DT: Conversations - Design

http://www.pelaajalehti.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/paakuva_sisalto/kuvat_artikkeli/derp_shepard.jpg

Can’t help myself, sorry.

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I love this game. I really do. I started playing it at around alpha 10. Looking at my play time on steam shows like 300 hours lol. It’s like playing with lego when I was a kid, I can just get lost in the game creating things and fending off enemies. However I do feel like the game is in a bit of a rut. The conversations idea seems great, but it feels like a system that would be better served later in development. I thought by now we’d have usable water (which I know is being looked at now) as well as more classes and better use for the classes we have (I’m looking at you mason and engineer). Also, the ability to restore the ground so it is usable again (like you can dig through it or place foundations) has been wanted since the first goblin camps scarred then land.

Behind the scenes work on the engine and better optimization, despite not being a shiny new added feature in-game, would be more useful than the conversations system as well. This just feels like it’s something too abstract compared to what the game needs right now, almost like the other features of the game have stalled and the devs needed something else to work on as a stop-gap. Maybe I’m wrong and when it comes out it will be an amazing feature but i have a feeling I’ll notice it a few times when playing and then just ignore it, like the mason after I’ve crafted a blacksmith hammer hehe

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Hey everyone, thanks for all the comments. They mean a lot to me because so many of us have been here since the beginning. It’s actually been four years since the Kickstarter; four years since I’ve woken up and had Stonehearth be the first thing I think about in the morning and often the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. In many ways, this game, the team that builds it, and you the people who play it, define the horizons of my life. I feel very lucky to be in this position! When I write on Kickstarter updates that you’ve changed my life, I mean it literally.

In that context, lemme see if I can’t get to some of your pain points!

Wow! Why does development feel so incredibly slow now?
I wrote about this at length in the FAQ under the Roadmap. It’s the first question not just because I hear it a lot, but because I ask it a lot, of myself and of our team. Before we continue, can you go over here, and read it if you haven’t yet?
http://www.stonehearth.net/stonehearth-development-roadmap/

Cool, thanks. :slight_smile: There’s not much I want to add to that except that we made this pivot–to these systems and this new speed of development, with great thought and weight. As someone whose been working on the game since the beginning, I loved the days when any team member could just make a model, dump it into the game, and then write the code that brought it to life. That environment of absolute freedom and breakneck speed was my favorite thing in the world. It was heartbreaking to realize that it was actively preventing us from producing the game we wanted to build. Changing the way we worked to the system we have now, and retrenching our features to focus on core gameplay instead of new classes, features, biomes and monsters, was in many ways, like taking apart, brick by brick, the house I’d always wanted to live in. But we decided to do it anyway, because we sincerely believe that it would produce a better game.

Yes, but couldn’t you be working on something more exciting, like finishing the classes, or titans?
That’s actually all coming! The roadmap has us revisit every single major feature in the game. We’re starting with mood and traits because this game is about a small group of people who must optimize their environment to thrive. Everything we do going forward matters because of how it affects and influences your hearthlings. This is the foundation of everything that comes next. I asked Designer Richard if there was any way to start with combat, or titans. He was emphatic. If the game is about people, start with the people. Then move to economy, and THEN move to combat. I was initially reluctant, but in the end, I came to see his point of view. If you don’t care about the people you don’t care about the town. If you don’t care about the town, you don’t care if it lives or dies. Start with the heart of the game, and work outwards.

Something weird happened when you joined Riot.
Riot has only ever been supportive of Stonehearth. When we got stuck, awesome designers from all over the company who already had heard of SH and some of whom had even backed our kickstarter started appearing out of the woodwork to help us get unstuck. When we needed to hire more people, the recruiters immediately sprang into action on our behalf. Riot has traditionally made games in a very deliberate, specific, analytical way, so it’s definitely true that their methodology has influenced ours–we picked up scrum and agile, for example, to enhance communication b/w our teammates, and we now think super hard about all gameplay and tech designs before implementing them–but we’ve examined each practice before picking it up, and we think on the whole, each addition has made our team stronger. Slower, perhaps, but better able to communicate, and better able to produce things of quality.

Where is Tom?
He’s now our studio lead, and he interfaces between us and the main Riot campus and leadership. He checks in on Stonehearth regularly, but isn’t in the details enough with the rest of us to post about it.

Are you working on anything other than conversations?
Indeed! In addition to working on conversations–everyone contributes to the active feature–Chris has been working on dramatically improving performance, building and AI, Richard has been working on overarching gameplay meta stuff, Angelo and Allie have been working on long-term solutions to rough edges in our art style and Malley has been working on making our art pipelines more efficient.

Will we get to see new stuff soon?
Next up is revisions to building, and we’re adding another designer in August, which should help us tackle revisions to crafting and economy. We’ll probably never be as fast as we used to be, but in exchange, the systems we build should be much stronger and more robust.

Other questions? Let me know, I’m always here. :slight_smile:

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In the original kickstarter you had this picture on it,
edit I cannot seem to find the picture, it appears to be gone from the website. (@moderators the city from the kickstarter screen)
My question is this, will the scope of the game grow to this size in some time other than “soon”?
I understand the progress of the game and all that you do for it. I may not be as content as I could be but, you should upload Alpha 1 to steam in some way just show them everyone what you have made.
I may not love the way you guys are going around Desktop Tuesday, but I trust you guys to make the best game you can.
Thanks,
Revenge

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Also, consider spacing the DT’s apart so that we do not get fatigued with the same content two weeks in a row.

will the scope of the game grow to this size in some time other than “soon”

Are you talking about this poster?

You can actually build that city now, in the game, except the water won’t have reflections in it. :wink: However, it won’t be much different, gameplay wise, than having a bunch of beds in simple log cabins, which is part of the gameplay problem I mentioned above. All the systems are kind of shallow! We’d like there to be a gameplay benefit to building. We’ll discover together how big this allows us to scale.

Also, consider spacing the DT’s apart so that we do not get fatigued with the same content two weeks in a row.

I’ve often been tempted to ask people to work on stuff JUST so I have something to make a Desktop Tuesday about. But right now, conversations are the team’s main focus, and everything else is too in-flight to make for interesting videos, so I thought it was a good time to do a deep-dive on conversations. What other things would you like to see a DT about?

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I may be the outlier, but I’ve always loved the technical “deep dives”, having an engineer explain in detail not only the feature, but the technical details behind it. DTs on pathfinding, for example, always interested me. I under they don’t make the greatest video, but that’s my 2 cents.

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@jomaxro I personally do not dislike the Desktop Tuesdays, content wise. But I would like some separation. I feel that DT’s would be better if they were separated like doing, Lighting Part 1, Conversations Part 1, Lighting part 2, etc, etc.

Some ideas for “filler” DT’s would be:
(A) A music/ Raj Mann update. Doesn’t even need much, just showcasing the new songs and his inspiration for them.
(B) Have some sort of Q&A with some builders in the community, Just to talk about building.
© I personally would like a (no more than) quarterly roadmap update DT
(D) Recaps of Important streams. I do not have the time to watch them and I feel that I am missing out a when something major is talked about in the stream.
(E) Possibly doing something on Stonehearth Builds? I do not think many people know about the website.

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I like D. I often miss the streams, because I forget, or can’t watch, and I feel like I missed cool stuff in the works, like the one about Effort Based Crafting.

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Even if you took a couple min just to say “Hey, this is what else we’re doing”, I feel it would go a long way to getting rid of that dragging on / stalling feeling that everyone has. No, most of the people here won’t really care about it, but at the same time, it won’t be “oh yay, conversations for the 12th week in a row…”.People like myself and @jomaxro can at least say “oh, they’re working on making buildings better by doing X, Y, and Z”.


Personally, I’d like it to go back to how it was, when Desktop Tuesdays meant that us unstable players got the most stable unstable branch every week, just to see hands on what’s changed. Sometimes our game would break, other times you’d be like “Oh, they’re adding a new item. Cool”. As for the “fatigue”, review what I said above.


Now all that being said, I still feel like Team Radiant as a whole has really left the discourse anymore. For months now (and this may just be me), this site feels like an unofficial discourse, with no real feedback from people that do know what’s going on. Again, this refers to back in the day, but when I first joined you guys (Alpha 10 I think…can’t remember, it was right before shields), the community felt alive. I remember a few builds you guys would comment on and give tips and tricks too or other times, people would drop a suggestion, and (I remember @brad specifically) someone would comment on why that was or wasn’t a good idea and if we had any hope of seeing it. My list can go on, but you get the point.

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I don’t dislike them either, just sharing an idea for “filler” DTs.

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I always stood in this type of view on the ‘issue’ of the development and the DT’s but i personally find it rather fulfilling to see the game develope in such ways
I will agree that the DT’s lately are less engaging/interesting than the past, but as i stated here and there, i don’t think that means a bad thing rather than a lak of things to show on such showcases, some features cannot be shown prematurely - especially if it just doesn’t do anything untill it’s actually finished

As for the conversation system, i’d consider it one of the best development goals i’ve seen in my almost three years watching the development of SH.
I understand many will disagree since it does seem like a rather weird system to put in the game, and it doesn’t really give much of an impression, but to make the player Care for the little Hearthlings? It’s arguably the best way to do it if you ask me


I’ll give you an example, and it is my play, but an experience non-the-less

I played Starbound intensly for about two months straight a while ago, i fell in love with the game and the world inside it, but one of the things i like the most about it was how the NPC’s/colonists you spawn in to live in your settlement talk to each other and have mini stories of their own, they don’t actually have dialogue with each-other, they just kinda emote to each-other and when you press ‘alt’ it shows the thoughts of the NPC and they think of weird things like how they think they’re being controlled by something, or they actually have relationships, get so happy, they break up and get depressed for a while, they bounce back.
All i could read was the small text saying something like “Exited for their future” or "Feels like everything is falling apart"and since i took watch of how they interacted, i can guess and create a story of theirs, (which sadly never seems to end well)

I thus cared about my settlement, i wanted them to be happy, i wanted them to have good houses and neighbors i wanted to be safe inside and out of their houses, i acted to get merchants and food-merchants that i would never use just so the settlement felt more alive, i made weird stories by building a secret giant water shrine under my house, building a prison under my settlement holding deadly criminals (actually passive, but they looked the part and were kidna bad people in general) taverns and shops that actually didn’t work

The key part of immersion of a game is to make the player Care about the world and the people inside it and to feel like their actions make impect on the world even if subtle

If you wanted a more strategic and somewhat Civ like game, i would argue that SH is not strictly that type of game (it has much of the key elements of them, but also others)
It’s a game not about a faction or a set story or even to win, it has a deep and engagin and uncertain story, and most of all, that story is made by the player and his/her Hearthlings

But, will still agree that the DT’s are laking content lately, and i understand the reasons and that development is a time consuming craft

I would suggest to @sdee to parhaps add some more types of showcases? Maybe some buggy bloopers of development like ye’ old exploding models, community showcases and such and add in some house-keeping while doing so, because i don’t think DT has to be strictly development progress, we could do more with it, and i know it’s probably hard enough to make thees as is, but i still feel like we could do more

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My only problem with the two DTs that were about lighting is that it repeated the information and screenshots from the stream the previous Thursday. :slight_smile:

Other than that, I’ve loved all of the DTs, even the ones that are far above my understanding of game development.

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That’s kind of why I really like the the DTs. While some may not find the technical nature to their liking, it gives me an insight into the process. My biggest take away from them is that the process is much larger in scope than I realized. They’re doing studies, workshops, writing papers, exploring similar systems in other games for inspiration, etc.

Could they have been further along in development at this point? Sure! They could’ve finished the Titans, Northern Alliance, new classes, and pushed a sub par product out the door that delivers all the bullet points from the original Kickstarter campaign, but lacks the care and finesse they are currently striving for. They could’ve just tried to fix the way building was working in the fall, slapped on the new features, pushed a release, and called it a day. You’d get all the way through the campaign a handful of times and be left with voxel building game. Towns full of hearthlings would feel empty and lifeless.

I’m thrilled the SH team is taking the time and making the effort to create an engaging experience true to the style and concept. This game is all about the story book vibe, and the more you care about your hearthlings the more invested you’re going to be in your towns because of the stories that develop. Those stories may inspire players to reconsider how/what they’re building by giving them a reason other than “Oh this will look nice”. The game already allows you to use your imagination, by giving the hearthlings more personality it’s encouraging you to use it.

I’ve haven’t been here from the start, so I have no clue how things were before. I can say from the time I’ve been here this game has evolved. Not as much in the feature department, but I can see the team is striving for a richer experience. As they add more people, diversifying their skills and allowing more folks to specialize in particular areas, the game gets better. Just like our towns do when we get more hearthlings. :merry: They’re able to accomplish more in better ways, but the more folks you have the more effort has go into communication. Once again just like in game, the more folks ya have the more info needs to be processed. That can bog down the process and is part of the reason why folks are feeling some lag on the devs part. They have to make sure that we’re not getting conflicting information, or that info may be shared that ends up getting cut because it doesn’t work with other systems. They’re going to have to be more mindful of what they share and work harder to make sure they’re all on the same page at all times.

Tom has a new job now, he’s still involved just not to the degree some folks would like. I understand the community may have concerns, but we all need to respect that he has a lot of additional responsibilities and not assume that he no longer cares or that it’s some evil corporate plot by Riot to hijack the game.

As far as the DTs go, @Hyrule_Symbol’s buggy blooper idea would work and community showcases are a great idea. Maybe even share how something in the community has affected/inspired the dev team. You could also give a basic concept with pictures for inspiration and allow folks to take said inspiration and share their builds/ideas based off of it. The concept could touch upon an issue the devs are looking for some insight on. Most of the vibe I’m getting from posts lately is that the featureless nature of development at this point has caused a malaise in the community. Perhaps something engaging will help.

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This! This exactly. I don’t often post in the forums, prefer to be a silent lurker :stuck_out_tongue: but this right here is the kind of interaction I’d love to see implemented. Perhaps a little notification pops up with something along the lines of “It appears Tom has had a change of heart. Once a passionate trapper this Hearthling has decided his time is better invested in raising animals”. I’d also love to see the second idea implemented, with the optimistic bunch being able to build everyone’s spirits again.

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Hey. I thought I could maybe respond with my opinion to some core-discussions

Skyrim is a really terrible example. A better one would be ARK: not many features but mod support.

That doesn’t fit very well, don’t you think?[quote=“sdee, post:26, topic:30500”]
Chris has been working on dramatically improving performance
[/quote]

I think that’s the main thing you should work on at the moment. I mean that’s terrible: I have ~20-30 hearthlings and the game laggs and gets stuck every 2-3 seconds in NORMAL SPEED (with an I7-6600k and a GTX 980). That’s a major limitation (for me at least and maybe 70% of everyone else). I will never be able to finish this game when 15 of my 30 hearthlings are just standing still because the pathfinding is too slow (it’s just so painful to pause the game literally every 5 seconds…)

I agree with the suggestion for deep-dives into codes. It isn’t meant to be offensive but I really would more likely appreciate walls of code than some speech-bubbles…

I hope it isn’t too long to read like many replies in this thread… I tried to keep it short
greetings

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Thanks for your ideas! Desktop Tuesdays are really interesting to me because they’re our team’s primary way of checking in with all of you. We have a few rules/goals for Desktop Tuesday:

  • Keep us honest (if we haven’t built anything all week, and therefore have no DT topic, that’s a problem)
  • Keep it sustainable (make it about features in flight so we don’t distract ourselves from the actual work of building the game)
  • Keep it about stuff in process (so it’s less likely we’ll disappoint or you’ll feel like we broke a promise by showing something that doesn’t make it)

As a result of those rules, we’ve only ever done a couple of DT’s about stuff that happens in the community because that violates goal 1. We don’t talk much about future stuff (unless it’s in a really good place, like Darkness) because that violates rule three, and we talk a lot about stuff in sequence these days because of rule 2, and the fact that there’s only really one thing in a state that’s ready to show.

DTs had more varied topics when each person on the team worked on something different, but when we all started coordinating on single features, to prevent our previous problem of gameplay systems not working with each other, sometimes we just have only one thing to show (in great detail) for something like 3-6 weeks. That reflects the fact that each new feature is bigger and deeper than our old features were, and that new features are way more spaced out in time than they used to be.

Honest question, if the goal of DT is to let you know what we’ve been doing, do “filler” DTs even make sense? What game-progress or communication purpose would they serve? If their only goal is to entertain you, I would imagine you could find better entertainment elsewhere. If their goal is to reassure you that we’re alive, well, we do also stream on Thursdays.

If we want to keep having DTs every week, and if we want them to continue to serve their goal which is to show you what we’ve been working on, I think they too must pivot as development has pivoted–towards depth, rather than breadth.

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I’m having a hard time answering this.

  • First off, it depends on what you mean by “filler”.

  • Second, if you can’t show in-development items / upcoming items and the progress on them, and you haven’t really done anything show wise with the main feature for the last 3 weeks, then what would you have to show anyways? At that point, why not show the little that’s been worked on towards future items?

  • Third, it really isn’t about showing us you’re alive or to entertain us, as much as it is to connect with us. There are MANY MANY games out there that the developers are like “we’re not dead”, yet the game hasn’t changed in MONTHS, but we got to see them code.

Originally, DT was showing us what you guys were working on, and talking to us about ideas to add to the game, and showing us what’s coming up, and even changing directions based on how the players played. Now, it’s just…not. You guy’s hyper focus on one thing, and The End.

So what if you don’t have great detail on something yet? Just showing us that fishing is being worked on, and could be in the next alpha or two, or that everything that was done on the Magma Smith wasn’t for waste, etc, is still better than one subject for 3-6 weeks. It shows that more is being done than basically journal entries right now. Future features and the direction of the current features shows what we can expect.

Again using the convo system, to some of us, it looks like a waste of time because it doesn’t do anything. But to say “Hey, this is what we’re working towards and this is what we’ve done towards it”, I feel would level some of that more than just keeping us in the dark as to why nothing’s being added, and we’re getting a new type of journal that no one really uses.

Now, this next thing is a thought, that is DEFINITELY not my place to say, so I apologize ahead of time. But as far as the unstable branch goes, why not throw us a bone with features once in a while. You say it’s going to be 3 to 6 weeks on just convo’s, then who knows how long on lighting, well why not throw a couple pieces of furniture or armor or something small at us in the meantime. In game items that will also add to the environment you guys want. Hell, I know I’d love some book shelves or new storage containers. Something like a book shelf would all of a sudden let the community build libraries and talk and share those, which some major ones could even be added officially to the blueprints. It’d give us something to gnaw on while the heavy features were worked out.

Now again, that’s not right of me to request or state that, and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended for that. But it is my 2 cents.

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First off, it depends on what you mean by “filler”.

Specifically referring to @Revenge’s ideas above, which he referred to as “filler”.

Originally, DT was showing us what you guys were working on, and talking to us about ideas to add to the game, and showing us what’s coming up, and even changing directions based on how the players played. Now, it’s just…not. You guy’s hyper focus on one thing, and The End.

I really feel your frustration here, becuase I too feel like we’re somehow managing to talk past each other. I’m sorry about this! I guess I’m not sure how I can explain our situation better. The team is working on a bunch of things, and I make Desktop Tuesdays about whatever we feel is ready to show. This was the roadmap a few weeks ago (what was coming next), darkness (what was coming next) and conversations (what we’re working on now). The rest of the things that are currently in flight (AI, performance, building, prototyping, other art) just aren’t in a place that would make a good video yet. I can’t show you fishing or magmasmith or anything similar because we’re not working on them.

I do want to make sure that Desktop Tuesdays are useful and interesting to you, so please keep the ideas coming! It would be a terrible waste if we spent time making them and they were more disappointing than if we’d spent the time working on the game instead.

Now, this next thing is a thought, that is DEFINITELY not my place to say, so I apologize ahead of time. But as far as the unstable branch goes, why not throw us a bone with features once in a while. You say it’s going to be 3 to 6 weeks on just convo’s, then who knows how long on lighting, well why not throw a couple pieces of furniture or armor or something small at us in the meantime. In game items that will also add to the environment you guys want. Hell, I know I’d love some book shelves or new storage containers. Something like a book shelf would all of a sudden let the community build libraries and talk and share those, which some major ones could even be added officially to the blueprints. It’d give us something to gnaw on while the heavy features were worked out.

Actually this is a really interesting idea, and I think it’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion, and well within your rights. :slight_smile: (I’m not sure what suggestions would be outside your rights.) I’ve wondered if extra items like this would be a useful thing, because I could easily imagine people saying, “wow, why are you giving us crates when they’re all different flavors of the same gamplay” which is why we’ve never chosen to do this before. If people are interested about this, maybe it’s something we could do. New furniture and assets are relatively inexpensive.

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@sdee at least the biggest thing for me is when you say things like we are going to be working on people then economy and so on, it would be nice to give maybe a small laundry list for what you guys have planned in each visit to these systems (if it is ok to ask) so that we as a community can have something to progressively look forward to. I know it sounds like a rant and people will say look at the road map but if we knew the exact order things are worked on in the future it would be amazing.

Edit: for instance like conversations in the people systems

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