February was a short month, especially short since GDC is now hurtling towards us like a comet out to destroy our sanity. It’s harder and harder to update social media now, because we’ve been focusing on one central new mechanic: sending and receiving letters! It doesn’t help that the majority of the art for the demo is done (sob) and I’m stuck doing polish until the demo is complete. Nothing to see here, folks…just…tweaking.
There is now at least a thrown together title screen, so you can, you know, start the game. Saving and loading were one of the earlier core mechanics recursive worked on, so at least we have that out of the way, phew.
So, what’s this letter system?
Welcome to your new mailbox! This is just the starter mailbox…you get to choose from different styles to suit your farm and house! I actually remade it to fit more with the rest of the farm. It used to be a little more modern and simple. I still enjoy that one, so expect to see the white mailbox in the game.
What does the mailbox do? It lets you send and receive mail! What mail? Well, as pioneers trying to restore the island back to its former glory, you can’t do it alone! Mikan has been kind enough to offer delivering mail back and forth between the mainland and the island. Asides from sending villagers mail for fun, you can also send recruitment letters to be posted on the mainland’s news board. What you write will effect who replies! This is done with the magic of…the bag-of-words model. Yup, it’s called that. Essentially, it’s a system that’s widely used with retailers and websites to assist with parsing information as well as bots that nag you when you visit the page. You know, the ones that ask you if you need any help within 3 seconds of opening the page.
We’re not using any existing database or system, because we want snacko to be fully functional offline. Also, our needs for it are pretty specific, so we decided to do our own. recursive spent a few days setting it up first in java script so he could easily test in the browser before remaking it in C++. So far, you can “send” letters and the output log will spit out a score based on a few categories:
- New home
Depending on how many of the key words you have used from those categories, it will give it a score and send you replies from certain NPCs based on that score. Each NPC will have a passive trait that helps your island flourish, but there’s a limit to how many villagers you can have – land doesn’t grow on trees, after all!
This is a GIF of the first thing I implemented – a letter composition widget kind of like Animal Crossing. It doesn’t actually do anything except let you type, but it was enough to keep going off of to create the whole mailbox UI:
I used to absolutely hate UMG, Unreal Engine’s UI editor. Now that I’m used to it, it’s not so bad. It’s very rewarding to watch everything come together. The screenshot above is just all the elements put together, none of the code had been hooked up yet at that point. Now, at the very least, you can “Send” a letter to see your score in the log, and it’ll also show you different icons for if the letter was received, sent, or still in the outbox.
recursive mentioned multiple times that he felt like he was just working on a mail client…I mean, he’s not wrong.
Other than that, there’s not much else new that you can visually see. I did update the calendar UI a bit so it wasn’t as wonky and broken, but the game is pretty much as it is.
We did experiment for a bit on enemies and a dungeon area, but we felt like making the mail feature usable was going to impact the demo more than having a different space to bop Ptooie Plants around.
Next month, we’re hoping to show a lot more in terms of a more linear experience! If you’re in the San Francisco area, or attending the Game Developer’s Conference, we’ll see you there! Until then, have an ameowzing month and thank you for following development!
This month’s cozy feels and server costs are thanks to the wonderful and kind patrons:
- Dora Breckinridge
- Liyi Zhang
- Luke Stuart
- Martin Klocker
- Rick Hoppmann
- Ryan Leonski