Clockwork Empires: Alright, Now What?

We’re back from Penny Arcade Expo! This was our first year as an exhibitor; while previous years have been reasonably epic (most notably for me, at least, was 2010, which was the year I crashed a panel with Steve Jackson), this year blew them all away. We got to meet a bunch of you, we got to hand out 100 Stuffed Diggle Menaces,  and we got to see the Hat of Bergstrom. We also had a few good times with some members of the remote team who don’t normally work at the Vancouver office, most notably Chris Triolo and Ryan C. Gordon, who just happened to be in town that day. I got a Valve tour! Daniel was on a panel! We went to Notch’s party! The list goes on and on…

Now we’re back, the question becomes: now what do we do?

The main thing that PAX impressed upon me was just how much work we have to do between now and next year on Clockwork Empires. Next year, we want to be showing this game, and we want it to be in a presentable state. That’s fine. We have a long, rather hard road ahead of us, and we’ll get there, but the question is… what do we do until then?

So here’s the plan. We’re an independent studio that is really not beholden to anybody but ourselves. We want you to know what’s going on and how we’re progressing; we want you to get excited for Clockwork Empires, and we want you to let us know how you think we’re doing. We’re going to open things up as much as we can, and we’re going to write while we do so. We hope you’ll like it. We’ll try to be honest, and we’ll try to let you know the good news as well as the bad news. You’ll be getting posts from me on the programming stuff, David on the art side of things, Daniel on AI (and maybe ranting about “business stuff”), and all of us on game design.

Let the great Developing begin, er continue! To that end, here is random art. What do you folks want to hear about?

Clockwork Empires serves the needs of all, from the clothing needs of growing alternative religions to the logistical infrastructure required to maintain a respectable zeppelin fleet in these challenging times.

Posted in Clockwork Empires, Game Design, Gaslamp, Programming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 Responses to “Clockwork Empires: Alright, Now What?”

  1. BenSutton says:

    I want to hear about how you’ve already invented time travel, so that I can zip along to 2013 and play the game already.

    Failing that I’d love to hear about EVERYTHING, and most anything.

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  2. Chris says:

    One of my highlights of the show was meeting you guys, particularly since I wasn’t expecting it, can’t wait until next year!

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  3. Zeek Silverfire says:

    I would say, in the finest traditions of the Dungeons of Dredmor. I want to here what can go wrong in game.. and also what can go wrong because the coding decided to snarf. After all, there was the great belt nomming of ’67, the infinitrap…

    Remember, neat mechanics are one thing, but everyone watches the train wrecks, whether designed meticulously to work in the game (T’CHARR!!!!!!) or not (wow’s blood plague).

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  4. Fax Celestis says:

    I want to know the depth to which you can control the game: can you control individuals? Groups?

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    • Name says:

      I think they said in an interview you don’t actually control people as such, but if you place an order folks will decide amongst themselves who goes and builds it. They want to take emphasis away from micromanagement

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  5. Paul McCann says:

    You’ve mentioned Dwarf Fortress as an influence, but not Majesty – has that come up at all, or are you not mentioning it because you’re trying for a different direction?

    One thing that’s part of Dwarf Fortress is making significant changes to the landscape, even in 3D, as you dig in to the mountain. Dredmor is set in, well, Dungeons, which have multiple levels. It doesn’t seem underground civilizations are the norm in Clockwork Empires, but to what extent will height differences or different planes be in the game?

    Bit of a silly question, but what do your seeds look like? Have you considered using repeatable seeds? I find people who otherwise don’t know each other but name their colony “Wensleydale” playing from the same initial state appealing, but it’s not really something I’ve seen employed.

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  6. David Narintarangkool says:

    Honestly, I would like to hear more programming info for the game. Dungeons of Dredmor seemed so simple yet so “complicated” depending on player actions and I’m guessing that making that happen wasn’t easy. So knowing what programming challenges you guys are going through with Clockwork empires would be awesome! To me, it lets people know how “hard” it is to make games crazy fun!

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  7. Bropocalypse says:

    Between the two, airships

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  8. Naes says:

    One thing I really want to see in your next game is the ability change skin color, hair color, hair styles etc. The reason why I like dredmor so much is because of the tremendous role playing potential when making new builds.

    It takes me out of it quite a bit when every character I make looks like John Smith, the suburban pirate or Anne of Green Gables. If I am making an egyptian vampire I want to be able to make them bald and purple. If am making Buddha the mad Tinker I want to make him brown with flourescent hair. Makes a huge difference IMO, and I really hope you take the time to add in this functionality with your new engine. I want my settlers to be red skinned cherokee infused victorians, as opposed to your standard european fair that is all over the place.
    Sort of like you can do in swords and potions, where my shop keeper was orange skinned and green haired, reflecting the pursuit of the cheddah.

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    • Psiweapon says:

      Anne of the green gables XXXX_DDDDDDDDDDAD


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    • Coaldust says:

      I’m not sure this makes sense in a game intended to be somewhat like Dwarf Fortress.

      The idea is you’re given a bunch of random people. You don’t have direct control over them, much less their statistics and appearance. Your goal is to help them survive and prosper by making the most of their strengths and minimizing the impacts of their weaknesses. The closest thing to a “ending” Dwarf Fortress has is becoming the dwarven capital, and you can play indefinitely after that happens if you want.

      Over time you get more people, at least if your civilization is doing well.

      On rare occasions you get a /bad apple/. These are the bullies and sociopaths we’re all familiar with from school and work. You may need to arrange a creative end for them to prevent them from injuring or killing your other, nicer, characters.

      It’s really more of a god game than a RPG. Just you’re a very minor god, that only has the ability to suggest tasks and general restrictions on behavior (don’t go through this door right now, stay out of these areas, pile here…). You don’t have a “player character”.

      What you can customize heavily is what your units build. Maybe you have some ideas for that.

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  9. Coaldust says:

    I hope Clockwork Empires will “write its own stories” (actually interesting ones) via deep simulation like Dwarf Fortress.

    The Dwarf Fortress dwarves have friends, lovers, pets, enemies, titles (honors), fears, favorite objects, favorite foods, unique statistics, and possibly handicaps from long term injuries. Recent events effect their behavior, like their comfort (if it’s winter and you don’t have a door keeping the chill out they will be uncomfortable, and it will effect morale and production, and if long term, their health), new romances, deaths of loved ones and pets, theft or destruction of favorite items or artifacts they made… This, along with deep simulation of the world produces stories that are actually interesting to observe and retell.

    Really, without this aspect it’s a much less interesting mashup of Sim City and Minecraft.

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  10. Coaldust says:

    I almost forgot that you can also, in Dwarf Fortress, observe a dwarves current ‘state’ (health and whatnot) and thoughts, along with their recent experiences and memories. This is often important to “know how you’re doing”. It allows you to spot problems before they get out of hand. This too should be preserved in my opinion.

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  11. Coaldust says:

    With a name like Clockwork Empires I’d expect there to be a lot of control over building mechanized things.

    In Dwarf Fortress there are lots of “input” (e.g. switches, pressure plates, wind mills, water wheels, etc.) and “output” (water and lava pumps, drawbridges, millstones, wall blades, floor spikes, stonefall traps, floodgates) devices, and vast amounts of options for connecting them and ‘processing’ using mechanical contraptions. Some people have gone so far as to build simple computers (usually using pools of water or lava for ‘memory’ and floodgates and pumps and pressure plates for logic gates).

    While that may all sound unnecessary, it’s actually quite practical. You can automate moving water from a unsafe location to one convenient and safe for your dwarves, set up a ‘airlock’ style drawbridge system to allow traders in but keep raiders out that can be controlled with one switch, and so on.

    This is one of my favorite parts of its design after the ‘writes its own stories’ aspect. I really hope Clockwork Empires will allow this too.

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  12. MichaelZ says:

    Basically we all want a Steampunk Dwarf-Fortress that actually has a User Interface. I’d love to hear how you intend to make your game stand out above the rush of games that are jumping into this new niche? (Towns, Gnomoria, A Game Of Dwarves)
    Or does your team see Clockwork Empires as not following in this tradition at all?

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    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

      Speaking at least for myself, I think that Towns and especially Gnomoria are very much more about reproducing something close to DF than we intend to be. (While my impression of A Game of Dwarves is of an ultralight DF that may owe a good bit to Dungeon Keeper, but who knows.)

      So: Although we love DF, we’re not making a game that’s “DF but with X”. We’re pulling from a wider range of influences and we want to do some more original design.

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      • darius404 says:

        Is the genre Real Time Strategy? Or Turnbased Strategy? That is, is it more like Civilization? Or Age of Empires? IS there a specific game genre this fits into?

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        • Coaldust says:

          It’s real time. If there’s a genre it would probably be “Dwarf-Fortress-like” (like “Roguelike”).

          As for Civilization, I guess some comparisons to that and Sim City and the like are possible. You build buildings. Groups of people interacting are involved. Combat happens sometimes. Disasters (natural and man-made) happen sometimes. They don’t ‘feel’ anything alike to me though.

          Some people may compare it to The Sims, but you don’t have nearly as much control over the people in Dwarf Fortress as The Sims. You watch and guide, rather than role play or dictate. Far larger numbers may be involved. Successful fortresses may have over 100.

          Despite the name “Dwarf Fortress” there is a awful lot of focus on the individual people, rather than the more nebulous concept of a civilization. You’re likely to get attached to some of them due to their personality and history. The city or civilization is just the backdrop, though it may become one with a lot of character (e.g. a beautiful castle with multiple rings of walls, or a town half in ruins from constant assaults from demons). Dwarf Fortress is to Civilization as actors are to props.

          One isn’t better than the other. They’re just not the same.

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        • Coaldust says:

          I guess I should have said it’s “real time with smart pause”. This gets you the upsides of real time (no boring “click next turn repeatedly until something interesting happens or the big project finishes”) and turn based (real strategy, logistics, and tactics, instead of a clicking race, because you have time to think and work the interface correctly), without the downsides.

          The game proceeds like a typical real time game until you manually pause it, or something ‘important’ happens. When something important happens the game will automatically pause and center your (overhead) view on it.

          It’s possible the Gaslamp folks could remove the smart pause aspect, or the ability to pause at all. I certainly hope they won’t, though.

          I don’t think they would make it turn-based, though, because it would be far too plodding. Most turns would be spent with your characters walking part of the distance from point A to point B, with no threats in sight.

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      • MichaelZ says:

        I can dig that! Striking out into new territory can be very rewarding both for you guys and for us gamers. Looking forward to it!

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  13. impishacid says:

    I’d like to see more tags and screenshots of things that rhyme

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  14. Jim G. says:

    I look forward to the game, but really hope you provide some kind of campaign or series of staged objectives. DF is simply too open-ended for me to enjoy playing for very long. Yes, I appreciate the geeky irony of the slogan “Losing is fun!” Not everyone plays their games with the ironic intention of losing in an amusing way. I don’t think it’s fun to discover a new way for a stupid dwarf to have a tantrum and destroy my fortress.

    The objectives could be really simple, like “Build an Empire that lasts for 10 years, for 20 years, for 30 years, etc.” Then when you hit 100 years you can keep playing but the game declares you a winner and ask you if you want your final score to be posted to the web site. Let me reload an earlier saved game so I can try to overcome whatever it was that just killed me. There are a lot of gamers who get a sense of accomplishment from un-ironically, un-geekly, simply FINISHING a darn game.

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  15. Orgon says:


    Also, how many strange eons must we await this release?

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  16. Max says:

    Will you have the ability to use your own custom-made flags?

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  17. Pingback: Roguelike Report #42 | Nachtfischers Subkultur

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