Monday, March 7, 2011

Release schedule

No, I am not releasing but I do have a schedule and I am going to talk about it. And also about what I mean by release.

Now, there are two important versions that we need to talk about. The first is the “release” version and then version 0.1. The first release, codenamed “Stoneage” will be the first release quality form of this project. I have a very clear idea of the features that it will include and in my next post I will detail all these features. The number of features is in no way meant to be taken as a competitive feature set when comparing DwarvesH with the competition. Not when comparing by quantity. On the other hand the features will be deep enough and I’ll try to raise the quality as high as I can with the resources I have at my disposal. So “Stoneage“ will feature single Z-level fortress building on a small map generated according to some parameters, with the focus been on never before seen (I hope) depth in the way plants are handled and with a number of wood and stone related products and tools that will be near final. It will also have the new item browser, a “dwarf browser” and other small touches. What it will not have is metal working, hence the name. You will still be able to choose a few required metal tools on embark, but you will not be able to set up a metalworking industry.

The above description might seem interesting, boring or something else to you.  But actually I was not that precise when giving it. This is not “Stoneage”. It is version 0.1. Stoneage will be between version 0.1 and version 0.2, a more polished, feature rich and more gameish experience than 0.1, which will serve as a foundation.

And now to answer the when and the how. My plan is to have “Stoneage” done somewhere between July and September. The three month period is a buffer for me if by some ill fortune I only finish 0.1 by the 1st of July, I still have ample time to fire it up. The rest of the details, the how, I do not know yet. All the properties are not set in stone (public, private, free, cost, open-source, organ donation, mandatory pet adoption…) and please do not ask about them before somewhere close to the release date. I do not know right now and do not really care. Coding now, politics later.

But between 0.1 and Stoneage, I must decide on the final name for the project, create a web site and launch the editor service. Here’s the short version: I will make the editor publically available, and launch a site/service with which the editor and the game will interact. Here you will be able to do fun stuff, like registering and account and making your own rule set available to others if you wish. Registering will not be mandatory of course. First version of the service will be very simple, but it should be enough.

And speaking of the editor, I will be seriously opening it up. Wide as canyon.  I realized that my fix set of rules is somewhat of a limitation. Not only will I impose my own vision upon the world, but unavoidably some Dwarf fortress influences will linger on. This won’t be such a problem if I make the editor more free form. Do you want to try something more radical? Do you want your trees to bear fruit with seeds made out of diamonds?  And after planting those diamonds, do you want to get battle axes instead of a new tree? Done! The new editor will be much more open ended. This also increases the responsibility of someone using the tool, but I hope we will get to see some interesting worlds.

You may have noticed that I wasn’t that active the last few days. I’ve been busy. Both with the project and other endeavors. But I did not code that much, I was very busy with designing. The question of content still remains, as does the controversy of using elements from DF.

Let’s take trees as an example. And let’s say that I don’t want to have the trees from DF. There are multiple solutions. First, I can make up my own absolutely fantastical names. So I can have a schubooboolou tree with minghidingidong fruit. And plump dragonsword chikantras for seed. This could easily get out of hand. Learning dozens of new made up terms would not serve the learning curve well. Or I could still make up names, but do it in a more traditional way, by using the same principles as people used in the past to name trees. This way we get brightwood, swampwood, morningleaf and moonleaf. Actually, moonleaf sounds pretty good and I’ll add this tree as soon as I figure out an interesting property for it that will serve its name well. Or I can go with existing species. And when going with existing species, you will find that a lot of the DF items are heavily inspired by existing species. So I have a simple rule: if the item exists in reality and I do want to keep it around, I will, regardless if it is on the list of any other game. I will not give up on acacias or apple trees. But these items will have different properties, sometime more deep, sometimes more superficial. The properties will either be reality inspired or will serve to fill a void in gameplay.

And speaking of acacias, let me illustrate how this tree will differ from the one in Dwarf Fortress.  In Dwarf Fortress trees are fairly similar. Acacias have name, density, biome, deciduous status and a few template properties for their material and material of objects created from them. I do not have density, but I do have the rest of properties except the material templates in one form or another. But my trees have leaves. Pickable leaves. You can even “kill” a tree by repeatedly removing all its leaves. Leaves are similar to plants but unable of reproduction. You can eat them, use them for cooking or process them. Or you could. Acacia leaves are not useful, but other leaves from other trees might be. And with the new open ended editor, some leaves and some water might be the only thing that separates you from the most awesome tea ever. What is interesting about acacias is their fruit, the acacia seed pods. They are edible and cookable. Their seeds, wattleseed, is again edible and cookable, but they can also be milled into flour. And then made into “bush bread”. Acacia gum is a primary base for a lot of paints. But you need to add pigment obtained from other sources. Of course, I might not be able to add all the uses and recipes in time for release. I spent quite a while researching different plants and uses.  Do you know what a genera or a taxonomic family is? I certainly didn’t and I’m not sure I know now. This is where the editor comes in. Once it is done and you know how to use it, adding a new use for the seeds or leaves or whatever, together with an associated cooking or processing recipe should be done in 5 minutes. Researching and balancing the new recipe, and finding a good use for it that will enhance your enjoyment of the game on the other hand is priceless. This is no wishful thinking I am doing. You will see all these features added slowly, one post at a time.

OK, this post is getting to long. Rant quota exceeded. Engaging thrusters. Join me next time for the full bullet list of the feature set from version 0.1.


  1. Hey!, nice game you are making, i cant wait until it is finish, or released.

    P.S: ¿Are you making this game by your own, or you are making it with other peoples?

  2. Yes, I am working alone. And only in a fraction of my free time. But I would love to work with someone so we can finish faster. But it would be quite difficult to find somebody to collaborate with. I need someone who I can get along with, with expert level knowledge of C++ and web services, a programming style similar to my own, familiarity and passion for the genre and willingness to work on something with uncertain future and questionable financial investment. So almost impossible to find someone. Maybe if I go open source. But then I would have to manage, coordinate and review all patches sent from people that I do not know and who may or may not share my vision for the project.

    This only goes for the coding. I have been looking for quite a while for a freelancer to hire to do my graphics. I need a talented individual who can give consistency to my tile sets and take the visuals in new creative direction starting from my concept art.

  3. Since you're going to work on the plants list, could you also include a coffee plant? it could have awesome properties such as higher speed in performing tasks for a short period after eating them... (just a thought from a coffee lover :) )

    but seriously now, congrats for the plan, it looks ambitious and i can't wait to try out the "stoneage" version.

  4. Well... i would like to help you but im not such a good programmer (I just know a bit of C) or a nice artist. Is there any other way i could help? :)