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Game Design Flux, or How I learned virtual crop rotation isn't fun.

May 7, 2013 | Dukus | 85 Comments

Ag0I don't like game design documents. After an initial prototype of the action is made, playing the game tells you what's right and what's wrong, what needs to be added and removed. After many revisions, if the document isn't constantly updated, it becomes useless. I much prefer a list of tasks that specifies what needs to be added, removed, or changed. It's flexible and shows at a glance what needs to be done, and what was done in the past.
I've followed this method for all of the development of Banished. I had a half page of notes scribbled in the middle of a notebook for the initial prototype, and after that it was the task list. Looking back through my implemented tasks I notice that crop rotation has been added, removed, added again, tweaked, and then removed. Whats going on there?
This is a good example of how I've been designing the game.
When I first added crop rotation, the game only had agriculture. The only way to produce food was in crop fields, orchards, and pastures. Hunting, gathering, and fishing were on the todo list, but a long way from being implemented.
Ag1I figured crop rotation would be a good addition to farming. Soil quality would be a resource to manage, just like everything else. Every few years, depending on the crop, a fallow crop could be planted and left to die and rot in the field which would restore the soil.
If I was building a farm simulator only, this would be fine. But the player is also balancing many other resource producing areas, building things, placing roads, and generally forgetting to switch to a fallow crop every once in a while. This can be devastating to the town if the food production is balanced closely with food consumption. It's also annoying to click on 30 fields and change settings.
The obvious answer was to add a feature where you could plan crop rotation ahead of time and the farmers would plant a fallow crop every few years automatically. You would then balance multiple fields to have some produce and some lay open.
I starting thinking that this was strange – I added a feature that made the game less fun, and I was adding another feature to remove the annoyance. If you could setup the crop rotation schedule once and forget about it, why even have it? So crop rotation was removed.
A lot of time went by and hunting, gathering, and fishing among many other features were added to the game. At this point I decided I wanted agriculture to more difficult than hunting and gathering, so I added bug infestations to crop fields and orchards, and diseases to livestock in pastures.
Ag2Then I thought, β€œI can make crop rotation fun. It will make farming slightly harder. I'll add it back and make it better.” And so I did. I left out the fallow crop this time, and just required a different crop to be planted. You could still leave a crop to die in a field and it would restore the soil. I also experimented with different lengths of time required between rotations. Large farm towns were still annoying. Even more so when you only had to rotate a crop every few years, making it even easier to forget. I thought of having a user interface that would show all farms and you could change crops in one place rather than clicking. I even rethought auto rotation.
Last week, after a long discussing with my play-tester, I decided the crop rotation was getting pulled again. Other than crop fields, no other food production method required constant monitoring. If you had no farms and a town setup well, it could be self sustaining, barring any disasters. Crop rotation didn't fit this – a few farms and a few years of not rotating crops and the townsfolk start dying of hunger.
In addition, if farms were left open to restore the soil quality, that meant more space for farms, and less space for buildings. I'd rather have players build a larger town than use up most the space for farms. If I wanted that, I could just reduce the amount of food each crop field produces. Hunting and gathering already takes a lot of open space, and farming is the method players can use to build larger towns on the limited land.
So now, once again, there's no more soil quality or crop rotation in the game. I don't really feel like I wasted time, artwork, or code by trying this feature several times and then removing it. I still feel like crop rotation is a good idea, but it's not actually fun. It doesn't add to the game. There's still a lot of things to think about while playing, and I don't think the majority of players are going to miss it, or even realize there were features I tried out and then removed from the game.
Now I have to update the website and remove the references to managing soil quality.... maybe.

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85 comments on “Game Design Flux, or How I learned virtual crop rotation isn't fun.”

  1. Very interesting post, could you tell more about features that like crop rotation was "fun", and were removed?

  2. Tough call. Crop rotation/managing soil quality sounds quite fun to me. I like little details like that. I'm the kind of person who likes games that make me suffer when I forget something, but I can see how that might annoy some people.

    Also, as you stated, it depends how it fits with the rest of the game. If farming is too hard, people might just avoid it completely, making the towns seem less 'real'.

  3. In the process of game design and development, I recall it to be a normal thing to constantly add and remove features, just to try them out. Sometimes even major features are being ripped out of the game for minor reason. But in the end, it's the overall feeling of the game that is important, and so your thoughts about crop rotation not adding to the game's fun sound reasonable.

  4. Interesting story, but it might have been a slightly wrong approach to the problem. Instead of making it a detrimental mechanic that hinders the player why not make it something that is entirely optional that benefits the player if they go the extra mile of managing the rotation. Leaving a field to rest or planting fallow crops could give a fertility boost for the next few years that slowly returned to normal levels.

  5. I must confess I enjoyed the crop rotation feature in Lords of the Realm 2, even though it was initially confusing. However, I prefer the idea of maintaining soil richness through crop variety. This approach would also help the player mitigate outbreaks of disease, droughts, fires, or floods that adversely affect only certain crop types. Olive trees, for example, are slow growing but extremely resistant to fire, while lettuces are fast growing but vulnerable to drought. Looking forward to this game, by the way...

  6. Would be hard if u just place line after line..
    I dont want crop field with 20 lines already..
    I wanna field near my farm with 10 lines in left side and 10 in right side..
    That would be funny ;E

  7. I agree with Djoze in that if the player wanted to do crop rotation then it would be a bonus. I like the bonus as it rewards players that want a more advanced crop system but players that don't know about it or want to bother with it wont get penalized. Or just have an option to turn on crop rotation on map creation or include it in a "hard" mode.

  8. Hmmm. Crop rotation would have been interesting, but if it isn't fun I'll take your word for it!

  9. I like the idea on the paper, but I kind of have to compare it to the god system in Pharaoh.
    It's awesome to play with for the first 5 hours, but then it becomes an annoying chore.
    If you ignore your gods (farms) they will punish you hard. So as soon as the festival to please them has been held, you select the next in line and hold a festival for them.
    I'd suggest putting it back in, but only enable it for a 'hard mode' setting.
    That said, features like these can be awesome, and can add several hours of extra gameplay!

  10. If only the assumption that it might annoy Players makes you pull it why not make it a (de)selectable Option when starting a game.
    Then Players can decide if they want to have a slightly more realistic farm City(smaller but with crop Rotation) or those who want bigger towns or always get People dying because of not rotating crops can Switch it off. Problem solved πŸ˜€

  11. I like all the updates on the game. With crop rotation, you should make it so that you can select a large amount of fields then rotate them. Have it so you make a specific rotation. So, if you have only potatoes and corn, it'd be Potatoes-Corn, but if you get soybeans, it could be Potatoes-Soybean-Corn or any other order. When you click ROTATE it would go to the next crop. I don' know, it's just my thoughts.

  12. The automatic crop rotation mechanism sounded interesting. You could have always tied it in to education; better educated farmers handle crop rotation well, with less educated farmers not handling the rotation methods as well.

  13. hi,

    I believe that Djoze made a good suggestion. Instead of having people get into trouble because the didnt manage their rotation right, just award the player that does a good rotation.

    People taking advantage of the rotation will be able to manage a bigger town with less farm fields( or less hunting etc).

    So if people like casual playing they can leave out the option of rotation. "Power Gamers" can get the maximum out of their town with crop rotation.

  14. I really enjoyed the post and I second Djoze' comment. If you can easily implement a reward system for the additional management rather than a punishment system for not doing something unfun - then those people with the penchant for being completionists can go the extra mile while those of us who just want to build a viable city can just putter along without the additional benefit.

  15. The artwork might not be wasted if you leave it all in and just have the fields rotate through fallow/unfallow artwork, even if it's not visually representing an actual game mechanic. It would add some variety!

  16. It sounds very interesting and in-depth to add crop rotation. I'd be sad to see it go, but if you think it doesn't fit, so be it.

    Perhaps only change the artwork for the fields in every year/season, so we still have crop rotation although we don't have to actively manage anything.

    Or perhaps what Djoze said.

    And actually, in real life you need less space if you implement crop rotation, and in some forms you don't need fallow land. A small piece of crop rotation land could produce as much as a large non crop rotation land. And the crop I think you are referring to rot on the land is clover. Its the roots that bind the N from the air to improve soil quality. In addition, in traditional crop rotation the clover was harvested and fed to the cattle, which in turn produced more manure to again fertilize the land.

    Though as you said, you're not making a farm simulator so do what you think is best πŸ™‚

  17. Interesting to read.

    Seems a pity though to have the feature removed. I think the point where people are going to split is where some don't mind when a feature isn't "fun" but adds to the experience as opposed to those that only want to have "fun". That and the point where some players don't mind and expect to be punished for not playing as well as they could while others will want as few obstacles as possible.

    There can certainly be a point where there is *too much* micromanagement but that again is going to come down to being on an individual basis. Having crop rotation as an option that provides a bonus seems the most "gamey" way of dealing with the issue for fear of having an element that punishes the player.

    Really enjoy reading these updates! πŸ™‚

  18. Does the game have any aspect of technology innovation over time? Over the last 200 years in the United States the efficiency in terms of yield per acre AND in terms of number of actual farmers required per acre has changed quite a bit. Perhaps you could give the game player a few options on each farm, such as "upgrades tech as available" or a slider to control the farmer object's crop rotation and fallow schedule: on one end of the slider a farm that doesn't care about crop rotation could have high yield at first (to drop off later) and the farm with higher rotation would have lower initial yield but better longetivity and such. Just ideas.

  19. I would say that any mechanic that adds a attention to detail to a game such as this, which will most likely target detail orientated players, is nothing but a boon for quality and immersion.

    And I think Djoze nailed it with their suggestion. If the problem is that crop rotation is either to easy it's pointless, or too hard it's tedious. Then why not make it harder, and a bonus, not a penalty. That way players get the added depth of farm management, but it's a opt in system. And the mechanic can be a bit more powerful with out also having a massive potential draw back of kill your town.

    It even adds a new way to play, as someone could micro their farms and get so much more. They then could have their town run off of less, but only if they so choose. This gives a avenue for a min/maxer to have some fun seeing how much they can push the system.

    You could even introduce a crop manager town role in later game, once enough education or such is reached. They could be hired and then begin automating rotation (before them it is manual, and they start off rotating less efficiently, until finally with training they rotate perfectly for you).

    Great post as always, I cannot wait to see this game pop up on Steam early access. (At least I hope it will).

  20. Don't see why crop rotation would be that hard to implement at all to be frank.

    Simple crop rotation could be something like this: crop A > crop B > fallow/clover field + grazing animals for fertilizing > crop C and then repeat.

    All the player has to do is choose/queue up how exactly the cycle should look like and then forget about it. The interface should be easy enough to design for something as trivial as this. Have some pro's/con's depending on your cycle choice and that's it. Done. External factors like bad weather etc could influence the harvest outcomes as well and still the player wouldn't really have to spend too much time thinking about farming.

    Obviously it would still be up to the player to make sure that he has enough fields to take into account the ones that are fallow.

    Thus the only thing a player will ever have to worry about is if crops/animals gets diseases and such or if weather really screws the harvest over.

  21. Why not just keep it as a visual thing? I think it would be nice to have the farmers manage their own fields, and you being able to see different crops growing on the fields, purely as a visual detail. It could make your time look different in different years, and add colour variety.

  22. If you were to add crop rotation back, I'd suggest having the years following a crop rotation (0% production) produce increased output until 100% production is resumed after a couple years. So, if you want to micromanage crop rotation, you get a long term benefit, rather than being punished for not rotating crops.

    100% + 100% + 100% = 300%
    0% + 200% + 150% = 350%

  23. you are the kind of guy the game industry needs! dude, you are awesome! this game is awesome and I hope you can finish it, and make other games too πŸ˜€

  24. I would like crop rotation too, especially the second way sounds nice, but i guess you have to play the game to see if it is fun or tendious.
    But I think it would be best to make it a bonus. Fields seem to have an advantage over huting/gathering, so it is okay that they need more focus. But even if you should be able to let the game run without attention, it isn't necessary to cut out crop rotation. You could have fields have an lowest output of 75% normally, but with a crop rotation you could bring it up to 100% again. So if you don't want to bother with it, you could just add 2-3 more fields once the soil is spent and let it run at that. But if you go to the task of reassigning the fields, you could raise the output and actually save place by getting more produce from less space.

  25. Whilst its tempting to regret the disappearance of an interesting feature, I'm sure as you were keen to have it in the first place, and put so much effort into it, you have valid reasons for dispensing with it. Perhaps you might like to consider retaining it as an option that can be turned on or off in settings when setting up a sand-box, thus tossing a bone to the micro-managers of this world without saddling the town builders with an irritation? Although I suspect this would create too much of a fork.

    Its fascinating to watch a game being developed, I look forward to your emails and the insight that comes with them and can't wait for the game to become available.

  26. I wouldn't mind that feature, actually, so long as you managed to implement it in a way that wasn't terribly annoying, or very difficult to do. I don't want to sit there having everything be automated and not be doing everything, but I'd also rather not forget and then be running around trying to get everything done in time.

  27. I'd personally love to see crop rotation; but then again, as an actual farmer I'd like to see plant-specific diseases, green manure effects, specific animal manure/chemical[lye/ashes] bonuses, PNK+Micro data, and pesticide[marigolds? cilantro?] options.
    On our farm we just discovered some of our cattle were becoming emaciated due to Copper and Selenium deficiency. Salt Blocks?

  28. I do agree and like previously posted opinion of rewarding extra effort. My suggestion would be to put the crop rotation back as an optional and if player uses it then it would provide extra reward.

  29. Interesting. You could have crop rotation as an advanced feature to improve crop yield. Normally say yield is 85% but if plot is properly managed you get up to 95-100% yield.

  30. I ran into similar issues on a project I eventually abandoned because the "FUN" just wasn't there.

    So, while I do still agree with some of the other commenters - there is still potential for fun there - I think spending your time elsewhere will likely have greater rewards in the end then constantly fiddling with this feature will.

    None the less, I have to make this suggestion.
    While early on in the game you are selecting what crops go in each field, in the late game you might start managing the planting of all your fields through a new building. This building could give innate bonuses to the crops it manages, as well as giving you a place to research other improvements (such as managed crop rotations).
    This would allow you to have the manual rotation available for players who want to invest the time and energy in the early game, but have the bonuses for doing it be more accessible for everyone in the late game.

    There are lots of other great ideas in the comments here too though, so maybe worth coming back to this concept in a few months more of development.

  31. Could you create an adjustable global soil quality limit on all the fields (which will default to a certain value if it is not set)? That way if the soil quality gets below a certain point, instead of harvesting the crop, the people will just let it sit there, thereby restoring the soil quality. Would need to link it up with your AI. That way the player can adjust how much he/she wants to deplete the soil quality before fallowing. This would require the player to think about how risky they want to be with depleting the soil. If they get in a tough spot they can avoid fallowing for a while, but eventually they will have to do so. And if they don't, they could get into a sticky situation where their soil quality is low but they need food immediatly. I defenitely understand the care you are taking with any crop rotation mechanic. In most games it is just used as a mindless clicking thing. But it feels like a necessary mechanic. Good Luck.

  32. If you wanted to pursue crop rotation, you wouldn't even need to let the prop rot in the fields. Like the medievals, you could plant a field of beans or peas, harvest it and let the sheep loose. They s*** on the field and drive it in with their tiny hooves. Bonus comes from keeping sheep.

  33. Repeating this good suggestion:

    May 7, 2013 9:12 am

    Interesting story, but it might have been a slightly wrong approach to the problem. Instead of making it a detrimental mechanic that hinders the player why not make it something that is entirely optional that benefits the player if they go the extra mile of managing the rotation. Leaving a field to rest or planting fallow crops could give a fertility boost for the next few years that slowly returned to normal levels.

  34. Been following this game since I saw a reddit post on it, so first let me say keep up the awesome work.

    Secondly, I'm not sure of how you have the game structured-whether or not you have variable difficulty. If you do, could this not be some option to make the game more 'hardcore' for people who so desire it? You can make it an option so you get to use the system you programmed and some people out there somewhere can enjoy it.

  35. You can always add it into an update later down the track once you figure out the best method of implementing it. The idea is valid in a game like this, however you're right to leave it until you find the right balance.

    Looking forward to your next update!

  36. Djoze has a good suggestion.

    Also, based on this line:

    'Other than crop fields, no other food production method required constant monitoring. If you had no farms and a town setup well, it could be self sustaining, barring any disasters. Crop rotation didn’t fit this – a few farms and a few years of not rotating crops and the townsfolk start dying of hunger.'

    I'm assuming that you can't over hunt or over fish an area? That might be too far into the realm of realism, for sure, but if there's a more sim-like mode as one commentor suggested, it could be an interesting system to toy with.

    I'm so excited to fool around in this game. Please release it before September; my life is going to be taken up by GTA V and I really want to give this game its deserved playing time.

  37. you're better than a hole team of professional, well paid developers. genius.

  38. I love the idea of the fields being something more than a plant and forget feature. Rather than treating failing to crop rotate as an error and then punishing the player for failing to do it. Why don't you instead treat non-rotated fields as the norm with a base output, and then if the player chooses to rotate the crops that they then get a benefit.

    This could be a general setting for the down:

    - crop rotate X% of fields each year.

    This means that if you are in a period where you have a surplus of food you can rotate a greater percentage of the fields and when you just need a more stable and consistent, but lower, source of food the X% can be reduced to achieve that.

    my $0.10


  39. The challenges and annoyances you speak about may be unattractive to you, but from a second view it looks interesting. You could alternatively have these removed features as optional settings that players can decide to enable or disable when preparing a game.

    Openttd would be an example off the top of my head. It allows you to simplify, complicate, streamline and more with it's settings. I personally like the idea, consider making it optional!

  40. The crop rotation and soil renewal sounds interesting to me. I guess it just depends how realistic you want the simulation to be.

    Maybe you could think about having difficulty options in the game. Like a realistic simulation that needs crop rotation, and other systems you have toyed with before. Things like requiring food for your livestock, selective fishing, etc.

  41. Disaster from forget to set something...this make me think of offering to ancestors system in Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. Lack of notification is the root of all problem!

    For me, crop rotation and fallow crop is really good to for sustainabe system. Create some notification system to alert player is good enough to have the same doom farm. Maybe once you build Town Hall some kind of inspector may notice the crisis before hand, or educated farmer freshly graduated from school can automatically manage soil quality in place of manually by player.

  42. Awesome. By the way I envy your play tester!
    This was certainly an interesting read. I cant wait to read more about this game.

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  44. Hey! I have an idea about the crop rotation... and read this comment by Jagaimo:

    "Tough call. Crop rotation/managing soil quality sounds quite fun to me. I like little details like that. I’m the kind of person who likes games that make me suffer when I forget something, but I can see how that might annoy some people.

    Also, as you stated, it depends how it fits with the rest of the game. If farming is too hard, people might just avoid it completely, making the towns seem less β€˜real’."

    I'm also into details as he is, but I admit not all are like us. So could it be possible if there would be an option in setings. Something like crop rotation on, or crop rotation off. I know that it could be pain in ass to do, but just trohwing the ball. Tell what you think about this πŸ™‚

  45. Very methodical way of creating your game and I applaud you for it. It makes me trust that you know what you're doing and I won't be disappointed in the long run. I am interested to see this game a year from now. Good luck!

  46. I agree with Dolph that crop rotation should be added back, but make it a more of an enhancement to farming so by treating your soil correctly it will give you more rather than less.

  47. Another great post!

    I like the idea of making crop rotation an option; that way the folks that are into detail management could use it, and the folks that just want to throw some farms down and forget them could do that.

  48. Personally, as much as I like the idea of having some kind of crop-rotation system in there, I don't think it should be an option as many are calling for.

    I think whether it ends up in or cut, you'll have made the right call, based on whether it serves to better the gameplay, or hamper it. If it can be re-thought in such a way that it adds a genuinely compelling element to game, then great, but if it can't, I don't think there's any point diluting the game design to provide bits and pieces as "optional extras".

    The new Xcom is a classic example of a game designed well. There are certainly areas where it feels like too many features were cut, but the end result is a game with such strong sense of purpose, where the elements that made the cut are so well thought out, you end up with a stunning and endlessly compelling game.

    You very obviously know what you're doing, and the game already has a very apparent sense of purpose and bold, uncompromising identity and personality. As ever, stick with your vision, and keep on making the best game possible!

  49. crop rotation could be cosmetic. divide each field into three strips. one strip lays fallow while the other two are growing. when the crops rotate, the game rotates the textures/models within one field.

    it looks like crop rotation, but without the micromanagement.

  50. Now couldn't it be added as a "difficulty" move? You've got your regular, then hard, but then after that, "realistic". That way your not putting unwanted boredom on people that don't want it, and if they want a hard game, then they have the option of hard. But "Realistic" would simply be the step above that. It'd give people the option to do it if they want, and if not, they aren't losing out.

  51. I personally would have liked it being a cosmetic feature - fields would randomly appear fallow every season to show that crop rotation happens (it was pretty important after all - grain was a huge food source)

  52. I think it is actually a good idea to have agriculture based economies be on the brink of starvation constantly, since that is how it often was in real life until relatively recently. It's one of the many consequences that are weighed against the ability to make surplus

  53. How about the following?

    There can be auto rotation of the crops. If the player has access to different crops and uses rotation (auto or not), it automatically has a positive effect to the soil quality of the field.

    Furthermore, and this could add another layer to the town layouting aspect,
    if the player has neighboring fields and uses different crops on it with or without auto rotation, it decreases the probability and the damage of vermins. The probability itself decreases, and even if a vermin attacks a field, it cannot spread that easily to other fields.

  54. I think crap rotation including fallow crops should be determined based on like game difficulty, i could see on easy not dealing with it at all but on a hard difficulty no reason not to have to micro manage like that. Myself i would love to see that option.

  55. Hmm.

    Removing crop rotation seems like giving up. I like the idea, myself. Perhaps if it is something unlocked through learning or through job specialization, then you don't have to manage it directly at all, you just get to see the animation of it and improved crop yield.

  56. I really like that you are putting a lot of thought into this game and are actually concerned about the end product in every aspect, not just concerned with the sales approach. As for your thoughts on crop rotation, I'll have to be of very little help and just agree with you. It's good, but it is bad. Not perfectly enjoyable, but fitting into the game's purpose. The way I see it is that you are making a game that is based on survival. This isn't your everyday city building simulator and shouldn't be babied like one. Limited natural resources, limited labourers and all in a strange place; crop rotation is a necessary task of a village/tribe/etc. As the player takes on the role of "clan leader," they must also realise that sometimes things get annoying and tedious.

    I don't know if you have plans for restoring fertility to the land other than fallowing, but perhaps weather conditions can become a major factor for crop rotations. If lots of rain comes then your soil may not need a fallow season; if the river floods (think of the Nile River valley) your top soil will be rejuvenated. There are many ways to take this and I guess we can leave it up to you to chose something that is both efficient and fun, but I'd like to leave you with a question - could irrigation canals ever be added to Banished? I'm not sure how far your technology/education levels go or what they dictate (in the game as the statistic of course, not your intelligence, personally), but I'd like to someday see my few original settlers become the fathers of a model medieval city.

  57. I agree with Ilarizio.

    why not make it an option and allow the player to switch it on and off when starting a new game?

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  59. Wouldn't implementing fertilizers be the solution?
    If the quality of the land would drop by (let's say) 15% a year and via fertilizers this could be brought back to 10% you'd ensure this wouldn't slip anyone's mind since it is now an annual thing.
    Fertilizers could start out as being vegetable remains/garbage and ultimately into the byproducts of having cattle and/or sheep. πŸ™‚
    Crop rotation sounds like something which should be in the game, in my eyes, making it (hopefully) more entertaining to play.
    Entertainment however should be the ultimate goal πŸ™‚
    ps. can't wait till release!

  60. Honestly I like the concept of crop rotation... though it does sound like it could be a pain in the ass if you had to manage it all the time.
    Something like setting up a simple reiterating queue for a field might do it.. year 1: wheat, year 2, pumpkins, year 3, corn, year 4 Alphalpha and let fallow. then it just repeats unless you modify it.

  61. I believe there is a place for both. Have an option when starting the game weather you wish to have rotation or not. I think it would be a big plus to those that want it.

  62. the world got to feed they are looking at insects to add to our diet this is true have a search about it.

  63. I would say have crop rotation automated: It puts a challenge to the player, by requiring that you produce and store enough food to survive the fallow downtime, but doesn't add any additional micro-management to the game.

  64. I fully support some sort of reward system for crop rotation too. One that slowly wears off as time goes by.
    Or a semi-automated rotation system where you can set which crop (maybe up to 3 or 5) you want the field to change to and the number of cycles before changes, with an option for rotation (When a crop is replaced by another, t is added to the end of the queue)

  65. could you not make it so that crop rotation was an interface where you select 3-4 crops in a sequence and you can make "favourite" crop patterns, then you can just go around selecting farms and giving them some neat automatic crop patterns, this would also mean if you had animals that they have to be transported to the fields that are pasture for that cycle, which I think would look awesome, it also means you have to balance and organize your farms so there is always food being produced?

  66. I think the reason you may have failed to find crop rotation fun is that you put the actual handling of it in your interface, which right now looks like a greyscale Windows 3.1... ie, it's not fun to look at that interface.

    Also, it would still be a nice detail, even if it was handled fully by the worker AI.

  67. To clarify my last comment:

    Sometimes games only use their rich 3D graphics for a pretty presentation, and delegate all actual gameplay interaction and data to a boring interface.

    Smart games can actually use the 3D graphics as both an interface and data representation.

    So, cut the need to go into a menu out of the crop rotation gameplay!

  68. Have you thought of including a tutor to help players if they're missing something vital? A crotchety old man who goes on & on about, "Back in my day, we used to rotate our crops, not like you lazy bastards now. Mark my words, you'll all starve come harvest time!"

  69. I think crop rotation can be implemented as an option under the hardest difficulty in the game, if such will exist. Keep updating, very good work, BIG fan πŸ™‚

  70. From my experience in game design (7 years with Sega/Creative Assembly), what you're going through sounds symptomatic of not being sure of what experiences you're trying to deliver.

    An easy way to approach this, ask yourself a couple of simple questions:
    1) Who am I making this game for?
    2) What experiences does this game need to deliver for that person?

    When you can't answer those questions off the top of you're head, you're left in a state where you get ideas, and go "I'll try see if this is fun" - It's incredibly hit and miss, and extremely easy to come up with features that feel good when focused on in isolation, but don't work as a part of a whole.

    When you CAN answer these questions, what your design needs to achieve is already defined.

    Having these better defined experiences in mind make it much easier to nut out a design that is likely to work. You'll know what your constraints are sooner, which will help identify which parts of your design are variable, and why.

    And one final bit of advice - Take the general "Crop rotation sounds cool - you should add it this way" feedback above with a pinch of salt. Simple reason being, when you propose that a game COULD have a feature, generally everyone except experienced designers will try to 'save' it or make it work. Most folks are predisposed to an 'I can make that work' and 'more is better/deeper' mentality, and don't ever pose the "Does this actually improve the experience in a meaningful way?"

    The take-away - Let actual playtesters give feedback to say it works or not.

  71. Here's a thought...

    What about giving every bit of land on the map a soil quality rating, either randomly or based on an algorithm that takes surrounding terrain into account?

    This way, you would get a better crop yield if you plant your crop in better soil. Each crop you harvest would degrade the quality of the soil, slightly reducing the yield every season. You would also get a slightly lesser degree of soil degradation if you plant a different crop.

    in the other hand, leaving a field to lie fallow would increase its soil quality slowly, while growing and ploughing-in a crop (especially a nitrogen fixer like peas or beans) would improve it more quickly.

    See, there would be a risk/reward thing going on, which I think would add a degree of fun. Do you leave the field to rest this season or invest the effort in planting a waste crop, or do you push the soil one more season?

    The beauty of this is that every field would have a different soil quality level, so you wouldn't be doing dozens of them at once in a big town. I'd imagine you could set up a custom alert - "notify me when soil quality in any field drops to X%" - so there'd be a reminder, but not a totally automated system

  72. Crop Rotation could be automated. The system could log every farm that you build, and when it comes time to replant, randomize that list so that a new crop is planted in a field but you still have the same amount of fields that you created initially.

    Example Log:
    Field 1 - Corn
    Field 2 - Pumpkins
    Field 3 - Tomatoes

    Time to Replant:
    Field 1 - Tomatoes
    Field 2 - Corn
    Field 3 - Pumpkins

    Additionally, you could assign a worker to improve the soil by using the cattle droppings and producing fertilizer or something like that. Just throwing out ideas. Hope you like them. πŸ™‚

  73. Hi!

    Why dont you make crop rotation a kind of difficulty setting? One can turn it on and off, depending on mood, like peaceful and easy mode in Minecraft (if you played it).

  74. Couple of ideas... I like Roland's idea of making it a difficulty or option setting.

    Secondly though, you can make it where you can manually assist, but also let your farmers decide when to rotate! If you train better farmers, then they do a better job.

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April 17, 2022
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