Announcing Alpha 21: Hearthlings Are People Too!
Hey everyone, we're happy to announce that Stonehearth Alpha 21 is now live on Steam and Humble Bundle! With this release we continue our work towards making hearthlings feel more alive, both as individuals and in how they relate to their world and one another. We think that understanding what makes your hearthlings tick will help you plan and guide your settlements more effectively. This Alpha sees the new Trait system being added with associated updates being made to embarkation and loadout selection.
Hearthling Traits: Be somebody!
Something that we really want for Stonehearth is to cultivate the feeling that you’re helping steer a town of individuals with their own unique quirks and personalities. To that end, we’re introducing a new system of Traits to the game. When a hearthling is born into the world, they’re given a set of traits that may influence how they behave and react to events in the world. In Alpha 20, we focused on giving hearthlings thoughts and feelings. In Alpha 21, we make these thoughts and feelings different for different hearthlings. This initial release focuses on a relatively small numbers of traits, many of which feed directly into the Happiness system from Alpha 20, and the hope is to grow the list slowly over time as new systems come online. In Alpha 21, you'll encounter around 16 traits, with many more to come in future alphas. From now on you may find your settlement inhabited by such characters as a night-owl who may or may not be a member of a secret cult, or a hearthling who is great at farming but only eats red meat. Green Thumbs! Vegetarians! Optimists! Pessimists! Together, the traits present for your collective set of hearthlings should result in a different narrative experience for each town and its inhabitants.
Up Close and Personal(ized)
When setting off with a new group of pioneers, not only can you more clearly see their new stats and traits, but you also now have the ability to re-roll individual hearthlings! No longer will you be required to do a bulk party reset in your quest to find a balanced party. We’ve also made a change to the stat allocation algorithm, so that the hearthlings in your starting party should all have reasonable to good stats, while the hearthlings that join you later may be a bit more… extreme in their capabilities. As a result, we’ve removed the “Randomize Hearthling Attributes” option from the gameplay menu. The hope is that this change will breed more interest in the new hearthlings’ arrival, while allowing us to have more consistent control of the difficulty of the starting party. But wait! There's more! In addition to stats, you can now also customize the look of your hearthlings, by tweaking their skin and hair color, and hairstyle. Now your hearthlings can be more visibly individual -- according to your wishes -- than ever before.
Loadouts: Take only what you can carry!
Alpha 21 introduces a major new concept to the embarkation flow: loadouts. Instead of being presented with a store from which you can purchase separate items, you’ll instead select from a group of loadout packages, each tailored towards a particular playstyle. We’re offering three loadouts with this release, and expect to add more in the future as we gather your feedback. Our hope is that this new approach will have players making stronger choices about how they want to grow their town, without also requiring them to have a nuanced understanding of the Stonehearth economy. These loadouts are easily expandable, so modders who are interested in creating explicit starting scenarios for their games will be able to utilize this system in cool ways as well. We do expect this first batch of loadouts to not be perfectly balanced, so definitely expect some changes to them as we move forward.
Space: Uncramping your style
With Alpha 20 we introduced a system that allowed hearthlings to have a concept of how big or small their homes were. While we’re happy with how this system is developing, we did notice that the initial implementation was causing players to do some odd things with the layouts of their home to make the hearthlings feel more at ease. While placing your bed in the center of your room is a bold stylistic choice, it’s not exactly the most cozy one, so with this patch we’ve updated the space calculation to better handle walls and corners. Now hearthlings will not feel cramped simply because they are against a flat surface; the room they are in will actually need to be pretty small and windowless. This should let you have freedom in your room layouts once again, while still rewarding you for spending more resources to build larger, more windowed homes for your citizens.
Follow Camera: I see you!
When you select an individual hearthling, you can now follow them throughout their day with the new Follow Camera! By pressing J after selecting a hearthling, your camera will swivel over to start following the hearthling automatically from a bird’s eye view. This should help you track a hearthling better than you can currently, and any camera movement will disengage this camera mode. We’re definitely look for feedback from each of you on how this camera feels and if you like it, so please contribute to the conversation!
Topology Service: Knowing where to go, and when.
Alpha 21 introduces a new bit of backend tech called the Topology Service, which allows entities to skip pathfinding to unreachable items. Figuring out how to get to places in a dynamic world like ours takes a lot of time, and before this tech was introduced it wasn’t unusual for a hearthling to spin and spin and spin on trying to figure out a way to get to that berry bush, only to realize too late that no pathway to said bush even exists. This tech short circuits that test, letting the pathfinder know before it even starts that certain items are not reachable. As a result we’ve seen quite the improvement in the amount of CPU time large towns require to function properly.
Key Rebinding: We encourage your input!
For the past month we’ve been going into the depths of our code base, tearing out and rewiring a bunch of the infrastructure. As a result of that work we now are on the path to having a unified input system, which will in turn allow for rebinding of almost all inputs in the game! This work is still in progress, so there’s no UI available for it yet, but you can begin mucking around with this early by adding your own "user_bindings" to your user_settings.json, using what's in stonehearth.json as a reference. These keybinds will work both for in-game and UI events, and we will develop this outwards to support a wide range of control input types over time.
We only post during Alpha updates here on Kickstarter, because we've received feedback from many of you that you prefer beefy updates to incremental ones. That said, ever week we continue to stream our development at 6:00pm PST. Since we diversified our team a bunch in 2016, the new goal of each stream is for a team member to show you what they're actively working on, be that in code, design, UX, or art, and get your feedback on how to make it better. You can find us on twitch here.
Every week we also make a Desktop Tuesday that highlights what's going on behind the scenes in our development. You can find our Desktop Tuesday archive on stonehearth.net, with recaps written out, here. This week marks our one hundred and first video Desktop Tuesdays, and if you prefer to watch them all in a row, you can find them on a youtube playlist here.
For those of you who are still asking about Mac and Linux, or about the schedule, or the general direction of the game and why our updates have pivoted from terrain and monster features and towards core gameplay, I refer you to our January post on the state of the game, here. We hope to have more to share on our direction, and how we want to handle development going forward, with a new roadmap soon.
And as always, we love to hear from you! You can find us where we've always been, on our forums at discourse.stonehearth.net. Let us know how the game is going for you and what you'd like to see in the months and years to come.
May 2017 makes this the four-year anniversary of Stonehearth as a project, as a team, and as a game. You who have been with us since the beginning know that we've learned a lot since then--about this game in particular, about ourselves, and about making games in general. Sometimes it's been hair-tearing-raging hard, like when we spent eight weeks figuring out why hearthlings wouldn't stop picking stuff up and putting it down, and sometimes it's been like standing on mountaintops, like the first time we saw an archer intelligently kite an ogre across a plain. Sometimes we can't believe how much work yet remains--years of work--and other times, we're grateful to have a reason to work every day tp make Stonehearth into a truly great community building game.
So to all of you, thank you again for sending us off on this adventure, and thank you for being with us still.
--Stephanie, on behalf of Tom, Tony, Albert, Chris, Brad, Linda, Allie, Malley, Richard, Nikki, Justin, and Angelo