Category Archives: Blog

Desktop Tuesday, More About the UI Hud

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Hello. Not a lot to talk about this week, as the team is heads down fixing a swarm of bugs (see below). So this week I’ll give you a slightly closer look at the in-progress UI revamp.  First, here’s a general update for where we are in the next release.

Next Release Update

We’re “Feature Complete” for the next patch, which means we’ve implemented all the features that we want to release: save/load, the new UI, the Farmer, and lots of small improvements along the way. Now the job is to shake out all the major functional and performance bugs. We started this process last week, and while we’ve made a lot of progress, we still have a ways to go.

So you can expect the next patch “soon” but not this week, and maybe not the week after that. I’ll keep you posted week to week.

Hud UI

Last week I talked about how we’re hiding the useful-but-intrusive HUD-like elements from the UI whenever possible. That work is pretty much complete, so here’s few shots to show you the end look.

This top shot show’s the UI with all the HUD elements on. You can see the usual bright blue region for the stockpile, and the blueprint guidelines previewing the wall that these workers are building.

This is what the UI looks like when in “Build in Design” mode, which is activated by pressing the blue house button on the bottom toolbar. In the “Build & Design” toolbar you can see some buttons for building various kinds of structures (with horrible placeholder art.)

hud_mode

Now here’s the exact same scene, but the player is no longer in “Build & Design” mode. All the blue guides go away, and you get a much more subtle indicator for all your stockpiles. Better right?

normal_mode

 

 

Stonehearth Music Update

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 Hey Everyone,

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated everyone with where audio is at. Let me jump right into it by giving some examples of what we’re doing as we move forward. I really hope I can get feedback and thoughts from you all on these things, and please don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Establishing a Tone

When I first joined Radiant back in November, Tom and I sat down and discussed how we would like the world of Stonehearth to sound. I’m a major proponent of audio in games/film complimenting what is on screen, while not taking focus away from what is happening visually, so a less-is-more approach has been my MO. Charming, is a word that we tossed around as a good descriptor of the Stonehearth world, and every time I create a sound, or listen to a music track for this game, I ask myself “Is this the correct amount of charm?”. I was fortunate enough to bump into @Raj on this discourse, and asked him to create some tracks for the Alpha that are charming, dynamic, and timeless, easy enough right? :) We lucked out because he knocked it out of the park, and I personally think the tone he set for Stonehearth fits really, really well.
What are your guys thoughts on the tone that has been established in the Alpha music? 

Dynamic Music

The music will need to match the ebb and flow of gameplay and transition smoothly to convincing audio cues to notify the players of what is happening next. An example of this would be hearing very subtle, and ambient music playing as you do now in the alpha while your villagers are just starting their settlement; chopping wood, collecting berries, hunting/befriending animals. Should your village happen to come under attack, a distress music stinger, followed by a “we’re being attacked!!” music track will play. After the damage is done, we’ll have to smoothly transition from “we’re being attacked!!” to possibly one of two options.
  1. Our Village Got Messed Up.wav (sad)
  2. Our Village Messed Them Up.wav (happy)
After one of these two options are completed, we’ll transition smoothly back to the ambient track that was playing at the start.
There are endless options and opportunities for us to make the music feel as dynamic as the gameplay,
What are some other ideas you can think of??

Seasonal Music

You should be able to load up our game, be thrown into the world, and tell which of the four seasons you are in based off the look. This should also be true for the music.
How can we make each season sound unique, and different??

Camera Location Music

Some of you have noticed that I snuck in a little easter egg for when a villager is sleeping. Brahms’ Lullaby will softly play if you zoom as close as you can on top of a sleeping villager. I like it because it gives a little personal touch to make you connect with these little people, but isn’t in your face. Conceptually this might not sound like the best choice, because it’s two music tracks playing over each other at the same time. Another solution for this would be to have a music manager that is attached to the camera’s in game position, that way, as you scroll around the world, music will transition in/out from ambient, battle, lullaby, etc… depending on what the player is currently viewing. I’m personally a bit scared of this option, but I’m curious what you guys think??

Now a few words from our OST composer

Hi guys!  Most of you know me already but quickly for anyone who doesn’t, I’m Raj, a songwriter from Alberta, Canada who’s been composing and writing music since I was 16 and just over a year professionally now.  I jumped on this project as a inspired fan from back in the Kickstarter days and, after a back and forth or two with Radiant, had the unbelievably good fortune of putting together the tracks for the Alpha and, ultimately, being picked up to soundtrack it.

 

I’m every bit the die hard fan that most of you are (trust me, I’ve sent Radiant pages of my own fan-fiction-style ‘suggestions’…) and I am dedicated to making sure the music in this game is every bit as characterful, quirky and charming as the design, art, gameplay and let’s face it, the staff and fans are ;)

 

As far as video game music inspiration goes, I come inspired by the old-schoolers Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo, etc.  Melodic, catchy and atmospheric work so if you’re a fan of them, I hope you’ll enjoy where we’re going too :)

 

Finally, I love the idea of a getting a discussion going with the whole Hearth Community and I’ll throw my hat into the ring as well for a few things to discuss.

 

1) I had originally envisioned (and written up in the discourse somewhere) an idea to use different instruments and styles for different seasons.  Plucky strings and orchestras for Spring, warm summer guitars and flutes for Summer, somber & peaceful piano led music for Autumn and horns and shakers for Winter.  What do you guys think of the idea?

 

2)  When composing the soundtrack for Mario Galaxy, Koji Kondo warned his musicians not to make the music ‘cute’ but to make it ‘cool’ and take it seriously and what an amazing soundtrack we got for it.  For that reason, I want to stay away from chiptunes and bit music but still maybe dabble here and there to help mix in with the voxel-throwback style.  What do you think?

Sneak Peaks

Raj and I wanted to share a couple tracks that he has been working on.

Food & Cheer & Song – Spring Festival Theme

 

Harvest & Hearth – Summer Day Theme

 

In the Pantry of the Mountain King – Dungeon Theme

 
 

 

 

Desktop Tuesday, Closer look at the new UI

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Hi ho. There’s not  a whole lot of interesting news to report this work. Basically the team continues to work hard on the three major initiatives I mentioned last week: save/load, the foundations of combat, and a UI revamp.

So this week let me give you a close look at that last topic. The UI revamp has two main goals.

  1. Show information only when it is relevant to what the player is currently doing
  2. Hide the intrusive blue HUD elements as much as possible.

New UI Breakdown

Here’s a shot of the new UI. We’ve broken up things into five sections, from left to right on that bar at the bottom.

  1. Resource harvesting
  2. Zone Management. “Zones” are our term for what Dwarf Fortress calls Designations. The idea is that you zone areas of the ground for a specific purpose: storage, farming, pasture, etc.
  3. Building. All tools for building structures will go here.
  4. Town management. Clicking this button brings up a screen that summarizes all the stuff you have, all your citizens, and what they’re doing
  5. Crafter management. Clicking this button brings up a screen with all your workshops. You’ll be able to see what your crafters are working on and manage their crafting queues without scrolling around the map and clicking on them individually
  6. Military management. Clicking this button brings up a screen that shows all your military groups and their assignments.

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Those two dark rectangles on the ground are stockpiles. No more giant blue rectangles!

Managing Zones

Clicking a button on the task-bar opens a new UI that’s focused on that particular task. For instance, when you click the Zones button, you get a toolbar for dragging out new zones. We also change the display to highlight the things you’re managing, in this case we highlight all the zones and make the stockpiles’ contents transparent so you can more easily click on the stockpiles themselves.

new_ui_zones

 

The other buttons will work in a similar fashion. The blue, transparent buildings will only show up when you hit the Build button, etc. So far numbers 1 and 2 are complete. I’ll knock off #3 as we revamp the building system. And numbers 4 through 6 will get completed some time in between.

 

The Real Desktop Tuesday, Update of Save, Farming, and Combat

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As many of you noticed, yesterday’s update was an April Fool’s joke. So no, we’re not going free to play. What we are doing is pushing hard on the grindstone on the next release. Here’s all the stuff that’s happening right now at Team Radiant. Wall of text incoming. Brace yourself!

Save and Load

The save and load infrastructure is in place and working well. Save is pretty much instant, and load is surprisingly fast (it takes much less time to load a world than to generate one). The job now is to adapt all the game systems to the save/load infrastructure, and of course fix the bugs that fall out. This work is ongoing now, and we’re making strong and steady progress.

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Here’s a quick shot of the Save Game dialog. Each save slot shows your town name (did I mention you’ll be able to name your town next release?), the in-game time, and a screenshot. Look closely and you’ll see that the screenshot includes the GUI at the time that you hit save…one more bug we need to fix.

Farming

Stephanie continues to crank away at the farming system. The ability to plant farms and collect crops is totally done. Now the whole thing has to be tuned: the rate at which crops grow, how long it takes to harvest, how much each person needs to eat a day, how long people can go without food before starving, and more all need to work together. To facilitate the tuning, we’ve built a mammoth spreadsheet that simulates the farming system and a town of 6 hungry settlers. That allows us to tune any individual parameter and see the effect on food collection and starvation rates after days of simulated play.

After playing around with a couple of different possible models, we’ve settled on one we like.  Now the job is to tweak the in-game implementation to match the new model and try it out in the actual game.

UI Enhancements

As we add more systems to the game, there are more and more things for you the player to manage. To keep things simple, we’re adjusting the UI to show only information that’s relevant to whatever you’re doing at the time, be it managing your farms, building a new building, or harvesting resources. There’s a lot too this, but the general theme is to hide all the HUD-like in-game elements like the blue stockpile boxes and translucent building blueprints, and only show them (and their associated UIs) when you’ve indicated that you want to fiddle with that particular thing.

We’re about 1/2 way done with this, but I’m cautiously optimistic so far. The game looks a lot more natural in the steady state. No more giant blue boxes littering the landscape.

Combat? Combat!

Albert has started work on the combat system! This is a long road, so don’t expect combat in next release and maybe not even the release after that.

The first step is to get AIs to communicate with each other. So far AIs act independently, sometimes managed by an overseer who can direct multiple AIs at once. But there hasn’t been a need for AIs to message each other directly, until now. The reason for this is of course that in combat you have pairs of opponents, an attacker and a defender (this is an over-simplification. Of course you can have many attackers ganging up on a single defender, etc), and their actions need  to be coordinated.

For instance, a dramatic re-enactment of Ai coordination:

AI1: *peacefully minding its own business*

AI2: “Surprise! I smite at thee with my sword!” (play a sword swing animation)

AI1: (rolls defense check) “Knave, your attacks are useless against me!” (play parry animation)

AI1: “Taste steel!” (play awesome sword swing animation)

AI2: (roll defense check) “Gahhhhh” (play hit animation)

Coordination, minus the painful dialog, is pretty much working. Next steps include

  • Integrate the combat AI routines with the existing AI system
  • Make some combat classes
  • Add the ability to (indirectly!) control squads of units by making defend zones and patrol paths
  • Teach the AI game master to send enemies to your town based on game conditions (time of day, status of your town, etc)
  • Make lots of interesting enemy scenarios

Like I said, it’s a long road, but we’ve started down it.

What’s Missing

You may notice a big omission from the list: building! Building is of course the center-piece of the game. It’s incredibly important. Tony will turn his full attention to the building system once save and load is in place. This means that building will definitely fall behind the rest of the game in the short term, but over the next few months you will see major improvements to the build system compared to what we have now. So don’t worry. We’re on it, just not yet.

I hope that gives you a feeling for what’s going on in the team. As you can see, we’ve got a lot going on! The next two to three months should be particularly exciting as the “prototype with potential” that we have now develops into a real game.

 

Desktop Tuesday, Introducing Stonehearth, Free to Play Edition!

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Hi guys. They say the best things in life are free. I don’t know who They are, but They say a lot of things like that. Generally when people hear these things they will nod sagely and, were this not a cliche, think about the hidden meaning behind a seeming contradiction, have a moment of enlightenment, then go on about their day, buying expensive coffee and heavily discounted Steam games that they will play, at most, a few times.

What was I saying? Oh right, The Best Things in Life are Free. We’ve been working very hard to make Stonehearth the best it can be, so it logically follows that Stonehearth must be Free.

Free? Free. Yup. We’re doing it. Free, free, free. Totally. Introducing, Stonehearth, Free to Play Edition.

New Supported Platforms

PC, Mac, and Linux support are out. It’s a game, not a spreadsheet, amiright? We’re totally retooling the engine to support iOS and Android devices. We’re thinking of supporting Blackberry too, if they ever get their act together.

New Streamlined Gameplay

Time and planning is an important factor in Sim games. So important that we’re adding a whole lot more of it. To give you adequate time to plan your next move, we’re dramatically slowing the rate at which things happen. What things? Walking, building, especially building, breathing…pretty much everything.

f2p_build

I know what you’re thinking. This is boring. We thought the same thing too. It’s a terrible idea. But we have a fix! If you really don’t like waiting around that much, you’ll be able to bypass the roadblocks accelerate your gameplay using our new in-game gem currency. Brilliant, right?

That’s it for now. Excited? I’m excited. Freeeeee.

 

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The Stonehearth Alpha is now available through Humble Bundle.

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