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Fireside Chats (with a video game designer) - June 20, 2014


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Hey everyone! For those of you who don’t know who I am yet, my name is Seth Rosen. I’m a designer who has worked on The Screecher and Reign of Giants while at Klei. For those who do know me:

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirVtiJuvDs

(or something like that, anyways).

Last week, Joe gave you a progress report on Don’t Starve Together (which was an awesome overview of where we’re at and what we've got left to do!). This week, I wrapped up my work on Reign of Giants and am now transitioning to work on Don’t Starve Together. One of the last things that I did while working on Reign of Giants was to write a novella--okay, maybe just a short story--that relates an abridged history of Don’t Starve and talks about the process of designing Reign of Giants. Because it’s quite long, I’m going to spread it out and post pieces of it over the next couple weeks. After that, whenever I can manage the time, I’m going to continue writing dev logs focusing more directly on our progress with Don’t Starve Together. Now that I’m concentrating on Don’t Starve Together, I’ll be more active on this subforum as well.

 

Don’t Starve Together: Team Composition and What We’re Doing

 

Now that I've fully joined the Don’t Starve Together team, what does that change? Not an enormous amount, actually. Sure, there’s one more person banging on a keyboard. But even before my arrival, the technical problems that needed solving (i.e. the biggest roadblocks to Don’t Starve Together existing in a truly playable state) were in good hands: we've got three programmers working out the networking and syncing for the game. They’re making great progress and we’re hoping to do another group play session in the office soon. Those three programmers were the entire Don’t Starve Together team before I joined them--now we are four. In a few weeks, we’ll be adding an artist to the team to help us make the new screens needed for multiplayer (i.e. server browser, etc) nice and pretty and to add any new animations etc that we’ll need. We don’t know what those animations actually are yet, but the work that I’m doing will determine that in short order. Specifically, I’ll be focusing on resolving the complications in gameplay and mechanics/systems introduced by additional players being in the mix. Largely this means answering questions like “how does death function?” and “what happens to the game time if you sleep in a tent (or do anything else that skips time) with other players in the game?”

 

Right now, I’m experimenting with death and revival mechanics. Don’t Starve is a slow enough and long enough game that we don’t anticipate that people will primarily be playing a given character in just one sitting. Because of that, we’re going to need a way for people to play in persistent worlds. This, in turn, means that death needs to be a slightly softer failure, otherwise your multiplayer game quickly becomes a single player game. My first test is making it so that when you die, you turn into a ghost. Ghosts can haunt things in the world and those things will have various reactions to being haunted. Generally, as a ghost, you’re trying to re-establish your connection to the physical plane. Fully establishing that connection will revive you, but staying a ghost for too long will decrease your maximum health, including after revival. I haven’t seen this ghost mechanic in action in a “real” situation yet (i.e. not just me testing it with two instances of the game running on my machine) and it may not end up being in the game, much less the default behavior, but I like how it’s shaking out so far. A quick aside: I mentioned default behavior there because we’re hoping to allow you to play in a few different ways--persistent and more casual games, competitive and more antagonistic games, and hardcore/”true Don’t Starve” games . Anyways, once the ghost stuff is fleshed out a bit more, I’ll try to grab some video to show you folks what this early and experimental stuff looks like.

 

An Abridged History of Don’t Starve: Focused Development

 

To give you a bit of historical context to the size and makeup of the group making Don’t Starve Together, Reign of Giants was built with a team of two designers, one programmer, two artists and one sound designer. Don’t Starve’s team started at about six strong during pre-beta, growing in size to approximately twelve at the height of development (i.e. when releasing frequent updates). Bear in mind that basically everyone at Klei wears multiple hats: animators make art for the UI, designers write gameplay code, programmers come up with designs, etc etc. Though I've presented these as different teams, realistically, it’s just been different focuses for Don’t Starve and the group working on it. So what’s the history behind these shifts in focus and team composition?

 

Don’t Starve first became publicly available as a beta version during the Summer of 2012. If you were around then, the game that you played was quite different from what you see today. Even the version that existed on the day of the game’s official release (April 23, 2013) was pretty different from that initial version (and today’s version, for that matter). Despite all the changes, the core aesthetic experience of playing Don’t Starve didn't go through any massive tectonic shifts. Mechanics have come and gone, creatures and seasons have been added, etcetera etcetera. The game has evolved through iterative and incremental development and through community feedback and discussions. Throughout, our efforts were focused on making a single player survival experience in a procedurally generated world full of mysterious creatures and interacting systems.

 

At the end of October 2013, Don’t Starve was “done”. We’d just finished releasing frequent updates for six months following the official release, as promised. Having finished the updates, which kept us quite busy, we had a chance to take a breath and really examine where the game sat. We were very happy with the game as it was and proud of what we had made--it felt complete and we were excited to see what the modding community would do with the game as time went on. But just because something is complete doesn’t mean it can’t be more.

 

Enter Reign of Giants, but with a worse name at the time--it went through a few iterations, mostly mediocre-at-best puns involving “seasons”. The team sat down to talk about the various aspects of Don’t Starve: which aspects we felt worked well (i.e. things to reinforce and recreate) and which could be made deeper and more robust for veteran players. With a longer development period than the preceding updates, Reign of Giants provided us a chance to make larger changes. We wanted to continue with the core experience of Don’t Starve and emphasize the highs and minimize the lows, or at least make them less frequent.

 

Now it’s June 2014, Reign of Giants is finished and we’re excited about the state of the game. But, as was the case in October, just because something is complete doesn't mean it can’t be more. We had an opportunity to switch gears a bit and take a serious look at something that, despite being a hot topic, had not yet truly been viable: multiplayer. There are still a lot of questions as to exactly what that means and, together with the community, we’re eager to figure out what that game mode will offer. For all the questions that multiplayer presents, there are a couple things we know for sure: 1) It’s the end of an era: the end of Don’t Starve as a strictly single player experience (and, thus, development focusing on that aspect of the game) and 2) once again, the team will be focusing on one thing (Don’t Starve Together, in this case) for the immediate future and we don’t know what may come after that.

 

That’s it for today. In the future, I’ll talk about the process of building Reign of Giants and, beyond that, write some more current-events posts as we make Don’t Starve Together a reality.

 

As always, keep the thoughts coming! We’ll be watching.

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Hey everyone! For those of you who don’t know who I am yet, my name is Seth Rosen. I’m a designer who has worked on The Screecher and Reign of Giants while at Klei. For those who do know me:

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirVtiJuvDs

(or something like that, anyways).

Last week, Joe gave you a progress report on Don’t Starve Together (which was an awesome overview of where we’re at and what we've got left to do!). This week, I wrapped up my work on Reign of Giants and am now transitioning to work on Don’t Starve Together. One of the last things that I did while working on Reign of Giants was to write a novella--okay, maybe just a short story--that relates an abridged history of Don’t Starve and talks about the process of designing Reign of Giants. Because it’s quite long, I’m going to spread it out and post pieces of it over the next couple weeks. After that, whenever I can manage the time, I’m going to continue writing dev logs focusing more directly on our progress with Don’t Starve Together. Now that I’m concentrating on Don’t Starve Together, I’ll be more active on this subforum as well.

 

Don’t Starve Together: Team Composition and What We’re Doing

 

Now that I've fully joined the Don’t Starve Together team, what does that change? Not an enormous amount, actually. Sure, there’s one more person banging on a keyboard. But even before my arrival, the technical problems that needed solving (i.e. the biggest roadblocks to Don’t Starve Together existing in a truly playable state) were in good hands: we've got three programmers working out the networking and syncing for the game. They’re making great progress and we’re hoping to do another group play session in the office soon. Those three programmers were the entire Don’t Starve Together team before I joined them--now we are four. In a few weeks, we’ll be adding an artist to the team to help us make the new screens needed for multiplayer (i.e. server browser, etc) nice and pretty and to add any new animations etc that we’ll need. We don’t know what those animations actually are yet, but the work that I’m doing will determine that in short order. Specifically, I’ll be focusing on resolving the complications in gameplay and mechanics/systems introduced by additional players being in the mix. Largely this means answering questions like “how does death function?” and “what happens to the game time if you sleep in a tent (or do anything else that skips time) with other players in the game?”

 

Right now, I’m experimenting with death and revival mechanics. Don’t Starve is a slow enough and long enough game that we don’t anticipate that people will primarily be playing a given character in just one sitting. Because of that, we’re going to need a way for people to play in persistent worlds. This, in turn, means that death needs to be a slightly softer failure, otherwise your multiplayer game quickly becomes a single player game. My first test is making it so that when you die, you turn into a ghost. Ghosts can haunt things in the world and those things will have various reactions to being haunted. Generally, as a ghost, you’re trying to re-establish your connection to the physical plane. Fully establishing that connection will revive you, but staying a ghost for too long will decrease your maximum health, including after revival. I haven’t seen this ghost mechanic in action in a “real” situation yet (i.e. not just me testing it with two instances of the game running on my machine) and it may not end up being in the game, much less the default behavior, but I like how it’s shaking out so far. A quick aside: I mentioned default behavior there because we’re hoping to allow you to play in a few different ways--persistent and more casual games, competitive and more antagonistic games, and hardcore/”true Don’t Starve” games . Anyways, once the ghost stuff is fleshed out a bit more, I’ll try to grab some video to show you folks what this early and experimental stuff looks like.

 

An Abridged History of Don’t Starve: Focused Development

 

To give you a bit of historical context to the size and makeup of the group making Don’t Starve Together, Reign of Giants was built with a team of two designers, one programmer, two artists and one sound designer. Don’t Starve’s team started at about six strong during pre-beta, growing in size to approximately twelve at the height of development (i.e. when releasing frequent updates). Bear in mind that basically everyone at Klei wears multiple hats: animators make art for the UI, designers write gameplay code, programmers come up with designs, etc etc. Though I've presented these as different teams, realistically, it’s just been different focuses for Don’t Starve and the group working on it. So what’s the history behind these shifts in focus and team composition?

 

Don’t Starve first became publicly available as a beta version during the Summer of 2012. If you were around then, the game that you played was quite different from what you see today. Even the version that existed on the day of the game’s official release (April 23, 2013) was pretty different from that initial version (and today’s version, for that matter). Despite all the changes, the core aesthetic experience of playing Don’t Starve didn't go through any massive tectonic shifts. Mechanics have come and gone, creatures and seasons have been added, etcetera etcetera. The game has evolved through iterative and incremental development and through community feedback and discussions. Throughout, our efforts were focused on making a single player survival experience in a procedurally generated world full of mysterious creatures and interacting systems.

 

At the end of October 2013, Don’t Starve was “done”. We’d just finished releasing frequent updates for six months following the official release, as promised. Having finished the updates, which kept us quite busy, we had a chance to take a breath and really examine where the game sat. We were very happy with the game as it was and proud of what we had made--it felt complete and we were excited to see what the modding community would do with the game as time went on. But just because something is complete doesn’t mean it can’t be more.

 

Enter Reign of Giants, but with a worse name at the time--it went through a few iterations, mostly mediocre-at-best puns involving “seasons”. The team sat down to talk about the various aspects of Don’t Starve: which aspects we felt worked well (i.e. things to reinforce and recreate) and which could be made deeper and more robust for veteran players. With a longer development period than the preceding updates, Reign of Giants provided us a chance to make larger changes. We wanted to continue with the core experience of Don’t Starve and emphasize the highs and minimize the lows, or at least make them less frequent.

 

Now it’s June 2014, Reign of Giants is finished and we’re excited about the state of the game. But, as was the case in October, just because something is complete doesn't mean it can’t be more. We had an opportunity to switch gears a bit and take a serious look at something that, despite being a hot topic, had not yet truly been viable: multiplayer. There are still a lot of questions as to exactly what that means and, together with the community, we’re eager to figure out what that game mode will offer. For all the questions that multiplayer presents, there are a couple things we know for sure: 1) It’s the end of an era: the end of Don’t Starve as a strictly single player experience (and, thus, development focusing on that aspect of the game) and 2) once again, the team will be focusing on one thing (Don’t Starve Together, in this case) for the immediate future and we don’t know what may come after that.

 

That’s it for today. In the future, I’ll talk about the process of building Reign of Giants and, beyond that, write some more current-events posts as we make Don’t Starve Together a reality.

 

As always, keep the thoughts coming! We’ll be watching.

Hey SethR; great to see you back and talking to us; we missed ya!

 

Thanks for this info; looking forward to hearing more.

 

However there is one question I still have on the tip of my tongue; will Multiplayer 'flesh' out the characters more? Will we ever going to get hints of the stories besides characters who are not Wilson and Maxwell?

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My first test is making it so that when you die, you turn into a ghost. Ghosts can haunt things in the world and those things will have various reactions to being haunted. Generally, as a ghost, you’re trying to re-establish your connection to the physical plane. Fully establishing that connection will revive you, but staying a ghost for too long will decrease your maximum health, including after revival.

Seems like a good idea, except that part about permanently messing up players health. I'd rather have perma-death instead of that...

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  • Developer

Did you  fix the config issues with booleans at least before moving on to this new project?

 

Yes, it's been fixed for a few days now. I included a note about it in the hotfix patch notes. But let's try to stay on topic, yeah?

 

Hey SethR; great to see you back and talking to us; we missed ya!

 

Thanks for this info; looking forward to hearing more.

 

However there is one question I still have on the tip of my tongue; will Multiplayer 'flesh' out the characters more? I we ever going to get hints of the stories behinds characters who are not Wilson and Maxwell?

 

Right now we're focusing on the mechanics and logistics of making Don't Starve Together a reality.

 

This is awesome! Thank you for the update, The ghost mechanic sounds really cool! Do you plan on ever live-streaming the current Dst, and how its coming along?

 

I haven't looked into it too much, but I'd certainly be open to it! We'll have to see as things continue to move along.

 

Seems like a good idea, except that part about permanently messing up players health. I'd rather have perma-death instead of that...

 

That's exactly why I included the bit about having different ways to play :-)

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Thanks SethR for all the hard work you put into Reign of Giants DLC *cough* on your own *cough*. People are going crazy over it on the steam forum. Best of luck with Don't Starve Together. People are going crazy over that too and it's not out yet!

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Well, that was an explosive opening to your post.

 

*Badum-tish*

 

But to business.  I believe JoeW spoke of mod support in his progress report.  How is that going to work?  Are the mods used by the server going to be automatically downloaded upon joining, will you have to download it manually, or something else?

 

EDIT: Also, that ghost mechanic sounds awesome.

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Well, that was an explosive opening to your post.

 

*Badum-tish*

 

But to business.  I believe JoeW spoke of mod support in his progress report.  How is that going to work?  Are the mods used by the server going to be automatically downloaded upon joining, will you have to download it manually, or something else?

 

EDIT: Also, that ghost mechanic sounds awesome.

 

That's a question we won't be able to answer for a bit. The short answer is we want it to be done in the best and most convenient way possible with as little effort on the players part as possible.

 

If you could just automatically download the mod when you join and get right into playing, awesome. But we aren't at the point where we can really determine exactly how we will be able to work that out just yet. 

 

It may just end up that you have to install them yourself before you can join the server. But, we are aiming for convenience here. 

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That's a question we won't be able to answer for a bit. The short answer is we want it to be done in the best and most convenient way possible with as little effort on the players part as possible.

 

If you could just automatically download the mod when you join and get right into playing, awesome. But we aren't at the point where we can really determine exactly how we will be able to work that out just yet. 

 

It may just end up that you have to install them yourself before you can join the server. But, we are aiming for convenience here. 

 

Understandable.  Thank you for the reply :D

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I like the sounds of that Ghost mechanic! That's a really neat way of dealing with the death mechanic if you ask me! 

I think it largely depends on what "haunting" and other things you have to do to revive yourself are, at least for me

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still a bit skeptical about this, but things seem to be turning out great(or I hope are going to)
can't say I'm happy about the ghost idea, but knowing you guys, it can turn out great. But I'm still sad that this means about the change of focus.
well, all I can do is hope you guys can surprise me yet again with high-quality gameplay.:)

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We have ghosts in the game already. Why not come back as a Skeleton or a Zombie? It'll make it sort of unique.

A walking Meat Effigy would be kind of freaky :-)

Skeletons are possible, but the game's style doesn't support shambling zombies well, at all. Although, honestly, death is about now lacking a PHYSICAL form. Skeletons are physical, unfortunately, so that wouldn't work well.

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Skeletons are possible, but the game's style doesn't support shambling zombies well, at all. Although, honestly, death is about now lacking a PHYSICAL form. Skeletons are physical, unfortunately, so that wouldn't work well.

If implemented correctly, changing into a ghost could change the game completely. If not, it'll be just another ambitious idea (doors, krampus, walls, somewhat caves). I think ghost fits best too.

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I think it largely depends on what "haunting" and other things you have to do to revive yourself are, at least for me

 

I thuppose. Maybe it has something to do with your body, who knows. You're revived as a ghost at a random place on the map (which you cannot see) and you have to find your body or something. Or guide the other player(s) to it so they can use a revive item on it. 

Or maybe you have to actually build a rocket to the moon and shoot a laser off of it at your dead body which will cause it to turn into a gem, which will be a component in a tool which when used will summon your ghostly form off the moon and you will now be a pigeon. You must wait two days before being reincarnated again. 

 

...

Just think of the possibilities there are with this. 

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