As a principle of game design it is essential that the major mechanics systems of Clockwork Empires clearly interact and cause consequences with one another. Buildings should affect characters should affect events should affect characters should affect industry and so on in every direction through the web of systems.
The Quality of Life mechanics are a strong link to character mood from a handful of systems. The first iteration of Quality of Life was compelling, sure (and I wrote about it previously here), and it did perform that connective role. But it did not explicitly give the player a suggestion about what actions they should be taking. It is one thing to say that so-and-so is upset because of this and that. The point is how do I-the-player change it? (Further, how important are the things I can change?)
To generalize once more: given a simulation game, it is not enough to have a cool simulation with pieces that affect other pieces. The game must tell the player what the heck is going on, why, and what they can do about it. And if there are many things they can do about it, what’s the difference between them? Or, at least, which is more important? (And why should the player care?)
Providing a framework for answering all of those questions is what we’ve been doing with Quality of Life in the latest iteration — plus the usual balance and adding Terrible Consequences to ignoring character moods.
Before jumping in to specific examples I will do a UI disclaimer: a bunch of these screenshots are in-dev and not quite polished up. If stuff looks weird or glitchy, that’s not the point! Right, moving on, here’s a dramatic example:
Having no military will seriously anger your colonists. See here my test colony:
Everyone who primary mood isn’t anger is despairing. Anger causes people to become Enraged (and not work), so you’ll want to avoid that. The problem here is that I don’t have a barracks. Let’s build one and conscript some troops:
Much better, the rage has subsided a bit! Of course half the people are primarily despairing because I’m intentionally running this colony into the ground for Legitimate Testing Reasons And Totally Not A Useless Experiment By A Malevolent Creator.
(High-despair colonists leads to problems, but we won’t discuss that now.)
So, how did I know that a barracks and military would make a dramatic change? Glad you asked! See here:
Check out this tooltip – lots of good information. It gives a good breakdown about what meaningful actions you can take to make her happier. Let’s examine it closely.
Sleep: 4/5 – She’s doing pretty well here primarily because of her “Pioneering Spirit” trait (this is explained if you open up her character info window). But we’re given an actionable item to improve her sleep rating: build a bed. Still, doing pretty well here.
Hunger: 1/5: “Could use better-quality food.” : I suppose I should make this clearly state that she’s been subsisting on raw meat and foraged berries. In any case, it isn’t good, and she isn’t happy. Simply getting some decent cooked food will bump her up to 3/5 and really help with the despair level.
Safety: 1/5: Clearly a barracks is needed. Having no barracks and no soldiers at all is very upsetting because Fishpeople or Stahlmarkians could swing by and eat everyone. (That said, you get about 5 days of leeway when you start the game – and the tooltip will tell you this.)
Personal Space: 1/5: This is the odd one out, it’s generally higher for colonists. Tillie Goldenthomp however just really wants the colony population to be higher due to her “Gregarious” trait (if I recall correctly). Her character info panels explains this. All you can do here is try to pull in more immigration.
Your colonists have problems? Now you know what to do to solve them. ‘Course if you don’t, things can get Interesting. But let’s leave it at that for now.
The player asks “But how do I fix half-fish people?”
The Occult Inspector answers “With a bullet”
What was I saying? Anyway I’ve been noticing this direction in the last couple of builds and it is already taking a nice shape. From my own experience it’s one thing to make a problem, it’s another issue entirely informing your players what tools they have to fix the problem.
I’m happy to see the game move on the continuum from ‘Dwarf Fortress’ to ‘Startopia’
Seems like at least some colonists should be able to feel complacent or clueless if they haven’t been attacked or are unaware of nearby dangers. Then they can get angry about lacking a military (or prior lack of foresight) once people start getting eaten….
I can’t agree more. I feel much better knowing that this is the mindset that you have while developing the game. I can’t wait to fire it up again and give it another go.