Shift Work

The work shift system started out life not even really being considered a “system” per se but rather just a basic set of controls for when people would work. Characters would work during the day and sleep at night.

Pepper Barnacle, skilled at cookery as well as science; leader of the aptly named Daring Culinarians. His eponymous dish is feared, loathed, and loved in equal measure.

Pepper Barnacle, skilled at cookery as well as science; leader of the aptly named Daring Culinarians. His eponymous dish is feared, loathed, and loved in equal measure.

Then we thought of a great way to increase game system interconnectedness by attaching the shift system to character happiness: The happier a character is, the more they’ll work. At this point, though, we also thought it would be a great idea since we’re now giving the shifts first class UI status by actually setting aside UI space to show the work shifts to allow the player to control them. Turns out this was not a great idea.

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I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta

A society of Alphas couldn’t fail to be unstable and miserable. First off, hello new bureaucrats! We’re thrilled you could join us. For those of you new to the community and not in the know, here are some useful things to know:

  • We do a blog post here every Wednesday describing what we are working on this week and what we are thinking about. We even have a mailing list where we can send you this blog post, every week.
  • We post new, experimental builds of Clockwork Empires for testing and feedback to the “experimental” branch on Steam about once a week or so, and have a major release of Clockwork Empires pushed to the main branch on Steam about once a month.
  • We have forums, which are pretty awesome. If you have not yet discovered our forums, please do so! (Please also change your icon so that I do not have to look at a series of grinning, mustachio’ed men telling me that the game is broken. Seriously, it’s starting to haunt my dreams.)
"Keep those patches comin'"

“Keep those patches comin'”

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Clockwork Empires May Update: Frontier Living In Interesting Times

(Or: The Beta Begins.) In which we explore –


This update will go live to every Clockwork Empires player via Steam! We’ve also prepared a lovely video to help set the tone:

(There’s a German version for our good Stahlmarkian friends, check it out here. We apologize for missing umlaute.)

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

Don’t own the game? Clockwork Empires can be purchased on via Humble or from Steam. Our top bureaucrats assure us that the stars are right and we must use the correct number so: Clockwork Empires is on sale via Steam for exactly 34% off on May 21st only. Not until great Quag’gorath awakens is it going to get better than this.

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

We are moving from Alpha 50 to Beta 51.

What does this mean for you?
It starts with us: this is a shift in development. We have essentially finished all of the backend code required to complete the game. We can now switch entirely to mechanics integration, content implementation, UI/UX improvement, optimization, and stability. This also means that the countdown to release can be counted in months. This is an exciting threshold for us!

(There is a downside: the changelogs are going to get even longer, ugh. Stay strong, team! We can do this.)

Major player-facing additions this month

  • New Workshop order system: jobs are queued per work module (it’s super easy!)
  • New Event Arc system to chain interesting events together to produce Interesting Times
  • Colonists can now carry stacks of ingredients to workshop jobs that require lots of materials – much more efficient!
  • Tons of subtle UI usability improvements to make your life easier
  • Colonist Quality of Life system: good colonies produce happy, productive overseers

If you’re in a hurry, that should cover it. But if you find yourself with the inexplicable urge for more, you’re in luck, we’ve got the full changelog posted below — or the extra special annotated changelog in the Clockwork Empires Development Report.

Begin the full Beta 51 changelog!

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That Frontier Quality of Life

What’s important to a colonist’s quality of life on the Frontier? Why, clearly: Food, safety, work conditions, and having a good place to sleep. We’ve been using the memory system to convey the importance of these factors but the results have been somewhat unsteady, prone to being thrown off by extreme, random factors. To be fair, it’s pretty upsetting when Fishpeople eat your friends, but that’s a difficult emotion to balance against something as simple as getting a good meal every day.

How do we make fulfilling the basics AND memories of extreme events both remain important throughout? So glad you asked: The Quality Of Life System! This somewhat resembles the old stub for personal desires, but generalizes them for all people, with allowances for social class and traits. Let’s have a look:

Possibly our random name generator's finest work yet.

Possibly our random name generator’s finest work yet.

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Quick, Put More Logistics In It!

As part of the workshop->upgrade->Snoot->cover the world in progress cycle, we have an exciting series of new economics problems: how to make upgraded modules actually useful, and how to make workshops not terrible. The solution that we have elected to try, and which Daniel bullied me into writing (which took a week, and then I quite like the results so it’s not so bad) is to have workshop jobs assigned per-module, rather than per-building.



For Revision 50D, we let you explicitly assign a task to a given module (“Make Planks”, “Make Cot”, etc.) The # of workshop modules indicates the # of tasks. A worker will do the task assigned to the first module in a row. If the first module is busy, they will move to the second module; and so on, and so forth. Modules are organized in the workshop in terms of priority, and can be moved up and down (i.e. if your power saw is first in the queue, if it is empty people will try to use it first.) So if you have:

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And in the darkness bind them: The Event Director

The scripting capacity of Clockwork Empires is a funny thing. It gives us immense power, the ability to do amazing things. But it’s very easy to get lost in a mess of complexity. So, yes, we can script an event that essentially holds in itself an entire Twine-like narrative dialog sequence that pushes commands to the game world simulation, waits, then reads states from the game world simulation and thereby lets you interact with the world in abounding narrative scintillation.


But be warned: you may lose yourself in this power, and give in, and be plagued forever by spectral script errors.

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Alerts and When to Mystery

Whew, I haven’t written one of these in a while! I’ve been doing some weird back-end programming for a bit, but a few things that I’ve been working on is finally ready for an experiment, so let’s talk about them.

Alert framework

We’re rolling out a new, more robust alert framework.

"To the heliograph! Alert the Ministry that the cogs have whizzled too far this time!"

“To the heliograph! We must alert the Ministry that the cogs have whizzled too far this time!”

The old alerts were good for a few things, but not great for most. They began their life out of a need for a system for opt-in decision making, since we didn’t want to be pushing major choices to the middle of the main screen every time a player needed to make a choice (e.g. what to do about bandits), but the initial implementation of icons down the left side of the screen caused problems: icons alone aren’t enough to get across specific information, and there was still important information in the “ticker” (aka dialogue) box at the top of the screen because of this. Some news like “you got some planks” just didn’t make sense in a dismissable icon with the same weight as “pick your bandit foreign policy”.

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They’re Called Conduits Now: A Tale of the Pneumatic Conveyance Snoot

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?


Ceci n’est pas un pipe.

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