We are definitely moving into the part of the dev cycle where we can craft the “mid game” experience of Clockwork Empires effectively. One of the issues we are currently facing with the middle game is one of performance. We have a requirement that the game perform 10 simulation ticks per second, as mandated by our AI. This means that every update to the game state needs to take place in approximately 100 msec to avoid stuttering between frames – the renderer will keep rendering, if necessary, while it waits for the game AI to catch up. If you have 100 characters to be simulated, this gives you a budget of slightly under 1 msec per character. With Revision 36, we started to see people sending us save games with functioning colonies of 70 or so colonists, where stuttering was frequently occurring, and where in general the frame took more than 100 msec to run on my PC at the office. What can be done?
We’ve been a bit coy about portrayal of cults in Clockwork Empires because we’ve wanted to keep them mysterious. Don’t show the monster. But if a cult forms in the woods and no one bothers to really tell the player what’s going on, did it matter? Perhaps not.
Aside from that, the mechanics we built made it in the player’s best interest to instantly execute anyone they suspect of forming a cult, which happens when you give people any kind of free time. Which is kinda interesting in a brutal way, but if another day of executions is the only valid response to cults, then is this not simply eldritch whackamole?
So we sat back and asked ourselves: Where do we want to go with cults? What player choice should they involve – why would a player want to keep a cult around (aside from morbid curiosity which, granted, our players seem to have in abundance)? How much do we tell the player and how much do we keep as a Fun Surprise?
It seems like revision 35 of Clockwork Empires, Enola Brimble’s Fine Day In Which Everything Isn’t Going To Explode has been a very well-received! We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it, and we appreciate it; players are appreciating fewer slowdowns, script errors, glitches, stutters, or save errors. So, clearly, we’re making progress.
Some folks are still having save game trouble, and we’re continuing to work on that as our #1 debugging priority (including the folks who don’t seem to be able to load save games at all?) – there are also some OS X speed and crash issues that we are currently debugging. However, we’re glad that people seem to be doing very much better with this latest build.
As the time until the next patch is roughly three weeks away, it looks like we will be primarily focusing the next patch on quality of life improvements – again! We’re rebalancing certain parts of the AI to try and clean up some odd behaviours with combat, social behaviours, and things not working correctly. We’re also just fixing a bunch of AI related bugs. One major quality-of-life improvement that is a new system, however, is fog-of-war, which is getting a rewrite.
Also, fog-of-war is not technically a quality-of-life system. More specifically, it improves our lives, but it makes your life moody and depressing.