Of Hidden Things

My quest for the last several months to improve the visibility of information that players care about through our UI has been a really interesting process. There’s a lot going on under the hood of Clockwork Empires, and we simply didn’t have the tools to show it to you before. But our UI has been getting steadily better at presenting data (and I’ve become less and less terrible at UI design) so I keep getting cool opportunities to show you what you actually want to see when you’re looking at various parts of the game.

At this point I think there’s only one system that we haven’t shown at all but is pretty central to the way the game functions, and we actually had to avoid taking advantage of it because if we couldn’t show it to you, it got confusing. But now we can! And this system is tags.


Every object in the game has a set of tags (attributes, if you will) that are generated when we first create an item, and can change over time as an object interacts with the world. Tags such as “timber” or “food” are straightforward examples.


The common log. Flammable, timber, what more could anyone ask for in a log? Perhaps for a message, but only if you’re ready to listen.

These tags are what are searched for in order for a character to use something. For example to eat, characters will search for an object with the “food” tag. Similarly the fire system uses these tags to spread cheerful conflagration. Objects are given ignition points via tags, when they ignite they all burn with the same temperature (sorry), and they use a cellular automata-like model for spreading.


Okay, I mean, I guess bread is pretty flammable.

To give an example of why this is awesome: Displaying tags allows players to draw a direct link between previous vague requirements for certain types of food and the actual ingredients which can fulfill these requirements. “Farmer’s Stew” requires two “raw vegetables”, but what does that mean? Is Maize a vegetable? Is the Flesh Cube a vegetable? Now you have what you need to know.

Even better, once you actually cook the Farmer’s Stew, you will see a tag on it that shows that this a food that will make middle-class Overseers content if they eat it unlike, say, Cabbage Stew which is fit only for satisfying lower-class Labourers.

What lovely stew made from raw_fungus!

What lovely stew made from raw_fungus!

Better access to information gives the player what they need to make good decisions in managing their colony. There are a bunch of similar situations where the simulation was using data that was just sitting in the tags but because we had no method of displaying the tags, we weren’t able to make the systems have much impact on the game – and have the game feel fair. Now that we CAN show them, though, we get to do some fun stuff 🙂

(We can’t, of course, just tell you about fun stuff. You’ll have to find it for yourself. )

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

7 Responses to “Of Hidden Things”

  1. Eagle0600 says:

    “once you actually cook the Farmer’s Stew, you will see a tag on it that show…”

    Wouldn’t this be useful information in deciding to make it in the first place? Or even in growing the necessary ingredients to make it?

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    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

      It would! But we don’t want to talk about UI features which do not exist and may not exist.

      I’m not saying it won’t happen with that statement, just that it’s in a place of “it’d be irresponsible to confirm or deny” because it has not yet been done. Hope that makes sense.

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  2. Alavaria says:

    Yeah, the “raw_vegetables” and Maize thing which persisted for quite a while due to the icon…

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  3. Streaky Haddock says:


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  4. Leonhardt Euler says:

    The logs’ messages are lists of patch notes.

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  5. Rob Rendell says:

    > The common log. Flammable, timber, what more could anyone ask for in a log?

    It’s log, it’s log, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood.
    It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good!


    Interesting that the flammability of an item can be set directly with a tag, rather than inherited from other tags (e.g. from the “timber” tag). Doesn’t that introduce the danger of inconsistent things creeping in, like metal items marked with “highly flammable” or timber items which haven’t been so marked?

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  6. Stefan Bauer says:

    This is a wonderful addition! Gone are the days of bizarre and unnecessary obfuscation! Huzzah!

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