Lots of good news here. I got everything done I was hoping for, and more. There's a brand new demo out with all of these new features. I will probably add a few more small features before the final demo release, but all of the major features should be pretty set now.
My big goal right now is to get this version of the demo in front of people and get some feedback so I can figure out the most important things that need improvement.
Here's a list of the major changes in this version:
- Soil Toxicity -
The chemical-based fertilizers now add toxicity to the soil. In the future there will be other sources of toxicity as well. Toxicity spreads to surrounding soil in rain. Certain soil microbes can help to clean up toxicity if it gets too high. Plants all have a certain tolerance for toxicity; beyond a certain point it will inhibit their growth and too far beyond it will kill the plant.
Despite the drawbacks, chemical fertilizers may be the best option at times. They are cheaper, inject nutrients much faster than organic fertilizers, and inject more total nutrients. The 2 types of fertilizers should now reflect the principle of short-term versus long-term effects that you'll see throughout Plotz.
- Soil Microbes -
Good soil is the home of many types of tiny living things, and I wanted to capture some sense of that in Plotz. Certain plant families will now play host to different kinds of soil microbes. The microbes have effects such as restoring nutrients to the soil, boosting certain organic fertilizers, and eliminating soil toxins.
Maintaining a healthy population of beneficial soil microbes is going to be one important way to sustain your farm over the long term.
- Fruit Quality -
This new feature is an unexpected treat. I didn't plan on getting it into the game so early, but after some testing I found an overall problem with the balance of the game. Essentially there was no good reason to keep more than a bare minimum of nutrients in your farm's soil.
Now, soil with more nutrients will generate higher quality fruit that sells for more money. This is another vital area of balance between short-term and long-term planning in Plotz.
"Burning down" the nutrients in soil without spending the money on fertilizer to replace them will generate a short-term influx of cash. But after the initial boost, the soil will be unproductive and generate low-value fruit.
If you instead spend money early on to upgrade the quality of your soil, it will be able to produce much higher-value fruit and make you more money over the long term.
- New Plants -
More exciting stuff I didn't originally plan on! Say hello to the four new plants you can now grow in Plotz:
- Alfalfa - A repeating spring crop, and the game's first legume. Rumor has it that like all legumes it hosts the bacteria Sinorhizobium Meliloti, which adds nitrogen to the soil. Handy!
- Broccoli - A new fall crop with a little bit of an unusual nutrient uptake profile. Give it a try, you'll like it.
- Clover - A new cover crop, it grows in any season. If you're lucky, it might just help you clean up a toxic mess or two.
- Sweet Potato - A new summer crop that loves lots of hot weather.
- Calendar Stat Tracking -
I told you I was busy! There is now a brand new, more detailed system for tracking what you do on your farm. This new tracking information has 2 purposes.
First, it gives me a way to collect data from my beta testers so I can see what they're doing and give me some insight into improvements that are needed.
Second, I will eventually be using the data to show a calendar in the game from the House menu that will show you when you planted crops, when you harvested them, when new crops will be ready to harvest, etc. I think it'll be a nice tool for planning the near future of your farm.
Coming up Next
December is going to be a bit of an unusual month for me because there's going to be lots of non-development work to do. Really the next few months are going to be all about getting the game and marketing stuff done so that Plotz is ready to be shown to the public. The big picture of what this includes is:
- Getting this website to be live
- Business stuff - the LLC, budgets, and all the fun that goes with that
- Final polish and balancing of the code, with improvements from feedback I get from beta testers
- Final art, hopefully from some artist who can draw stuff way better than me
- Possibly getting some music and/or sound effects into the game
- A ton of marketing material put together for the eventual Kickstarter campaign
For December I'm going to get the website live, start the big beta test, start putting the business together, and will be looking for artists to help with the final assets. I'll let you all know how it goes!