The Increasing Trouble of Frontier Ruffianage

In the Gaslamp Games office we have some phrases to describe game design pitfalls. For instance “bruising the fat” refers to trying to make an aspect of the simulation unnecessarily detailed (and let me disclaimer that by saying that we have all the love in the world for Dwarf Fortress – it’s just not a road down which it is reasonable for us to follow). “Playing Starcraft” is giving the player too much ability to micromanage an insignificant system in order to optimize their in-game power. When a combat enemy simply swarms at the player for no particular reason but to get defeated, that’s “goblins”.

bandits1

Bandits in Clockwork Empires started off as “goblins”, then in a second major iteration received a concept of a home camp, individual morale, and the player got a choice between fighting and letting the bandits take what they want. Funny thing is, just about zero players were interested in letting the bandits take their stuff without a fight because that simply isn’t done in games. Players chose to fight even when their military was strained, and even if it was quite likely that the bandits would steal something easily replaced like logs or fungus (until, that is, bandits received a Robbery Upgrade that had them prioritize booze and other good things, as bandits should).

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Clockwork Empires March Update: Don’t Tell The Ministry

Once more, a Clockwork Empires appears, but be sure that you –

ce_2015_mar_promo_illustration_small

This update will go live to every Clockwork Empires player via Steam!

We have also updated our Clockwork Empires: Development Progress report!

(Don’t own the game? Clockwork Empires can be purchased on ClockworkEmpires.com via Humble or from Steam.)

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Patch Notes:

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Character Skills

Character skills are now a thing in this game! While I’m certain that we’ll need to iterate on this first version of this system, all middle-class characters – Overseers, Artisans, and so on – now have a concept of how good they are at a number of skills. These are: resource collection, carpentry, smithing, cooking, construction & repair, science, and et cetera. (We can always add anything we forgot later). Performing tasks associated with these skills will eventually cause a character to improve their skill in that area (and the skill of those working under them), and that improvement in skill, for now, controls how quickly a given job can be completed. Maximizing a character’s rank in a particular skill will currently take a whole lot of time, but hopefully the drastic amount it improves the rate at which they can perform work is worth it. We’ll be keeping an eye on tuning these.

We shall all aspire to follow in Gilbert Goldenthomp's footsteps and one day become "not terrible" at carpentry.

We shall all aspire to one day become “not terrible” at carpentry. (And don’t mind the UI here, it’s just really easy to prototype with basic text output.)

We’ve known from the start that we wanted to include some kind of character skill progression, but there were some design hurdles to overcome before implementation. First is that we want to keep the “cast of characters” the player must pay attention to small, because it’s easier to care about the minutiae and relationships among a dozen people than it is to sort out anyone in a crowd of fifty or a hundred characters. So for now we’ve restricted the character skills exclusively to the middle class “cast”. Besides, this is the (sorta) Victorian era – overseers are not particularly interested in how the common laborers think they can do their job better. As such, lower class characters will directly reference their overseer’s skill level when determining skill modifier. (We’ll likely be secretly tracking the lower class characters’ skills  for other reasons, but they will only be able to perform a task as fast as their boss allows it.)

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Booze, Madness, and Fiscal Responsibility

This was going to be about why you shouldn’t chug two bottles of hard liquor – and it still is, really. A matter of weeks ago, colonists in Clockwork Empires could (and would) drink to great excess when they were the least bit upset. Which is almost okay in a semi-grimdark Historically Accurate Frontier sense of things, but the point at which a colonist  knocks back multiple bottles of whisky is going too far, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that we’d expect a normal human to have horrible alcohol poisoning after such a stunt. Plus the economic balance is uninspiring, considering the opportunity cost of making booze vs. bread (related, tangentially, to a re-balancing adjustment that doubled hunger growth).

Sure could use a drink.

Sure could use a drink.

So what’s booze to do in Clockwork Empires and how can it help my colony when it’s turning into a big mess? And how do cults work into it?

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Optimizing Colonist AI

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?

A busy town bustles. What is to be done!

A town bustling busily. What is to be done!

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Clockwork Empires February Update: THE MISTS OF ANTIPODEA

From the mists emerges- an update to Clockwork Empires with a not-unreasonably lengthy title!

The Mists of Antipodea

This update will go live to every Clockwork Empires player via Steam!

We have also updated our Clockwork Empires: Development Progress report!

(Don’t own the game? Clockwork Empires can be purchased on ClockworkEmpires.com via Humble or from Steam.)

Want to hear about all sorts of updates via email plus receive silly images from development? Sign up for the newsletter here.

Patch Notes:

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So You Want To Form A Cult

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.

Add three black mana to your pool.

Add three black mana to your pool.

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?

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Character Events

I believe it was Rock Paper Shotgun who referred to our previous game, Dungeons of Dredmor, as “a randomly generated spinning roulette wheel of glory and death” (or something like that, anyhow.) Regardless, this is a good design philosophy and one that we can all agree upon. To this end, it is good to put some random events in games – they sparkle things up.

We also have said that one of the key driving forces in Clockwork Empires is your characters; it is very good for them to do various things, based on their personality, character traits, and moods. We want characters – and who they associate with, and who they are organized with – to start making a noticeable impact on the game beyond the incidental impact of being nearby other characters when they do something that may, or may not, affect other members of your settlement.

Dwarf Fortress handles this with Strange Moods; a Dwarf will lock themselves in a room and go insane – or, maybe, produce a strange artifact. Crusader Kings 2 handles this with various events happening, ranging from jousting tournaments to attempting to turn lead into gold.

To generalize this: we have random Character Events.

Well, the content is much more interesting, but that's not much of a choice. Now we also need to get rid of this enormous amount of wasted space.

For instance…

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