Starter Wagon and Resource Clearing
Players starting Folk Tale for the first time often arrive with an implicit knowledge and expectation from other RTS games. To make the game more intuitive, we have to acknowledge and design to this. Having watched Let's Play Folk Tale and Twitch streams, one of the most common first time actions of new players is to select a villager and right click on a tree, expecting them to go and chop it down. That wasn't happening, so we introduced sweeping changes.
Peasants can now gather resources from the environment (thereby clearing areas for future construction) by selecting and right-clicking on a resource, including chopping trees, quarrying small stone deposits, mining iron ore deposits, and foraging for berries. The iron and stone are new assets that are now dotted liberally around the starter location. After several visits, the resource will become depleted and will be removed from the world.
Peasants cannot access Quarries, Iron Mines, and the (possibly) soon to be added Lumber Mill. These will in time require Works to be constructed that can only be operated by Woodcutters, Stonecutters and Blacksmiths who are far more efficient than their Peasant peers. If you examine the current Quarry, we'll be removing the crane and wooden platform to make Works, an upgrade that becomes available once you have constructed the corresponding Profession building, which in this case would be the Stonecutter Lodge. You'll then be able to construct Works on Quarries, and assign Stonecutters to commence work there.
Woodcutters, Stonecutters and Blacksmiths can also clear areas, and are more effective than Peasants, requiring fewer swings of an axe/pickaxe/hammer and yielding more resources each time they drop off resources.
Enabling Peasants to gather resources presented a new design challenge: where should they drop off the collected resources? Henceforth, the very first thing players need to do when starting a new game is place a Supply Wagon containing a few rations and basic clothing to keep your Peasants happy for a short while. The Wagon also acts as a low capacity Storehouse.
These changes took gameplay further back in the life of a settlement, to where you start with very little and have to find what you need in the environment. There's a degree of urgency and survival. With food being a priority, and the Bread economy chain taking a while to get up and running, we've added foraging for Berries by selecting a Peasant and right clicking on a Berry Bush. Berries can be stockpiled and eaten by Peasants when they get hungry, and satiate a small amount of the need for carbohydrates.
Watching some of the recent Let's Play videos and playing ourselves, we noticed that it was easy to get into a situation of having lots of Planks, and not much Firewood. To address this (prior to the implementation of the Marketplace building), we added a crafting recipe to the Woodcutter's Hut for converting Planks into Firewood, available immediately once the building is constructed. With some further balancing, we'll get the Firewood situation under control.
Improving Villager Needs
In the last patch Peasants would frequently complain via the Advisor about being hungry and needing food, even though inventories would be brimming with supplies. This wasn't caused by mass hunger, but rather individual units - especially Hunters - wandering far from town and becoming hungry while doing so. To solve this, we've changed the Needs system to monitor averages, and added some useful charts to the Civics dialog that can be accessed via the topbar button to support forward planning. In times of bountiful harvest, Peasants are able to gorge themselves to fend off hunger for longer. They also take longer to get really hungry, reducing the frequency of them leaving.
New peasants will now only arrive if happiness is in the yellow or green.
Taxation And Changes To Economy
We were dissatisfied with the way the economy was working in regard to Villagers buying goods for gold. While it sounds logical, this could lead to unacceptable delays waiting for gold to be generated. We've not removed the exchange of goods for gold, and replaced it with a new taxation system. In the Civics Dialog (see image above), you can now set the tax rate in gold. Taxes are levied every 30 seconds, and are dependent on Cottages. Setting low taxes will lead to increased happiness, while heavy taxation will lead to decreasing happiness unless you are taking steps to offset that.
The whole concept of accruing Research Points didn't feel natural, so we scrapped 'em. Now, you choose which research you want to undertake, and as workers deliver resources to the building, part of that work effort can be allocated towards research, progressing the percentage complete. Once you reach 100%, the research is unlocked. Multiple buildings of the same type can contribute to the same research at the same time to unlock it faster, or research something completely different in parallel. For example, one Blacksmith might research Leatherworking. Building a second Blacksmith, you can set it to contribute towards the existing research into Leatherworking, or research Plate Armor in parallel.
Moving to a progress model however presents some redesign challenges for non-production buildings including the Barracks and Storehouse. For the Barracks, we'll be introducing a villager need for security, which can be satiated by stationing City Watch in locations frequented by villagers (by the Storehouse and Wagon would be great!) As Peasant's pass by, they gain an increased sense of security, and that generates a tick in the progress towards any active research in the Barracks. Having City Watch behave in this manner also plays into the original plan for their role as law enforcement, and opens up the possibility of implementing crime and thieves.
Research at the Storehouse will be redistributed to other buildings including the Workshop.
Monster Dens And Ecology
As your settlement expands, you'll be clearing resources and pushing more into the unknown. Sooner or later you're going to encounter Monster Dens, starting with spiders. Spiders make their nests in hollow tree trunks, and are easily identifiable by the presence cobwebs, spider eggs and spiders. Over time, nests will spawn more monsters, and in time a queen that will wander and settle a new den. Monster Dens have health, and can be attacked and destroyed. However, the nests and monsters they spawn are a source of crafting ingredients, so it'll be a balancing act of what to destroy and when.
In future patches we'll be introducing ecology. Wolves will hunt rabbits, and rabbits will eat your crops. But killing rabbits will remove the wolves' source of food, which may in turn hunt down your villagers to chomp on.
Heroes, Faction Bosses, and Behemoth Mini-Bosses
With much of the village assets complete and queued for implementation, the Art Team have shifted over to producing content to support the RPG aspect of Folk Tale. All of the factions now have fleshed out back story (on paper, not in game), with a leader, hero and hulking behemoth. In our world design (community worlds may differ in design), each biome will have two opposing factions interacting together in a storyline, each having their own quest lines. Helping one faction will raise your notoriety, eventually granting access to the faction's hero for inclusion in your adventuring party. However, helping one faction will inevitably cause your standing with the opposing faction to decline into open conflict, leading you into combat with the opposing hero.
In the early stages of play, once you've constructed a Tavern, we want to provide access to non-faction based heroes to introduce adventuring parties and special abilities. Our first hero, Ser Gregory, is coming together and will soon be ready for adding into the game. Adding heroes will run in parallel with an overhaul of the combat system. For the last 6 months we've been retrospectively adding reaction animations to monsters, villagers and heroes, including hits, knock downs, stuns, shocks, and cowering. These additions should make combat feel much more involved and tactical.
The Withering Dead will inhabit the crypts and catacombs of the Desecrated Cathedral found in the Grassland (Easy) map. Somewhere in the cathedral we'll add a portal that your adventuring party can take to Crypts Level 1 (via a loading screen). This map uses the new Classic Dungeon kit, our first kit for creating underground Adventuring Locations. Adventuring locations are maps designed not to have villages built on, and only your adventuring party can travel there. We've also added a Lights Kit for placing dungeon lighting. Map designers should be mindful not to add too many lights in close proximity, as this can affect frame rate.
Future patches will include a Traps Kit, and a means of setting up triggers, either for traps, encounters or events.
Work continues fleshing out loot and crafting items. This month we've added the common scale armor that will be worn by the Cavalry and at least one hero; and a rare cloth armor set for Witches and caster heroes.
All icons are hand-painted at 512x512 pixel resolution and then scaled down, be that to the final in-game resolution, icons used on the website, or blog images such as the one below. Detail is painted in roughly in the original images, and becomes fine detail when scaled down.
We've tweaked monster damage to be more reasonable, testing it against the damage reduction provided by wearing armor the different types of armor. Villagers wearing armor are no longer invulnerable.
What's Happening Right Now?
February is a time to refine all the goodies we've added to the game in recent months. Load/Save is having a final push to squish any remaining bugs before adding in the UI. We have a rewrite of the inventory system to reduce chances of bugs, and further balancing to do. The Art Team are working on a wide array of tasks including the Ice Palace/Caverns (Glacian faction), Mordich the Withering Dead boss, Bonefinger the Withering Dead behemoth, Melody, the Gladefolk hero, faction loot weapon models, hero special ability visual effects, and of course inventory icons for the Withering Dead and Gladefolk factions. And I'll be focusing on character voice-over scripts so we can get more of your villagers and heroes talking.