All posts tagged with "an overseer a selenian polyp and the cog pope walk into a bar and each discovers a gear floating in their beverage"

Enraged Colonists? Here’s What To Do

As a principle of game design it is essential that the major mechanics systems of Clockwork Empires clearly interact and cause consequences with one another. Buildings should affect characters should affect events should affect characters should affect industry and so on in every direction through the web of systems.

The Quality of Life mechanics are a strong link to character mood from a handful of systems. The first iteration of Quality of Life was compelling, sure (and I wrote about it previously here), and it did perform that connective role. But it did not explicitly give the player a suggestion about what actions they should be taking. It is one thing to say that so-and-so is upset because of this and that. The point is how do I-the-player change it? (Further, how important are the things I can change?)

My vicar is a despairing, maddened half-fishperson. You generally want to avoid this sort of situation.

Here my vicar is a half-fishperson, maddened with despair due to poor conditions. And being half-fishperson, I suppose. You generally want to avoid this sort of situation.

To generalize once more: given a simulation game, it is not enough to have a cool simulation with pieces that affect other pieces. The game must tell the player what the heck is going on, why, and what they can do about it. And if there are many things they can do about it, what’s the difference between them? Or, at least, which is more important? (And why should the player care?)

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Of Beginnings & Landing Craft

There’s a very particular feeling that you get at the beginning of a good game. It’s taking the first step into a unexplored world, secrets hidden by fog-of-war, operating on rules you have not yet learned, filled with dangers you’ll only know how to overcome after they’ve beaten you the first time around.

“Strike the Earth!”

It’s very important to get the beginning of a good story right, and with our goal in Clockwork Empires being to have the player create stories through the gameplay, well. It’s an obvious point of importance (to say nothing of game design in general requiring a strong ‘hook’ – it’s just good design). Getting this right is going to be iterative by necessity so I’m not going to indulge in discussing our pile of speculation on approaching the problem just yet. It’s wrapped in some dreadfully unfinished UI anyway. So, rather, I want to talk about a personal approach to a very particular detail that I’m trying to slip into the game.

(Shh; Don’t let the other guys know about this. Daniel might insist on putting lutefisk into the bloody game again, and don’t get me started on Nicholas’ creepy poet obsession.)

“Moving out!”

To me, personally, getting the beginning right is a bit about capturing what I felt back when I was playing games as a kid with no knowledge of how they were made. Certainly my memory is flavored by a heavy helping of nostalgia but the experience was, I think, something very much more than the sum of its parts because the processes behind the game were completely magical to me. Before I knew how scripting worked, how computer graphics were made, how to program a UI, I could reasonably expect anything to happen after that first step into the game-world.

Though we may not manage quite that, the simulation-centered gameplay of Clockwork Empires is going to be a damn good attempt at enabling players to feel something like that when they make landfall at behest of the Queen onto an unknown and Perfectly Safe shore.

(Especially with the Fun we’ve been cooking up in the art room during the last couple weeks. Examples of key phrases: “stretchy tentacle rigs”, “like a malevolent blob of phlegm”, “head should come off about half the time”, “the glow needs to be more unnatural”, “figured out how to make it fold into itself”, and so on. )

As for my own little indulgence, it’s this:

(From a standpoint of technique I’ll only say that it bugs the hell out of me that I did the correct perspective on the paddlewheel while somehow botching the giant drive-cog by doing the exact wrong thing. So, it’s wonky; let’s all agree that the matter is settled and that there was a gross error in Mr. Ambrose Dorian Chainsly’s — not to be confused with the Lower Bilgestreams Chainsleys with their indecorous ‘e’ — patented process as detailed in “A New And Curious Method Of Arrangement Pertaining To Gearspring’s Cog Manufacturing Autodynamo”. We shall send a strongly worded to Mr. Chainsly immediately, but for now you’ll have to make due with these landing craft, self-annihilating  drive-wheel vibrations be damned!)

It’s surprising what you can find stewing in your head for eighteen years.

(Also: not a half-bad punchline to the old “An Overseer, a Selenian Polyp, and The Cog Pope walk into a pub … “)

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