The Violence of Designing Everyday Things

Do you like our ducts? (Presented with apologies to Terry Gilliam.)

Do your ducts seem old-fashioned? (Presented with apologies to Terry Gilliam.)

I should start by saying that I love pipes.  Seriously, I do.  But people around here don’t believe me.  They think I hate pipes, gears, conveyor belts, and all manner of functional machinery.  I love that stuff!  I just hate seeing it abused for no good reason.  Gears are for doing things, not for slapping to the side of a building just ’cause!

I can say the same thing for what we’ve termed “dynamics lines”.  Dynamics are basically fluids or other commodities that are required for tasks that can be either broken up into discrete units (like pails of water) or piped in (like, erm… water pipes).  We’ve argued about these a lot.  While they’re aesthetically pleasing, if you end up having a giant rat’s nest of pipes for a city, there’s no way you’ll be able to see what’s going on in your settlement.  All of the characters become obstructed by a monstrous network of pipes and axles and other means of transmission and you can no longer tell you’re playing a game or where your favorite character is.

This is a problem.

Not like this. Never like this.

Not like this. Never like this. (Presented with apologies to Bill Gates.)

Fortunately for those of you who love this stuff, David and Nicholas love sticking pipes and gears to things so much that we’re doing this anyway, so the best I can do is try to mitigate the damage.  This was the topic of a design discussion we had yesterday.

The Moloch module, for enhanced lower-class suffering. (Presented with apologies to Fritz Lang.)

The Moloch module, for enhanced lower-class suffering. (Presented with apologies to Fritz Lang.)

As of a week ago, a factory would operate with a number of machines (internally referred to as modules) that would be anchored to the edges of the buildings, with bits sticking out the side and also with access points from inside for people to use them.  The bit out the back was there so that they could be hooked up to the dynamics lines.  A power saw would require a mechanical work input, a boiler would require water input, stuff like that.

(All of these machines also required the ability to accept discretized versions of these commodities, such as the pails of water, a spring-loaded power core, and so forth.)

We found, however, that as we designed the factories, added the option for players to add optional modules to increase their capacity to build certain things, the number of dynamics lines that would feed into them got really, really big.  The amount of pipes that you could connect became quite honestly gargantuan.  The pipe nightmare was upon us.

So after nearly giving David a stroke, we decided upon a new plan.

Steam! Now in Perfectly Safe highly-pressurized portable steam ball form! (Presented with apologies to Katsuhiro Otomo.)

Steam! Now in Perfectly Safe highly-pressurized portable steam ball form! (Presented with apologies to Katsuhiro Otomo.)

Players will now choose, when creating a new workshop which requires steam, whether they want the module which takes in steam balls that are carried by characters, or the module that requires a pipe to feed steam directly from a source. The module they pick then has the sole purpose of receiving and storing a local quantity of that commodity, be it mechanical work, water, steam, electricity, or pure phlogistic energy.

All modules in a building with the connected receptacle can access that commodity without needing their own hookups.  (It’s all under the floorboards, you know?)  This also frees the machines from needing to be anchored to the walls where they could accept pipe or axle inputs, so now players get a lot more freedom in how to organize their work spaces.

Finally, it’s worth noting that hooking up these static routes — pipes, axles, and so on — between generators and sinks of a particular commodity will be expensive, and in most cases you’ll be better off in the short run having characters hauling things around intelligently rather than forcing commodities to only come from one area and go to one other area.

But if you really want to streamline that crimble processing facility, and you have an insatiable love of pipes, have we ever got a system for you!

Posted in Clockwork Empires | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

23 Responses to “The Violence of Designing Everyday Things”

  1. @sirspate says:

    Any chance of your adding pipe multiplexers? Have a multiplexer on both ends of a really big pipe that splits time between several different dynamics. Think of the cross-contamination possibilities! Think of the potential explosions! Think of the large reduction in pipes needed to move dynamics around!

    While we’re on the subject of dynamics, for more solid substances, have you considered.. catapults? You’d need a larger target zon—ah—I mean ‘stockpile’. (To avoid collateral damage from errant deliveries.) And probably somebody to organize those deliveries as they arrive. But it’d be a great way to move (non-explosive) solid dynamics from one end of your city to the other!

    (Which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to talk to my municipality about switching from fossil fuel-burning buses to clean-air catapults for some time now..)

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  2. Headjack says:

    I’d imagine they could be bundled up in the same tile or whatnot, steam pipes and water pipes and phlogiston pipes all huddled in brotherly love. Unless the steam would end up heating the phlogiston, in which case I guess we had best keep them apart.

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  3. SamuelMarston says:

    Great references!

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  4. Bropocalypse says:

    Hm. I’d like to see the pipes in the floors of the buildings with interconnected units. Installing machines is messy work, it’s not inconceivable that they’d just run the pipes across the floor. It’s Perfectly Safe to walk on, honestly.

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  5. Coaldust says:

    I’m really looking forward to playing with all the mechanical stuff.

    It’s my second favorite part of Dwarf Fortress. My favorite part is watching the simulation make interesting characters and stories.

    I hope you keep modding in mind as you design the mechanical stuff. I’d love having lots of player created contraptions to play with.

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  6. Viken says:

    Greetings from Bay12!

    Okay, so yeah. That is interesting, and the all-out-crazy-pipes-and-things is an issue we see with a lot of games, especially if you play MineCraft with any sort of techmod installed. But I think this extra ability can be a good thing. But I have a suggestion.

    Okay, actually its several ideas that can be mixed-and-matched to whatever might work best. What about making internal/external charging stations where you can run a single (or bunch) of lines into for water/steam/ect and then let it split out into individual containers inside a factory or somewhere outside with two or three other buildings can use it? Instead of having a single guy running across a town to deliver a Steam Bulb(tm), you can have three guys running around from one junction, carrying water, steam, and oil/ect to close by destinations, or inside a single large factory on demand.

    An expansion upon that is that you could have those nifty loading bays simply for fuel/energy type containers, so there’s no need to run them all the way inside a factory or workshop.

    Okay, I’mma going to stop rambling now.

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  7. EleSigma says:

    “we’re ever so sorry for everything”

    Remember to make your monthly sacrifice to the wall-pigeon god and all will be forgiven.

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  8. Bohandas says:


    “They think I hate pipes, gears, conveyor belts, and all manner of functional machinery. I love that stuff! I just hate seeing it abused for no good reason. Gears are for doing things, not for slapping to the side of a building just ’cause!”

    I seem to recall a song about this phenomenon:

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  9. Bohandas says:

    Why not just have a toggleable “show pipes/hide pipes” option?

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  10. Thomas says:

    I love that look the overseer is giving the camera in that last picture
    “Move along. Nothing to see here.”

    It also makes me wonder how many more references and things from Dredmor will make thier way into the game.
    ….and if the two games are within the same universe.
    I’ll be slightly disappointed if I don’t see large cargo containers filled with lutefisk.

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  11. tubs says:

    A broiler does not use water, just FYI, it’s nothing to do with a boiler.

    Broiler is a horrible Americanism because they like inventing words for things that civilised folk call “grills”.

    PS: Can people be dynamics? Can they be transported… by pipe?

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  12. Darren Grey says:

    The pipes must flow!

    (Just trying to add to the reference count – there’s even a tenuous Patrick Stewart link there.)

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  13. Andy says:

    That was came to mind initially. I figured there’s some reason why this wouldn’t make sense because it seems like a glaring solution. Maybe aesthetically, for the people who want to see a bunch of pipes in their city all the time.

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  14. Annih says:

    Proper city planning should be one of the solutions for minimizing pipe clutter. Placing buildings that use steam back-to-back, for example.

    I like the idea to have small-scale resource consumption use deliverables, with more intensive/efficient systems using pipes.

    On the topic of machine placement in buildings: instead of freeing all machines from the wall, how about only freeing some of them? This would make the design of the building important for maximizing its efficiency, as well as adding visual character. Need a lot of wall space? Long, slender buildings, maybe with “wings”. Need internal space? Make a cheaper rectangular building.

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  15. Robert Tseng says:

    but will there be pipes for delivering lutefisk to the lutefisk god? Or, in the alternative, perhaps workers can carry around lutefisk in Industrial Grade, Secured Cubic Lutefisk Storage Containers (For Easy Stacking)?

    Lutefisk would probably make the workers work faster.

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  16. Kratok says:

    So, are these pipes all ‘real-mass’ objects which take up the same space as actors? I think it would be interesting if for even more extravagant prices pipes could be laid down as part of a ground tile, increasing the amount of industrial clutter while still keeping important citizens and buildings visible. Maybe even allow pipes to come out for the ground to produce scenic walls and barriers.
    The visual of a cities walls and pathways also being constructed out of the pipes and mechanisms of the city itself helpfully supports the cities ability to spirit away the citizens once its mechanical soul fully blooms and takes everyone off into the unknown

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