Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 36


Building equipment stores, a performance boost, and an editor overhaul.

Reducing Micromanagement With Building Equipment Stores


Community feedback is an important part of the Early Access process and a common theme is reducing any micromanagement burden. As your population grows, managing the gear on every unit can be tiresome. In the pre-release of Alpha 22 that is no longer the case.

Opening the new Equipment tab on a production or military building now enables players to drag and drop gear from the village inventory and assign it for use by the building's workers. Workers will automatically equip gear based on ordered priority. For now, equipment further to the top left is given higher priority. In time, we hope to implement an internal gear rating stat to help us compare items to determine which is better.

Building Equipment Stores: Reducing Micromanagement


Each item shown in a building's Equipment tab stacks and shows how many have been allocated. Darkened icons may show 0/2, indicating there are 2 of that item in stock, but workers aren't currently using that item. As one becomes equipped (1/2), the icon fills up until to half way with normal brightness, and when all are equipped (2/2), it becomes full.

Items can be dragged directly out of a building's equipment tab back into the village inventory, and will be removed from any worker who has it equipped. The worker will then try to equip another item into that slot should one exist in the building Equipment stores based on the priority rule.


Performance Boost / Engine Migration


June saw a challenging engine migration from Unity 4.6 to 5.1. Major code changes were required to the way we manage assets, shaders, and third party products. While that has limited the time we had available to work on other areas of the game, one of the key benefits is a performance boost of 25-37% depending on machine architecture. Players should now enjoy improved frame rates across the board, and may be able to increase their settings.

There is however a known issue preventing the game from running on Snow Leopard. We've filed a bug report with Unity (the engine developer) so hopefully we'll have a fix in the coming weeks.


Editor Overhaul


The Editor was running a legacy UI framework (NGUI) to drive the toolbar and a number of the dialog boxes. As part of the engine migration, it was time to purge NGUI from the project, and while re-implementing the dialog boxes, add some extra touches.

Editor Overhaul


The Kits and Kit Pieces dialogs are now merged into one. A kits popup organizes kits into categories for quicker selection, while the addition of search enables level designers to search for pieces across all kits.

The new favourites tab lists kit pieces added by toggling the star in the inspector dialog, and the recently used tab does as you would expect.

We've also fixed the horizontal scaling of the toolbar, which would have affected players running at high resolutions.

One of the headline features we are launching in Alpha 22 is the terrain generator tool. Since it's first reveal in Dev Blog 35, we've added more options including support for the new volcanic biome.

The final Editor improvement is marquee selection. Being able to select objects by dragging a selection rectangle (aka marquee) is a huge time saver. Previously, you had to hold down left shift and click each item. The addition saves time, and will become the primary method for selecting objects, before grouping them and eventually saving them off as a prefab. At least that's what Alan is moving on to now that the terrain generator is all but finished.


Volcanic Kit And Dwarf City Kit


Both have benefited from improvements, and are included in Alpha 22. We're working on an exterior location to test the pieces, and will be streaming level design sessions on Twitch.

Lava Fields (Work In Progress)

And Finally...


A little teaser of something we're working on...



Thursday, 11 June 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 35


Ser Gregory, the first hero built on a growing RPG code base, Dwarven culture, and the terrain randomization tool.

Well met Ser Gregory


While the last release cycle was all about village building and economy, the team are now focused on expanding the RPG side of Folk Tale. As you explore the world you'll meet heroes entwined in an evolving story. Help them with their goals, and they'll become available for selection in your adventuring party.

Ser Gregory battling the new zombies


Building on existing RPG mechanics including inventory and stats, our first foray into RPG adventuring begins with the addition of hero systems, and in Alpha 21 we're introducing Ser Gregory. As a heavily armoured tank, Ser Gregory's abilities place him at the heart of melee action. His abilities are designed around defence (Iron Skin), crowd control (Taunt and Shield Bash), area of effect damage (Power Slam) and being able to finish off opponents with low health (Decisive Victory). Each ability is detailed on the website (link above). Abilities can be queued to be executed one after another, have cool down timers, and power costs to prevent you from spamming special abilities which would be totally OP. We've added all the supporting systems for character states including stunned and knockdown, and will be rolling these out across new and existing characters in Alpha 21 and beyond.

For now we've enabled all Ser Gregory's abilities for community feedback, but in a future release you'll unlock abilities as Ser Gregory levels up, and then level up each ability to make it more powerful. For now, pick your battles carefully and save regularly as there's perma-death. We'll be adding revival to respawn dead heroes back in your village, but that's not in yet.

Combat feels a little smoother now we've reduced the interval between attacks from 3 seconds to 2 seconds. The anti-kiting code has been removed so there's no more insta-heal enemies, and characters no longer stand on top of each other, moving apart if it occurs. We've also made characters rotate before running in a direction. It's a subtle change, and it might feel a little different for a few minutes, but ultimately adds a little bit of extra quality.

And what to do with all that junk loot? Salvage it of course in exchange for a little gold! You can now drag unwanted inventory items onto the salvage icon.

Character Portraits


The days of looking at the bald male villager placeholder in the character wheel are over. We now have a new portrait system showing the actual appearance of villagers in a nice hand-painted portrait. While heroes, bosses and behemoths all have their own unique beautifully hand-painted portraits, villagers are a little more challenging. Due to the number of permutations of hair - including beards and moustaches on men - we layer up the features and use tinting. We start with the background and uniform, then add skin (ranging from light to dark), beard, moustache, head hair and finally any hats/helmets. For now, villagers will all have the peasant uniform. We expect to have the other profession uniforms including hats added for Alpha 22.

Dynamically generated hand-painted character portraits


Death By Deforestation


If you've played a long session, you'll be familiar with the impending doom that awaits due to deforestation. We previously added seed drops to spiders, bears and boars, but your feedback told us this didn't really solve the problem. So in Alpha 21 each felled tree now drops a seed (added to your inventory), and when a Woodcutter's Hut has 5 or fewer trees in it's boundary, Woodcutters will automatically plant a seed. This completely removes the micromanagement burden, however you can still use the Woodcutter ability to plant saplings where you please. In time we may link this ability to the Forestry research. We'll have to see how well this scales with a Tier 3 upgrade.

Woodcutters now auto-plant saplings when there are 5 or fewer trees in the boundary. Each felled tree drops a seed.


Village Building And Economy


Attaining Tier 2 building upgrades needed to happen a little sooner in gameplay, so we've reduced the culture cost from 350 to 275. We've still got to implement the reasons for upgrading, including tying research with better bonuses and effects to higher building tiers.

One community reported issue was that workers could end up walking a long way to reach a workpoint within a building's boundaries. For example, a Fisher may have to walk a ways to reach a bridge to cross a river to get to the other side. This could take them into enemy territory leading to their death. We now check journey distance to determine if a work point should be used or not.

Mead and Entertainment were bugged in Alpha 20. For the next release, we've made sure that villager need for entertainment begins when you first construct a Tavern, even if you haven't yet attained a culture score of 300. A barrel of mead also now converts to 4 tankards of mead at the tavern instead of 2, helping with supply shortages. To address the over-production at Bee Yards, 30 honeycomb are now required per barrel productions instead of 5, although the yield of honeycomb has been increased to be inline with other buildings. Further rebalancing may well be required, so please share your experiences in the community forum.

Dwarven Cultures


Development of the dwarven culture is progressing well, including the dwarven fortress of House Hraun (faction), under siege by the exiled Cult Of Pyros (faction) and it's leader, Archmagus Brimstone. There's a mountain of work goes into developing each culture, including modelling and painting weapons and shields that appear on characters, loot icon illustrations including armor and jewellery, environment props, textures and visual effects, script writing, voice acting, character modelling, painting and animation, sound effect design, and of course soundtrack composition.

Expect to see Dwarven content make it's way into the game in Alpha 22 or 23.

Evolution Of A Culture




Story Script And Voice Acting


Story will feature prominently in Folk Tale, delivering a campaign like feel similar to the original tutorial, but within a sandbox environment. The Grassland starting story script is now complete, which leads into the Withering Dead and Gladefolk faction storylines. We completed voice actor casting a few months back, and are now working our way through the recording sessions.

Voice acting script from the opening scene

Terrain Randomization Editor Tool Progress


Building large terrains in the Editor can be time consuming. To help increase productivity, we're working on a terrain randomization feature that automatically generates a terrain based on settings. It's able to generate mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, place trees, generate coast line, and apply splatters of paint. It utilises the full range of core tiles available, including full, half and quarter height tiles.

Terrain Randomization Tool


All being well, by the time you've read this Alpha 21 should be in final testing ready for launch.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 34


Folk Tale milestone Alpha 20 (Patch 0.3.0)

A New Release Cycle


This weekend we bid fair well to release cycle 0.2.x and welcomed in 0.3.x. Having massively expanded the scope of the 0.2.x cycle last year to make it by far the largest of all the cycles, we've had 17 monthly releases since. Many aspects of the game have matured including village building, economy, and the editor, which we use to design and deliver playable content. With the addition of Workbench - our visual modding tool - we're primed to deliver RPG content and gameplay in coming patches.

What can players expect in Alpha 20? As with any major milestone release, we have headline features to share, but also bug fixes which have an equally important role to play in improving gameplay.

Building Upgrade Tiers


Tier 1 buildings can now be upgraded to Tier 2 and Tier 3. Each tier delivers benefits, including support for more workers; 8 workers at Tier 2, and 12 at Tier 3. Each upgrade will expand a building's boundary bringing more resources into reach for workers. In later patches we'll introduce a pseudo tech tree with new research being unlocked at each tier; more complex production options that deliver additional benefit; and staggered crafting recipes bound to building tiers.

Tier 1 Buildings

Tier 2 Buildings

Tier 3 Buildings






Workbench


With a limited feature preview of Workbench included in the last patch, in Alpha 20 we've more than doubled the node count, introducing 35 new node types. We'll be updating the Workbench Guide on the website to demonstrate how the new nodes can be used to deliver engaging gameplay and storyline. We'll add more great features to Workbench throughout the 0.3.x release cycle targeting RPG gameplay including quest rewards and faction standing.

Workbench



Sandbox Tutorial


New players, and those returning to check progress can feel a little overwhelmed when experiencing sandbox for the first time. Using Workbench, we're adding a voice acted step-by-step tutorial to walk inexperienced players through early game mechanics. As the list of mechanics continues to grow, we'll continue to expand the new tutorial.



New Content For Level Designers


With each new patch we aim to add new kits and/or pieces so community level designers have something to play with. This release is no exception, with numerous additions. We have Mordrich's Factory kit, rusty pipework we'll be using to make his underground magic sandal factory; and the Grassland Caves kit for spider and dragon layers.

We've linked monster movement speed to their scale, so it's now possible to have giant skeletons and spiders that move naturally. Players can observe this in the spider lair added to the Crypts Level 1 map, which makes use of the Grassland Caves kit.

The Systems kit receives three new pieces:

  • A new Point piece for marking locations where you want the command NPC's to go using Workbench. You can grab the position and rotation for exact placement;
  • Sphere and box triggers for triggering scripts such as NPC interactions, monster ambushes, and in time traps;

Previously missing pieces make a return in the now separate Water FX, Bones and Spider kits.

Environment lights located in the Lighting kit are now scalable, adjusting the light range. A word of caution though - large lights can get expensive.

Grasslands Cave Kit



Bug Fixes


We strive to fix bugs and gameplay niggles in each patch release. Small changes such as eradicating the delay when commanding peasants to clear resources and making them run instead of walk instantly feels more responsive.

Building research is working once again, including the Tailor who wasn't progressing research at all. We've also modified the Building Dialog production tab to separate our worker happiness (and it's effect on production) from bonuses provided by research and epic items to give a clearer picture of what's going on.

The Monastery Of The Mangy Wolf has all of it's navigation and chest issues addressed, including being able to cross the bridge that connects the Tall Tower to the main Monastery. The map has been updated to add additional resources in key locations, so you don't always have to start in the same location.

Many loot items that were previously cluttering inventory now stack properly.

What's In Production?


During game development it's usual to have lots of parallel tasks each month. Some of those are highly visible and make their way into the Dev Hangouts, while some do not. For months our character artist Allan and animator Tom have been working diligently behind the scenes on bosses, heroes, behemoths, and creeps. They are now ready to debut in-game, and we'll be adding them during this release cycle. So far we have fleshed out the Gladefolk, Withering Dead, Goblin Traders, and Toadkin factions.

The script writing for the Gladefolk and Withering Dead faction storyline is progressing well, and we'll soon be sitting with the recently cast actors to record the voice acting. Devin, our texture artist, has the task of producing the 3d weapons that can be equipped, and there's a small mound waiting to be added. Jen, our Illustrator is alternating between loot icons and NPC portraits that will appear during quest conversations.


Rich and Hayden recently finished adding the 34 building upgrade tiers, and have moved on to the lava zone. While the snow zone is my current favourite, the lava zone is a contender to take that crown.

Aron continues to be omnipotent. We've been eyeballing an upgrade to Unity 5.x for a while, and now seems like a good time. Then it's on to implementing heroes and all the RPG goodness.

As for myself, well I'm just here to make the coffee.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Player Satisfaction Survey Spring 2015

Each Spring we ask our community how they feel the development of Folk Tale is going. We listen to their feedback, and where possible set new targets to improve the Early Access experience. This is our second such survey, so we're able to look at what you told us last year, the steps we took, and measure their impact against your feedback this year.

This year we received an impressive 1352 survey submissions - more than double last year's count - with participation skewed towards those who purchased when we first launched in Early Access. The average player drops by occasionally to either the community forums or the dev blogs, rather than being an active community member. This year's audience is a broader reflection of the player base than in the prior year.



Key Messages From Our Community
 
Last year (2014) you told us:
  • Hurry up!;
  • You're doing a great job in keeping us updated and being transparent;
  • Patch more often;
  • We want village building and RPG adventuring almost in equal measure;
  • Most of us want sandbox, but there's a strong interest in campaign-style storyline;
  • Half of us are interested in both playing and creating content;
  • Folk Tale has loads of potential, and we have confidence that you'll deliver;
  • Blog more than once a month, but don't compromise quality for quantity;
  • Overall we're satisfied, but there are areas needing improvement;

And here's how we were able to respond in the 12 months that followed:

  • Patch more often We committed to at least one major patch per month, and have hit that target consistently;
  • Most of us want sandbox, but there's a strong interest in campaign-style storyline We focused our efforts on getting sandbox village building and economy into a playable state rather than spreading ourselves too thinly. We then committed to delivering faction-based storyline and a campaign-like experience within sandbox. With the addition of Workbench - our visual modding tool within the editor - everything is starting to fall into place to deliver a campaign-like RPG experience.
  • Blog more than once a month, but don't compromise quality for quantity Our content-rich blogs are time consuming to produce, so it wasn't going to be possible to blog more than one a month. Instead, we began streaming Dev Hangouts at twitch.tv/gamesfoundry, where the community could join us while we looked at the latest internal build, shared level design tips, and discussed ideas and changes.
  • Hurry up! Unfortunately there's not much we could do about this without a magic tree that grows money. I'm not prepared to sacrifice quality for speed, and with no significant budget changes, we can't expand the team beyond it's current size to deliver more quickly. It appears the majority are supportive of this approach, which we'll discover later.

Did these actions work? This year we took a more structured approach, hoping to gauge general feeling as well as to capture personalized feedback. We offered a range of positive and negative statements to choose from.

68% said - Don't rush, better to make it a great game;
58% said - I appreciate how open and transparent you are as a dev team;
55% said - I'm pleased with how the game is shaping up, keep it up;
21% said - Patch more often;
19% said - Oh my god, hurry up already and finish the darn game;
2% said - You guys suck, your game sucks, and I'm leaving;

Being the first year of asking the structured response, we can't deduce too much from these figures without having a benchmark year to compare them to. I was however surprised at the majority sentiment of don't rush, make it a great game. We've always been of this opinion, and it's nice to feel that most of you support us in that approach.

For unstructured feedback, we read every answer to the final free-form question where players could send personalized feedback. In the end, 54% of survey participants left us a message, the general themes of which were:

  • Load/save needed to be implemented

    This was by far the most common theme, and when load/save was added half way through the survey period, unsurprisingly feedback trailed off;

  • Give us campaign as well as sandbox

    The release of Workbench, our visual modding tool, is the first step to delivering a campaign experience within sandbox. Not only will Workbench empower community level designers to create their own RPG adventures, it will extend the replayability of Folk Tale, something that would not have happened had we continued developing the game solely as a campaign based experience;

  • Great communication

    We continued being active, open, and transparent, and you guys really appreciate that, which makes it all worth while. Then we went one step further with the Dev Hangout streams;

  • We need a tutorial in sandbox

    And we should have one in Patch 0.3 due the first week of May thanks to Workbench;

  • Focus on a core set of mechanics, balance them, and grow from there

    In Feb and March we did just that, and the game is all the better for it. We'll try our best to follow this approach going forward;

  • Ability to train more military

    In early May we should have building tiers enabled, with Tier 2 Barracks supporting 8 military, and Tier 3 supporting 12. If that isn't enough, we will increase it;

  • Fix bugs more quickly

    During development it's a trade off between keeping momentum going, and fixing bugs. In recent months we've been doing a lot to fix bugs and gameplay issues, and we'll be trying to fix reported bugs sooner following this feedback;

  • Development is slow

    With hindsight we launched in Early Access far too early. With a relatively fixed budget to work with, the team size that supports, and the quality we are striving to achieve, there's not much more we can do to make things go quicker. The majority (7 out of 10) seem supportive of doing the job well, not rushing, and releasing a quality game that lives up to the game's potential, and that continues to be our approach. 


Which element of gameplay do you expect to find the most appealing?




Village Building: 46.9% (previous : 39%) +7.9%
Economy Management: 13.1% (previous : 15%) -1.9%
RPG: 30.1% (previous : 36%) -5.9%
RTS: 9.8% (previous : 10%) -0.2%

While the results somewhat echo previous feedback of wanting city building and RPG, there was an interesting surprise in how few prioritized economy. The relatively weak showing for RTS came as no surprise. We've long said that we aren't creating a Total War style game, or a pure RTS zerg-fest like Starcraft 2. Folk Tale is more of a personal experience where you become attached to the individuals within your village, rather than spamming out units in a mad rush to defeat an opponent.

The weak score for economy however did raise an eyebrow, and is perhaps worth discussing further in the forums. When considering all the scores, it suggests players aren't wanting to get bogged down in statistics and tweaking production. Instead, most players want to build up their village and support their heroes so they can go off adventuring, amassing riches, which in turn can be used to make their town and heroes even better. Which is great, because that is exactly where we're headed!


How satisfied are you with the gameplay available at this point in development?

Being a new question, we don't have a prior year benchmark to compare the results to. 71% expressed a positive satisfaction level with gameplay. With us only just starting work on the RPG side of the game, the mean somewhat satisfied result comes as no big surprise. Players are only playing a portion of a complete game, and as we add more mechanics and content gameplay should become more satisfying. Longer term, I wonder what role player fatigue will start to play.


How satisfied are you with the frequency of patch updates?





Very Satisfied: 14.2% (previous : 8%) +6.2%
Satisfied: 30.3% (previous: 29%) +1.3%
Somewhat Satisfied: 31.1% (previous: 30%) +1.1%
Somewhat Unsatisfied: 13.8% (previous: 16%) -2.2%
Unsatisfied: 6.4% (previous: 9%) -2.6%
Very Unsatisfied: 4.2% (previous: 8%) -3.8%

76% of survey participants were positive about the frequency of patches compared to 67% last year, which I'm relieved to see after making regular patches our number one priority. There's always room for improvement, but it's a positive move in the right direction, and one we'll continue to focus on.

How often do you watch one of the weekly Dev Hangout streams?



No surprises here. In-stream viewing and archived viewing figures from our YouTube channel support these results. With time generally a scarce commodity for a lot of players, few join the actual stream, while a significant number catch the occasional video after being posted on YouTube.

For us, the Dev Hangouts provide an opportunity for some playtesting, while connecting with our most active community members. The greater value lies in providing the broader community with a very recent overview of development progress; something to fill the gaps between the monthly dev blogs.


How satisfied are you with the current dev blogs?





Blogging continues to be one area where you rate our performance, with 90% of participants positive compared to 87% last year. Overall, blog readership has declined, with players now reading occasionally rather than regularly.









How satisfied are you with our level of community engagement and communication?




The daily forum posts, one-to-one technical support, high quality video blogs, and Dev Hangouts continue to reap dividends, with 91% of survey participants having a positive response. The figures remain consistent with the previous year, reflecting our continued high levels of community engagement.

How satisfied are you that Folk Tale will live up to the potential?




With 83% expressing a positive opinion that we’ll deliver on the game’s potential (no change from last year), we have retained community confidence and backing.

Would you recommend Folk Tale to your friends?




7 out of 10 would recommend Folk Tale (no change on last year). As we continue to add mechanics and content, I'm hoping to build on this.

As an Early Access title, how do we fair when compared with other Early Access games?




With Early Access now another year old, it's likely players own more Early Access titles in their collection, allowing them to make a better judgement (7% now have no opinion compared to 11% last year). 43% now consider Folk Tale to be a better Early Access experience than other such titles, up from 31% in the previous year. That's a sizeable jump that I can only attribute to our commitment to transparency and community engagement.


Have you left a review on the Steam Store Page?




86% of participants haven't left an Early Access review. There's nothing to read into this, other than being an interesting statistic.


How satisfied are you with the overall development of Folk Tale?




With 79% of participants (78% last year) expressing a positive opinion, community support for Folk Tale remains strong, for which we are really appreciative. Your support and participation is helping shape what we all hope will be a fantastic game.


Thank you.

I’d like to thank every one of you who took the time to complete the survey. Yet again you have provided us with a clear picture of where we need to direct our efforts, and where we’ve been doing a good job.




Thursday, 19 March 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 33


Workbench, the node-based visual scripting environment in Folk Tale promising to democratize modding.

Campaign Feel, But In Sandbox


With the village building, economy and RTS controls maturing into a very playable state, and Load/Save added a few patches ago, team effort is firmly focused on delivering assets and systems to support the RPG side of Folk Tale. That means storyline, questing, heroes and factions. It's the juicy campaign goodness often missing from sandbox that provides context, purpose and flavor.

Campaign and sandbox are not mutually exclusive; campaign can sit comfortably within a sandbox framework and players can dip in and out of both as they please. Having developed the sandbox framework to drive world mechanics, I'm pleased to be revealing Workbench, our visual modding tool for Folk Tale. We've removed the need for writing lines of complex programming code, democratizing modding by lowering the barriers to entry.

Workbench, the visual modding tool for Folk Tale

Workbench is a node-based visual scripting environment similar to those found in game development engines as an alternative to programming. It's an easy to grasp visual environment that's great for level designers who don't have technical skills, but whom still require fine control and power over their environment.

Nodes provide access to objects, events, and commands within the game. For example, you might want the player to meet an NPC, fire off a branching quest dialogue, remove ingredients from the player's inventory, walk to a crafting anvil and forge an epic weapon, before returning to give the player their reward. Or perhaps a helpless traveller needing an escort through bandit territory to safety? That's all possible with just a few clicks, no programming required.

By investing heavily in framework and editor tools, we're building in replayability, longevity and value from the ground up. Had Folk Tale development continued as a linear campaign game, players would have played through the game a couple of times, before relegating it to the virtual shelf to collect dust. By empowering players to create worlds, the community can enjoy new experiences by downloading new maps and worlds.

I'm genuinely stoked about the possibilities Workbench brings to Folk Tale. It's the modern day equivalent of sitting down as a Dungeon Master with a pencil and graph paper, planning out environments and encounters for players to enjoy.

Workbench will be available in a patch update at the end of April.


RPG Content: Factions


Of course, we need content to deliver a superb RPG experience. So today we're also taking a first look at factions. In Folk Tale, each biome (grassland, swamp, snow etc.) has two opposing factions, each with fleshed out storyline, quests and heroes for players to unlock and add to their adventuring party. We're working on the first two factions that reside in and around the grassland biome, namely the Withering Dead, and the Gladefolk.

Spoiler alert. You may not want to read beyond this point if you want some of the storyline to remain a surprise. Please note that storyline may be subject to change.


Withering Dead

The Withering Dead are a necromantic faction residing in the dank, dark recesses of the world where the dead are laid to rest. Mordich, gatekeeper to the Plane Of Shadows, is raising a legion of undead to work in his cheap sandals factory in an attempt to pay the bills. With people living longer following the publication of the bestselling Tome Of Healthy Living, times have become hard, and moonlighting from his regular job of reaping seems like a great option.



After suffering the loss of her husband Brom at the hands of bandits, Lilith sealed a deal with Mordich that saw her summon him to the Physical Plane. In return Mordich would teach her the ways of Necromancy so that she could summon Brom's spirit and return him to life. As months turned to years, the shadow magic corrupted Lilith's soul, and her good natured spirit was replaced by something much more sinister.



Having arrived in the Physical Plane, Mordich summoned the spirit of Bonefinger, an ancient dragon from the Plane Of Shadows, binding it to the corpse of a recently dead and rotting dragon. From the primeval era, Bonefinger is a truly grueomsome behemoth capable of spewing acid breath, causing terror with it's roar, and slaming down opponents en masse with its powerful wings.



While Mordich's sandal factory is filled with an army of animated skeleton workers, Mordich also controls zombie harvesting gangs that raid the Gladefolk's Everbloom Pastures in search of the magic flowers that contain the energy he needs to power his factory.



Gladefolk

Over in the Glade, Nara, Earth Mother, is enraged by Mordich's raids, and is pushing back against the rot and decay that the zombie harvesting gangs leave in their wake.



With the help of her daughter, Willow, Nara plots to put Mordich out of business and banish him back to the Plane Of Shadows.



Summoning the behemoth Mossclaw to defend the Everbloom Pastures, Nara sends Willow on an epic journey into the underworld, where she'll resist the corruption of her soul and discover the Bone Phylactery that channels Mordich's life force between planes.



It's up to players to choose their moral stand point and help whichever side they please. Help the Withering Dead, and Mordich will lavish players with otherworldly items of immense power while corrupting the natural world. Help the Gladefolk, and you'll have Nara's thanks and Willow's restorative magic. It's never black and white in Folk Tale.

Neutrals

Not all heroes the players meet will be aligned to a faction. Some pursue their own agenda, and players can unlock them by helping neutral heroes on quests. Ser Gregory, a heavily armored tank, will be the first hero to be added to the game.



Thursday, 12 March 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 32


Folk Tale Patch 0.2.14 and 0.2.15 add Sandbox Load/Save, sickness, balancing, bug fixes, and a host of improvements.

Load/Save

By far the most frequently requested feature in recent months has been Load/Save. We've had a working save system in the console for some time for testing, which we're now happy its in a stable state. When you're in a game, simply press escape and hit save. When save is successful you'll hear a bright sparkle sound, and an error dialog will show if there was a fault. In time we'll add a text confirmation to the screen as well. Having saved a game, next time you start Folk Tale, the continue menu option will be enabled in white.

Start Screen

Speaking of the continue button, an overhaul of the start screen was long overdue. The new background is a place holder and in time we hope to replace it with a living village scene. Hopefully the refresh brings much needed modernization. We've yet to add background music, which I'll come onto next. We also took the opportunity to add a quit to desktop option, which had been missing for quite a while. No more forced quitting!



Retiring The Old Tutorial

The old tutorial has long become tired and irrelevant, having deliberately not been updated since launch. Sandbox village building, economy and RTS controls passed it a long time ago. It was only the storyline campaign feel that differed. Now that the team is moving across to develop the RPG side of the game - the main delivery mechanism for storyline and questing - it's time to look to the future.

For months the Tutorial has been a dead weight on our shoulders. Firstly, early buyers of the game would often boot into the game, and fire up the old tutorial only to discover nothing had changed, since all the work was going into sandbox of which there was little awareness. It no doubt contributed to negative reviews. Secondly, every time we prepared a release candidate, the tutorial would require a complete play through to make sure we hadn't broken anything. That added several hours to each release cycle, and my threshold finally broke in February. Finally, we've had to write a lot of duplicated classes with similar names so as not to break the Tutorial. From a project structure point of view, it was getting silly. Retiring the old tutorial will enable us to clean up the project, and streamline some of the scene loading process.

For players still wanting to play the old tutorial, it remains available via an opt-in build on Steam.

Sickness

Sickness provides another layer of depth to village life. Sickness can arise because of poor hygiene or diet, and depending on the rate of infection, can rapidly spread through your village. There are 3 types of sickness identified by mild sneezing, coughing, and projectile vomiting. Each type can be cured respectively by producing lesser medicine, medicine, and greater medicine manufactured at a Herbalists.



UI Improvements

In the Workers tab of the building options, previously there was no feedback when you selected a Peasant for training. Now their portrait get added to the vacancy slot in the left column, and in the right column 'on his/her way' gets added until they arrive to take up their new profession. In time I think we'll remove assigned Peasants from the right column altogether, but for now it's a welcomed improvement.



Throughout the UI we've added more tooltips with helpful advice on how things work, and this work will continue in future patches.

Watching community YouTube videos and streams, and from our own play testing, we noticed it was too easy to accidentally destroy buildings. To address this we've added a Yes/No confirmation dialog to prevent this from happening.

For players on retina and 5K monitors, and laptop players on small screens, the addition of UI scaling should be a useful addition. Being careful with finances, I went into an Apple Store and persuaded them to let me run the game on a 5K iMac (thank you Apple store staff!). Needless to say the fixed-size UI was minuscule, so later that week we implemented it without having to shell out thousands of dollars. Still, it's a beautiful piece of kit and in a few years when they give the GPU more power, I'd love to get my hands on one.

Over in the settings menu, we'd had community reports of frustration in the carousel behaviour of some settings - for example the UI scaling - whereby players would be wanting to max out the scale, but repeated clicking would cause the setting to loop back around so the UI would snap between maximum and minimum scale. On a 5K monitor, that's incredibly small, making it a little more difficult to recover back to the setting you wanted. So now options are clamped at their min/max and don't wrap around.

General Improvements

On OSX we'd received numerous reports of problems, and I'm pleased that we now have a fix for the crashing that was preventing some Mac players from enjoying the game.

A widely requested feature has been a way to find Peasants, usually when your village is larger and Peasants are a minority. We've always intended this to be available via the Civics dialog, but as an interim step the 'F' key shortcut now cycles the camera between Peasants. We've made it more functional than that however, and if you have a profession such as a Woodcutter selected, pressing F will cycle you to the next Woodcutter. Pressing SHIFT+F will expand your current selection to also select the next profession.

Characters are now easier to see at night and in dungeons, as we added in day/night emissive values to the Ambience system. This allows us to adjust the emissive values of characters per biome. In bright outdoor locations, we can pull this right back, whereas in dark dungeons we can ramp it up.

Anyone with a gaming PC constrained by their CPU (aka CPU bound) should experience an improvement in frame rate of up to 18% in Patch 0.2.15 after we moved the distance culling code to it's own thread.

The Tavern can now sell Mead, clearing the way for enabling the need for Entertainment. Several members of the community had reported issues of being inundated with moaning peasants, and finding it difficult to get past that stage. To improve pacing, we've tied several events to your village's culture value. For example, the need for Basic Clothing now kicks in when culture passes 150. Sneezing sickness doesn't start until 200, with more serious sickness at 300 and 400. This provides for great pacing as new players can learn the ropes and won't get overrun too early, while experienced players can rapidly expand and hit the challenges far sooner.

Balancing

As we all know, Firewood was a borked in earlier builds. Peasants would burn through piles of the stuff like crazed pyromaniacs. It also made crafting at the Blacksmith very very difficult, since Firewood was needed as a crafting ingredient to fuel the furnace. So we've eased back on things and regained control so it's not quite so rampant. There's still some more work to do, especially when a village gets to 40+ inhabitants, but we're getting there. Not wanting to make things too easy on you, we've increased the rate of firewood consumption in colder climates, namely the hard map.

With the clearing of resources came the new problem of desolating the environment and having nothing left to burn. We've added a lot more trees and doubled their yield as an interim solution, while working on giving Woodcutters the ability to plant sapling that will grow into trees.

Bread baking was also fubar, but is now fixed. We're noticing players are placing Windmills but failing to complete the economy chain with a Bakery, so we need think more about how to raise awareness.

If you watched resources come in and out, you may have noticed that production of finished goods such as Meat Pies and Bread was batched up, and would only start when there were 20 flour/meat/whatever at the building. This lead to pent up demand causing Peasants to bum rush as soon as a batch of goods became available. So we've reduced batch sizes and increased the production cycle speed so every few seconds a newly finished good will pop out.

Taxation now has a much greater impact on villager happiness. Higher rates of taxation now have a much greater negative effect.

Spider Dens won't now wave attack until your village has a culture value of 200. We've also moved the spider dens in the easy map further away from the village, as plenty of players are complaining it's too difficult, which is fair enough for a map that's labelled easy! To help defend your village we've made the City Watch tougher, doubling their health and starting them with 10 Armor so they have some damage reduction.

Editor

Over in the Editor we silently went about cleaning up a lot of duplication, removing terrain tiles from Grassland, Swamp and Snow Kits and consolidating them into the single Core Tiles kit. Doing so reduces the amount of effort involved in adding new tiles and potentially reduces memory consumption slightly We included auto-migration code so that all Level Designers need to do is open up their maps and save them out. All their tile pieces will be automatically mapped to the new kit. We've also done the same to lighting, moving torches, sconces, braziers and camp fires in to the Lighting kit. However, each biome kit will retain it's own flavour of lighting where it is part of a faction environment, such as the Werefu Monk Monastery lighting props.



You may have noticed we also snook in the Ice Cliffs and Ice Palace kits, but without a reference map. In Patch 0.2.13 when we released the Classic Dungeons Kit, we added the Crypts Level 1 map as a reference. Unfortunately players started playing this and reporting bugs. So to avoid that, we'll publish a reference map via the community forum when its ready. Once we've got more of the RPG mechanics implemented, then we'll start rolling out adventure maps.

In the Inspector, we added the ability to override snap settings, and added toggles for prop locking and camera colliders.

Ambient Occlusion and DirectX 11

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion ("SSAO") has been upgraded to a much faster and higher quality shader. We had thought it fixed the AMD card issue, but that fix seems patchy based on community bug reports. We're investigating both this, and the rapid reversal of the rollout of DirectX 11 support. Turns out there was a known Unity engine issue which has received a bug fix in 5.0. We're currently using Unity 4.6.3, but we expect the same bug fix will make it's way into the next engine update, after which we can try again with our DirectX 11 rollout.

What Are We Working On Now?

The Quest Designer is a key framework piece for delivering the RPG aspects of gameplay, specifically storyline and questing. We're working on implementing a node-based quest designer into the Editor capable of supporting branching dialog. It's going to take a few months to get right, with the first test being a starter tutorial to help ease new players into sandbox.

Heroes are progressing well, with work nearing completion on their special ability visual effects. They should soon be ready to add into the build, and in time will play their roles in the storyline.

We have a factional Behemoth in production - our first Dragon - and will be revealing that in one of the Dev Hangouts later in March. It's currently in animation, and as soon as it's available I'll be publishing our first faction pages onto the website. Factions are again a large part of the RPG aspect of the game and storyline, and parallel work streams are driving that content forward including factional loot icons and 3D weapons.

We'll be taking a closer look at plans for the RPG side of the game in the next blog.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 31


Folk Tale Patch 0.2.13 introduces significant change with an overhaul of the first hour of gameplay.

Starter Wagon and Resource Clearing

Players starting Folk Tale for the first time often arrive with an implicit knowledge and expectation from other RTS games. To make the game more intuitive, we have to acknowledge and design to this. Having watched Let's Play Folk Tale and Twitch streams, one of the most common first time actions of new players is to select a villager and right click on a tree, expecting them to go and chop it down. That wasn't happening, so we introduced sweeping changes.

Peasants can now gather resources from the environment (thereby clearing areas for future construction) by selecting and right-clicking on a resource, including chopping trees, quarrying small stone deposits, mining iron ore deposits, and foraging for berries. The iron and stone are new assets that are now dotted liberally around the starter location. After several visits, the resource will become depleted and will be removed from the world.



Peasants cannot access Quarries, Iron Mines, and the (possibly) soon to be added Lumber Mill. These will in time require Works to be constructed that can only be operated by Woodcutters, Stonecutters and Blacksmiths who are far more efficient than their Peasant peers. If you examine the current Quarry, we'll be removing the crane and wooden platform to make Works, an upgrade that becomes available once you have constructed the corresponding Profession building, which in this case would be the Stonecutter Lodge. You'll then be able to construct Works on Quarries, and assign Stonecutters to commence work there.

Woodcutters, Stonecutters and Blacksmiths can also clear areas, and are more effective than Peasants, requiring fewer swings of an axe/pickaxe/hammer and yielding more resources each time they drop off resources.

Enabling Peasants to gather resources presented a new design challenge: where should they drop off the collected resources? Henceforth, the very first thing players need to do when starting a new game is place a Supply Wagon containing a few rations and basic clothing to keep your Peasants happy for a short while. The Wagon also acts as a low capacity Storehouse.



These changes took gameplay further back in the life of a settlement, to where you start with very little and have to find what you need in the environment. There's a degree of urgency and survival. With food being a priority, and the Bread economy chain taking a while to get up and running, we've added foraging for Berries by selecting a Peasant and right clicking on a Berry Bush. Berries can be stockpiled and eaten by Peasants when they get hungry, and satiate a small amount of the need for carbohydrates.



Watching some of the recent Let's Play videos and playing ourselves, we noticed that it was easy to get into a situation of having lots of Planks, and not much Firewood. To address this (prior to the implementation of the Marketplace building), we added a crafting recipe to the Woodcutter's Hut for converting Planks into Firewood, available immediately once the building is constructed. With some further balancing, we'll get the Firewood situation under control.

Improving Villager Needs

In the last patch Peasants would frequently complain via the Advisor about being hungry and needing food, even though inventories would be brimming with supplies. This wasn't caused by mass hunger, but rather individual units - especially Hunters - wandering far from town and becoming hungry while doing so. To solve this, we've changed the Needs system to monitor averages, and added some useful charts to the Civics dialog that can be accessed via the topbar button to support forward planning. In times of bountiful harvest, Peasants are able to gorge themselves to fend off hunger for longer. They also take longer to get really hungry, reducing the frequency of them leaving.

New peasants will now only arrive if happiness is in the yellow or green.



Taxation And Changes To Economy

We were dissatisfied with the way the economy was working in regard to Villagers buying goods for gold. While it sounds logical, this could lead to unacceptable delays waiting for gold to be generated. We've not removed the exchange of goods for gold, and replaced it with a new taxation system. In the Civics Dialog (see image above), you can now set the tax rate in gold. Taxes are levied every 30 seconds, and are dependent on Cottages. Setting low taxes will lead to increased happiness, while heavy taxation will lead to decreasing happiness unless you are taking steps to offset that.

Research

The whole concept of accruing Research Points didn't feel natural, so we scrapped 'em. Now, you choose which research you want to undertake, and as workers deliver resources to the building, part of that work effort can be allocated towards research, progressing the percentage complete. Once you reach 100%, the research is unlocked. Multiple buildings of the same type can contribute to the same research at the same time to unlock it faster, or research something completely different in parallel. For example, one Blacksmith might research Leatherworking. Building a second Blacksmith, you can set it to contribute towards the existing research into Leatherworking, or research Plate Armor in parallel.



Moving to a progress model however presents some redesign challenges for non-production buildings including the Barracks and Storehouse. For the Barracks, we'll be introducing a villager need for security, which can be satiated by stationing City Watch in locations frequented by villagers (by the Storehouse and Wagon would be great!) As Peasant's pass by, they gain an increased sense of security, and that generates a tick in the progress towards any active research in the Barracks. Having City Watch behave in this manner also plays into the original plan for their role as law enforcement, and opens up the possibility of implementing crime and thieves.

Research at the Storehouse will be redistributed to other buildings including the Workshop.

Monster Dens and Ecology

As your settlement expands, you'll be clearing resources and pushing more into the unknown. Sooner or later you're going to encounter Monster Dens, starting with spiders. Spiders make their nests in hollow tree trunks, and are easily identifiable by the presence cobwebs, spider eggs and spiders. Over time, nests will spawn more monsters, and in time a queen that will wander and settle a new den. Monster Dens have health, and can be attacked and destroyed. However, the nests and monsters they spawn are a source of crafting ingredients, so it'll be a balancing act of what to destroy and when.

In future patches we'll be introducing ecology. Wolves will hunt rabbits, and rabbits will eat your crops. But killing rabbits will remove the wolves' source of food, which may in turn hunt down your villagers to chomp on.






Heroes, Faction Bosses, and Behemoth Mini-Bosses

With much of the village assets complete and queued for implementation, the Art Team have shifted over to producing content to support the RPG aspect of Folk Tale. All of the factions now have fleshed out back story (on paper, not in game), with a leader, hero and hulking behemoth. In our world design (community worlds may differ in design), each biome will have two opposing factions interacting together in a storyline, each having their own quest lines. Helping one faction will raise your notoriety, eventually granting access to the faction's hero for inclusion in your adventuring party. However, helping one faction will inevitably cause your standing with the opposing faction to decline into open conflict, leading you into combat with the opposing hero.

In the early stages of play, once you've constructed a Tavern, we want to provide access to non-faction based heroes to introduce adventuring parties and special abilities. Our first hero, Ser Gregory, is coming together and will soon be ready for adding into the game. Adding heroes will run in parallel with an overhaul of the combat system. For the last 6 months we've been retrospectively adding reaction animations to monsters, villagers and heroes, including hits, knock downs, stuns, shocks, and cowering. These additions should make combat feel much more involved and tactical.






Dungeon Kit

The Withering Dead will inhabit the crypts and catacombs of the Desecrated Cathedral found in the Grassland (Easy) map. Somewhere in the cathedral we'll add a portal that your adventuring party can take to Crypts Level 1 (via a loading screen). This map uses the new Classic Dungeon Kit, our first kit for creating underground Adventuring Locations. Adventuring locations are maps designed not to have villages built on, and only your adventuring party can travel there. We've also added a Lights Kit for placing dungeon lighting. Map designers should be mindful not to add too many lights in close proximity, as this can affect frame rate.



Future patches will include a Traps Kit, and a means of setting up triggers, either for traps, encounters or events.

Armor

Work continues fleshing out loot and crafting items. This month we've added the common scale armor that will be worn by the Cavalry and at least one hero; and a rare cloth armor set for Witches and caster heroes.

All icons are hand-painted at 512x512 pixel resolution and then scaled down, be that to the final in-game resolution, icons used on the website, or blog images such as the one below. Detail is painted in roughly in the original images, and becomes fine detail when scaled down.



We've tweaked monster damage to be more reasonable, testing it against the damage reduction provided by wearing armor the different types of armor. Villagers wearing armor are no longer invulnerable.

What's Happening Right Now?

February is a time to refine all the goodies we've added to the game in recent months. Load/Save is having a final push to squish any remaining bugs before adding in the UI. We have a rewrite of the inventory system to reduce chances of bugs, and further balancing to do. The Art Team are working on a wide array of tasks including the Ice Palace/Caverns (Glacian faction), Mordich the Withering Dead boss, Bonefinger the Withering Dead behemoth, Melody, the Gladefolk hero, faction loot weapon models, hero special ability visual effects, and of course inventory icons for the Withering Dead and Gladefolk factions. And I'll be focusing on character voice-over scripts so we can get more of your villagers and heroes talking.