DesktopTuesday: UX Building Prototypes

Hey everyone, it’s Desktop Tuesday time! Last week, we learned that 70% of you were interested in hearing updates on features that are in super early stages of design but that may not make it into the final game in this form. Today I’d like to show you a small preview of one of these: Engineer Chris and UX Designer Nikki’s first stabs at an upgraded building user experience. As we get through this first cut, I’d like to explain why we as a dev team make prototypes, and why most of what you see here today will change a lot between now and when it finally makes it into the game.

continue on:


Nobody’s excited to discuss having to wait? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m kind of looking forward to Alpha 22.5, if only for the nolstalgia. Alpha 10.5 was the official Steam launch, right? Good alpha, that.


… now you have jinxt it … thank you … :stuck_out_tongue:

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10.5 was good times. I remember being excited that i could build 15 buildings and have nearly 20 hearthlings and the game didn’t explode!


With the shape of the buildings I like to do, the new building UX (UI, whatever it’s called) looks like it’s going to be more annoying than not. Unless they’re square buildings or made of squares, it seems like it’s going to take longer than it does now to do specially shaped buildings. Another example of this would be “round” turrets on castles or any round or diagonal building in general.

That being said, I haven’t liked, and still don’t, this complete rewrite that they’re doing. To me, it really feels like RIOT finally got their teeth into this game completely, and are now wanting to remake it into their image, and not the original. My biggest proof of this is all the RPG talk that’s been going on with the Dev Streams. And whether this rewrite is the cause of the slowed development or it’s something else (as I suspect), this game feels like it’s dying…to me at least.

That being said, I’ll digress, as I’ve been “that guy” for a couple months now, and it’s not wanted or really welcomed here. Just wanted to say it as no one’s discussing anything. So here’s a toast to what we hope the game will become. :wine_glass::champagne::wine_glass:

Genuinly interested question
Do you hold RIOT responsible for the slowed development?

It is an interesting way to go about it, unsure what to make of it; as I have not messed with it.

One thing that I want to know is if you can raise/lower foundation like you can the walls. I like making porches & awnings to incorporate a step or two up.

makes me wonder how the wall tool itself is going to work; the same or different. The room tool presented at least peaks my interest. :slight_smile:


I for 1 am excited about the revamp of the building system. Maybe when Chris and Nikki are done the hearthlings will take less time building a premade house like the carpenter`s house. I would also like it if the hearthlings sleep at night unless they have night owl trait while working on buildings.

I know 1 thing at a time.

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@SirAstrix, I ask this in the most sincere way; is being that guy bringing you joy? :wink: You don’t have to be him just for us, if you don’t want to. The little fire under my skull that pushes me to continue to work on the game all day, every day is going quite strongly without further feeding.

If you’re inclined to have a conversation about Riot, please understand that Riot is not an entity with opinions. It’s an org made entirely out of people, like the fifteen people who now work full time on Stonehearth. (Fifteen! Count em: me, Nikki, Allie, Malley, Albert, Angelo, Linda, Morgan, Max, Richard, Justin, Chris, Ana, Brad, and soon Luke). Riot The Entity doesn’t have any opinions about RPGs. Lead Designer Richard (@Brackhar) has opinions about RPGs, so of course his opinions will make their way into our game. If you’d like to chat with him about them, he loves talking about design. :wink:

If you’re wondering about what we’re doing with all our time, well, it takes a long time to rework a game from base principles. I wish it didn’t, or that I had a magic button that will teleport us all into the future, but there might be zombies there, so carpe diem. :slight_smile:

Edit: In addition to the room tool, there should also be a wall tool which will be useful for more custom shapes. How the room and wall tools interact is something Chris is working on right now.


I can’t say it does or doesn’t. I enjoy discussions, even if it’s heated discussion and hard debates. But at the same time, I don’t like being the black sheep in a community that people hate to see their name pop-up. And honestly, except for a handful of people, most here are cheerful, full of energy, good hearted people. And with that, most are “yes men” when it comes to you guys talking about changes. I don’t want to be “that guy” and become ignored or even booted, but at the same time, I’d like to understand more of what’s going on and have some of my thoughts and fears put to rest.

And RIOT may not be an entity with opinions, but at the same time (to me at least), since they started supporting you guys, the game feels (again to me) like it’s being taken down a completely different path; more in an RPG path than a city builder path. Now if this is just @Brackhar’s vision that’s taken over compared to the original, then I apologize for blaming RIOT and will begin blaming him instead. None the less, this rewrite feels like just that, and that in the end, it won’t be Stonehearth, the game I chose to back years ago but instead will become Hearth: The Adventures of Stone.

I can understand this. But at the same time, it’s gotta be admitted that development has slowed way down. F*** it, let’s be that black sheep for a min.

Before you’ve said that y’all are focussing on one thing at a time now rather than potluck-ing it. At the same time, in the dev streams, there’s a lot of unsureness about where the future will go, almost to the point as if y’all just started making this game earlier this year. One example is the constant question of: Will seasons be added? “Hopefully, we’d like to see it.” - is the response given anymore, to not just this but other things originally said that was wanted to be in the game, some of which are on the roadmap. If that’s the responses we’re getting, then how is everyone on the same page? To add to this, you’ve stated that y’all don’t want to tell us about things that could be removed in the future. If it’s so planned out and the direction is so well known that you’re hyper focusing on one thing at a time, why is this really an issue? It wouldn’t make sense to hyper focus on say rabbit people, then remove them later. But we don’t get much more than a step up from “wait and see”.

On top of that, you guys spent how many weeks working on the conversation system and are now working on the building UX. But…after a month and a half, it’s still less than prototyping to figure out what y’all want, and we have drawable squares. Now I’m not a programmer and may be talking out my ass on this (and shoot me down if I am, like I said I’m up for heated discussions), but I remember watching the stream when Tony worked on making it so you could draw out from different elevations. It didn’t take him that long to add that, and I believe I’ve read that y’all have stated y’all have a better team now than then. So…was Chris on vacation during the entire conversation system, or what? Because adding drawable squares doesn’t seem like it should take that long. Same with @Albert and the water bugs. Like how is it so broken that it seems like it can’t be fixed enough to update us on what’s going on after a couple months?

This is why I feel the game is dying. Y’all brag about how large the team has gotten, how skilled they are, how some have come from RIOT with an amazing rap sheet…and then even backend features seem like they’re being done at a Windows 95 loading speed. To me, it feels like this game went through a hostile takeover, and now it’d be bad PR to just end it. That, or the resources left to work on this game are so limited that you can’t run a full team all at once, and thus have to cherry pick what gets done.

When this game started, it was very community driven, yet today, it’s enough to pacify the masses and that’s it. If I’m wrong, and I hope I am, I will gladly get on a soapbox and apologize. But with 15 developers being hyper focused on specific tasks and parts of the game being fixed in ways it wasn’t really broken (like the UX), I kind of expected more than a bunch of unknowns.

I’ll leave it at that for now, and apologize if I’ve offended anyone, as that’s not my intent. In the end, I feel like this game is following the way Minecraft went, and it has so much more potential and all around greatness that I’d hate for that to happen.


Hey dude, I’m happy to speak to this a bit. Thanks for raising your concerns in a constructive way.

When I joined the team, there was a ton of excitement for the game’s potential, but it felt like we lacked a clearly articulated vision for what the game was or should be. We had a broad understanding of what the genre was, and in terms of the final vision we mostly only had a list of features that had previously been promised. There was not a strong theory behind why one feature may need to go in versus another, what the list of features would build up to, or why the game would ultimately be a compelling and fun experience when we were finished.

My early work on the team was to help provide some answers to those questions, because I and the rest of the team really do feel that there’s something special here. However, achieving that imagined final game would take work and more resources than the team had at the time, and it’s difficult to make a case that you need more resources if you can’t explain where you are going. That style of problem requires a lot of deep thought and many, many conversations, and as such I personally haven’t had as much time to delve into some of the major player facing feature design that I’ve wanted to. That said, the work of developing that underlying theory and argument has paid dividends so far, which is why we’ve been able get the budget to almost double the team size. Especially once the new designer I’m bringing on joins, I’d expect you’d start to see new features and improvements arriving in game at a more rapid pace as we continue through the year.

This time of re-examination has also allowed us to take a step back and examine big fundamental problems as well. Chris’s work in the building system represents not only a new user experience for how to construct a building, but a re-architecting of how construction works. For example, the current construction model treats all the portions of a building - wall, floor, second floors, roofs, etc - as different objects, which leads to all sorts of weird problems. For instance, internal wall construction is a nightmare, and good luck getting a roof on a building that has them unless you know the exact pattern of actions to take. It also commonly leads to buildings that will be forever incomplete. The new model shifts in a new direction, so that even if things are framed to the player as walls, floors, etc., they’re treated all the same underneath the hood. This should lead to a huge gain in expressiveness of the tool while also resolving a raft of really painful experiences, but it came at the cost of basically a full re-write of the architecture code.

Water is a similar style issue. As you are probably well aware, water just doesn’t work in the game right now. There’s no gameplay with it, it will frequently pause mid-air, and all sorts of things. As Albert was looking into it he realized that the problem wasn’t a matter of just a random bug here and there, but a core issue with how the system was architected. If we didn’t take some time to go back and re-implement it, a lot of the features you guys have asked for (dynamic moats, irrigation, etc.) just wouldn’t be possible. That type of work takes time.

On my side I’ve been working on prototypes for possible game directions Stonehearth could go, and as Stephanie alluded to at the end of this DT that includes multiplayer. Adding multiplayer to a game that wasn’t designed for it, let alone one in a genre that has few contemporaries doing it at all, is a huge undertaking. It’s unfortunately not as simple as “oh, it works in Terrarria or Minecraft”, because since those games have the player playing as a single character the entire problem set is fundamentally different. There are exceptionally few games that have multiplayer community building in the manner of Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld. That said, we’ve made good progress here in understanding the space, and I’m hopeful to talk about it soon.

Regarding the RPG question, I don’t have an interest in turning Stonehearth into an RPG. People can go play Rune Factory or Dark Cloud if that is the experience they are looking for, which are great games in their own right. Stonehearth does lean a lot on RPGs for its fantasy though, and you can see this if you go back and look at the original kickstarter pitch, what with its references to D&D, RPG class systems, and other such things. Stephanie has told me before that she always imagined Stonehearth as a “community builder where you are constructing Kakariko Village” from Zelda. That inspiration is why the game has things like character levels, class trees, base stats, dialog encounters, etc. My primary goal is to continue incorporating that inspiration where appropriate, all in service of allowing the player to form attachment to their hearthlings as individuals, and not merely as automata that exist to do the next most important task (beep boop). But, as with anything, we need feedback and input from people like you to help guide the direction.

I hope this helps provide at least some amount of context. I didn’t touch on all of the points you brought up, but if there are any you specifically want me to reply to I’m more than happy to do that.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. One part I personally am confused on:

What do you mean the game wasn’t designed for it? I thought that in the base of the code it was, seeing as there’s already a client-server process. What wasn’t designed for multiplayer?


I’m not referring to the tech here; I’m referring to the game design. The tech as I understand it is built on some good foundations to support multiplayer.


Ok. The way you phrased it seemed in my head like you meant tech.

So since it’s game design, do you have a basic idea currently? Or are you still deciding what would serve StoneHearth best?

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Yeah, I’ve got a good feeling about the direction. I just need to flesh it out more before I openly talk about it. I don’t want to set expectations for one thing when we still might pivot.


This seems more like an AI issue in my opinion though, not a UX issue. When you 3D print something, it works one layer at a time. The AI could just be reworked to do the same, starting at the base and working one voxel up at a time (or couple at a time, regardless you get my drift). So that being said, combined with my previous statement about round and diagonal buildings, this UX rewrite seems…stupid to me. What’s the real advantage to being able to draw buildings like in The Sims 4, when we don’t have round assets like they do? How is changing the UX going to change how 'lings build buildings and still get stuck? OOOOH it’s flashier and more modern compared to other like titles, but it still would leave the underlying problem of pathfinding.

And if you told everyone here that you were rebuilding the pathfinding, I’m sure we’d all end up throwing a party. But instead we’re getting upgraded from The Sims 3 to the Sims 4.

I appreciate the info on this, and it’d be nice to get more explanations like this. Because up until now, it’s sounded like it was just a couple bugs.

At the same time, what’s showing that they’re more than this? The conversations system is flat, and honestly doesn’t add more than direction of what to build…in a subtle way. Traits help in the sense of giving you the random direction of what to build. There are no friendships, no loves, no diplomacy, anything. And when asked about this, it’s another “How far we want to take it is a bit up in the air, to be honest.”. The idea of kids and families has been dismissed since the days of Tom (even though there are PG ways to do it), and what’s called complete after a decent amount of time is nothing more than the NPC’s of Skyrim that took an arrow to the knee.

I actually was going to bring up her quote before and forgot to. That being said, with the current systems, throw in the Song of Storms, and you could recreate a perfect replica of Kakariko Village, especially from the earlier versions. As far as D&D goes, Stonehearth doesn’t have the specifics like they did. I’ve got two examples of this:

  • When I used to play in High School, I had a half-ling knight, that was predgudice against wizards, was hated by dwarves (took out half the country side to get out of a bar tab), and earned the nickname “Nut-High Knight”.
  • One of the guys I ran with attempted (and I use that word strongly) to be a Drawven Theif. Now if you’ve ever played it, you would understand why this was hillarious and didn’t work.

Just those two examples would be impossible to make in Stonehearth, and unless y’all built the system to have experiences/quests/stories like this, the player doesn’t have much to get attached to. Sorry but my carniverous blacksmith in Stonehearth doesn’t make for as good of a story, nor does it make me feel very connected to them.

But when there’s so many unsures of where the future will go right now, how can it be said that it’s any better now than it was when you came in? And if y’all do have a mission statement, an end goal, then why is it so hard to share that with us, or to even share what we can look foward to long term, in more detail than the roadmap? You and @sdee keep saying that y’all had to sit down and re-examine everything, but from what little we get, it seems more like we’ve hopped from one person’s list of random features to anothers.

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You’re absolutely right, and in a sense that’s what we’re shifting to do. However, the way that the system is currently architected does not make this a possibility, hence the re-write. Chris can speak to this a bit better than me though, to be fair.

Also, you’ve mentioned pathfinding a few times. If it’s not clear, this type of rework will very much help the pathfinding in relation to building a structure. The different underlying model allows us to decompose the structure in a different way than we can currently, which in turn will allow the AI to be smarter about how it builds the structure.

The current tool for building UI is a struggle for players that aren’t familiar with the intricacies of it. The current model doesn’t line up with the intuitive expectation that new players have when they first come into the game, and this problem became exceptionally clear as we continually saw players stumbling over the same problems and then walking away at our PAX booths. The Sims has a good model for building construction, so we are looking at it for lessons we can take away, but our goal is not to replicate the Sims tool. As you’ve pointed out, it’s simply a different problem space then us, and it isn’t 1:1 applicable. We want a tool that’s powerful and easy to use, both for new and old players alike, and one that’s fun enough that players may find themselves defaulting to custom construction instead of relying on existing templates.

The two systems you mentioned are stepping stones along the way to building a social system. As a result of the work associated with traits, we can now crate more variety in individual hearthlings and can have them react to situations in different ways. As a result of the conversation system work, we now have a formalized way for hearthlings to interact with each other, and each hearthling has a living memory of the things they most recently interacted with (and opinions of them too). Ideas and concepts can pass around a town. Now that that groundwork is laid, we can shift into building a reasonably deep social system, where people get into arguments, for rivalries, make friends, get angry when people insult their family, etc. A social system isn’t the next thing we plan to work on (we want to focus on more gameplay related things next), but we have the groundwork in place ready to go when we want to start.

I don’t think this is impossible at all. Dwarf Fortress has emergent interactions almost exactly like this.

Fair. We’re not there yet.

Every week we go through a process as a team talking through what is the most important thing we can be working on. That process is informed by the feedback people like yourself provide here on this forum every day. The work we’ve been doing now gives us a shared framework to have this debate, so that even if we disagree we are all debating based on the same core fundamental goals. We feel this type of process ultimately allows us to be more reactive to you guys, but there is a hidden cost. There’s a lot of stuff we want to do, and a bunch of it is stuff that we’re probably 85-90% sure will get done at some point. However, if we come out and openly discuss specifics, that sets your guys’ expectations, and if our priorities end up changing then that can cause problems and frustrations down the road.

This conversation has a specific example of that. We previously talked about how Albert’s next major tech priority was to fix water, and it was going to happen soon. However, after a bit of investigation we realized that we had underestimated the water work that was involved, and at the same time we started discussing the need to add more engineers (especially senior engineers), to the team. Of anyone on the team Albert was among the best suited to help us recruit and vet really talented engineers, so we ultimately decided that work was more important to do now than to finish the water work, as on-boarding a bunch of new engineers would allow us to accelerate everything the team does. I definitely feel that was the right choice, especially because those new hires have allowed talented engineers like Chris to focus on big problems like building instead of always having to context switch from one bug to another. That said, since we were so specific about what Albert was doing, it set expectations for players like yourself, and in turn makes the associated delays with fixing water feel like we are letting you guys down.

We don’t want to be closed off about what we’re doing, as we think a healthy and open discussion around the game with players is essential to crafting a lasting and delightful experience. Figuring out that balance though, of being open and managing expectations, is a super tough thing to do, and even with eight years in the industry I get it wrong sometimes myself. I do try and err on the side of being open though, which is why I’m willing to sometimes come out and say “Yeah, we don’t quite know yet, but here’s what we’re thinking,” like in the post you linked. My theory is that it’s better to push the conversation forward and get feedback then to remain silent.


I do want to say though, that you being that guy and raising your concerns has, multiple times, lead to interesting conversations with the dev’'s which I have found informative about what they do and why the’re doing it. While I do not always agree with you, I appreciate your contributions.


Heartily seconded. While I am not as concerned about these issues, they are on my radar and them being brought up in a… devil’s advocate kind of way really helps any concerns I would have had, because they get addressed at least in writing.


Any time you guys have questions, please just ask them. The more we talk about it the less mysterious stuff will be! :slight_smile: When I make Desktop Tuesdays or when we stream, we do it believing we’ve explained what we’ve done in any given week, but it’s hard to tell what we’re forgetting or leaving out, because we’re so close to it.