The Downward Tantrum Spiral

At its (*) heart, Clockwork Empires is a game where you organize people and build stuff. Those are the two main systems of player interaction with the game. You reward yourself for building things however you like, we reward you for building things effectively. Similarly, we reward you for organizing people effectively, and you can reward yourself by trying to get two characters to fall in love, start a riot (or a cult), and otherwise doing whatever it is you think would be most interesting.

(* squamous, eldritch, abominable; stamped, filed, indexed, and numbered)

Build stuff!

Build stuff!

The core features of the “build stuff” system are almost at their minimum viable state of “complete” (which we will continue to add frosting to): You can construct and destroy modules, buildings, and zones, but there are a few cases where doing so causes the game to get really unstable, so we’re working on that. We’ll expand this to include “rearranging” and probably also “upgrading” once the constructing and destroying have all their kinks worked out. The reward mechanisms are in too, but they’re more-or-less in a continuous state of refinement & iteration as we move away from “congrats, you get double production of widgets!” to more interesting rewards.

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Event Design Using Twine

And by twine I don’t mean building a game from bits of string and duct tape, but rather using Twine, the “open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories”. It’s basically a supremely easy way to build a “Choose Your Own Adventure”.

So that’s cool, but even cooler (to us) is how useful it is to designing events for Clockwork Empires. “This is madness!”, you say, but no – this is Gaslamp!

A simple event in Clockwork Empires.

A simple event from the current version of Clockwork Empires.

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The Magic Of Friendship In Clockwork Empires

One of the many things we’re working on this month is improving the fidelity of character personalities. Clockwork Empires runs a pretty cool algorithm for the characters wherein they attempt to better their lives when they find free time. If they’re angry, afraid, sad, or just bored they have a number of ways to resolve these cases, but until the present the majority of the options for making themselves feel better were solitary actions. For example they would look at paintings, stomp on the ground, drink an entire bottle of whiskey, and so on, with preferences for these actions based on the traits the character possesses (“Brutish” characters, for instance, are more inclined to solve their problems with violence).

Stomping is pretty great, isn't it?

Stomping is pretty great, isn’t it?

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Clockwork Empires April Update: Atlas Ironcog And The Airship Mast

Once more, a Clockwork Empires update appears from a crate that fell from the sky. We present for you:

ce_2015_apr_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.)

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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Smart Objects – or: “Everything I know about AI I stole from the Sims”

One of the fun things about doing a game like Clockwork Empires is that you genuinely have no idea what you’re doing some days. Some of our systems haven’t held up through the development process as well as they could, and it’s a constant game of trying to figure out how to extend them and how to refactor them. Case in point: our military AI originally used the same priority system as everything else, but now runs with a decision tree on top of the priority system. Social cues use a proper utility system *below* the priority system, etc., and there is some talk of cleaning the actual jobs up as well to not use the priority system either and to have everything in the game now run on a behavioural tree.

There are two types of people in the world, people with shovels ... well, also a gun right there if you need one. Where was this going again?

There are two types of people in the world, those with the shovel and, well, also a gun right if you need one. Where was this going again?

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Game Design Science!

We’re running two game design experiments on our internal build, both of which are going to fundamentally change the balance of the game if we stick to them, and it might be interesting for you to know why! Or turn back now and forever revel in blissful ignorance.

I have another great idea!

Lord Palmerstoke has another great idea!

Experiment 1: The Seven Dwarves

Many of the start new game parameters are holdovers from when we needed to test things in the game quickly and easily, and we’re starting to re-examine what we give the player upon game-start with regard to what’s in their best interest. Usually we have been tending to reducing the resources the player has available at the start because we want to stress the importance of interaction with the environment. We toned down the number of logs given at the start as an initial test so that interaction with the environment is required to build anything and thus deal with an increased decision space. But we’re still dropping new players into a realm of “too much choice”. Starting resources can be allocated poorly, and players often designate dozens of jobs then get frustrated that they’re not all executed in the order or at the speed that they’d expect.

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Airship Masts, Containers, Fruit Baskets

I have a cold today, and I’m feeling a bit weird. Also, the office is a little quiet.

We’ve been working on a number of new features for the next build which are hopefully notable. A small feature, requested by our user base, is a way to designate an airship mooring tower location – the idea being that colony drop-offs (immigration, supply drops, criminals, vicars) will all happen in a controlled area, and that you can then stop them from being dropped on your colonist’s heads. David checked in his code commit for that on Monday, but he wasn’t in the office this morning so I don’t have any screenshots. I asked Daniel what was going on on Tuesday, and he replied, sarcastically, “We have an art director?” So I dunno, not sure what’s going on there.

airship_mast2

Just drop it on top of the stockpile loaded with (semi-)valuable goods.

Someone sent a fruit basket last week. That was nice. I guess I should have some more fruit; it’ll help with the cold.

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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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