FULLY TRANSCRIBED by GammaGoblinz - REDDIT IAMA.
STONEHEARTH TEAM NAMED - inkblotSRK
FORMATTED IN Q&A BULLETS AFTER THE INTRO
I’ve made very very minimal edits solely to do with spelling. And I took only questions and answers, with a few of the sillier questions that weren’t really questions, but they still answered them anyways and I felt like that also kind of goes along with how this community acts which is with quite a nice sense of humor but not going too far. I hope the format I went with makes it easy to read rather than looking at a wall of text.
Eighteen months ago, my brother and I were both working in Silicon
Valley as software developers. The work was interesting, but we’ve
always dreamed of writing a game, so in Oct of 2011 we finally pulled
the trigger. We quit our day jobs, set up shop in my basement, and
have never looked back.
With over 30 combined years of software development experience, we
figured writing a game would be a piece of cake. Not so much… After
a few reboots and a trial-by-fire crash course in pathfinding, AI,
asset pipelines, etc. we’re finally showing off our first project,
Two weeks ago we did a Kickstarter, which so far has wildly exceeded
our expectations! So amazingly, in just two weeks we’ve gone from
"holy crap I hope people like this thing" to “holy crap, people like
this thing! We get to make a game!”
Proof I’m me: Tweet about this AMA Stonehearth contact page listing my
TLDR: We quit our jobs to write a game, got our asses kicked for 18
months, but came out of the other side wiser and happier.
Edit: Thanks for all the questions guys! I have to break for lunch but
will be back in about an hour.
Signing off! Guys you have been great. I really enjoyed answering all
your questions, but I’ve got to run to actually get some work done
today. Thanks again!
Q: Will there be turtles in the game?
A: Hadn’t thought about it, but anything is possible? Just regular turtles, or…
Q: As the $400,000 stretch goal (co-op multiplayer) appears more and more likely to happen are you feeling more anxiety or excitement? You dudes have some experience in multiplayer netcode already (clearly, shout outs to GGPO) so I expect that you know full well what that entails.
As a backer and long time fan from the FGC I’m glad to see this has blown up. Best of luck to you two.
A: This whole Kickstarter thing has been an equal mix of excitement and anxiety. On the plus side, it’s been incredibly validating that so many other people believe in our idea. But we also feel a lot of responsibility now to not let everyone down. This is a good thing! The pressure keeps us motivated to deliver the best game we can.
We have indeed been planning for multiplayer from the start, so I’m confident that we can have an awesome co-op experience.
Thanks for the well wishes!
Q: You said you and your brother set up shop in your basement, but your kickstarter video clearly shows you guys set up shop in your upstairs bedroom.
WHY DO YOU LIE TO US?
But seriously- you guys rock.
A: If it’s any consolation, we’ve moved out of that upstairs bedroom to my dining room after hiring our first new team member. So now even the KS video is out of date.
Q: Will these questions and answers be posted somewhere? So we can easily read them afterwards?
A: I’ll collect the top 10 questions or so and post them to the Stonehearth discourse
Q: Geoffers747? Is that you??? (A reply to the previous question by another redditor/hearthling)
A: I love Geoffers747
Q: What languages and tools are you using in the development of Stonehearth? Any advice for business software developers looking to take the plunge and get into games?
A: The core engine is written in C++11 and Open GL. We write all the gameplay and AI in LUA. Finally, we use JS and HTML for the UI.
For an business software developer, my advice is to just try writing a simple game using one of the existing engines out there. Unity is great for desktop/mobile apps, and I personally like ImpactJS for web apps. For Stonehearth we wrote our own engine, which lets us do some unique things but it as also a mammoth time sink.
Q: I’d really like to support you guys more (and I know I’m not the only one with this problem) but I’m having a hard time finding justification to raise my pledge up to $100. Physical things like posters and shirts aren’t my deal. Are there plans for a pledge between the 50-100 dollar range that could include non-physical benefits?
If you like this idea, I suggest a nod to reddit and add Snoo, the reddit alien as a companion. Alternatively (and since this is an AMA) give the players the choice between 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck to fight in a module.
A: We’re open to new reward ideas if you have any. The one thing we don’t want to do is create this weird division between those who can afford the higher tiers and those who can’t, which is why we placed all the pet companions in the cheaper tiers.
Q: Many of us would pay $100 to have an Alpha in Sept, but being a software engineer myself I am afraid it could slow the project down. That said, careful management, and a small feature set in the Alpha with minimal support could have little impact on the project and let you earn more support now. Also, having to solve the “it won’t run on my machine” issues early (Alpha) makes Beta and release soooo much smoother (you’ve already solved those problems).
Q: Tom, you mentioned that items can be built by developers. So I can make an ubber-sword, for example, which would defeat everything it touches. How will you handle these player-made items on multiplayer games?
A: Good question. For multiplayer games, the server will determine the list of mods that are in use for that game, and all players will need to have those mods installed.
So if you created a game with a certain set of “fair” mods, I can’t join your game with my uber-sword-of-whup-ass and wreck shop.
We will have some system to sync up the mods between you and the server so you don’t have to manage them manually.
Q: Hi! Super excited about this game!! All the best to your kickstarter Two Questions:
Have you decided on how magic will work in the game?
Great work! We’re all rooting for you!
A: For a while we were thinking that magic would be very rare and mysterious, but we keep coming up with awesome ideas that involve magic, like the magma smith. So stay tuned on that one.
I have heard Raj’s music. It’s really good! We’re still weighing our options on music, and will hopefully have more time to spend on that after the Kickstarter.
Q: Will there be physics based destruction of houses, trees, etc? I think this would add a lot to the game, especially in battles.
A: We would like to add physics for these kinds of things eventually.
Q: On the kickstarter, the little pets like the dragon and the cat and dog, do they become ‘characters’ that wander around our town or are they something that follows a chosen avatar? Can we have all three out at once? Will there be other ‘pet’ type animals in-game?
A: The pets are like their own little characters that will wander around, play, etc. We’re going to try allowing all the pets at once and see how that goes.
One of our early stretch goals was a baby mammoth pet for all KS backers. I think we’re more or less done with pets now. We have a good variety and don’t want to overdo it.
Q: Have you thought about having kings and queens as a stretch goal? I think that might make for some interesting gameplay
A: We’ve thought about it, but that’s a tough one because it implies a certain kind of city. If I’m the kind of player that’s building a monastery or a trade-city, then maybe I don’t want a king or queen, so that stretch goal has no appeal.
Q: I’m super excited for Stonehearth, and have been following the kickstarter closely. But I’m worried about one thing: Blizzard has a card game in beta called Hearthstone.
Are you afraid they’re going to make you change the name of your game?
A: We’ve had the name Stonehearth since last November, and we really like it.
We can’t control what Blizzard does, but we will try to keep the name Stonehearth.
Q: Given that pathfinding has been a fun bugbear in just about any game, what options will you present to the USER when it comes to pathfinding? Waypoints, zones that are defined as low traffic/high traffic/transport only, them doing what they want?
A: Well, we don’t want the player to have to micro-manage most units. You sort of give the orders and your settlers figure out how to implement your plans.
For combat units, where you do exert more control, we will have the pathing options you would expect in an RTS: waypoints, patrol, etc.
Q: As the game gets bigger and more complex as more stretch goals are met, how large of a team do you think will be required to complete the game on time. Also, can you give us some sort of idea where the money goes when creating a game like this? I am a backer and I think your game looks awesome! I also love the live video streams so please keep them coming.
A: We’re looking to grow the team to around 4-6 people. For a project like this, nearly all the money goes towards people and supporting people: salaries, office space, etc.
We’ll keep the live streams coming, don’t worry!
Q: How do you feel about Blizzard making a game called Hearthstone?
A: Blizzzzzaaaaarrrrdddddd! (btw, I will play the f*ck out of their game)
Q: Can you explain to me what the games about?
A: Our Kickstarter video and page explain it pretty well.
Stonehearth is a game about exploration and survival in an epic fantasy setting. Your job is to help a small group of settlers survive and carve out a place for themselves in a hostile land. You’ll need to establish a food supply, build shelter, defend your peope, and find a way to grow and expand, facing challenges at every step.
Starting from procedurally generated terrain with dynamic AI encounters, Stonehearth combines city sim and good old combat with infinite building possibilities. It’s built to be moddable at every level, from your city, to the people and creatures inhabiting the world, and will ship with the tools and documentation for you to add your own customizations to the game, and share them with friends.
Q: What’s your favorite DnD/Table-Top Role Playing story?
A: I really like the old Palladium TMNT and Robotech games.
Q: As someone who loves the idea of creating a bustling marketplace of a city, I have to ask: Are there going to be mechanics that support this dream, or will I just have to pretend that it’s a hub of commerce?
Also, don’t be shy about adding a stretch goal for making coop a little less cooperative!
A: There will be opportunities to trade with seasonal caravans that will visit your town and with other neutral factions on the map.
Q: For modding, will we be able to use the assets from the game to make our own game modes, with different AI, inventory systems, and things like that? Will it be open to adding our own scripts easily?
A: Yes. A mod that adds a new game mode or AI will need a lot of LUA scripting, but it will be possible.
Q: If there is not going to be subterranean exploration, how will you ensure there will be adequate supplies of materials typically found underground in other games in order to build grandiose structures? Will material outcroppings generate layers below themselves of similar substances as you remove them, or will there be impenetrable layers directly below the surface?
A: We would like to add subterranean exploration eventually, but we’re concentrating on the above-ground game first.
We can tune the amount of supplies vs. materials in the ground pretty easily. For instance, with wood we’ve determined that 1 “block” of wood lets you build 5 blocks of wooden wall, so you don’t have to chop down every tree in the forest to build a handful of houses.
The world will be based on reality, meaning if there’s an outcropping of rock, that outcropping will extend into the ground.
Q: What do you see as your competitors? Minecraft? Cube World? Castle Story? Timber and Stone?
A: I don’t think in terms of competitors, because this is a brand new genre and there’s room for multiple games.
First, even though we use voxels, we don’t play like Minecraft or Cube World at all. Castle Story, Timber and Stone, Towns, and Gnomoria are all better comparisons.
But all these games have their own spin on the “city management with building and crafting” genre that’s developed, which is great! For Stonehearth, we’re 100% focused on building the kind of game that we want to play.
Q: So…GGPO support?
A: Ha. We will have great co-op multiplayer, but it won’t use GGPO.
Q: When is the game even coming out
A: Beta by end of 2013, release by Sept 2014!
Q: Would you rather model 100 duck size horse pixel models, or 1 horse size duck pixel model?
A: 100 duck sized horse pixel models. Do one then copy/paste!
Q: What is that block laying program that you are using to design your characters? How do you import that into an actually GUI for the game? What code / engine are you using to design the game?
The game looks amazing, best of luck.
A: I use Qubicle Constructor to model my voxels. Great program.
We wrote our own engine using C++11 and Open GL, with LUA for gameplay and AI.
Q: I’m going to paraphrase a couple of questions from the campaign comments section:
1) Anna S. wants to know if we will have a granular set of options that define a new game… basically, can we enable/disable certain types of “lethal settings” as you phrased it? e.g. keep food starvation and aggressive wild animals, while turning off aggressive faction?
2) Felix would like to know about “the possibility of engineer/geomancer interaction”… Cannon/Rifle Golems!
A: You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers.
- That would be very nice. I can’t promise anything but it’s a good idea.
- It’s very possible! We want to have synergies between the crafters whenever possible. For instance, there is a natural synergy between the Carpenter and the Weaver. The Carpenter crafts upgrades that improve the Weaver’s throughput (spinning wheel and loom), and the Weaver crafts goods like bowstrings that allow the Carpenter to produce advanced items like bows.
Q: Hey Tom and Tony, did you remember to call mom for Mother’s Day? Also, can you go into further detail about the combat class options that will be available?
A: Yes I remembered to call mom! Sheesh! For combat, you’ll be able to customize your army through class and gear. Your unit’s class will determine most of its abilities, and we’ll have all the archetypes represented: tank, melee nuker, ranged nuker, healer, etc.
Then each unit’s gear will determine some passive bonuses, and occasionally grant new abilities. For instance, you may decide that you want a strong defensive front line, so you promote 10 footmen and just 2 archers as the main damage dealers behind them, but you can choose to arm those footmen with swords, which do extra damage, or maces, which have a chance to stun on hit.
Of course, all of this is just an example of the kind of feel we’re going for. Exact mechanics are subject to change.
Q: This may be a weird question especially coming from a 3D artist but… Your game is “voxel based” does that mean it is ultimatly rendering voxels in engine or polygons? Your Dev vid showed that you would optimize the model later in polygons and the facial expressions are animated poly’s which leads me to believe that it just has a “voxel look”. Could you elaborate? Thanks.
A: In the end it call comes down to polygons. You are correct, the game has a “voxel look” and voxel like gameplay mechanics, but it is rendered in polygons.
Q: will you do a live stream showcasing how a scripted event might unfold (would love to see some LUA work), or elaborate on the “dungeon master” process you have mind for controlling how things flow in a game?
A: Maybe not a scripted story, but Tony is planning on doing a live stream showing how to take an animated model and get it into the game, including writing the AI in LUA.
Q: we know you want to have a solid “above ground” game experience before embarking underground, but do you have any plans or ideas for the direction you want to take when/if the time presents itself? to clarify, what will mining/digging look like to the player (will the terrain go translucent, will you have to change the Z level view to see whats going on, etc.)
A: When we get to it, we want the underground to be just as content-dense as the above ground. Above ground there’s stuff going on all the time: trees, flowers, critters hopping around, etc.
We want the underground to have a similar density, where you don’t have to dig very far before running into something interesting, even if it’s just some fluorescent plants in a subterranean cave or whatever.
Q: Do you have Wonder Twins Power?
A: dafuq man…
Q: You and your brother have given so much to follow your dreams, how did you find someone to hire that is as passionate about this project as you are?
A: She came to us! Her pitch was basically, “you’re going to hire me. here’s why you’re going to hire me.” It was very persuasive.
Q: How has fighting games influenced the project since you both are deeply involved in the FGC?
I am glad you guys had so much success Good luck, the game looks fantastic.
A: Wow, great question.
The community aspect to Stonehearth is there directly because of the experiences we’ve had in the FGC. We wanted to build a game that people could rally around and think of as their own.
Q: I’m curious about the user created models, if I designed a weird animal, will I be able to specify how it moves/attacks or you will force me to use a skeleton template and build on it?
A: Yes, you will be able to specify your own animations. Here is a loooong video of me animating a model: Twitch
Q: Do you have plans to add Religion? It would be interesting to have different dieties and methods of worship, from offerings of food and big celebrations to offers of blood and war.
Could be a far off patch, I’m more looking forward to subterranean stuff which you’ve mentioned elsewhere.
A: “Plans” would be overstating it, but we’ve brainstormed a ton on this topic. We’ve thought about the different deities and different mechanics to worship each one (prayer, animal/human sacrifice?)
This is on the long list of things that we want to get into the game, but step 1 is building the core features like construction, crafting, and combat.
Q: What about the family model? Two people have a kid and that childs traits is based on the parents and the father passively trains him/her on his.trade at home etc… also I hope you mange to.answer one of my questions today
A: We want your settlers to have relationships: to fall in love, mourn each other when they die, etc. Kids are tough. We’re not sure how to model kids moving from infant through childhood to adulthood. Maybe we can do something simple like have an infant to pow instantly “levels up” to a little kid then bam later becomes a full grown adult. We’ll keep thinking about it.