Now that the biomes are live in Clockwork Empires, I’ve switched gears to finishing another major feature: conduits. Formerly called “dynamics”, we are now calling them “conduits” because it’s a much better name. And these things have been nothing short of a blasted nightmare of complex proposals of various forms from the start.
So now what do we do?
Okay, back up the train. Given that it has now been something like three years since we first discussed dynamics/conduits, and we have a bunch of art which we want to theoretically use, and now that we know what the basic beginning and mid-game loops of the game are, what are conduits to be? Well, it’s arguably the mid to late game upgrade path. The goals of having conduits in the game are:
- ability to modernize your industry: crank out goods harder, faster better and stronger while requiring less human resources.
- ability to move stuff around more quickly?
- incentive to upgrade your buildings (upgrading is good and machines are Visually Satisfying)
- ability to build fun stuff and have a good time dragging pipes all over the place.
- in fact, it seems like most people just want to be able to shove goods down a pipe and have them go somewhere else.
Okay! Great! I can work with this.
So here is the basic conduits design path that I am currently working on. We trimmed a lot of fat out of it and here is something that we think is fun, achievable with a reasonable deployment of coding resources, and which satisfies everybody’s logistical itches.
First, there is a building upgrade button.
Upgrading a building will require that it has certain modules in it or that it has completed certain requirements. Once you have done that, you will pay an upgrade cost in terms of materials (again, a function of building size), and a work crew will come by and start upgrading your building. Upgrading your building will let you do two things: use advanced modules, such as the Power Saw, and they will also let you hook workshops to other workshops/places using a module which I am strongly advocating should be called the Pneumatic Conveyance Snoot.
(It will probably not really be called the Pneumatic Conveyance Snoot.)
Advanced modules will let you do things like pick up a stack of 5 logs, and convert them into 5 planks at once. This means going into the hellscape that is the workshop code again, but my mind and body are like steel and I am prepared. While I’m at it, we can also ensure that people obey the minimum requirements correctly and don’t overproduce things, since I know that’s been a major nuisance for players.
The Pneumatic Conveyance Snoot lets you plumb two areas together. There are inputs and outputs. Output goods from your Carpentry Workshop will be placed into a Snoot in your carpentry workshop, and will be shot to the end of another Snoot instantaneously. Logistics then happens. Miners can deposit their ores in the Snoot and fire them right next to their metalworks. A metalworks can refine ores and fire them immediately right next to ANOTHER metalworks!
As part of the road to hooking things together with giant rows of tubing, I have also started work on real fences and walls, which are simply another form of thing-in-a-line as far as the engine is concerned. Different fences will have different construction costs and different levels of strength.
So, yes. Big pile of content, chaos and stuff. One major issue which I am struggling with is trying to figure out the right way to hook conduits up to each other; it looks like I will either end up generating at least some of the geometry procedurally, or doing Laplacian deformation in order to connect them together (as I alluded to in a GDC talk this month.) I haven’t decided exactly what the full solution will be, and the first experimental patch version of this may not be as visually pretty as the final version. Still, progress marches onwards!