In the Gaslamp Games office we have some phrases to describe game design pitfalls. For instance “bruising the fat” refers to trying to make an aspect of the simulation unnecessarily detailed (and let me disclaimer that by saying that we have all the love in the world for Dwarf Fortress – it’s just not a road down which it is reasonable for us to follow). “Playing Starcraft” is giving the player too much ability to micromanage an insignificant system in order to optimize their in-game power. When a combat enemy simply swarms at the player for no particular reason but to get defeated, that’s “goblins”.
Bandits in Clockwork Empires started off as “goblins”, then in a second major iteration received a concept of a home camp, individual morale, and the player got a choice between fighting and letting the bandits take what they want. Funny thing is, just about zero players were interested in letting the bandits take their stuff without a fight because that simply isn’t done in games. Players chose to fight even when their military was strained, and even if it was quite likely that the bandits would steal something easily replaced like logs or fungus (until, that is, bandits received a Robbery Upgrade that had them prioritize booze and other good things, as bandits should).
Right, so we were giving a choice that no one was particularly interested in choosing, effectively no choice at all. So there were a few ways to dig in to this: make longer-term consequences for interactions with bandits, make bandits react over a longer term to what the player chooses to do, and heck, just make the more interesting narratively. They should be characters in a world, not goblins.
Let’s start with characterization: Cults suddenly became a whole lot more evocative once they had names and the player was told what these names were. “Druids of the Black Obelisk” is terrifically suggestive about the unrepresented details and uncommunicated motivations of the cult in question, like there’s a whole layer of storytelling below the surface waiting for a player to connect the dots. Bandits could get the same treatment.
History provides us with a lot of lovely, colourful criminal gangs from the 19th century. Ned Kelly & co. are an obvious inspiration to CE, and it’s a simple matter to get a quick overview of how gangs of the period were named and turn that into something we could generate. As it happens, from the first improvement pass, bandits were already formed into group and bandits individually had names – but only first names, which is appropriate to their outlaw status. So it was fairly easy to build on this structure and name gangs after the first bandit added to a group – now a “gang” – with an added adjective + noun, thus:
And now we have a faction relation scale for bandits ranging from the negative to the positive, and where a player is on that scale will trigger appropriate events. So for example you can increase your relations with the bandit faction by choosing to bury their dead in your graveyard rather than dumping their bodies in the woods. Or simply defeat the bandits in battle – they will respect your military prowess. From there, you may trigger a truce, and from there, bandits might supply you with some goods they “found”. Accepting such a gift may have consequences if you have a colonist organized enough to catch the discrepancy in stockpile records…
There we start tying different systems and events together by way of player choices to form something more dynamic, with build-up and consequences! Expect much more of this sort of thing.
In vaguely related news, we’re pushing patch 37B to the experimental branch in Steam. The changelog follows:
- FIXED: various people getting items stuck in their hands
- FIXED: characters getting stuck in Ghost Modules
- FIXED: occasionally grabbing a social job if you had non-social work you could be doing
- FIXED: some nonsense with the mailbox system
- FIXED: broken nametags (& disappearing nametags on load)
- FIXED: dead people will no longer send ministry investigators after you. (Or initiate any other events) (At least not events restricted to living people; let’s keep an open mind here.)
- FIXED: Sulphur Tonic job broken (due to extra space character)
- FIXED: non-deleting science crates (+ added fun icons to ticker reports for science crates)
- balance: increased bandit timers
- FIXED: laudanum (and other drinks?!) not showing up in commodities window
- FIXED: isDay wasn’t set to true on first day
- FIXED: military characters will no longer use specially skilled civilian outfits if overseer has skill
- FIXED: characters assigned uniform via office job should stick to those uniforms correctly
- FIXED: militia NCOs no longer revert to civilian form if they have skills
- FIXED: bandits actually respect truce now!
- FIXED: bandit drop/flee cycle
- gabion construction changed to a civilian job
- added a floating starvation warning icon to starving characters
- temp. removed “Spinning Mule” machine (use the workbench!)
- rebalanced idle/wander/gossip weighting
- updated refining tutorial to reference Metalworks as place to refine ore
- colonists will now be slightly happier eating food in chairs rather than while standing
Let us know how it goes!
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