Another Hive Time Status Update

Buzz buzz!

Since the full Hive Time dev log is so lengthy, I wanted to give a quick update on progress across the first half of August. I did a recap on the work between the last Hive Time status update post at the start of August in the general July recap, so here's a rundown on major items that have happened since then.

A few days ago, I did a stream of a new queen run (which is what I guess I'm going to call playing the game long enough to accumulate enough resources to be able to continue playing). I've since shipped a couple of updates, but minus some audio, it's not a bad representation of where the game's at at the moment.



Defence

The biggest addition to the game in August so far has been the new defence mechanic. This adds a Defence screen to Barracks cells, showing the protected/unprotected status of each of the hive's cells. Barracks provide "coverage" to surrounding cells, which are then marked as protected for a period of time after a Defender bee visits that Barracks. The placement and position of Barracks throughout the hive is now important, and maintaining an active Defender population means something now \o/

The protected/unprotected status of a cell can influence which events can trigger. For example, if you have unprotected honey storage, the ninja fruit flies will sneak in and steal some, but if all of your honey storage cells are protected, you'll instead see an event where they hang around the hive, but eventually go away without incident.

When the final major system goes in and gives some extra Forager/Maproom purpose, I'm planning to expand the options provided by the Defence screen a little, so keep an eye out for that :)



Efficiency improvements

While implementing the defence system, I came across an oversight in some refactoring I'd done a while back, where I inadvertently negated efficiency of the hive's bees. A bee's efficiency stat is what makes a Builder construct faster than a normal Worker bee or a Forager collect more resources than a Worker. This change dramatically impacts the flow of resources into the hive during the late game. At this point in time, a Forager population in excess of 60 or so can support production from two Honey Refineries or help prevent Jelly production from bottoming out nectar and pollen.

Efficiency is also likely to come into play in some bee upgrade stuff I've been working on behind the scenes that I'll hopefully get to in the second half of the month.


New/updated events

As previously mentioned, the new defence mechanic impacts how some events play out. At the moment, these are implemented as separate events with different conditions, but so far as the game's presentation/narrative is concerned, it's the same event with different behaviour in different circumstances. Longer term, I'm going to have to revise this, since whenever the game tries to do an event that the conditions aren't met for, it skips it and waits another 4 minutes or so - the more variants I add, the less likely it is that any event will trigger at all D:

So far, the ones that have been updated with Defence related changes are the "Like the tiny, deadly wind" and "Wasp Attack." Alongside those, I've also added "Gone as quickly as they came," which brings some familiar characters back under certain situations.

Alongside these, I've also added a bunch of new events that provide some extra opportunities for setbacks/advantages. These are "After all these years," in which an old Queen can leave the hive, "Random act of kindness," in which a friendly hummingbird drops by, "Friends we didn't know we had," in which some lost bees find their way home, and "Yam party."

The outlaw slug chain of events also have new images, and Old Bitey has a coloured placeholder image now.


Wax assembler

I finally got around to replacing the old Wax Assembler model, which was a nice idea, but didn't really fit visually with the other production facilities. Early on, I'd envisioned a more Theodor Seuss Geisel-esque feel for the game, and the initial Wax Assembler's winding conveyor belts fit with that. As the bulk of the game's other assets took on a simpler, more geometric feel, it eventually felt more and more out of place.

The new one reuses a lot of motifs from the Honey and Jelly Refineries, but adds little conveyor belts that chunks of wax are carried out of the reservoir and out of sight (eventually to land in the pockets and baskets of Worker bees, I guess!). Since it has animations, the paused/inactive/active states are now far more easily readable.



Tutorials

With the new Wax Assembler model in, I decided it was time to update the tutorial images. I think I might still do some further updates (in particular, I've been thinking that insets showing radial menus for getting to the Population and Research screens might be helpful!), but what's in there now reflects the current look and feel of the game and has nice 16x antialiasing. Yay.



Optimisations

While working on Defence stuff, I came across a bunch of easy opportunities for optimisation. Bee AI and cell processing have had a bunch of attention, to the extent that a mid/late game hive no longer seems to have siginificant script bottlenecks. There are other approaches I want to pursue to try and reduce rendering overheads, but those are things I'll tackle closer to rlease. In the meantime, I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that the game plays a bit better on lower end systems than it previously did.


Wastage

Early on in the month, I spotted that Workers weren't respecting resource storage limits as much as I'd hoped with my initial implementation. Worker bees would avoid producing more resources if storage cells were full, but they weren't checking to see if other Workers were already producing enough to fill everything up. This eliminates a huge amount of potential wastage when producing Jelly, and combined with efficiency fixes, make resource management a lot nicer in the mid to late game.



Music

Peter's been hard at work on music. In the first half of August, we've put in event music for the slug outlaw event chain, and when the last Queen dies. The slug outlaw music is great and conveys some of the potentially sinister ambiguity of that event chain. Having some tragic music play when a game over event happens really helps give a sense of finality to it - hopefully it's not something players will experience a lot, but it needs to have at least a little punch when it does happen.

In an update that should be live by the time this post is up, the first pass on some main menu music will be going in along with a track for the vinehopper science event chain. I've been itching to have some music behind the main menu, but it didn't really make sense to chase that until we had a good feel for the game's musical identity - it's both great to finally fill that void and to be at a point where we can fill it. I love this one to pieces, and I feel like it's a great introduction to the game.

Here are some thoughts from Peter, which highlight that the vinehopper science chain's music has its origins way back in May, shortly after we first started talking about collaborating.

"Two new pieces today, both of which will probably be extended before too long, but we wanted to get these versions into the game. Firstly new event music in Bee March of Bee Progress (I'm not very good at bee wordplay) for our science experiment type events. This one is actually based on the very first made for this project, but it didn't quite have a home until now. A little minimalism influenced and layered, this is also the first use of an electronic instrument in the soundtrack. Bee Menu which... will probably get a better name has a very slow build, so that retreating back into the menu for brief pauses and so on isn't too jarring, but settles in to a chilled out groove based on the 'queen' motif that has featured in Beeginnings and various others"



Bee and environment sounds

Last, but not least, I finally found time to make a start on implementing diagetic audio - sounds that come from or represent in-world sources. There are buzzing sounds attached to individual bees and some more general outdoor bird/cricket/wind/etc. sounds that can be heard when zoomed out away from the hive.

I'd spotted some bees buzzing about a bush at the end of my driveway on an unusually warm day (bees aren't very active during winter) last week, and quickly bustled outside with my field recording gear to grab some audio. Unfortunately, nearby traffic was too loud/overlapping too much with the range that these bees' buzzing was sitting within, and processing those recordings into something I could use in-game turned out to be beyond my abilities. I managed to find a CC0 licenced recording on Freesound.org and have shipped that in an update, but I'd really like my local bees to be(e) the stars of my bee game, so I'm sure I'll be back outside chasing them around with microphones before I'm done with Hive Time.

The distant sounds are all from field recordings trips that I'd done for In the Snowy Winter's Wake (mostly from a park called Heritage Forest and a wetlands preservation called Tamar Island). I still plan to make use of them for that project, and I think I want more variety in Hive Time, but they were a good resource to have on hand. Thanks, past me!



That's about it for this status update. I'm taking Hive Time (and a couple of other games) to exhibit at MakerX tomorrow. I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to practice pitching the game and to watch more people play in person :)

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