Rally Point Whackamole

Daniel and I love arguing with each other about random design questions though somehow we generally end up agreeing on what to do, without agreeing on a conclusion to the original question. The result is, at least, a practical course of action. This is the story of an argument where I concede victory to Daniel.

This colony was barely holding by a pack of depressed militia. They had only a stockpile full of raw food, their guns, and some whisky. Then 30 Fishpeople raiders attacked.

This colony was barely holding together, the only survivors are a pack of utterly depressed militia soldiers. They have only a stockpile full of raw food, their guns, and some whisky. … then thirty Fishpeople raiders attacked and it was all over.

Rally Point Whackmole

Playing the latest build in the tropical biome, you may find that it is indeed crawling with random Fishpeople. When playing I found I had to send troops from one side of my colony to deal with a fishperson, then order them to run to the other side to deal with another one. Meanwhile, a third fishperson is trying to mess up my crops and, jeez, to re-select the military rally point I have to open Work Crews, scroll to the military squad (defaults to the bottom of the list), find the little rally button, then drop it off on the map each time I want to move the squad rally point. Tedious! Let’s break down the issues here:

  • The re/set rally point is hidden deep in the UI, and requires many actions to access. Surely this can be made more accessible.
  • Related to the above, the Work Crews list does not ‘remember’ where it was scrolled to after it was closed.
  • The on-map rally beacon itself does not have an option to “move rally”, just “cancel job”.

My proposal was this: If a squad has an active rally beacon set on the map, create an “alert” style element in the main gameplay UI somewhere. Click on that to zoom to the rally point, maybe right-click to move it or maybe cancel it; just make it really accessible when it was in an active context. We came up with some mockups of what this would look like:


On the top, a top-aligned alert. On the bottom, mini alerts attached to the game log.

This would mean that you have instant access to all military squads not unlike (but rather less complex) than Paradox’s concept of an “outliner” which they added to all of their immensely complex strategy games a couple years ago. The rally alerts only show up when you’ve given a direct order, so there should never be too many of them nor should they be irrelevant. The bottom mockup (shown above) even shows a concept of changing the icon based on what the squad is doing.

Now … I’ll still argue that all of this isn’t a bad idea, but Daniel hit me with the observation that what I was doing was optimizing the ability of a player to micromanage rather than removing it. This violates our design principle of “set policy, not each individual order”. Because although we want to give military squads orders, we don’t want this game to be about making playing Fishpeople Whack-a-mole easier: The game shouldn’t even require the player engage in Whack-a-mole at all.


Interesting. See, we had a problem, so we figured out how to make it easier for the player to solve. We should have solved the problem. Or, if you like, we should make the colonists smart enough to solve the problem for the player.

We can’t simply make soldiers attack hostiles in a greater range – then they’ll wander off into the jungle chasing Fishpeople down that they couldn’t possible see and probably just get overwhelmed and eaten. The answer lies, perhaps, within the concept of the rally point: have a colonist engaging in combat create a hidden ‘soft rally’ which pulls nearby soldiers – if they don’t have overriding orders given to them by the player. What I describe here isn’t terribly complex and goes back to the logic we’ve all employed in carefully pulling mobs in World of Warcraft. Here’s how it’ll work:

  1. Colonist is attacked by or attacks hostile entity (hunting doesn’t count)
  2. Hidden “call for help” rally-like thing is created.
  3. Soldiers will automatically run toward a “call for help” within a generous radius (“What’s all this screaming about?”)
  4. This will collide the soldiers attack search radius with the hostile entity, triggering combat
  5. OR the entity will have left the area / been killed, in which case the soldier shrugs and goes back to whatever they were doing.

Thus, Fishpeople whack-a-mole is dealt with automatically. And the mechanic fits very neatly into the behaviour you’d expect from simulated people!

Another attempt - trying to get walls and a farming base up to hold off the Fishpeople. It ended in horrible death, of course.

Another attempt – trying to get walls up and farms working while fending off swarms of Fishpeople. It ended in the horrible death of everyone, of course.

If via testing it turns we do need the additional rally point UI with alerts and all, we can do that. But we don’t want to suggest via UI that the player must micromanage squad positioning for something as small as random Fishpeople wandering into their settlement. For more serious threats? Well, then we’ll talk.

Interviews on Clockwork Empires

We did a bunch of these! The top two are podcasts, the bottom two are text.

In other news, a Changelog Appears

This will appear as revision 31A  in the “experimental” version of the game which you can opt into via Steam.

There are only minor pieces of new content, largely in the behaviour of various characters, but there are a lot of really nice fixes that make life much nicer. (Note: the soldier behaviour mentioned in this blog post will not be included in this experimental version, but other minor soldier actions have been cleaned up so they really do a much better job of things.)

On with the changelog!

  • FIXED: coconut curry now properly requires chillies
  • FIXED: can no longer cook fishperson steak out of fishperson steak; requires raw fishperson meat.
  • FIXED: sugar can now be eaten raw
  • FIXED: crop crash (when attempting to harvest spoiled/corrupted crops)
  • FIXED: animals are no longer attracted to human civilization
  • FIXED: cultist_power variable typo meant cults were powerless
  • FIXED: buried corpses should no longer upset people
  • FIXED: consume_food hooked up properly
  • FIXED: stumps from chopped trees can be cleared properly now.
  • FIXED: chance to plant evil crops was out of whack with intended
  • FIXED: eldritch transformation cannot be interrupted
  • FIXED: can no longer have conversations with axe murderers
  • Cultists can build stone OR wood shrines
  • shrinebuilding & transformation gives notification
  • people will run away from murderers
  • shrines are now randomly rotated
  • Conscription button now says “conscript unit” or “retire unit” and shows appropriate image depending on context.
  • Cleaned up Fishpeople butchering/eating humans
  • Assembling Gabions no longer requires a shovel (so soldiers will not drop their weapons to assemble gabions)
  • Assembling Gabions will never be prioritized over fighting
  • Soldiers will now run to pick up their weapon in all cases
  • “Military Training” will encourage soldiers to value fighting more
  • Farming job utilities more or less equalized
  • Made it slightly more likely for fishpeople to get butchered, especially by morbid colonists
  • Giant Beetles are now “armoured”
  • Added more animals to biomes
  • Made upsetting things in general slightly more maddening
  • Spruced up some placeholder death descriptions
  • Fishpeople get mad when their people are killed (unless they’re raiders, which are fair game)
  • Fishpeople can destroy gabions
  • Gabions and crops now have hitpoints
  • Alerts generated when fishpeople destroy crops or gabions 
  • Misc. chair/table improvements
  • Beds now have restfulness bonus (applied every 3 seconds while sleeping); in short, better bed = less sleep needed.
  • Reduced absurdly high search range for the fishpeople’s “Butcher Human Corpse” and “Eat Human Flesh” jobs
  • “Military Training” should allow soldiers to hold their ground better in combat (unless they’re really upset)
Posted in Clockwork Empires | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses to “Rally Point Whackamole”

  1. Headjack says:

    Shant people hide indoors when they come around? Or maybe they must be ordered.

    { reply }
  2. Samut says:

    “FIXED: can no longer have conversations with axe murderers”

    This game has the greatest patch notes EVER.

    { reply }
  3. Wootah says:

    Unless I was of the stabby persuasion, I would take any and every opportunity to make myself scarce or hidden when hostily engaged. Of course even if I weren’t petrified in horror, If the thing facing me down had more of an inclination to attack based on my sudden movements, I would gradually sidle off until some other poor sap drew the attacker off with a rapid egression.

    { reply }
  4. BTAxis says:

    (X) Jacobsen!
    (X) Jacobsen!
    (X) Jacobsen!

    { reply }
  5. LadyAth says:

    *eyes the cube at the bottom of the screen*
    Lament Configuration for CE??!!!!
    *gasps in horror and anticipation*

    Ahhh I can dream 🙂

    { reply }
  6. hallucigenia says:

    It occurs to me that you might not always *want* soldiers to respond to calls for help — say, if you have a new and inexperienced militia (hello Gnomoria yes I am playing wrong I know). Might you want to provide the option to turn individual squadrons’ “respond to calls for help” property on and off, such that one squadron might be the designated Town Guard and others activated only in emergencies?

    { reply }
    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:


      Though ideally the quality of being inexperienced militia would just make them worse at responding to danger — we can, for example, track if a person is militia vs. has military training and if they have the “coward” trait. These let us sort of adjust behaviours without having to give explicit control to the player.

      The player should, of course, be made aware that things are happening for these reasons.

      { reply }
  7. V says:

    That is a Horadric Lutefisk Cube from Dungeons of Dredmor.

    { reply }

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *