At some point last week we decided that what Clockwork Empires really needs is loading bays. You know, that bit of a building trucks back onto to load and unload goods. No, really. And it’s going to be great!
This is not some sign of utter mundanity, rather, it’s one intersection in a web of interlocking game systems which are forming in Clockwork Empires. And it’ll be key to so much more than a hole in the wall your labourers toss crates through; No, this is Exciting Logistics! This is how everything fits together through space and time, how the labour of your fickle characters is turned, by use of machines and production structures, into valuable commodities which may be improve the well-being of your colony, be used to construct massive factories — or weapons, or perhaps sold off for the greater glory of the Royal Charter Antipodean Trading Company and The Empire. (And that’s why I love Exciting Logistics so much!)
Right, so this latest foray into the fascinating world of Exciting Logistics stemmed from a question of how vehicles are to function in CE. This is, of course, a brave new world of industry and advancing technology with new, fast, modern modes of transportation, not some cave inhabited by short, bearded miners. We need ships, trains, armoured trains, aether-powered armoured trains!, personal steam-carriages, and so on! And that’s an easy enough statement to make, but it is far more complex to figure out the gritty details. How a character chooses to pilot a vehicle, how does that vehicle decide to move through the world, and how does, say, a steam-lorry with the capacity to carry many commodities decides how many logs to carry from the logging camp back to the lumber mill and exactly where it unloads these goods? And how does a vehicle move — is it just a big character? Do you bother with a turning radius? Can it collide? Does it require fuel? What happens when the pilot gets sleepy, hungry, or fancies a pint? Further, we don’t want the player to be micromanaging these vehicles every move. This is not Starcraft where placing a siege tank just so makes all the difference.
Yes, the design and implementation problems are all a rich tapestry. How about some details?
Two Examples of Small Vehicles
To the right you can see a very early model (from sometime last year) which provides an example of design for a Steam Lorry. Think something like “Stephenson’s Rocket” combined with a horse-drawn cart. In hindsight, we should make the boiler way bigger because that’d be more Fun. Requires one pilot & has space for the equivalent of four stockpile tiles on the back, which will hold a very decent load of commodities.
The Personal Pedal-Driven Fishing Boat, to the left, is similar, but uh, rather obviously a small boat. And not driven by steam, sadly. There’s a platform in the back for holding things, probably fish though we like to keep an open mind around here, while the pilot sits up front in the wee little seat. Boats, happily, don’t require animated wheels but I felt that this had to involve over-complicated mechanics somehow so the boat has a propeller in the back driven by pedals up front. (No, oars simply won’t do; Clockworkian folk are not barbarians bereft of the Improvement this Age has brought to their Condition by means of Mechanical Innovation! … and they’d play hell with geometry collisions.)
Anyway, we’ll actually be starting with a placeholder Civilian Transport Cube of some kind that just floats around merrily. You know, like they use back on the farm. We’ll let you know how it turns out.
Back to Loading Bays, Where The Real Action Is
We have factory/workshops with doors to allow workers to enter and exit (briefly discussed in the context of a poorly ventilated refinery-type factory here), but you can’t very well drive your Transport Cube right through the doorway to unload those logs. It wouldn’t be proper at all and would like track mud all over the floor, somehow, from all its eerie hovering about (which is Perfectly Safe, don’t mind the tingling sensation, and has nothing at all to do with Cosmic Horrors or that device dug up by the latest expedition sponsored by Lord Palmerstoke. Off you go).
Given this doorway problem we sat, pondering, for upwards of a minute before someone mentioned that Real Life has a solution for this sort of problem: Loading bays. Brilliant!
They cleverly combine the existing gameplay objects of machine modules (which punch holes through walls, having an interior and exterior component) with commodity stockpiles (which have commodities piled on them). Just stick a loading bay on the wall, it creates a doorway and puts a stockpile on the protruding exterior platform then simply pull the Civilian Transport Cube up to the loading dock and we’re in business!
There’s more to be said on the bold subject of Exciting Logistics, from discussion of unique commodity piles, intermediate production products, to the dizzying array of different height-levels a character can place or pick up commodities and how this fits with machine module interaction, but I think we’ve had enough Excitement for today.
‘Til next time — and remember to always use a pallet when you’re stacking crates.