Biomes of Steampunk Colorado

Last time we talked about biomes back in February, Mr. Whitman had finished a framework for terrain generator and had implemented a few test case biomes which we have been using in-game for a while just to give us something to hack on to test the features we’re after. This small set of biomes has been the backdrop for a ton of our screenshots lately. You may have noticed a recurring theme of pine trees on a field of green grass with some lakes.

We’re going to start mixing it up in the next month or so. The system we’ve implemented runs on a concept of two or three specified biomes on a given game terrain map (the playable area in any given colony).  Some examples might be a “high prairie” (aka “Steampunk Yellowstone National Park”) biome, a tropical rainforest, a desert, or the Novyrussian taiga.  Within these biomes, we have subcategories of smaller environments that we call “mini-biomes” or “sub-biomes”.


Not pictured: The Underdark.

For our high prairie example, these include the prairie highlands, canyons, conifer forests, aspen forests, or craggy hills. We have some heuristics for determining where these mini-biomes should go within the map.  A fairly simple random walk for determining river directions, which gives us gravel beds, canyons, and actual rivers, and Perlin-based determinations for where forests or hilly regions are placed.

This is a fair bit simpler than some of the initial plans for how the biomes worked.  Some things have been scrapped, some have been postponed or put into the “if we have time” pile.  The environments are no longer eroded from one giant slab of earth as a fully simulated world, for example.  I believe we said in an earlier post that we were abandoning that idea because the further we got with the experiment, the more quickly we realized two things.  First, you just can’t easily end up with highly variable, interesting terrains with this simulationist approach: at best we could have one or two really interesting features on one map which just isn’t enough variation.  The second reason is that computers just aren’t fast enough yet to do extremely detailed simulation of weathering processes and so on without it taking ten minutes (or a lot more) to make a map. (– Unless of course it is the mighty mechanical mind of L’Auto-Dictateur, however It has more pressing concerns to attend over in the République Mécanique.)

The concept of biome fertility has been made a little more coarse to focus attention on game features which are of more immediate concern to a player. Fertility is still an important variable in the revised biome design but it determines where biomes particularly linked to soil quality are placed rather than for each plant individually (for down that road lies plant-based madness).

The upside to freeing up some programming braincells there is that we do now have building interiors with player-designated furniture and some other things we hadn’t initially planned on, and we’re also allocating some of that time to one last “feature creep” sort of thing which we’ll tell you about when we can actually show you what it is.

And who knows, maybe in the grim darkness of the far future, we’ll do some of that erosion stuff.

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19 Responses to “Biomes of Steampunk Colorado”

  1. Scott says:

    Sounds fantastic! Also, spreading basins will be easier too. Just mirror the generation on the other side of the trough. (Though I must say there is something charmingly suspenseful about waiting 10 minutes for Dwarf Fortress to create a world. )

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  2. Headjack says:

    Will this account for hydrological concerns such as aquifers or rain accumulating on one side of a mountain?

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    • Not currently, I’m afraid. There’s nothing stopping us from doing it, it’s just on that list of “hopefully if we have time” things. Biome generation is awesome, but so is a lot of the other stuff… so if I was to come to work on the weekend to work on whatever I thought might make the most impact, i don’t think it’d be environment simulation just yet.

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  3. Tyler says:

    So is it safe to assume you guys are Warhammer fans?

    Also, i would totally wait 20 minutes to play the game if i could see the timelapse erosion process happening to the world.

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    • Brian says:

      In the world creation screen, people will briefly ascend to enlightenment, mastery over food, power, and the atom. Then nuclear war strikes, the landscape is briefly dazzled by overpressure and gamma ray flashes for one video frame, and the world generator glides another ten thousand years to Victorian Age 2.0 . The only thing to show for it would be an easter egg of some giant copper lady holding up a burning stick.

      That reminds me, will there be an “everybody is a monkey” DLC? That would be hilarious.

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  4. DoofusMagnus says:

    When you say that each playable area will have two or three biomes, are you talking about the “uberbiomes” or the “minibiomes”?

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  5. Blaze says:

    Trying to read these blogs posts is like trying to read Egyptian hieroglyphs. If only I knew something about computers or game creation. I think everyone here is smarter than me, or at least knows bigger words.

    Truth is I come here for the comedy. I don’t understand any of it either, but that’s convenient because I don’t know when not to laugh, so I just laugh the whole time.

    Oh, and I’ve been to Colorado once. I hope I’m able to get altitude sickness in the mountains, otherwise my immersion will be completely ruined.

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  6. Bropocalypse says:

    This can’t be the Colorado I’m familiar with. There’s not nearly enough fire.

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  7. Thomas says:

    I wouldn’t quite say the ‘grim darkness’ of the far future.
    Its more like the ‘warm, semi-dry darkness of reasonable comfort that happens to catch on fire and release shoggoths now and then’

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  8. James says:

    Will the enlightened gentlemen be turning their minds towards the simulation and manipulation of watery substances such as (for example) water?

    It would be quite fun to find a lovely fertile patch of land and then realise two seasons in that during the summer snow from atop the nearby mountains melts and floods the area. Or to accidentally dig a little too close to your very aesthetically pleasing fishing pond, consequently draining it.

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  9. Selvah says:

    Will there be a possibility to turn your back on the Clockwork Empire, conclude a juicy pact with the République Mécanique, and happily betray all those posh noble members of the Holygeartocracy ?…
    Those forsaken little colonies may find themselves neglected at times, you know. They may need additional help and support and supply from the motherland. And as a truly dedicated Bureaucrat, i’d be ashamed if my people were to starve because of the lack of attention from the capital. (Worse still, if my private cellar were empty, the consequences would be unbearable for the people – and everyone is aware of the generosity of the République in these matters).
    And it makes little doubt that the République’s agents shall be interested in extending their grasp in these uncharted yet bountiful lands…

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    • William says:

      I think in a previous update they were talking about how you could work with other factions (even the hidden fun stuff!) and gain special benefits from it. Three cheers for playing a cultist!

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  10. Skyknight says:

    Wait a minute…L’Auto-Dictateur is an IT? So le Republique is basically run by this world’s equivalent of an AI?

    I’m not sure which is worse–the potential danger if l’Auto-Dictateur makes a bad leap of logic, or the active danger of the Shan running the Empire Times.

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  11. Robert Tseng says:

    WoTC plays ‘Arcane Lawyer’. Tap 2 Gold mana per hour. Opponent must tap 2 Gold mana every turn and cannot accomplish anything meaningful. Both players must discard all fans into graveyard.

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  12. Bropocalypse says:

    You guys have accomplished so much thusfar, I’d like to see a “State of Development” post that overviews what you’ve accomplished so far and how far you have to go. Then members of the opposite party can have a press conference that nobody will pay attention to.

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  13. Pingback: Dev Links: Oh Yes | The Indie Game Magazine - Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads

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