Making Stonehearth More User Friendly

Stonehearth has a somewhat steep learning curve and there are attempts to make it easier to learn but there are still much more room for improvements.

I have not been playing Stonehearth for months and when I got (since the initial release of the Potter’s job), when I got back, it has changed a lot (including Knights !!!). I got to say there is substantial growth but the portion of making user experience much easier is still lagging far behind.

After months of not playing Stonehearth, I noticed a Hard mode and I got curious to click on it. I knew I would soon be overwhelmed with monsters but not I was not going to anticipate an attack on the first night already which took me by surprise. I was building up food storage, making my way to getting more jobs setup as soon as possible to anticipate for a monster rush but the first night was already a disaster.

I quickly equipped one of my men I reserved as the footman when I received the message of an attack on the first night and it seems that not one but a couple of them appeared at my settlement. I tried to separately rally the remaining people to do a hasty defense to aid the footman but in the heat of the moment, I was clicking around the menus frantically to try and recall how to setup a group and rally the people for a hasty defense.

I clicked on the Rally button and I was “greeted” with 4 coloured flags besides a main rally flag and that threw me into disarray as I was anticipating some form of button to group the men and rally in a straightforward manner. While my footman was about to be mauled to death by the 3 monsters, I was frantically trying to recall and explore how to rally on the very first night. I thought of hasty promotion of a herbalist and hopefully there is some sort of quick first aid the herbalist could do to apply some form of first aid and heal the footman while in the midst of combat but as per the usual jobs, you have to build a ton of stuff just to get the potions and bandages.

Before my footman sacrificed himself on the first night, I quickly use the manual move button to move the footman into the crowd of shocked and exasperated villagers on the Defense Mode so as to use the footman as a bait to bait the monsters to the crowd and while the crowd defeated the first wave, my new footman died of heavy injury. The next night was just more monsters and dwindling villagers and I decided to hit the Exit button and end the game session.

It would be good if the mechanisms and buttons can be brought for review by the community and developers to improve the user experience.

Below are a list of suggestions of UX improvements hopefully the developers would take into consideration besides adding more features to the game.

1.) Clicking on each individual, I need to know what they can do as fast as possible. For now, I am greeted with huge buttons and I have to click on them to open up some menus and memorize their functions.

2.) I used to remember rotating objects for placement could be done by buttons (maybe it’s faulty memory of mine ?) but now it took me a search on the Internet just to figure out the shortcuts for the simple action of rotating the placement of an object. Please provide a fully functioning Shortcuts menu when I hit “Esc” key as I was digging through the Settings and I found none.

3.) Make setting up defensive groups easier. One function could be clicking on a person and then have a Assign to Defensive Group option next to the person.

4.) Under the Defense menu (if there is one), show a list of defensive kits and healing kits on hand.

5.) When a town enters Defense mode, show an interactive HUD with assigned defensive groups, personnels in defensive jobs, items and options on hand to mount a lower casualty defensive operation. Options for quick assignment and movement of groups and personnels should be made easy. Quick deployment and status reports of medical care would be highly advantageous for players in combat as well.


I just invested a bit more time to test out the Hard mode mechanism and felt that the current updates removing the capability to add normal citizens into the defense group is rather crippling ending in multiple fails. That means my entire village have to rely on one or two footman and I am playing the desert mode so I am naturally already handicapped. Most of the time I spent my time shoring up defenses anticipating the next wave instead of building a nice house to go together the defensive walls. I noticed that the monsters can break down walls and doors too which is a good thing by adding some realism. I hope the developers can consider bring back finer grain group of each citizen to form the good old militia groups. This makes defense much more manageable than total reliance on the few footman I can barely afford at the start of a Hard mode game.

When I was playing I encountered a lot of UI glitches and bugs but I was too busy trying to micro my footmen to lure the enemies into the group of citizens huddled up in Defense mode than have the time to sit down and copy each bug into a file to submit.

One thing to note, is now only military units are micromanagement, or short thereof. In other words they are only ones you can direct as you found out. The reason for the change was to reduce micro, and be a bit more auto-mated. Granted AI is still work in progress while they tune it.

R = town defense mod, is only to get citizens to backstep to flag and usually last stand type of thing. Militia may not be the best thing to use but can be setup in one of the tabs of population view.

Military is where the most micro is. There should be tooltips for things… Can’t remember if certain buttons have them in A16 or not. However rotate items is listed when needed at the top of the screen when you are placing an item/furniture thing. “,” & “.” or in a way at least on my keyboard those keys are also marked “<” & “>” respectively.

The military button and flags you see should have a tooltip to say a number or something, or last I checked, which is the number you press to select the military units in that group. By default, any new military is put into the first red banner group automatically. Button 7. You can still select individual military units and direct them that way, but that is individual commands for that specific hearthling. The flags are the 4 groups obviously, and by doing through that you can direct a group.

I am sure you figured that out or some of it from how your post read.

I don’t know what you mean by #4… Defensive kits? healing kits? The healing items are used by herbalist when someone is in bed.

Quite a bit of those ideas kind of takes the purpose of steering away from too much micro away. As in that makes it a bit too much micro. They are trying to make it less micro as possible while still having some basic micro there for certain things. After all this is not a traditional RTS game, and more of a colony builder done slightly differently… (at least the way I see it.)

Also note, hard mode is intended to be hard. But I guess you figured that out pretty quickly… Personally I don’t play on that mode but have seen others that do. Not my thing in this game. I prefer the normal mode so I can build more. :stuck_out_tongue:

Respectfully, I disagree. A couple of points:

  1. You shouldn’t be playing in hard mode of you don’t understand the mechanics. There’s no reason that the difficult game mode should be catered to the lowest denominator, it inherently defeats it’s purpose.
  2. Game mechanics should follow the same principle. I don’t want to have a super cluttered UI because you don’t understand how formations work. To address your concern about adding civilians to groups, it is already possible if you add them to a militia unit. These mechanics already exist. Same with object rotation: there is already a tool tip that explicitly states how to rotate objects when you go to place them.

Just a quick note here…

I don’t think I have ever seen a game for PC that doesn’t have “keyboard setup” thing in its options/settings, which can be used to change the keys to whatever you like, but can also be used to find out which key does what.That is missing completely in Stonehearth.

For some simple examples:

  • when I first started playing, I had to search the web to figure out keys (and found what I assume was an incomplete and/or out of date wiki page)

  • I couldn’t figure out if the game had a “take screenshot” key. I had to do a web search to find out it doesn’t (but, if you use steam and not humble bundle or something else, and if you enable some “bloat things up while game is running” overlay nonsense I disabled years ago, then steam will do bad screenshots without hiding HUD or anything when you press F12).

  • today I learnt that (apparently) the 7 key does something (haven’t tried it yet).

Use print screen if you’re so set about screen shots, or simply use an external program. You can even hide the HUD from within the game.
This game is in Alpha, key binding should not be a priority

Windows “snipping tool” doesn’t work for full-screen and neither does “print screen” key.

How do you hide the HUD?

Note that while I have seen developers hide behind pathetic “it’s in alpha, therefore we don’t care about doing anything needed to get the game released” excuses; Radiant do seem far more professional/competent than this.

yes 7 selects every in the red flag group. Which in turn will usually see all units in that group highlighted in the world.

Keybindings… yes that would be nice. Still a ways to go, and maybe later in the development they will have em’… Of course we still have to know all the things needing them, and probably why they haven’t at this point; so to ensure they have all the base things, then mark them… guessing again, but makes sense on some level.

I hardly use wiki for any game since that is usually user related and not dev related. usually. 7,8,9,0 are the 4 groups that you can put military units in.

I think (in general) the main difficulty with keybindings is supporting internationalisation and keyboard layouts (it’s not so easy if you support more than “US qwerty”); and the difficulty is more displaying what the keys are than allowing them to be changed (e.g. there doesn’t seem to be a way to convert “key enum” values into “displayable unicode string” in the SFML library’s “sf::keyboard” class).

Very true. Hard Mode means you must prioritise defence over everything else and think military even when you’re at the settling screen. Rerolling your population helps. Wooden sword is a must. Control enemy movement with ditches and barricades.
And pause game is your greatest friend even outside of Hard Mode.

As for UI, it is somewhat lacking but I’ve seen cases much, much worse.

ah… that makes sense. Then it might be up to them putting that type of thing within the localization files they have, so it can be for the most part done indirectly or well outside of the game. As most the UI things seem to be put in those on top of dialogue and what text they have.

Still though that could be quite an undertaking I think. Still possible.

Will have to see how they go about that when the time comes…

[details=The more I look into this the worse it gets…]Windows has facilities to convert a “virtual key code” into a displayable string (e.g. “GetKeyNameText”) which would make it easy; except it’s not portable (won’t exist on Linux, OS X, etc).

The SFML library exists to fix the portability problem; and does this by having it’s own different “same for all platforms” keys. It doesn’t provide a way to convert its key codes into a displayable string; and makes it hard/impossible to use the platform’s own facilities (you’d have to convert “SFML key codes” into “Windows virtual key codes”, but there’s no way to do that either). I’d be tempted to suggest asking the SFML library developers to add a way to get a displayable string from an “SFML key code” (as this would be the right way to solve the problem), but who knows how long that might take or if they’re willing. Note: I’m assuming the game is using SFML for keyboard because the game comes with the DLL (and it makes sense to me); but I have no idea what the game actually does.

For using localisation files; the game would have to know the difference between (e.g.) an American using “US QWERTY” and an American using “US Dvorak” or something else, so we’re back to SFML (which doesn’t tell you which keyboard layout either), so we’re back to “not portable” alternatives. Otherwise you’d need a way for the user to tell the game which layout they’re using, plus having a whole bunch of files to do the conversion (and then hope that SFML doesn’t change its key codes and break everything). It’s painful/time consuming.

The last alternative is to skip SMFL for keyboard, and break existing code that (I assume) relies on SMFL “input events” and make porting the game harder.[/details]

…but I’m getting too far off topic here (I mostly just wanted to show that the original poster’s complaint about not knowing the keys to rotate objects probably shouldn’t be dismissed so hastily, and that while keybindings might not be the highest priority they are/should still be one of the many priorities).

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I don’t think this is not even Hard as in hard. It is close to irritating when every few seconds you get swarmed by stone golems on Day 1 already and you can’t get a foot hold properly setup. If the enemy swarm comes less frequently on Day 1 to give the player sometime to shore up defenses and get things done, it would be different and much more playable in the Hard sense.

What I feel is the developers have to lower the frequency of the stone golem swarm on Day 1 to 5. Sure you want it to be Hard as in hard, but it should not take the fun and create too much frustration. Now it is irritating (not as in a playable sort of Hard a.k.a challenging) instead of the kind of “hard yet playable”.

That is up to your preference. If everyone’s going to play normal or safe mode and few are going into hard mode to test the UX, playability, functionality and bug hunting, then why even bother having a Hard mode when no one’s going to enter into it and test drive it out ?

That is as good as telling me, not to play or test out any mode I like despite me investing early on in the Kickstarter campaign ???

Which of the 4 flags in the defense mode can I add normal civilians to a defense group (in Hard mode) ?

If my memory didn’t serve me wrongly, I think I could view the keyboard shortcuts previously. Maybe I might be wrong. After I left the game and came back a few months later, I couldn’t seem to recall the shortcuts since I am off the game for a long while.

I do agree with this. I am impressed they add a lot of stuff including staircases which everyone were having trouble with last time. They did major feature improvements when they want to. The reason I invested at a higher tier in the early Kickstarter phase is they have interesting ideas and they want to improve. It’s Alpha is a bad excuse. If they want to continue their awesomeness, they have to talk to players and solicit feedbacks and improve on them as per what they have been doing all these time.

I start off with with sword, weaver and farmer option. The first thing I did was to start planting corns to get population and clearing the land. To add to food procurement, I noticed that you could move silkweed and pear cactuses so I also get my civilians to move the nearby pear cactuses and silkweeds to near the farmland so I can drag and box the entire bunch and collect without needing to move my screen too far or the hearthlings needing to walk too far. The farm is placed next to stockpile and stockpile next to camp fire and therefore the gathered bunch of silkweeds and pear cactuses I collated are also near the stockpile, campfire and farm. Everything in close proximity. To make defense much easier, I take preferences of mountains with a “C” shape rocky formation so that it creates an obvious chokepoint for one direction but apparently I noticed stone golems can spawn anywhere so the "C’ shaped mountain formation seems a little less useful.

The developers have to make the stone golems spawn a little further so these mountain terrains can be used effectively in defense for choking enemy entry. You can imagine when you spend so much time building defenses and the enemies spawns right next to you when you actually expect the enemy to face some terrain related difficulties attacking your defenses …

Regarding due diligence in prioritizing defense, once I had my farm and everything up despite the very fast appearances of stone golems less than Day 1 multiple times, I got padded helmet and armour for my only footmen on less than Day 1. If the game allows buying multiple swords, I do buy 2 swords and that would immediately alleviate issue of having only 1 footman after your hearthlings spawn.

Extra points to add from my above suggestions:

  • Make the Hard mode more fun and less frustrating by making it challenging yet still do-able. In essence, reduce the spawn of enemies to more manageable yet challenging frequency. There was one of the times where I had to deal with 2 waves that spawned 1 second off each other and that was the Day 1 or 2 … tell me … how do you deal with 2 waves (6 stone golems) just on the Day 1 or Day 2 with 7 hearthlings (1 as footman) and you barely had established your foothold ?

  • Allow buying of multiple swords, healer’s staff, weaver’s spinner …etc… This will be useful if I can buy 2 swords at the start of the game.

Above is the quickly overrun village of MoShan v3 only at Day 2 by 2 waves of stone golems spawning at the same time after the hearthlings defeated another wave just 1 minute (no joke it was really 1 minute in real world time) ago !!!

I agree Hard Mode is somewhat unbalanced as of now. As for your starting location, it’s quite good but there is still place for enemy spawning. Enemy spawns outside of a certain radius around you buildings and farmlands. So if you settle in the middle (or have at least 1 farmland there), you will probably get no enemy spawns inside the entire valley.

As for the bottleneck, the trench here is a must. I guess you should make it as fast as the first day - you can’t grow population quickly (the requirement is not only food but overall settlement riches - 500 is quite a big number), and starting food can help you survive the first day.

Relocating the bushes is a right choice.

I wouldn’t be judging my experience of the game based on hard mode(unless the hard mode is like pathetically easy… Then that might be bad)… The hard mode isn’t for people learning the game it’s for those who have been playing for months and want a challenge or for those who like a challenge from the beginning. That type is usually okay with getting a few battle scars before getting the hang of it.(think the dark souls’ audience for example).

Also you can get starting tools like swords rather quickly in-game. Like by day 1’s end. Craft 8 beds or so, then move onto like dressers or something to get your carpenter level 2. This can all be done by the end of the first day.

Grow some oak tree saplings early if you’re the right race, they are useful for big cheap walls. Also assuming you plan to fight eventually you can just remove one tree and funnel them in through one spot.

I got enemies spawned right next to my pear cactuses within the valley :slight_smile: . The spawns come in less than the first day and within the first 10 minutes (in real life time) of the game I had to fend off at least1 wave of 3 stone golems before I could settle myself down.

When you are on survival mode (a.k.a Hard mode), you have to begin to expect attacks within the first 5 minutes of the game and you have to hit 500 for the 8th guy (since you only start with 7) is a pain. In fact I never got the 8th guy in 3 versions of Hard mode using the desert terrain.

I just tried a normal mode and it was all too comfortable. Once I had padded armour and padded helmet made by the weaver with a buckler from a merchant and a stone hammer, I could just equip 1 single guy with all these armour and weapon and he could troll multiple targets at the same time. Wolves, goblins, giants, golems … anything that can be thrown at it, that 1 guy I had trolled them all and in 1 vs. many combat scenarios.

When a quest that gave a bronze armour plate was completed, that 1 guy became tank and nearly unstoppable :smiley: .

Too bad I forget to save the game in time and the game crashed (normal mode game).

In the light of the current version of Hard mode, it’s very unlikely. I got attacked 5 minutes into the game (not even Day 1) and then double-waved a couple times (overlapping waves).

Not applicable for desert map :frowning: .That’s the reason I chose the “C” shaped mountain to nest myself inside thinking that the spawns have to enter from the mouth of the mountain entrance (shown in the picture I posted previously). One of my version, I tried to build a stone gate and stone walls and the Varanaus or something crashed my front gates and and also ignored the existence of ladders I used in an attempt to create a chokepoint although I noticed the stone golems are not capable of climbing ladders … hmmm …

The difficult part is fending off the stone golems spawning within the mountain just close up to you at an early point (5 minutes or so) and then followed by overlapping waves of attacks.

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As far as I know, moved wild cactuses don’t make territory “yours”. You need either farmlands or buildings or stockpiles. There was a post that described enemy spawning logic. Try searching for it. I know it doesn’t feel like playing fair when you exploit game mechanics knowledge, but currently Hard Mode is very much a WIP.
Your posts help it get better, I hope the devs will take a look at them.

In the desert I founded my settlement right ontop a small hill and made the sides all flat and hollowed it out and used the natural stone as walls. Then put the mining gates as exits of the city.

Also I believe the spawning behavior of golems and ents are based on the number of wood and stone you have in your inventory.

I really don’t think this is the case, I recently did a test where I tried to get the ent quest to spawn, basically if you cut too many trees down, an ent comes along and asks for them back, if you don’t give them the wood they send an army.

So in trying to get this quest I clocked up just over 700 pieces of wood in my inventory. And still no ents no quests, I was quite disappointed I really wanted to see my day 6 town get crushed by a large swarm of ents. There might also be a wealth trigger but haven’t tested for that yet.

none of them if you press R your civilians will rally around the starting flag and then you can move it.

I feel that @tay_thotheolh your main problem is the fact you are playing rayya’s children, they are, in nature, way harder to play than Ascendancy for a multiple reasons. Try playing Ascendancy hard mode first. I feel that there should probably be a warning screen that pops up when a player selects hard mode and rayya’s as any player that doesn’t know what they are doing will just lose.

But this actually has nothing to do with the learning curve of the game. I feel that stonehearth doesn’t have much of a learning curve, it is so easy for a player to think right I need food and shelter lets get a farmer and build some houses, now I need military, get a footman.
Never can I remember not knowing how to do anything in stonehearth, the whole experience as a new player is so blindingly obvious everything is just how you would expect it and the UI is fabulously laid out, if a bit clunky in its operation, there is always a 750ms to a second delay on everything but alpha and most UI’s in RTS’s have a bit of noticeable lag.

I bet money that it is actually day 2, as they don’t start spawning until day 2.

I’m kind of fed of new players starting hard mode games dying without trying and then coming on the forums like it’s way too hard, change it, balance it, make it so newbies can play it with ease.

I’m going to write a play guide for hard mode so everyone can beat it if they really just want to take all the fun out of the struggle of learning how to beet it.