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Headless Hunt Contest
October 29, 2021


Tighten up your
riding laces.
Fear shall smear
across their faces.
Tarr pit north
one hundred paces.
Gallop off and
to the races.

Leave them t'wonder
where their face is.

Headless specter
nightly flies.
Deaf to all their
whimp'ring cries.
Shining treasure
somewhere lies
under roiling
Nw'England skies.

Hidden cache
just out of view.
Through real world
you can pursue.
Every head
you sever through.
yields the thief
another clue.

What's not wrong
may not be right.
Many seekers
have to fight.
Study map
by dying light.
Last clue flies on
Hall'ween night.
[Link][24 Comments]

Update: More Fixes
December 19, 2020


I'm working through the list of reported bugs.

When picking the fittest follower to inherit a leadership position, exiled followers are no longer considered. Special biome/homeland boundaries no longer line up with ley lines for natural springs. Multiple DING messages, occurring at the same time (or in quick succession) are now queued, giving you a chance to read each one in turn. This means that if you inherit both leadership and ownership at the same time, you'll hear about both. A victim's fleeing emote is correctly preserved when they step in and out of a bad biome. The language specialist family is no longer accidentally fertile outside their homeland band, to the far north or far south. A gap has been added between the desert and jungle bands, since having those bands abut each other creates an impassable barrier for folks who get sick in both. And finally, the second phase of the tutorial has been re-designed somewhat to make it less confusing for new players.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to report these issues. I can't fix them if I don't know about them.

Functionality issues can be reported here (like bugs or glitches in the client or server logic):


Content issues can be reported here (like if an object should be containable, but isn't):

[Link][6 Comments]

Update: Legacy Chain
December 4, 2020


The idea that has been implemented this week has been a long time coming.

This game is supposed to be about a bunch of different things: the deep mystery of a trans-generational civilization (who built all this, and why?), being a small part of something much bigger than yourself, the philosophical concept of the veil of ignorance (where you can't control or predict what situation you are born into), and trying to get as close as possible to what death might actually feel like (saying goodbye forever to the people that you have grown to love).

The initial design of the game tied all of these concepts together nicely. You are born to a randomly-chosen mother somewhere in the world, the next step in a long lineage of other players going back into time immemorial. You pick up where your ancestors left off, making contributions and improvements in the little time you have. You have babies in the form of other players who are themselves randomly assigned to you as their mother. And at the end of your hour-long life, you say goodbye to all of this in a very real way, because if you get born again, it will be to a different mother in a completely different situation.

On paper, it seems like an elegant design in terms of the way it embodies the underlying philosophical concepts, with each part of the structure reinforcing the other parts. And it does work, for the most part, in practice. It gives you the right feelings at the right times.

However, beyond giving you complex feelings and embodying interesting philosophical concepts, games are also meant to be played. And for One Hour One Life to function, it must be played over and over, at least by a substantial portion of its playerbase.

For example, if each player only played the game once, and had a deep and meaningful experience in that one life, we might see the game as fulfilling its purpose, and those players might even feel like they got their $20 worth of art and entertainment. However, given that the game is a multiplayer venture, it would completely fall apart, in very short order, if every paying customer played only once.

And the unfortunate fact is that the game structure, as initially designed, is NOT particularly compelling to play over and over, due to a lack of continuity from hour to hour or any sense of long-term progress.

The question: After an hour spent playing a good and satisfying life, why would you immediately want to play again? You'll be thrown into a completely different situation, unable to continue progressing in whatever project you were working on in the last life. For a large segment of the playerbase, the answer is that they do not immediately feel like playing another life after finishing one.

The game would benefit from some sense of continuity across lives, but to achieve that, something has to give, philosophically. I need to prioritize the philosophical goals, and commit to the primary goals, while letting the secondary goals slide a bit in the name of playability.

Saying goodbye to those you love is a nice aspect of this game, but it's not the most important aspect. Still, I've been holding onto it, trying to keep it, even though being able to reborn back in the same family solves the continuity problem and many other problems with the game. I think that it's time to let this aspect go a bit.

After all, even if you do get reborn in the same family again, the composition of that family will be different. They will have moved on in time. Some of them will have died. And you will never be 100% clear about who's who. Your family will be a mix of reincarnated friends and total strangers. You will still be saying goodbye to some degree, every time you die.

So, this week's update allows you to get reborn to your own descendants, as long as some of them still survive. This will allow you to continue working on whatever projects your family is working on, life after life.

Of course, there's a catch: you have to live until old age in your last life to get reborn in this way. Die young, and your personal connection to your family line will be broken, and you'll be born into a different family.

And it's not limited to the cases where you get reborn immediately after dying. If your descendants are still alive tomorrow, you can be born to them tomorrow. Thus, if you want to play this way, you will be highly motivated to set your offspring up in a good situation to ensure their long-term survival.

You can see how this change also helps to address something that I've been struggling with for a very long time: how to get you to care about the survival of your kids. Genetic score was a kind of artificial and rigid way to make you care. Letting you get reborn to your descendants is a much more natural and organic way.

And one more detail, for those who are interested: for females, descendants are daughters, granddaughters, and so on. For men, descendants are nieces, grand nieces, and so on, and in some cases, much-younger sisters. So it's really not about getting born into the same family again, but instead specifically about recurring in your own direct line.
[Link][42 Comments]

Update: Homeland Biome Bands
October 29, 2020


I'm still on the road this week, evaluating potential places to move to as part of the Great California Exodus, but I managed to implement some substantial changes.

Homelands determine where you and your other family members can have babies, and they exist to ensure that people remain at least somewhat geographically separate. Separate towns are more interesting than one big town for a variety of reasons (trade, transportation, etc.) Historically, your family homeland was determined by wherever your family settled down and built a functional well.

Specialty biomes determine what your family is good at, and what they have to offer other families. Your family has a corner on the market in whatever biome you specialize in. Historically, specialty biomes of all kinds were scattered at random across the whole map.

But specialty biomes and homelands were not tied together in any way. In fact, it was possible for your family to settle, and make their homeland, in an area that was far away from your specialty biome. Thus, it was possible that another family, when seeking you out for help with your specialty, might need to lead your back closer to their homeland to find an instance of your biome. When this happens, it doesn't feel very much like trade. Furthermore, if you settle near a specialty biome other than your own, that nearby area is effectively dead, unusable space for you and your village. You can't build there, at least not without the help of distant specialists.

So why don't people generally live in and around their specialty biome? That would make more sense, and solve both of these problems.

In this update, your family's homeland is no longer defined by where you build a well, but instead connected to a new horizontal band on the map that contains your specialty biome. In fact, that specialty biome only occurs in your band, and nowhere else on the map. Other non-specialty biomes occur everywhere, exactly as they did before, but the snow biome occurs only in the north-most horizontal band, and the jungle and desert occur only in the two south-most bands. In between these bands, there's a band with no specialty biomes at all (the centers of the gray rocky areas have nothing but more gray rocky areas), and this serves as the homeland band for the language specialists. They make up for not having a resource specialty by having a bit more iron veins in their homeland.

If your're looking for snow, you can walk north. If you're looking for jungle or desert, you can walk south. Historically, looking for a particular specialty biome involved quite a lot of trial and error. And now, when seeking out a biome expert, you will find plenty of the desired biome around them where you find that expert. This also gives the map a more cohesive, regional feel.

Thanks to Twisted for proposing this change.

In addition, several bugs and issues with follower gates have been fixed, and property fences now decay more slowly.
[Link][28 Comments]

Update: Solo Challenge
September 25, 2020


A bunch of impactful changes this week, mostly inspired by the deluge of new players from the recent Steam sale.

First of all, there's now a second phase in the tutorial, meant to help new players get accustomed to the game in a less high-pressure situation. New players often just want to experiment and learn crafting without having a whole village depending on their efficiency. Furthermore, being plopped into a thriving and cluttered village as a new player can be overwhelming. You just learned to chop kindling with a hatchet in the tutorial, and suddenly you find yourself in an environment with dozens of unknown tools. Yes, getting born into the middle of an existing situation is a fundamental premise of the game, but it's not a great environment in which to experiment with the basics.

So, after the main tutorial, there's now an optional solo challenge. You are thrown out into the wilderness, naked and alone, to try your hand at solo survival. You can opt out of this right away, if you want, or you can keep trying until you pass the challenge by surviving from scratch until age 60. For new players who don't opt out, they will enter the main game at least knowing how to take care of themselves in a hostile environment.

Since the game keeps track of which phases of the tutorial have been passed (or bypassed), and no one has passed this second phase yet, even veteran players will find themselves thrown into the solo challenge at least once.

And of course, just like you can revisit the tutorial whenever you want, you can revisit this solo challenge too, almost like an alternate play mode (which many players have already been simulating by connecting to low population servers).

Next, tool slots have been disabled. I was never fully satisfied with tool slots, since most players just ignored them, and they didn't really contribute to interesting cooperative interactions. However, they were still in there, pestering you with endless DING messages as you went about your business.

The behavior of expert way stones have been expanded to help you find poly-lingual people: if you touch your own expert way stone, you are directed toward the closest language expert.

New players start with a fitness score of 0 now, instead of 30. This means that they generally see their scores go up in the beginning, which is good for morale, but it also means that having a new player as a baby will be likely to help, not hurt, your own gene score (as long as you help a new player live longer than 0 years, you will earn points).

And finally, dealing with griefers. More players means more griefers.

Personal curses now last 90 days instead of 30 days (don't forget that you can always forgive someone if needed). And curse labels (DOLL KING or whatever appears in black above the cursed person's head) are now shared between players, instead of being unique per cursing player. So the same person, when cursed, always has the same label for everyone who has cursed them. Thus, players can compare notes about griefer behavior.

For quite a while, it has been very hard for solo griefers or small groups of griefers to kill. Killing requires some form of village consensus, either through a large enough posse or through convincing the village leader to exile the target. Since leaders tend to be high-fitness individuals, griefers have a hard time becoming leaders.

However, griefers can still cause plenty of trouble in other ways. Planting the wrong crops, moving stuff around, stealing stuff, and hiding stuff in the woods. Yes, you can eventually convince the leader to exile them, and then eventually hunt them down to kill them (if they don't get away first), but all of that takes time. Meanwhile, they can keep causing trouble. Killing is also a pretty severe way to deal with a thief, but so far, it has been the only way.

This week brings you a new, less sever way: ally gates. Leaders can mark certain gates, designating them for ally access only. All allies of that leader can move through that gate. To stop someone from moving through the gate, the leader just needs to exile that person. And the ownership of the gate is inherited by the next leader when the current leader dies. Thus, you now have a new way to stop a trouble-maker: exile them, and suddenly, they can no longer travel in and out of the village, through the gate. You can even trap them inside, making them easier to confront and deal with.

The other nice thing about ally gates is that they are spring-loaded, so they automatically open and close as you walk through (and automatically keep non-allies out).

And sports cars can smash mosquito swarms on their windshields.
[Link][26 Comments]

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