like I’m constantly working on personalities, dialogue and interactions, it’s because I am!

This week I worked on improving interactions with some of the merchants of the village. Let’s met a couple.


Koma is the innkeeper at Overflow, the town’s one and only tavern and inn. He’s a grandfatherly figure in the village, and you’ll find it easy to make friends with him and receive all sorts of sagely advice.


Piroshky is a merchant cat who once traveled the world peddling his wares – until the Glitchwood took over his home in Yonder Yellowgrass, that is. He was forced to flee, and eventually found the village where he’s set up a permanent shop.

Bug Fixes & Stability
The last demo I released earlier this year had a number of embarrassing bugs in it. There were a few reasons for this – most notably making major changes just days before the release – but there’s really no excuse for such shoddy work.

Well, the lesson was learned, and while I can’t in good faith promise that the Beta demo will be bug-free, it should at least avoid crashing on you at the most inopportune time. Much of this week will continue to be spent on simply testing and polishing the demo.

This will likely be the final dev log for Beta 1. My son is due to be born any day now, and the original plan was to compile a release whenever that was so I wouldn’t need to worry about it after his birth.

However, I plan to get a release out by the 31st no matter what, so one way or another the demo will be in your hands this week.

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« Reply #90 on: May 07, 2018, 04:23:06 PM »

I wrote an article on how I'm handling dialogue in Village Monsters. I think it's a neat design that others might benefit from, so I wanted to share it:

http://villagemonsters.com/2018/05/06/building-a-village-05-06-2018/

I hate it when the dialogue in other virtual life games begin to get stale. I think the worst offender is Stardew Valley (I swear each villager has 10 or less things to say), but even high budget games like Animal Crossing or Rune Factory suffer from it

My solution has been to give each villager a large "deck of cards" of containing all possible topics of conversation. Each time you talk with them the context of the world is used to grab relevant cards (based on the weather, season, player's state, etc.), and when a card is 'chosen' it's temporarily discarded to prevent it from coming up again too soon. This allows conversations to both sound natural and come across as 'endless' without resorting to heavy scripting or filler dialogue

I probably stretch the whole deck metaphor a bit too much, but I'm really happy with how it's worked
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« Reply #91 on: May 08, 2018, 05:05:46 AM »

I wrote an article on how I'm handling dialogue in Village Monsters. I think it's a neat design that others might benefit from, so I wanted to share it:

http://villagemonsters.com/2018/05/...age-05-06-2018/

I hate it when the dialogue in other virtual life games begin to get stale. I think the worst offender is Stardew Valley (I swear each villager has 10 or less things to say), but even high budget games like Animal Crossing or Rune Factory suffer from it

My solution has been to give each villager a large "deck of cards" of containing all possible topics of conversation. Each time you talk with them the context of the world is used to grab relevant cards (based on the weather, season, player's state, etc.), and when a card is 'chosen' it's temporarily discarded to prevent it from coming up again too soon. This allows conversations to both sound natural and come across as 'endless' without resorting to heavy scripting or filler dialogue

I probably stretch the whole deck metaphor a bit too much, but I'm really happy with how it's worked

Sounds great! That always bothers me in games, too.

Next level would be to have "friendly" and "unfriendly" versions of each individual card... Who, Me? Gomez
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« Reply #92 on: May 08, 2018, 11:44:05 AM »

Link is broken:

http://villagemonsters.com/2018/05/06/building-a-village-05-06-2018/

My solution has been to give each villager a large "deck of cards" of containing all possible topics of conversation. Each time you talk with them the context of the world is used to grab relevant cards (based on the weather, season, player's state, etc.), and when a card is 'chosen' it's temporarily discarded to prevent it from coming up again too soon. This allows conversations to both sound natural and come across as 'endless' without resorting to heavy scripting or filler dialogue
The random-with-time-out reminds me of Tetris' "bag of seven" technique. You are doing something a bit more elaborate, with all the context you're invoking
http://tetris.wikia.com/wiki/Random_Generator
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Josh Bossie
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« Reply #93 on: May 09, 2018, 05:38:28 PM »

Thanks for fixing the link - that's what I get for copying / pasting!

I had heard of the bag of 7 thing, but I never made the connection before. This is definitely my favorite kind of randomness - it rides the line between pure random and intelligent and is much easier to implement than a complex algorithm
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« Reply #94 on: June 17, 2018, 03:18:55 PM »



Happy Summer, villagers!

The days are getting longer and hotter here at Village Monsters HQ, and that makes it easy to tell I’m a game developer: all I want to do is spend my days inside working on a computer.

As with previous weeks this is a very dialogue focused update, but I also managed to sneak in some new furniture and decorations, so let’s get to it!

New Decorations
Each release I try to at least make an effort at adding new furniture and decorations, but this past week I sat down with purpose and added a whole bunch at once.

You can now find pumpkin garland, teddy bears, dinner plates, instruments, rugs, plants and a whole bunch more stuff. Villagers having many more options to decorate their homes means that you do, too!



(Not literally, though; I fixed the bug that allowed you to rob villager homes stupid of furniture and items.)

Everything you find in a villager home can be bought at the store and used in your house, but if you see something you really like you could always wait until the Spring Cleaning event and haggle for it with the villager themselves!





Smarter Conversations
I’ve written lots and lots of dialogue so far, but that’s really only the first step – after all, you probably want to read dialogue in a game, not an Excel spreadsheet, right?

Lately I’ve found that implementing dialogue has been a great way to come up with new ideas and systems. This has turned into a very jolly feedback loop where I’ll write some words, get an idea, prototype the idea, and then write even more words!

Here are some examples of things I’ve worked on or plan to soon

  • Villagers can now wake up in special ‘states’ – like being sick, grumpy, energetic, and so on. This’ll change their dialogue for the day.
  • Certainly topics of conversations are now reserved for higher friendship levels. This includes personal stories, juicy gossip, and lore about the world.
  • Spoken conversations are now more gradually reshuffled back into list of available topics. This further minimizes repetitious dialogue and encourages finding new conversations if you frequently talk with a villager.
The downside to all this is that testing new dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult due to the amount of it and the complexity of the systems. In my spare time I’ve been creating a dialogue testing tool to minimize the amount of manual confirmation I need to do.



Dialogue Don’t Stop
I talk a lot about dialogue, and it’s for a good reason: I’m writing an awful lot of it!

But it’s not always easy to share screenshots of dialogue – it’s often not very interesting to read out of context, and of course I’d prefer you to discover villagers and their personalities in-game for yourselves.

So! Here’s another way of sharing my work: stats and charts! Who doesn’t love stats and charts? Right? …right? Sad

Ok, well, let;s first look at dialogue sets I’ve created per villager



Here we can see that most villagers currently have about 20 different things to say – though some have far less and a few have far more. This is a result of my preference of picking a different villager every few days and writing a bunch of text for them while ignoring the others.

My unofficial goal is to have 100+ different things for each villager to say, so I best get back to writing soon!




This next graph breaks out topics by category. Unsurprisingly, general topics are the most common followed by seasonal topics, story, weather, and village gossip.

The goal here isn’t necessarily balance – after all, there’s only so many things you can say about rain – but I do want to make sure there are no underrepresented topics.



We’ll end with a simple one – a word count of the script. At 11,000 words we’ve smashed short story status and we’re all on our way into novella. Will we reach novel status before release? It seems terrifyingly likely.

That’s it for this week! Before I leave you, check out a sneak peek of a few (very!!) work-in-progress pictures of the new logo. I’m not sure which direction I like most yet, but you can hopefully see where I’m going with it.




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« Reply #95 on: June 24, 2018, 11:25:59 AM »


Hello Villagers!
It’s a partly sunny / partly cloudy day here at Village Monsters HQ, and it’s perfect weather to reflect back on a productive week of work.

I’m trying something a bit new this week: instead of a handful of items with detailed explanations I’m going for a lot of items with just a screenshot and blurb about the change. The idea is to make these logs easier to write and more entertaining to read.

Let’s boogie.

Helpful Hints

Each release I like to add a big, goopy layer of quality of life changes. This week I decided to add many more instances of the little ‘helper notices’ that direct how you can interact with the world.

These were in previous releases, too, but now you’ll see them for talking with villagers, picking up items, interacting with furniture, and much more.

New tool belt…

Speaking of quality of life, the tool belt menu has been lacking for awhile. To make it a bit friendlier I went ahead and removed unnecessary tools and changed up the size and transparency to make it look nicer.

…and new you!

The human (you) has received another face lift. Well, maybe it’s more of body lift? He’s now slightly wider, taller, and has new eyes.

I get asked this a lot, so let me be super clear: there will be plenty of appearance options to choose from in the final game! You’ll be able to choose your gender, skin and hair color, and much more.

Swing City

While I was messing with the player sprite I took time to redo the net swing animation. My original intention was to always have something akin to Link to the Past, so I did just that!

As I watch this gif it’s made me realize I need a little FX to play when a critter is caught, so that’s been added to the backlog.

Begone, Bugs!

There’s also a flurry of bug fixes that happen before a new release, and this one is no different. Here’s what I squashed this week:

  • Collisions of exterior elements (like fences and trees) have been improved
  • The camera is now less prone to “half pixel syndrome”
  • Selecting items via the tool belt menu will no longer caused you to “interact” with whatever object you’re next to
  • A number of dialogue typos have been corrected
  • A number of temporary objects left behind in Beta 1 have been cleaned up
As usual I probably introduced a fun stable of bugs alongside the ones I fixed, so if you do notice any weirdness then be sure to send me an email!
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« Reply #96 on: July 02, 2018, 04:55:18 PM »


Hello Villagers!


Welcome to another weekly developer diary of Village Monsters. It’s been a productive week over here at Village Monsters HQ. Maybe it’s because my area has escaped the heat that as seemingly conquered the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because my new developer pipeline is really starting to shine.

Maybe I just had a lot more Red Bull than usual. I don’t rightly know, but I’m sure I shouldn’t question it. Let’s take a peek!


The Old Man and the Sea


Ask any master fisherman what his greatest tool is and he won’t talk to you about lures, hooks, or rods. No. He’ll instead talk about that nearly indescribable fisher instinct, or fishtincts as they’re called by the masters.

These fishstincts are now finally represented in the game. A special icon is displayed and a distinct noise is played when it’s time to snag that tasty fish, and you’ll somehow intrinsically know whether your timing was too late, too early, or if the line broke.

History Books


The Historical Society has been renamed the Library, though it’s more than just a semantics change. You’ll have to see for yourself the next time you visit.

Skulliver!


Quick – what’s the village currency called? You don’t know, do you? Of course not! I barely do and I created the damn things.

Well it doesn’t matter now as they’ve been replaced by silver coins known as Skull Silvers, more commonly referred to as skulliver or even just skullies.


You can earn skulliver by pursuing hobbies, helping villagers or working part time, and they’re used to pay for everything from your mortgage to a hot drink in Overflow.

How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters


Making friends with your (monstrous) neighbors has long been an important feature of Village Monsters, and this week was the first time in awhile that I tweaked how it works.

You can now gain “Bonus Friendship” for actively maintaining your relationship with a villager by talking with them every day. Think of it like a combo streak: the more days in a row you talk to them the faster your friendships grows.

The catch is that this bonus resets if you break the streak. You’re allowed to miss a day or two – I get it, we’re all busy – but after that your streak is reset. You’ll never lose friendships, but don’t let that keep you from being a good friend, human!

Begone, Bugs!

  • Fixed an issue where a villager’s intro dialogue wasn’t triggering correctly
  • Time now pauses while the main menu (or your journal) are open
  • Fixed some goofy problems when sprites changed states
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 05:18:16 PM by Josh Bossie » Logged

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« Reply #97 on: July 02, 2018, 10:58:54 PM »

Is that an upside-down cross and does that mean Mock is a Satanist?
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« Reply #98 on: July 05, 2018, 09:01:16 PM »

I don't think so, but she's certainly the type of person (or, well, monster) to wear clothes that makes other people uncomfortable
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« Reply #99 on: July 11, 2018, 02:44:42 PM »


Hello Villagers!

Welcome to another (slightly late) weekly developer diary of Village Monsters!

Another productive week is under the belt and we’ve had so many of those in a row that our stomach is full to bursting. I let that analogy get away from me, so let’s cover our losses and proceed with the update!


New New You


If it feels like I’m making changes to the player sprite each week then that’s because I am.

After some feedback on my previous update I’ve made some changes to the head and eyes. I’m slowly inching toward a final sprite ‘template’ which’ll allow me to create even more variations (so you can pick your gender, skin color, hair, etc.)

Villager Journals


You like invading people’s privacy, right? Of course! We all do. That’s why I’m giving each villager a journal for you to secretly read when they’re not looking.

Some journals may be very well hidden, or in rooms that you won’t have access to right away. Be ever vigilant, you nosy parkers!

Movement Changes


I’ve made the following changes to movement. Overall the goal was to make things feel better – in this case “better” means easier and more precise.

  • Default movement is now faster
  • Sprint is now a toggle (will be an option in final version)
  • When using  gamepad, tilting the stick partway will result in walking
  • Tilting all the way transitions to run automatically
  • You can walk via the keyboard by holding Control

Helpful Helper Icons


I spent a lot of time coming up with little icons for each interaction. Unfortunately for me, I later realized I hated them all and they weren’t very helpful.

They’ve been replaced by much more helpful button icons which tell you what you need to press. The helper text remains unchanged.
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