DesktopTuesday: UX Building Prototypes



Thank you very much for this paragraph! :merry: It helps me to understand what is going on better and to not be unhappy about the progress or lack thereof. Not that it matters :jubilant: , but I agree with those decisions and eagerly look forward to the new engineers’ contributions as well as a working water system. I’ve already enjoyed Chris’ focus and previews of his building work.


As an example, the key binding stuff and alt-enter fix that just went out to unstable happened because one of the new engineers we brought on to the team had a little free time and felt strongly about it. That kind of opportunistic improvement is tough to do when you only have a few engineers fighting all the fires.


Going on a limb here, it’s been stated a few times that the current architect doesn’t allow for almost anything y’all want to do. Could you elaborate on that? Almost sounds like y’all lost the source code to the game.

You’re the boss, but this seems kinda backwards to me. Even if you make it easier for the AI to understand what it’s supposed to do, when it comes time to add to or rewrite the AI, won’t this be effected? Couldn’t trying to make it easier for the AI actually cause more problems when it comes time to rewrite that?

So what exactly are these expectations? And what didn’t they understand about it? Saying people at PAX had problems with it is a lot like saying people that drive any motor vehicle fall flat at driving semis. People who normally play Call of Duty, Leage of Legends, Grand Tourismo (is that even still around?), aren’t going to walk up to this genre of game and be able to take it on. Even them walking up to The Sims, SimCity, Cities Skylines, etc would be a cliff of a learning curve, and at PAX, you don’t have time to clime that cliff. So unless you’re going to go to the extreme of constantly finding new ways to idiot proof your design, it isn’t going to work. You’ll just end up over simplifying it to the point it’s too complicated for your already established customer base. Example of this is my statement above about round and diagnal buildings.

I wouldn’t call it a let down, as much as lack of information. Way back in the day, Tom promised us water mechanics, and if I recall correctly, said they’d be flushed out, or at least in process, by Alpha 19. I may be wrong in the exact number, but I know it’s one that’s past. That being said, it obviously didn’t happen. So (at least for myself) when @Albert came along and said for the second time we should see some improvements soon, and then too kinda drifted away, it hit a little harder. This is where my previous request to @sdee to give us something as far as updates are going, comes in. Yes we’ve been told he’s working on it, but an update that it’s slowed down to bring more people onto it would have been a litter better than just letting it ride.

And I want to say thank you for this, as many could have told me and others to shove it by now (as much as I’m sure y’all want to).


Speaking for myself, half the time when I use the building UI, I forget that interior walls don’t work until after you put on the roof. Which is what happened to me while I was making this Desktop Tuesday, and which was captured in the video. That rage you see as I wiggle my mouse around the screen is real rage :wink:

Also, I often make buildings that are asymmetrical, and wish I could fudge them just a bit. I also wish I could move buildings a bit. Oh, and I wish I could add voxel blocks to stuff without mis-clicking half the time and having to use undo. And then, I wish undo would work without breaking the building back-end.


Not really, as it’s not my area of expertise. That said, maybe I can provide a bit of an analogy? Let’s say that you built a rope bridge across a ravine. The bridge was good and solid for what you wanted it to do, and people could comfortable walk back and forth across it without trouble. You know that the bridge will get more and more traffic with time, and you hope that it will generally be able to expand to meet your needs. One day someone asks if they can ride their bike across it. You say “Ok, well, there’ll be some problems with that, but if we add more slats to the bridge, your tires shouldn’t get stuck.” So you do that, and everything works out. Now people are biking back and forth, and someone asks you if they can bring a motorcycle across. A motorcycle is a lot more weight than a bike, but maybe if you add some rebar reinforcement, line the bottom with metal, and double-run the cords, the bridge can support the weight. So you do that, it works, and things progress. However, now this bridge is starting to see a lot of traffic, and someone asks you if they can bring their car across. Worse, they need to bring their car across, because the two sides of the bridge now depend on regular and fast traversal between the two sides. However, there’s no way that you can simply widen the bridge to accommodate the car; the reinforcements you’ve done are too fundamental now to the function of that bridge, and there’s not a way that you can break and then add more metal without compromising the integrity. Additionally, even if you could make it wide enough, the simple physics of a suspension bridge will not allow it to support the weight; the amount of stress a ton of metal would place on the supports is just to great once the car hits the middle. Maybe if the initial bridge had been a drop bridge, one where the bridge is supported by pillars rising from the bottom of a ravine, you’d be able to accomodate the additional weight. But, since the initial structure was a rope bridge, there’s just no further that you can push it; the car can’t make it across.

In other words, while you can frequently re-purpose and improve a design to be used in a way that it wasn’t intended to, in all designs there comes a point where the ask is too great. As we’ve started to talk through what we want with the builder, and noticed the frustrations players have, we’ve come to the conclusion that that is the case of where we are at.

Nah. If the AI has a better understanding of what to do when, that can only be a benefit to the system.

I think the basic hope is that the building tool is not a point of churn for the game. Players should not be confused about how to make a simple building for their first hearthlings. We’re not looking for an idiot proof solution, nor are we trying to create a tool that can work for someone that has never held a mouse, but building is a core component of Stonehearth. Of any action that players do in the game, this should be among the easiest.

Fair. Stephanie and I have talked about ways to give more visibility into what we’re doing day to day, and stuff like this is part of why we have those discussions.


This makes me a feel a little better. After watching Angelo and Justin this last week, as well as a couple other recent streams, I’ve begun to question whether y’all actually play your own game or not, but this statement definitely shows you know our pain. Angelo and Justin this last week reminded me of Cypher from The Matrix. When they were playing, it almost seemed like they had never played it before, but as soon as the lines of code came up, they knew right where they were.

That actually makes perfect sense. From a development side, I’m interested to what parts of that analagy apply to this game, but none the less I understand what you’re trying to get at. Appreciate that explanation too.

My arguement to this though is that it shouldn’t be too easy either. That’s what tutorials are for.

When you jump into SimCity, it gives you the basics of how to place things down and how to navigate the menu. It doesn’t begin to explain how the economy works, how civil buildings work, any of that. City Skylines even more so with everything they can do. Yet when any of us master those advanced features, it really makes for that much better game.

Regardless, I’ll digress on this, as I’m beginning to run in circles. Needless to say, I’m against the current plan for the new UI, and feel that even though the only one needed some tweeks, it doesn’t need an upgrade like we’re being shown.


I’m honestly kind of terrified by the building editor sometimes. It seems to me like when it breaks, it really breaks - I don’t know how many times I’ve managed to get it into a broken state where I can’t do anything not only in that building, but I can’t start or make any changes to any other buildngs, and there’s nothing to do but reload from an earlier save. So I’ve gotten used to saving compulsively. And a lot of times when it doesn’t break that badly, the undo option is still broken on that particular build. I’ve been working with this building editor since Alpha 10, which means I’m probably more used to its quirks than new players, and I still don’t get it sometimes. And it’s not really explained anywhere. I think I only have a sense for how Stonehearth wants you to design buildings just from using for even longer than that. The fixes we’ve had since Alpha 10 have helped a lot with making buildings build, but I still feel that a new building editor is necessary.

Though I do have a lot of reservations about it. I don’t like to be “that guy” much because I prefer being positive - and so far I’ve mostly been happy with changes I was lukewarm about before they were released - but also because I don’t play the game much anymore so I don’t feel I’m qualified to be picky. But maybe for once:

  • “Diagonal” (zig-zagged) walls aren’t too bad to make in the current building editor if you know what you’re doing - manually making a diagonal part of the floor isn’t that painful - but it seems like so far in this new prototype you’d have to drag out a new combining room for each step you wanted the wall to have. Will there be alternatives? Right now, this is the main thing I worry might be a step back.

  • Roofs. They’ve always been a bit of trouble with the current building editor and it seems to me like they’re likely to have many of the same problems. Of course, I’d like even more control over them. Gables that aren’t along a whole side are basically impossible right now, but I have no clue if there’s a simple solution possible.

  • Interior walls. I’ve never been able to get them to work myself, so I’ve just made them with slabs. It seems the new building editor prototype is much more based on joining rooms into buildings, which may be how some people think, but I still prefer to start with the overall layout and set rooms up inside. Will there be a tool to make simple interior walls or will we have to use the room tools cleverly?

I get that this is in pretty early progress and the team might not know the answers yet, but I’d like them to at least consider these.


By the way, if you can’t make a roof on a building with created rooms and you don’t won’t to use slabs as a roof, you can first make the “main” walls, then make roof and then use free standing walls to create your rooms. In that way when you use V(i forgot what was that option called), the roof will not cover your building as if it were with slobs-created roof.


@Brackhar, I wanted to quote this here as I feel it’s a really good fit with how we were talking. It’s this post, but it’s another player who doesn’t understand y’alls new direction. This isn’t an attack by any means, just a suggestion. But when @sdee does the next Desktop Tuesday, or hell make it the next Dev Stream so we can ask questions, maybe y’all should try and explain what’s going on and what y’alls end game is, in detail. I know above you stated it’s only 85% - 90% mapped out, but y’all should really share this with more detail.


That’s a fair point. I’ll make sure to bring up diagonal wall support in our next UX discussion. Chris may already have plans for this that I’m unaware of.

Yeah, we’ve not tackled roofs yet. I have some ideas, but we’ve done no testing here.

Easy creation of interior walls is a core success criteria for me. I’m pushing really quite hard to allow us to do this in an easy and intuitive way.

Fair. I’ll talk with Stephanie about how to approach this.

[Dev Blog]Desktop Tuesday: Alpha 22.5 Updates

If I may propose an idea for this,

In the prototype, chris put in the ability to move entire rooms around. But what if you could also turn it 90 degrees (maybe using the same keys that you use to turn furniture). If you have that, I suppose it would not be difficult to go from 90 degee intervals to 45 degree intervals, which would easily create diagonal rooms, and show the player that they can do it that way, since you first need to see the diagonal room and then turn again for the 90 degree turned room.



I think that would be a little more complicated from the back-end than what you describe, but if they can pull it off, I’d love to see it happen!

And while they’re at it, if they could make the same happen with furniture, that would be sweet. I’d expect it would be significantly easier to do with models than it would be with a building, since with a building footprint/template it basically means transforming the shape (so rectangle -> rhomboid with jagged saw-tooth walls)… the only alternative would be to disassociate buildings from the game’s voxel grid, so each building becomes a separate grid of its own, and I don’t think that would be kind on the processor or rendering tech lol!


Talked about this more with Justin on today’s Q3 stream. The tldr is: we have a goal, which is to create a community-building game about pioneering a living world which inspires warmth, heroism, and mystery. There are a lot of ways to reach that goal: mechanically, tonally, and narratively. Our plan is to implement the stuff that’s known (the stuff on the roadmap) and do a bunch of iterations on the stuff that’s not. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not known, including the meta-player-motivation for the game, but we’re tackling it as a science, as much as an art: guess a lot, test a lot, discard a lot, with the goal of finding something better than what we might have come up with if we picked a single vision, and ran with it.

I am afraid that the tools will be crafted to urge you towards creating stuff that looks like it’s all part of a specific style, and those sorts of diagonals are not part of our style, just as graduated terrain is not part of our style. So what you want should be possible, but you might want to look to a UX mod for this, rather than something that ships with the game. :wink:


There’s a lot of stuff that’s not known, including the meta-player-motivation for the game

Can I just offer a perspective (admittedly a highly simple one) on this? It’s been sort of the root thread in every suggestion I’ve made on these boards. You have a lot of features in this game, but not a lot of player interaction. Make everything you put into this game have a higher value for players who interact with it than for players who do not, but do not impose a weighty penalty; thus, all interactions are optional.

Hearthlings talk to each other, and the player has no input about when this happens or what they talk about. Find some reason to make a player push a button and give both Hearthlings a +small_morale boost for a game day. Now there’s purpose to the interaction.

Workbenches exist as requirements to create widgets but provide no additional benefit. Find some reason to make a player push a button when the crafter makes a special or high quality item, and generate a tchotchke for the village. Now that object in the world serves a purpose and has an interaction.

The actual game of Stonehearth feels dead. But I have it on good authority that that is not dead which can eternal lie. Arise :slight_smile:


I think that could be a lot of fun, but would become a fundamentally different genre of game. One of SH’s play goals is high level orchestration; ie, no micro. It’s why you can’t tell your characters to do anything specific. I do think that there should be more ways you can influence systems (I should have agency as a player in people’s interactions, and in workshop quality) but more in a clockmaker god sort of way, than in a moment-to-moment timing sort of way.


I think that @MostlyLost’s comment could be read along the lines of “workbenches exist as a means to an end, not as part of the story” – rather than focussing on the how of how we use them, perhaps take another look at how/where we build them, and how they tie into the wider town?

As an example, we already have a mechanic to make hearthlings unhappy if they’re working in a cramped space; so there’s a good reason not to build tiny closets for each crafter’s work area. However, it’s just a straight-up penalty for using cramped space, and bonus for using a not-cramped space. The game would feel much more alive if the hearthlings actually commented to each other, or better yet directly to the player, about their work conditions. I don’t just mean the existing conversation system, I mean an event pop-up, with a description of what’s going wrong/right and either a suggestion on how to fix/improve, or a reward for good management, as appropriate.

In short: the hearthlings themselves give you, the player, quests to complete. Say that Tibber Burlyhands wants a bigger workshop, then Tibber would tell you that directly through an event pop-up, and drop the hint that his productivity would be increased if the quest was satisfied. If the player constructs a new workshop for Tibber to use, then the quest is completed; so there’s a minor celebration (which means a happiness boost), and Tibber might get a bonus/buff e.g. have a higher chance of crafting a fine item. So there’s not just a happiness reason to keep your hearthlings happy, there’s a “meta”/gameplay reason to do it too – happy hearthlings are better at their jobs, leading to a more productive town!

So that’s the gameplay side handled nicely, but what about the story? Well, that’s where using the quest mechanic comes in – it explicitly creates a story out of the whole event. It’s not just the player optimising their town’s output, it’s Tibber Burlyhands’ Quest for a Bigger Workshop. The player, and the other hearthlings who help build the new workshop, are directly involved in that story. It feels much more alive than “oh, my mason is getting a happiness penalty from spending so long in a cramped room, I need to optimise that.”


That sounds a lot more like a mobile game than a PC game, or let alone this type of game period. Plus, later in the game, it’d be kind of tedious when you’re trying to do something across the map and have to keep coming back to click a button to craft.

I appreciate y’alls honesty on this, as well as you guys finally giving some insight into what’s going on. That being said, a suggestion of mine would be to use the unstable builds to y’alls advantage and test some of these prototypes out on the people you’re making them for. Then you’d get additional feedback and insight on where it should go. Just a thought that may speed things up a bit.

At first, I was against what you were saying…but this, I really like this idea.


Hm, no, that isn’t even close to what I said. @YetiChow got it right on; it’s not even about my off-the-cuff suggestion being a good fit for the game, but that an action should be implemented so there’s something to do.

Games are essentially Skinner boxes; you push the lever and you get a snack. This sort of short-cycle reward system is really what gets a player involved in a game. Otherwise, you end up with a screensaver - remember that game, Mountain? Even strategy games which reward the long play give the player meaningful things to do along every step of the way, so that they feel personally invested in the situation and its resolution. So that’s the suggestion; make the game feel more alive by giving the player just little slivers of control here and there. There are many ways to do that without trivializing the mechanic.

I could list dozens of ways that the game plays itself and doesn’t give the player the detailed control needed to overcome the broad, high-level AI decisions. In fact, I did just that last year, at length: Soldiers, experience, delusions, and wasted time

Right, because Stonehearth started out as an ant farm, which is sort of quintessentially macromanaged. I’m with you so far. But macro without individual interaction is Populous (which is an amazing game) or that SSI game Stronghold (which was also pretty fun, I recall). Those games didn’t have individual personalities; they didn’t have citizens that stopped following orders to do things that they cared about. This is why I said in that other thread that I’m having such a hard time understanding how to give constructive feedback. You’re putting an increasing amount of personal attention touches on a game that doesn’t handle micro well at all. You’re asking about emergent storytelling and gameplay narratives. So is it more helpful to talk about what details will encourage player investment and interaction, or about what mechanics will streamline the process of guiding your Hearthlings to complete high-level tasks? And if the real goal is for that not to be a binary choice, then how are you going to build that bridge?

It's the Weekend!

I apologize then, as I misunderstood.


Half the time I confuse myself. Pick apart my ideas effectively and you end up making the game better. No apology needed, and if I seemed defensive, I apologize. It’s late on the East coast :wink: