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.