The State of Homestead

One Year Later

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Posted 08/17/2016 20:09:50 in Homestead

Updated 07/09/2017 13:06:51

This time, I want to take a minute to describe my vision for Homestead, its history, and its state right now. It currently has a big chunk of the basic gameplay logic implemented, a sweet data system, weather/time/date/sun systems, a neat audio and music system, a few assets that I've created, and some other odds and ends systems. It also has a nearly 40-page design document, which is full of notes and ideas that I've accumulated over the past year and a half. I've been working on this version of the game for just over a year now, and I've been wanting to create it since I started using Unity back in 2013 (and even before-- I briefly worked on a 2D Harvest Moon-style game back in 2007!). The initial idea was to bring a farming RPG to PC, and to fix all the problems that I saw with the Harvest Moon series. They don't always have the best pacing, translations, or performance, but they're so damn good!

Homestead's first dialog engine.
Homestead's first dialog engine.

Since then, my overall goal with Homestead has evolved to focus on depth, instead of breadth, and across the whole project. Something that bothers me about a lot of games is that often, the wide variety of items and characters ends up being a little disappointing when you realize that they're really only superficially different. Crafting systems partially address this in regards to items, but they often result in "find A, find B, combine in C to make D". I've always liked how the Zelda series handles items-- there are usually only a few, but they all have very unique effects and uses. With Homestead, I'm going in with that mindset. There might only end up being Cows, Chickens, and Dogs* as far as types of animals that you can raise, but that will allow me to put more resources into developing more interesting and deeper interactions that you can have with those animals!

*These are just the animals on my "Essential" list-- I'm definitely planning on including Horses as well!

Early screenshot of Homestead
An early screenshot of Homestead

I've also been thinking about the state of the industry, and this niche in particular. After the initial excitement of seeing how well Stardew Valley has been received, I was actually pretty shaken up. I'm really afraid of the incoming slew of Steam clones, and the market getting saturated with various forms of Harvest Moon-ish games. I felt like my window of opportunity for Homestead was shrinking, and that it might get lost among a sea of cash-grab games. Initially I could put 30-40+ hours a week into this project, since I didn't have a full-time job, so I felt like I could finish it in a reasonable timeframe by myself. Now that I work full time, I've only been working on Homestead for 10-20 hours a week, and on top of taking classes, it keeps me really busy without a satisfying amount of forward progress.

Betsy the cow
Betsy the cow

Note from July 2017: Shortly after writing this, I ran into the issue of harder classes and a new role at work taking up more of my time :( I'm still plugging away where I can, but realistically, development won't take off again until the end of 2017.

So here's what I'm doing now. I don't want this to be just a hobby project anymore, so I've spent nearly every free moment of the last week and a half building up my Trello board with every bit of work that will need to be completed to finish Homestead, including estimates of time and specific assets that I will need, all categorized into "Essential Systems", "Ideal Systems", and "Dream Systems". I'm finishing up the gameplay design for the systems that I hadn't written out yet (I'm super excited about the way fishing will work by the way, but I'm saving that for a later post ;). I'm writing out my risk management plans, cost plans, and quality plans. Once the plans are well-developed, I'm going to start looking for people to bring on board! I'll feel a lot more comfortable pursuing funding for it as well, and I'm taking a more serious look at the various options available to game developers.

A look at the pond shader
A look at the pond shader

Even if it ends up just being me working on the "Essential Systems" list, Homestead will be finished in some shape or form. However, I think it has a lot of potential to get excited about, and I'm going to need help for that! I've been doing my own research into crowdfunding, venture capital, and small business loans, but if you have any kind of experience fundraising for a game project I'd love to pick your brain :) In any case, expect to see me release more details about the planned features in the upcoming weeks and months!

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