Friday, 23 October 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 38

The start of a mechanics overhaul has begun, and the first taster is soon to be released.

Bye Bye Needs...Hello Happiness

Let's face it, the needs system in Folk Tale was a pain in the derrière. Constant notifications from moaning villagers, a lack of clarity on why things were happening, and a source of frustration. So we've binned it, and taken community feedback in hand.

Say hello to overall happiness, broken down into each of the positive and negative factors contributing to it. The new civics dialog tab includes an ability to set rationing on food, firewood, clothing, and mead. Players can also set the tax rate and see an immediate effect. For now, happiness is impacted by rationing, taxes, overcrowding and food variety. Overcrowding arises when a player's population reaches a maximum and more space is required, but it hasn't been popular so we'll be reworking it. Food variety introduces a new mechanic. Villagers are happier with a varied diet. Players won't receive a negative effect, since villagers can survive on berries should they need to. Add fish, bread, meat and vegetables to their diet and life looks peachier.

In happy times, player population will increase to it's maximum over time. When unhappy, players are on a short fuse and villagers will start to abandon (and in the future rebel).

Needs Replaced With Rationing And Overall Happiness

Rationing is another new mechanic. Remember the days when peasants would burn through firewood stocks like a bunch of pyromaniacs? Now players are in control. During lean times, rationing can be used to limit how much villagers consume. No-one is happy having to make do with less, but over the short term a little pain in the form of unhappiness can give players a chance to recover from supply shocks such as losing fields. During times of plenty, double and even quadruple rations can offset other negatives and provide a rapid boost to population growth.

Collectables and Harvesting

We didn't feel the game was tangible with enough interaction with the world. We'll soon be adding world collectables are part of the campaign storyline quests, and that system has already been expanded into resource harvesting.

Peasants continue to suck at resource collection. When visiting a tree, it will be felled after several swings, and produce 1 miserly log which is then picked up and carried back to the Supply Wagon. Train a Woodcutter, and the log yield instantly doubles. For each of the next 4 levels, Woodcutters get better at their jobs (earning experience), and the yield increases by 1 for each character level, up to a maximum of 5. So now players will care a little more about losing a Master Woodcutter. In times of urgency, peasants and workers can be selected and logs on the ground interacted with (they highlight on mouse over) to command them to assist with collection.

Fields work in a similar fashion. We've segmented fields into four quadrants, and each quadrant can be cleared independently. So if players have 4 farmers sat around being lazy, when a field is 100% grown, they can now all work the same field. The yield from each quadrant (shown as bushels of wheat, and baskets of carrots/cotton/herbs) will depend on each Farmer's level of expertise. The changes to field mechanics mean that Tier 2 and 3 Windmills and the larger workforce that they support can now be put to better use.


For Alpha 25 we're overhauling research. Research will no longer be progressed through the delivery of resources. Instead, there will be a one off gold cost, after which a progress bar will increment. For buildings with workers, each worker will contribute a little towards speedier research.

By removing resource delivery as the driver of progress, the issues with Barracks, Storehouse and Workshop are removed and the process simplified for the 0.3.5 release.

Research will in future be tied to building tiers, so that advanced research such as Plate will be dependent on unlocking Tier 2 or 3 buildings. We may also lock higher level crafting tiers to building tiers. For example, while Plate research might be unlocked with a Tier 2 Blacksmith (enabling uncommon crafting items), players would require a Tier 3 Blacksmith to craft rare armor items.

Armor will become a prerequisite for unlocking certain military units. We're introducing Spearmen (and women), an early stage military unit with leather armor, spear and buckler. To unlock them, players will need a Tier 1 Blacksmith and to complete Leather Armor research. That in turn will unlock the Barracks construction option. Building a Tier 1 Barracks will then allow villagers to be trained as Spearmen.

Here's a breakdown of the proposed pre-requisites:

Unit         Research          Blacksmith Tier     Culture
Spearmen     Leather Armor            1               50
Arbalist     Chainmail                1              200
Cavalry      Scale                    2              300
City Watch   Plate                    2              400


Work continues with implementing the Withering Dead and Gladefolk storylines, introduced to the player by Kenny and his band of brigands. With the recent addition of portals enabling us to link maps together, Shirebrook is now connected to the Bandit Caves and Mordrich's undead sandal factory. We're at the point of needing collectables, and that work has been completed as part of the resource harvesting overhaul. Once players can pickup objects (adding them to inventory) to progress quests, we'll continue with the Withering Dead script. Voice acting continues to be added as it becomes available. In the experimental build that means some conversations will have patchy VO coverage.

Mordrich's sandal factory is already well progressed, and the Art Team have been putting the finishing touches to a variety of mad scientist props that we need for Mordrich's office and Brom's engine room. Once those are complete, our attention will switch back to finishing the Glade, the next dungeon in the storyline sequence.

The entirety of the Swamp/Grublin/Toadkin storyline scripts are now complete, and work on the Snow/Order Of The Fang/Glacians is currently around 50% complete.

Heroes and NPCs

Character production is well ahead of the roadmap, following the faction structure of leader, hero, behemoth and supporting cast. House Hraun is a dwarven faction residing in the lava fields. Technologically advanced, House Hraun is at war with the Cult Of Pyros, a pyromancy-based faction that we'll look at in a future blog. Freya the paladin hero currently has a goatee; not all design choices are good ones and we're in the process of removing it. I also feel she needs a helmet to feel more like a heavily armored paladin, what do you think?

House Hraun (from left to right: House Guard, Barum Hraun, Gunner)

Freya Hraun, Paladin


Devin, the team's Texture Artist, continues pumping faction-branded weapons so that players can gear up villagers and heroes with loot. At launch we should have weapons available in most factional variants, other than where it makes absolutely no sense in lore. Some will receive particle effects to reflect their magical nature.

In the future we'll be adding a dynamic loot generator for chests and corpses so that appropriate loot is dropped depending on the composition of the player's adventuring party and their level. We can't anticipate how community level designers will order their worlds, so therefore we cannot have the fixed stat items that are currently shown on the website. If a level designer wants the lava zone to be their first map, we can't really have all dwarf gear being fixed level 18-20 gear. That would completely ruin the game.

The same is true for monster levels, so we'll introduce scaling around the same time. Obviously we're keen to prevent level 1 dragons from appearing in community worlds, so we'll most likely force minimum level caps on most bosses, and where possible swap out monsters.


The Editor grows in power and features with the addition of terrain sculpting and new workbench visual scripting nodes. Terrain sculpting is an impressive feature for raising and lowering land. That might not sound impressive until you consider we have a tile-based terrain system. All the tiles in the proximity need to be recalculated and matches found in a limited tile set.

The terrain sculptor tool comes with a constraints system for additional flexibility, enabling level designers to add fixed rules for what terrain must be used in surrounding tiles. For example, enforcing where rivers must flow.

Terrain Sculpting Tool

Terrain generation and sculpting tools now provide both us and community level designers with powerful time-saving tools for creating new worlds. When combined with the visual scripting environment known as Workbench, it's becoming faster and easier to create richer and more engaging worlds.


We're almost finished painting portraits for all the existing characters, monsters and animals. Community level designers will soon be able to have talking chickens, pigs and lord knows what else delivering quests should they so wish. In parallel, many of the hero ability icons have been illustrated, and will make their way onto the website in time.

A Selection Of NPC, Hero and Monster Portraits


How are you feeling about the work we're doing on Folk Tale? Let us know by posting a review on the store page. Alas, with hindsight we did launch too soon into Early Access, and mistakes were made along the way. But we're still here, communicating and engaging with community and driving development forward. It's a big project for our small team, but we'd rather deliver a quality game than rush out something less than perfect. Reintroducing campaign is taking some time, but it's a lot easier now that we have a fab suite of editor tools. Many of the early negative reviews still talk about the pre-launch change from campaign to sandbox, so please do help us get the word out about the reintroduction of a campaign mode.

Next Patch

By the time you read this, the next patch (0.3.5) should be in QA testing and gearing up for release into the experimental branch. It's undergone a lot of rebalancing, so please do give it a good test and let us know how you get on. We need to strike a balance of not easy, but not insanely difficult, and your feedback helps us judge how we're doing.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Folk Tale Dev Blog 37

RPG gameplay, a new camera system, cutscene creation tools, and a host of new monsters

Camera System: Orbit And Follow

It's been discussed for a while in the forums, and in Alpha 23 we've overhauled the camera system to orbit around a central point. This is especially important when adventuring with a hero party, where the new camera will follow a selected hero in the center of the screen when in adventuring in dungeons. Hopefully you'll find it more intuitive, and consistent with other games in both RPG and Citybuilding genres. Following community feedback, we've removed hero following when in village maps as the need for free movement is paramount.

Hero System

Our focus for now is firmly on RPG gameplay because it impacts a number of tasks in the coming months. The addition of the hero party UI in the top left of the screen will be instantly familiar to RPG players. Clicking a hero portrait will select that hero, causing the camera to pan to place them in the middle of the screen, and continue to follow them. Placeholder icons to the right of the portraits will soon be replaced with both positive and negative buffs.

Hero System

Below the portraits are toggle buttons for selection mode and follow. In single hero selection mode, you're commanding that hero alone. Other party members will use their AI to react to what your selected hero is doing. With party selection, you're commanding all four heroes at once. The follow toggle determines whether non-selected heroes will follow your lead hero, or stand still. This is important when working with a thief where you want to scout ahead.

Editor Enhancements

Cutscene Camera

In order to deliver an engaging RPG experience, we first need to enhance the content creation tools. Today, we're adding cutscene creation nodes to Workbench, our visual scripting engine, and camera path tools for creating camera motion. Level designers now have directoral control over how NPC interactions are presented, right from within the Editor.

The Final Cutscene
Editing The Camera Path, Segment Speed, And Orbit Point
Visual Scripting The Cutscene In Workbench

Quest Givers

Prior to triggering a cutscene, it's likely you'll want to mark an NPC as a quest giver so that a yellow exclamation mark appears over their heads. When used in conjunction with a trigger, the AddQuestGiver node will show the marker, while the RemoveQuestGiver node will, unsurprisingly, hide it.

In time we need to work out a system for interacting with moving NPCs, but for now the first pass implementation is very usable.

Somewhat related, we've modified the Conversation node so that level designers can now optionally specify the character who's portrait should be displayed, an animation to be played (more info on this will follow at a later date),  and any loot items to be displayed for example as quest rewards.

Level Designers Can Now Enable Quest Givers


Productivity in content creation is important, with many of the Editor enhancements focusing on improving the speed at which new levels can be created. A few months ago we added the terrain generation tool for exterior locations, and marquee selection for quickly selecting multiple objects. This month we're rolling out the prefabs system. A prefab is a combination of props, such as a statue on a mount with a camera collider, or a locked door with a trigger and Workbench script attached. To create one, select your pieces and hit H, naming your prefab. An entry will be created in the prefabs tab of the kit inspector. You can then use it like a normal kit piece, clicking it to insert into your map scene. Prefabs are saved to disk, and so survive across multiple editing sessions.

Prefabs Are Saved Between Level Design Sessions, Increasing Productivity

Workbench Scripts On Objects

If you've used Workbench, our visual scripting tool, historically you've had to work on a single worksheet, and performance would start to drop with lots of nodes and wires on screen. In Alpha 23, scripts can now be attached to any object in the map by clicked the 'Add Script' button in the object's inspector window. A cog icon will be added to the object, and a new worksheet created.

Visual Helpers Toggle

In complex maps, clutter in the form of colliders, triggers, and light icons can start to build up and hinder productivity. So we've added a new toggle button to the toolbar so you can show and hide them.

New Assets


For a while now a small mountain of assets has been building up and marked as queued for implementation in the roadmap. Equipping weapons onto characters often resulted in the same placeholder weapon being displayed. We've now imported and configured all the outstanding weapons and stats.

Most Of The Missing Loot Models Have Now Been Added


A host of new monsters have been added, and all characters now have base stats. Some have become a lot tougher, so we've introduced Willow The Healer. While she's not yet fully configured, her heal is functional and will help your hero party survive.

In time we'll add in monster special abilities (requires animation, particle fx and sound fx) but for now they provide some additional flavour.

A lot of characters now have reaction animations, including hit and dazed. Shocked, feared, and knockdown will come into play as we add in new heroes and abilities.

Murp The Dentist, The Grublins' Behemoth

Experimental vs Public Build

In Alpha 22 we introduced the experimental build, an opt-in beta that active community members can join to help us test early release candidates. It's potentially less stable and more buggy than the public build, but it provides access to the very latest builds with the specific goal of routing out bugs before we publish an update to the main public build.

Some have asked why bother? Well, even though we're in Early Access and bugs are to be expected, the reality is that releasing buggy updates to the entire community can actually cause harm. Having the buffer of an experimental build means better quality stable updates for casual and new players; engages active community members in more of a testing role; and provides level designers with a chance to update their maps ready for the next public release. Everyone benefits.

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


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.