Thatched Roof Cottages

Back in the day I used to play Warcraft 2 over Kali. A popular strategy was developed called the “wall-in”. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, perhaps in a more recent game? To execute a wall in, you’d build farms to close the gap between your town – and it’s precious, vulnerable line of gold-mining peasants – and the outside world so that if some punk tried to pull a grunt-rush, you’d be safe and they’d have wasted their time. When you were ready, you just had a peasant chop a tree next to your farm to open it back up to access the outside world to expand.

A partially executed wall-in.

A partially executed wall-in.

A similar move has existed in Clockwork Empires for quite some time now. It is possible to build absurdly long, skinny buildings at very low cost due. And enemy AI treated them as untouchable, impassible barriers. So you see the problem here: cheap, invincible walls. At least back in Warcraft 2 the walls were legitimate buildings that would be attacked automatically.

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Technical Debt Payment Plans

Technical Debt is a handy metaphor that has been used in the programming community for awhile now. I sort of think it’s one of those things that probably got coined by somebody in the Lean Startup community, or the Agile community, or something like that. The idea of the metaphor is simple: you incur technical debt at the start of a project for a variety of reasons – getting your software started or out the door, for instance; or meeting a release target. At some point, however, the debt collector comes calling. This week, I seem to be paying my debts off: in the case of Clockwork Empires, we incurred a lot of technical debt getting the game into Early Access, with the knowledge that at some point during the process we would have to pay it off in order to get out of Early Access. Well, the point of paying it off seems to be this week.


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The Arctic Dodo and the Desert Fox

In new climates, there are new opportunities and new challenges. And these involve a heck of a lot of little things that need to be attached properly to other similarly little things, or (at the very least) given slight variation between varied biomes. The Arctic Dodo for instance:


Look at ‘im go!

Take farming, for another example. What can you grow where? Wait no – it’s not that simple. Wrong question. As a developer, I’m not playing the game, I’m making the game. Try again: How do we control the unlocking of the crop field placement buttons and what feedback do we give if they are locked due to some condition? Then we must handle the same question for cooking recipes which are also locked or unlocked per-biome. Turns out the latter is essentially done and required only minor data entry while the former required a slight expansion to how we define field locking/unlocking.

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What’s That Red Stuff?

Do you see it, right there? That’s the problem. Herein it shall be explained why and then how it is solved.


So we’ve had some talk about the overworld lately and the old post about world map generation still stands. Now we’re dealing with the details of living in it, of filling each biome with appropriate textures and objects. This is proceeding rapidly.

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Clockwork Empires March Update: The Joy Of Work

We were digging around in the dirt somewhere and discovered –


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

We have also updated our Clockwork Empires: Development Progress Report! It contains the voluminous annotated changelog.

(Don’t own the game? Clockwork Empires can be purchased on 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.

Major Changes

  • Enormous UI improvements
  • Overhauled Farming system
  • The Economy Subtly Grows

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The Overworld

I don’t know how many times in the course of development we have used the Sheng-Ji Yang quote from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri about how “One does not simply take sand from the beach and produce a Dataprobe.” But, we’ve used it a few times and today is no exception. Game development is an inherently iterative process, especially early access game development: you build systems, you attach other systems, and eventually – at some point – you run out of systems to build and cross over into a territory that consists purely of refining existing systems.

One of the major systems outstanding that I have to finish is the overworld. We have previously added randomly generated overworld maps, which are generated using a standard approach: “take a lot of Perlin noise, generate some Voronoi cells on top of that, fill in various land masses, and off you go.” What has been missing is the code which lets you pick an arbitrary point on that land mass and go exploring.

We have now reached the point in our Dataprobe creation process where we have started adding that.

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A Miner Problem

Edit: If you came here looking to read about biomes because we accidentally linked the email sendout to this page rather than the proper post, well, just go to the correct post here!

It’s me again! And you know what that means: we’re overhauling one of Clockwork Empires’ gameplay systems and I’m here to talk about it.

It’s got to do with these things.

This time it’s ore and metalworking. Like many of our systems that end up getting overhauled, ore’s legacy mostly relates to the game’s context at the start of Early Access. We needed a way for people to acquire and smelt ore before mines were added to the game, so we created Ore Surface Nodes that you can mine without a building! We eventually implemented proper underground mines, but the system was opaque and confusing, so most players – understandably – stuck with what they know, and that’s surface ore. Thus they were popular and we didn’t remove them.

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Catching The Chicken

There’s a tired joke one might hear in a restaurant when your meal is taking too long which goes something like “I guess they had to go catch the chicken before they could cook it.” This doesn’t actually happen in restaurants (probably), but it does happen in software development all the time.

Tiered organization of commands, you say?

Tiered organization of commands, you say?

When you want to do something new, you rely on having a significant chunk of code to build upon. But occasionally you have to go back and fill in things that you never realized you needed. Thankfully, unlike the restaurant joke, it’s not always such a great time sink. Having to go back and rework previous code can be done with the benefit of hindsight, and often lets you maybe make some low-effort changes that impart significant improvement to the software.

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