July Developer Update

Busy as Bees!

The last few weeks we’ve been buzzing about preparing for several showings. First up is 2D Con from August 11th to 13th at the Doubletree in Minneapolis. We will also be at the Social Science event on August 16th at the Science Museum of Minnesota. We’ve also had some longer playtests that allowed us to test content beyond the tutorial.

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The Relationship Journal, Badges, & More!

Andy finished programming the journal, which is an important tool to manage your relationships with the other colonists. At first, the journal only shows your current relationship status.

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As your relationships mature, additional options unlock. The journal is used to breakup with someone you’re dating, to ask them to marry you, or to move in together. If you’ve broken up with someone, the journal can be used to start your second chance to the relationship. As we’ve been discovering, there are a huge number of possible routes you can take through a relationship. Beth has been diligently working to ensure that all the possible events for relationship changes are covered.

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We have finalized a lot of technical details around how relationships will progress. We’ve decided which characters will require exclusivity, which ones don’t, and what exactly that means when it comes time for the player to settle down. Here the player has had a baby with Rosie, so they have earned a special badge that shows up alongside the relationship hearts.

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Player’s Log

You can track your tool upgrades and special items in the new player’s log. Tools have three different levels. Better axes and hammers use less energy and work faster. The improved hoe allows farming in different areas. The fishing spear throws faster and affects a larger area, making it easier to get multiple fish with one spear.

Crops will also be tracked in the player’s log. Certain crops can initially only be obtained and grown in specific biomes. As you progress, you may find the genetic trait that allows you to grow a crop in any biome.

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The log will also keep track of your progress as you collect fish and insects. Like crops, certain insects and fish are only found in one biome. You’ll have to explore far and wide to make sure you catch them all!

Map Complete

The world has finally been completely filled in! We’ll have minor tweaks and cleanup, but it’s nice to have this big task finished. The world is roughly divided into a six different areas: the town, the plains, the marsh, the mountains, the forest, and across the east river. In our testing, most players get into the marsh first, and then build the bridge for the other side of the river, but sometimes people switch that around. Although some of the mountain is available from the start, getting to most of it requires some special equipment…

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More Late-game Content

Andy spent a few weeks adding end game content. One of the things that our testers really would have appreciated is a way to increase their storage size. Seed storage seemed to run out first, but having extra storage in each group will be very useful! Next up in this category will be to add some mysterious content to the world…

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Play Verdant Skies at 2D Con 2017!

Verdant Skies is honored to be included in this year’s Indie Island at 2D Con! Come check us out August 11-13th and be some of our first beta testers!

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Happy Spring from the Verdant Skies Team!

Spring has sprung!

Much like our world outside, there’s many things blooming in the development of Verdant Skies! From crops to insects, we’ve added some great new art. Love is in the air as we continue to expand on the relationship system. Of course, what update is complete without some bug fixes!

Working on Relationships

Lead Writer Beth ( @bethkorth ) finished the first draft of Rosie’s entire character arc. From your first meeting all the way to the commitment ceremony, it’s amazing to see it all come together! Andy ( @kortham )  worked on the programming required to flag relationships as exclusively dating or married. Different characters respond differently to you based on your relationship status, and each individual relationship moves at a unique pace. Some characters want exclusive status early in the relationship, and others don’t care at all.
If you become good friends with someone, but decide not to date them, you move down a friendship path, and you’ll get an extra friendship event in place of the dating ones. Next month, we’ll give players a way to break up with someone they are dating. A similar interface can be used to start dating someone you previously turned down.

Finalized Crop List

Crops are done! Lizzy ( @Pixilizi_Art ) has completed the artwork for all the growing stages of the 14 crops in the game. There are four crops native to each of the regions – plains, mountains, and marsh, and there are two extra crops found across the river. In testing, this is a pretty good sweet spot where you’ve got a lot of variety but you don’t have crop-overload. Since the player can genetically modify each species they have, they can end up with a lot of seeds!

New Bug Art

Lizzy has also been busy working on art for the bugs that will be inhabiting Viridis Primus. Here’s six in addition to the Angler Mite you’ll see in the insect collection image below. These little guys are probably a lot cuter than the insects that may be invading your garden or home this spring. Check out that fuzzy coat on our adorable little Umbra Bee on the bottom right!

Lots and lots and lots of fixes

I skim through the changelog to remind myself what we did over the past month, and this month there were about 4 pages worth of fixes. A lot of these are too small to mention, but it includes many fixes to furniture, controller support fixes, improving the usability of various UIs. We made a concerted effort to go through all the clothing and fix minor layout problems with them. One playtester noticed that the crafting recipe for sawdust required that they already had some sawdust, so that was fixed. Some of the oldest art in the game, such as the shipping box and scrap pile was redone to match the improved standards we have now.

Play Verdant Skies at GlitchCon17!

Verdant Skies is honored to be included in this year’s Minnecade! Come playtest at GlitchCon May 5-7th. We’re hoping to get some really long playtests out of this convention in order to test some of the new content. Most people who play for 2 hours really only start to scratch the surface of what we’ve got finished… which is really encouraging!

Verdant Skies- New in March

New fog effects, audio, controller support!

March has been a busy month for us; we showed Verdant Skies at MinneBar, a Minnesota tech conference. We all worked really hard to make VS as polished as possible for the event. For me, that meant a lot of work into perfecting the controller support, since only XBox controllers were available at the event. We got a great team picture of myself, Beth, and Lizzy.

Marsh Fog

Scott ( @slembcke ) had some free time to help out on the project, and one of the awesome shaders he wrote adds fog to the marsh. Fog changes with the time of day and has a configurable height off the ground. It’s all drawn in the same pass as the sprites themselves, so it’s very fast. We’ve also got a nice night-time / morning fog that occurs in other areas.

Even More Interiors

Beth ( @bethkorth ) has been hard at work making interiors for the new characters. Without revealing too much about the new ones, here are a few sneak peeks.

New Sound Effects and Music

Our two audio masters have been hard at work! Troy ( @yellowchord ) has started writing adaptive music for Verdant Skies, so the outdoor music will flow and change with in-game events dynamically. Topher ( @PhantomFreq ) did a great pass through the sound effects in-game. There are a few special events like the house construction that feel much more satisfying with sound.

Improved Fishing

Spear fishing has been a big hit at testing, people say it’s a lot more exciting than waiting for a fish to bite. Topher added new sound effects to the fishing mini-game and I programmed different fish characteristics, so you can see which fish you’re going to catch.

Each region of the map has different fish. Being able to identify which fish are which is pretty handy. In this case, the little fish in the middle is a “Flying Trout”, and it’s a good one to target since it’s great for sushi- an easy to make early cooking recipe.
The fish that are easy to cook are great early-game energy boosters for players who want to get the most out of each day.

Since there are more regions, we needed more types of fish!

Meanwhile, work continues on character events, bug fixes, usability and UI improvements, and all the usual stuff.

Introducing Wyatt

Every space farming colony needs a reliable botanist, and Dr. Wyatt Jones is yours! Friendly albeit a little distant, Wyatt finds little use for small talk. However, he will be more than happy to speak at length regarding the sciences. Use his vast knowledge to aid you in your farming endeavors.

Verdant Skies Development News

It’s still February somewhere in the world

Yeah, technically it might be March now, but we’ve been so busy working on the game, posting about the news falls to the back burner. And honestly, making the game is more fun than writing blog posts anyway.
Cleanup, polish, improvements, and even a few new features have been the focus for the last month. Under the hood, there’s been some big upgrades to the audio engine (upgrading WWise to a new version) and a major rework on how shadows and reflections are rendered. These changes allow for better performance and fix a few outstanding graphical glitches that we’ve mostly just avoided showing in screenshots. Shadows and reflections are now much more consistent. For example, when you see a flower waving in the wind, the reflection and the shadow now also wave.

Insect Catching

Insect collecting is a new memory-matching style mechanic we’ve introduced. Alpha testers have loved the fishing mini-game, so we wanted to expand that to other resource gathering tasks. In order to successfully collect an insect, you need to find a matching pair of them out in the world. Once you’ve got a pair, the insects go into your inventory and can be sold (maybe even cooked), or given to a character who collects them in their terrarium.

Jade’s Room

New Interior Decorations

Lizzy has been hard at work making new interior decorations (in addition to new portraits for old and new characters). The extra wallpapers, floors, and new furniture allow for a lot more personalization in the interiors.

Rosie’s Room

Story and Dialogue

Two new characters now have their arrival events written, bringing the total of already unlockable in-game characters to six. We’ve got 6000 lines of dialog in the project so far, and we’ve fleshed out most of the first five friendship events for the first four characters. After the five friendship events, you unlock the next five romance events- somewhere towards the end of that group, you make the decision to exclusively date that person, which can lead you towards marriage.

We’ve also done the programming work necessary to move the quests, mails, and event triggers out to a separate file. These are easy-to-edit json files, and it allows us to work on them without having to recompile the game. But more importantly, it allows for the possibility of users editing the files to add their own content!

The cave has also received some upgrades.

Preorders Available

We’ve made pre-orders available via the Humble Bundle store! Once Verdant Skies is released, you can redeem a steam key for the game through the Humble Bundle site. If you’d like to support our development process, you can preorder on the Verdant Skies page. Pre-orders aren’t for everyone- don’t worry, we’ll let you know when the game is released too!

Trees take a few days to regrow now, forcing players to explore a bit further if they are doing major lumber construction projects.

Introducing Jade

The mastermind behind the colonization of Viridis Primus, the colony’s administrator Jade Worthington is a force to be reckoned with. Direct and driven, Jade enjoys the company of likeminded people. Laziness or ineptitude is sure to land you on her bad side. Her motives are a mystery but it is obvious that she is determined to make this endeavor succeed no matter the cost.

Developing Rosie’s Art Style

Character portraits in Verdant Skies have changed a lot through the development process. Each character begins with a biography, which plays a major role in every decision on the character’s design- clothing, attitude, pose, and more.

 

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Once the basics have been nailed down in the sketch, Lizzy begins to refine the details of the character and render the character in more detail.

 

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At this point, the design of Rosie is pretty nailed down. We’ve continued to change the art style for the in-game portraits.. so Lizzy creates the final portrait.

 

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Once this final version of Rosie is finished, new versions are made to show Rosie laughing, embarrassed, concerned, and whatever other expressions are required for the narrative.

Usability Study

We participated in a usability study by a local user experience expert. She played an alpha version of Verdant Skies for about two hours and wrote up a heuristic analysis. We’re working on fixing some of the usability issues she found. Check out her report!

December Development Update!

Gamer’s Rhapsody: Best Game of 2016!

At Gamer’s Rhapsody we won 2016 Game of the Year and Best Story! And best of all, we had a lot of players who got to sit down with Verdant Skies and play through the beginning of the game. Since Gamer’s Rhapsody is a relatively small convention, players were able to continue their saves on the second and third day of the convention, so half a dozen players were able to get 1-3 hours of gameplay! Thanks to our dedicated testers who got through the first 3 character events, picked and sold $500 worth of flowers, and got all the tool upgrades.

Thanks to Gamer’s Rhapsody for an amazing con!

Feedback from the testers filled several notebook pages and has been a huge help in balancing prices and the timing for the first dozen events.

Polishing Animations

A lot of polishing is happening throughout the game. One good example is this new animation when fields are watered.

Look at those fields!

Fertilizer, Sprinklers, and Area Specific Crops

I’ve been working on some of the more advanced farming features. After watching some of the people who played a longer amount of time at Gamer’s Rhapsody, I realized there was room for more advancement in farming. Once players have done a few rotations of crops in one or two fields, they are looking for some ways to make themselves more effective. Fertilizer increases the growth rate of a crop – and a certain genetic trait makes it a requirement. Sprinklers allow you to water a whole 2×2 field with a single touch.

Drag and drop to apply fertilizer

I’ve also finally done the programming to unlock region specific crops. Rice, for example, grows only in the marsh. Cactus plants can only be cultivated in the mountains.

Controller Support

We’ve added controller support and the ability to rebind the keyboard keys. The game is still completely playable with just the mouse, but our goal is to make it playable with just a keyboard or just a controller as well. We’re testing with XBox, PlayStation, and Steam controllers, but the system should work with just about any controller you can imagine. Worst case, you’ll have to bind some buttons manually in the interface.

Controller Support!

The biggest challenge with controller support is making sure all the menus can be navigated effectively with the controller. This has proven to be time consuming so far, but it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing the work.

This is one of six new hairstyles.

We’re continuing to add new clothing and hairstyle options. I’ve developed an animation testing tool so it’s easier to make sure all the clothing lines up properly.

Introducing Rosie

Rosie Martinez is the colony’s talented mechanical engineer. Blind from birth, she never let her disability hinder her adventurous nature. She has a knack for fixing things and has many patents for her original designs. Respected by her peers on the home world, Rosie now uses her gifts to aid you in your colonization of Viridis Primus.

Greenlight Successful! November News

Thanks for your Greenlight Support!

Verdant Skies has been successfully Greenlit on Steam! We are deeply grateful for all of your votes and support; thanks to you, our game will be available on Steam when it is done.

New Clothing, Mechanics, Everything!

So much has changed in the last month, it’s hard to make a list. We’ve got a new flexible clothing system that allows you to combine dozens of different shirts, pants, skirts, and accessories.

The map has expanded to include the eastern side of the river, which includes a new lake where you can harvest clay for your pottery. The color theme of the eastern bank gives the new area a pretty different feel, it transitions from the green grass on the west side towards a purple theme.

New character art and new map areas!

Crafting Overhaul

The crafting system has been overhauled- many new items have been added, but we’ve also cleaned up which items get crafted at which station. The 3D Printer is used mainly for crafting objects that have a specific gameplay purpose or can be used to craft other things. The 3D Printer can queue 5 items at a time and things generally take the better part of a day to print.

Contrast that with the woodworking workbench, which is used mostly to make decorative items for your home. Items take a few hours to make at the workbench, but it actually consumes the your time to make these items.

If you find yourself with time left over at the end of the day, use your time at the workbench, artist easel, or in the kitchen! Without using energy you’ve reserved for chopping wood, you can make a tidy profit or restore some energy with a homecooked meal.

One of the new craftable items is the alarm clock, which allows you to nap anytime you want and wake up at the time of your choosing.

The pottery station provides 50+ decorative options for your home, plus the possibility of a steady daily income.

Interior Decorating

More and more interior items are being added. Once you invite Miles to the planet, you’ll be able to buy flooring, wallpapers, windows, and recolorable rugs.

Change the flooring and wallpapers of your home… with a fancy animation!

Gene Splicing

The genetic engineering UI has been reworked again in order to improve the usability. There isn’t really anything else like this that I’m aware of, so it’s taken a lot of redesign to make it easy to use. The big usability fixes in the latest changes to the genetic interface have focused on immediately showing the effect of your splice location.

There will still be a few important changes to come to this UI:

  • You’ll be able to label/mark your seeds, so you can keep them sorted easily.
  • The UI will probably go full-screen to better fit the resulting traits without needing to scroll.

The below picture shows the combination of two seeds with some positive and negative traits. Notice that one of the two genes that code for “Needs extra water” overlap with the quality trait. We could move our splice point to remove the last blue gene, but that would eliminate both the positive and negative trait. But we did get the necessary regrowth gene out of the bottom seed, and that’s one of my favorite traits so far.

The new Genetic Splicer is also red/green colorblind friendly by default.

There are also a dozen events for the first four characters. Wyatt likes to request plant samples from new areas of the planet.

New watering particle effects and new outfits!

Play Verdant Skies at Gamer’s Rhapsody

If you’re in Minnesota, stop by the Gamer’s Rhapsody conference to play a preview build! The convention is this weekend, November 18th – 20th. We will have a booth at the Gamer’s Rhapsody Indie Developer room. Also, you can use the coupon code “GR3” for a discount on admission. If you’re a student, use “GRstudent” for even cheaper tickets!

Vote on Steam Greenlight!

Steam Greenlight Voting

We’re now on Steam Greenlight, and we need your votes to get Verdant Skies listed on Steam! Please vote for us on our Greenlight page. Voting is free, you just need a steam account, and the more “yes” votes we get, the sooner Verdant Skies will be on Steam!

New Gameplay Video


Our new video shows off all sorts of new things you can do in Verdant Skies. Check out the upgraded fishing system, the crafting systems, planting, watering, and harvesting crops.

Furniture Placement

Big advancements have been made to our furniture system. Now your paintings will automatically snap to walls, and certain small objects can be placed on top of tables. We’ve also updated the shop, so you can purchase decorative rugs and interior windows to make your house really feel like a home.

This picturesque lake is just west of the town center. You can build the western town expansion from this area, which adds a roadway and new building sites for more colonists.

Verdant Skies – September News

September Developer Update:

Since the last public showing at 2D Con, nearly every aspect of the game has been improved. New music has been composed, artwork has been repainted, game mechanics have been reprogrammed, and new events have been written! For more detailed updates, follow us on Twitter and check the blog.

Updated the water graphics- it reflects sunlight as it shimmers and the foamy shoreline moves in and out slowly.

Weather System

New weather system! Rain storms come through at random times during a day and water all your crops for you.

Art Updates

While our exterior environment was strong at 2D Con, many small adjustments were made to improve the cohesion of the world. The flora and fauna were redesigned, and an overhaul of the roads has really helped tie the world together visually. In addition to the exteriors, the interior placeholder art has been replaced with tastefully designed rooms and accents that the player can customize as they please. The NPC art has been updated again as Lizzy strives to find a cohesive rendering style for the characters. We now have four fully rendered characters in a consistent style and are working on additional emotion portraits to accentuate the dialog. Our recent closed playtests have provided a great perspective on what we’ve accomplished, and what still needs work.

The new interior art allows players to move, replace, and eventually recolor all these items of furniture!

More Character Events

Since 2D Con, the entire intro has been rewritten for clarity and to increase player involvement. Beth has also been hard at work creating more relationship events for the first four non-player characters. We also have new daily dialogs for them. The bios for the next two NPCs are in the works as well, and the visual descriptions have been sent to the artist. Hopefully by Gamer’s Rhapsody we will have the friendship events and daily dialogs for the first six NPCs completed to allow for a more robust experience.

New character emotion portraits!

UI Rework

The UI is probably going to continue to change, but we’ve moved to a simpler and cleaner style for the interface.

No spoilers here!

Tool upgrades! Each standard tool now has three different upgrades. The upgraded versions are faster and use less energy, but they also can be used to access different areas, or farm in more difficult terrain. There are two secret tools you’ll unlock as you progress through the beginning of the game.

August Verdant Skies Update

A huge amount of work has been done on Verdant Skies since our last post. The first programming pass has been finished on the in-game map. As I watch new testers play the game, I find that the map makes a pretty big difference in how they interact with the NPCs. Since they can find the characters more easily, they can get the dialog for each character every day, and they get a lot more of that person’s story.

New Map

When a character is inside a building, their icon appears above the building! The map wasn’t very useful without that feature.

We’ve also been hard at work on content- like cooking! Lizzy has drawn a bunch of amazing cooked food items. We’ll have a special blog post about her artwork soon. Cooking isn’t required if you want to sell your food- it doesn’t really increase the value of most items… but cooked items can be eaten to restore your energy. So if you really want to pack the most into each day, cooking will be an important part of that.

Cooking

One other bit of gameplay that has recently been reworked is the hybridization system. Everything you plant has a genome. You can either choose to ignore this system, or carefully combine crops you’ve grown in order to unlock special traits. We haven’t finished the tutorial that comes along with unlocking the hybridization machine, but it’s in-game:

In this image, the player is inspecting a Bristlegrain seed. It’s genome is represented by the red and green bars at the top of the screen. This is a pretty good seed, as it has traits for extra yield and a faster growth rate. You can see how it’s genome matches the requirements for the two traits shown.

Genetic Traits

You can also browse the list of traits you’ve discovered in any seeds. For example, the regrowth trait will automatically replant a crop after it is harvested. The required genome is shown, so you can attempt to modify plants towards the desired characteristics.

Genetic Traits