Food! It is delicious. It is vital to your colony! It… requires a lot of work to balance!
Food has been a large part of our gameplay for awhile now, but most of our balance efforts have centered around farming; essentially you solve the “How many farmers do I need, growing what” problem for the duration of the game. However, part of maturing Clockwork Empires into a deeper game is tying our systems together in various ways – with the ideal results providing interesting choices for the player. We’re starting to do just that, in a place that hasn’t received balance loving for quite a while: The Kitchen.
Previously, the kitchen had about a zillion recipes and not much interesting to do with them – they were simply ways to convert one raw food into one cooked food. We attempted to simplify this by creating the Basic Food recipe, but that still left us with a lot of stuff you could make and no particular reason to pick any one over the other. That changes now!
Recipes have been significantly reworked in the latest experimental build (Alpha 46A) and are now split into 5 rough categories (conceptually; this isn’t explicitly conveyed to the player yet).
- Basic Food – 1:1 cooked food based off whatever you threw in the pot. Everyone will prefer this over raw meat and grain, but everyone except the lower class would prefer something better.
- Quality Food – New recipes like Berry Medley, Farmers’ Stew, and Sausages combine 2:1 raw-to-cooked food for a delicious meal that middle class characters demand & love.
- Premium Food – This is the Good Stuff; Created with a 3:1 ratio of raw ingredients to output, Aristocrats will be clamoring for more of these premium pies and curries.
- Exotic Food – Perhaps you’d like to try some Caviar from fishperson eggs? Or maybe your friend over there is looking a bit tasty. Exotic food offers a superior amount of food (between 1:2 and 1:4) for those willing to dare its maddening flavours.
- Trade Food – Regular food is far too perishable to be shipping about the Empire! That’s where trade food comes in. These (now somewhat more expensive to make) goods such as Pickled Fungus, Berry Preserves, and Tinned Meat will keep just about forever, allowing you to buy and sell them at your leisure with minimal molding.
Grouping food by social class allows for a further arc into the lategame in terms of food manufacturing, and ties your production to the happiness of your colonists. A good start!
But some of you are probably looking at the ratios up there and asking yourself “How in the world am I expected to produce 2:1 and 3:1 ratios of food? I can barely keep my colony fed in the first place!”. This is part of an ongoing balancing effort as regards both food and colonist mood. Our goal is to reach a place where as the early game comes to a close and you’re moving into the middlegame where you have enough overseers to start building optional buildings, the difficulty of acquiring raw food eases off and your concern becomes more about keeping people happy so they don’t act out, as opposed to preventing them from straight-up starving. (You should still be able to starve if you let fishpeople and beetles run rampant, though.)
There’s still a lot of work left toward accomplishing this goal (ie. upset colonists don’t do a lot right now, and food acquisition is WAY harsh if you’re not being proactive) but as a first measure we’ve eased off on the decay rate of foragables like berries, which should help. We’ll also be experimenting with just how much the different social classes demand you provide them food according to their station; right now it’s fairly generous as a first implementation. I’m hoping to see a lot of feedback as we continue balancing and evolving this system.
So, what about Trade Food? Why’s that a thing? Why can’t I sell Novorus my delicious pies? Simply put, food has a significantly different production rate compared to everything else in the game. You need a lot of it. At the population cap, food requirements are something like 100 a day! Trying to make that offer useful trade values across the entire arc of the game and still balance recipes in interesting ways would be a nightmare. Instead, we’re offering a selection of “Trade Foods” – preserved items like jam, canned meat, pickled fungus – that require goods like glass or iron to create, but are trade-able in the new Trade Depot (which also went in as of this experimental patch). Relative values on these are going to be subject to SIGNIFICANT iteration, because I’d like them to be useful as something you feed people and also something you can use as currency.
Lastly, I should probably talk about our future plans for food. I mentioned earlier that our end goal is to ease off the difficulty of food acquisition as you move into the middle/lategame; This is only the first step towards that. One of our current lategame issues is how long it takes to cook large batches of food, and we have some ideas about how to address that (all require tweaking logistics AI, however, which is why they’re not happening quite yet). Additionally, we’re considering some potential ways to tie food gathering into the Naturalist’s Office as that feature gets fleshed out. I don’t want to say too much yet, but I have a few ideas that could fundamentally change the way you feed your colonists in the early game. I’m very excited to keep pushing CE towards a deeper, more complex game, and I’m excited for you all to be along for the ride with us.