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Tweaks, Changes, and Balance

July 18, 2013 | Dukus | 56 Comments

New Building 
It's been a few weeks since I've posted anything of note. Most of what I've been working on isn't quite ready to show or is balance changes and code fixes.
A large part of my work has been on large scale disasters that will destroy buildings a leave a path of destruction across the town. Building a town and then unleashing a disaster is pretty fun to watch. I'm still play balancing how often they happen and ways the player can prepare for the disasters ahead of time.
One of the ways to prepare for disasters resulted in a few more buildings and objects that can be placed on the map. Adding things like this is dangerous in terms of feature creep. When I add a new object, I start thinking of all sorts of ways it could be used, even though I'm trying to head towards content lock-down.
One of these objects is a well. It makes me think about making water and thirst a need of citizens. Then I'd have yearly rainfall, usage, and closeness to a body of water effect how much water can be gotten from a well. Then I think I'll have farmers haul water to crops in years where it doesn't rain. That then makes me think about allowing the townsfolk to dig irrigation ditches.... At some point I have to stop thinking this way because I really need to ship the game. And what I just described is probably more than a week of work, and the time spent getting water will slightly unbalance the amount of time townsfolk currently spend working.
Despite thinking about things like water, I've also added some map starting condition parameters, changing map size, climate type, and terrain type. These really just come down to how hard or easy the player wants to make the game play experience. I've also been considering exposing the random seed used to generate terrain so that good maps can be replayed and shared.
The other significant change I've been making is the happiness of the townsfolk. I've had happiness in the game for a long while, and a happiness achievement, but not many things factored into it. Generally until a town was very mature happiness was very low. This wasn't good balance. A small town should be able to have relatively happy people when it's just starting off.
I want overall happiness to be a good measure of how well the town is doing, and in turn how well the player is doing, but unless it's meaningful I'd rather pull the stat completely. Before removing it I wanted to try to flesh it out. So I took a few days and made more events effect happiness.
Happiness is now related to being healthy, cold, sick, or hungry, deaths of family members and how they die, availability of supplies, frequency of job changes, housing type and location, what types of buildings are nearby, having children, getting married, getting better clothes, food variety, how much time is spent working, new construction around homes, disasters, how far away a job is from home, and how much time is spent idling at common locations.
Buildings can also now be categorized into several categories of happiness (or sadness), such as entertainment, spirituality, shopping, safety, health, and eye sores. Visiting these places and living near them makes the townsfolk happier or sadder.
After a few more days of play and if the happiness change works out, I'll have to finish modeling and texturing some new buildings too - I've come up with additional places townsfolk will spend their time, and as a happy outcome of design, most of the buildings have other side uses in addition to happiness. This isn't so bad, as I had already planned on making additional 'spice' buildings - now they'll actually have a purpose.
While making the happiness change I also rewrote the decision making process for the AI. It was previously based on a state machine that had states for what the citizen was doing, and the transitions between states ceased being easy to maintain as the AI got more and more complicated. When I went to add behaviors for citizens idling around enjoyable locations I had enough of it.
I removed the state machine and gave each of the citizens wants and needs a weighted value based on their current health, happiness, hunger, etc. Based on these weights the citizen decides what to do. This turned out to be much less code, easier to maintain and extend, and the citizens are now slightly more dynamic - when faced with several possible actions they'll pick randomly rather than follow a strict priority list.
Now I've got to put in a few days of test time with these changes and make sure the game is still balanced and that happiness in small towns will be maintainable (and I'll continue thinking about thirst and water usage...)

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56 comments on “Tweaks, Changes, and Balance”

  1. Do you still enjoy the game that you've spent so much time working on?

    Do you find yourself ending games after a short amount of time, or do you get attached to certain games you play?

    Really looking forward to the final game 😀

  2. I am looking forward to this game! I was looking for an alternative to SimCity because I like my building games to be offline and single player. I want to buy this as soon as it's released. You are doing a fantastic job...and great update!

  3. Having a visible map seed also allows friends to play the same map, and compare their towns. I really like that idea. Thanks for the update.

  4. I'm excited play for this game!

    Will absolutely be amazing if you manage to implement weather and weather impact on buildings. Like you can have rainy season, and in that season the buildings will be covered with moss or when it's too much sun the wooden buildings will be discolored (sun faded).

    And and speaking of disasters, you can make like a tornado and the roof will go flying and such when it gets near! That'll be superb!

  5. I chucked my sack of gold dubloons at my screen. I don't have a screen anymore.

  6. I love your updates. Keep them coming. I can't wait to pay and play your game!

    1. Try to get it on Steam so it's easy to buy and update.
    2. Set up a pre-order page so I can pay you right now!

    Good luck!

  7. That water usage sounds like it would be a cool thing to add! On one hand I know that will take longer and I want the game now! But on the other hand it would make the game that much better!

  8. I have been following the game for long now and the progress you are making is pretty amazing!
    can't wait to get my hands on it!

    as a humble suggestion: adding thirst/water usage/and irrigation could be a great idea, and to not affect the work times of the different workers, maybe you can add a new class of jobs that are only water related like taking water from wells to where its needed without disrupting the schedule of other workers!

    i guess adding more complexity to such games is what makes them more fun!

  9. I can't wait to PAY for this game! pleade do Steam pre-sale.
    Great to follow your development progress with these post, awesome transparency! 🙂

  10. Every email I read on the development further cements my desire to purchase.


    Each update confirms my contention that I'm on the right side of this developer-user equation.

    I can't fathom the stress you go through on a daily basis...thank you no.

    Take my money YES!!!

    Then again I'm reminded I write for a living...

  11. je pense aussi que mettre votre jeu ont versions pré-alpha sur steam et une bonne idée, ça vous ferait gagner beaucoup d'argent! et accélérerait votre projet 😉

  12. I will give you my supposedly SimCity money just to play this game! (a physical copy would be much appreciated!)

  13. 我已经等不及了!!!ヽ(≧Д≦)ノ

  14. Interesting concepts. What ever you think is best 🙂 take your time! 🙂

  15. Looking at the issues Cubeworld had with their Alpha launch, perhaps a mechanism for preordering should be set up? You wrote that you "really need to ship the game", and if that is because of monetary reasons it looks like there are many players here looking for a way to support the game.

  16. Oh man, keep it up. I seriously can't wait.

    Hopefully you decide it's up to scratch soon and release an alpha. There's undoubtedly a lot of people that would pay to support this. Or at the very least, a fair few.

  17. Regarding water. I think a dam for fresh water which is filled by a river during rainy seasons and boreholes or wells during dry seasons for irrigation with the ability to store welled water in water storage tanks will go a long way in keeping agriculture ticking over.
    A well placed dam wall ??? I can imagine this will affect the land mass a bit.
    In contrast to those who are single players waiting to buy the game, I hope this becomes a new online way of life for those who love interaction between different folks around the world.

  18. I am not familiar with all aspects of the game, so maybe it is redundant question. But anyway 🙂

    What about wild animals? Are they going to be a threat? Or people will "just" have a possibility to hunt them for food like usual...

    What about wild animals and season?
    Spring - lots of young animals - possibility to hunt.
    Winter - animals (wolfs) could be more aggressive and attack people.
    Fall - they can eat the harvest...

    Just an idea.

    Looking forward to play the game.

  19. Its so interesting to read these 'real' updates about the work you are doing and the issues you face when creating and building this game.

    I am very much looking forward to playing Banished, and will be pushing my gaming friends towards your blog too.

  20. I like the idea you had with the water, but I believe that would overly complicate some of the game play. That being said, I believe that water wells should not seasonally affected to a degree, that is because they are dug into the the ground water table. So even if the river ran dry in a dry season, your people still have access to water. Irrigation channels are cool and all, but should only be needed for crops with high water maintenance like rice, sugarcane and cotton.

  21. This is pretty awesome that you are doing all of this by yourself, I hope you sell lots of copies!!

  22. Great update. I like the thoughts behind the effects of water on the townsfolk. I would love to have that level of detail in the game. It would be a nice feature for maybe a hard mode? If it doesn't make it the game's release, pehaps it can in an expansion or add-on in the future.

  23. What continues to impress me about these posts is the depth of your decision-making process. I feel like that spent energy will incorporate itself into the final product in a way that keeps me entertained for long periods of time.

  24. I hope you keep thinking about water all those features sound really interesting and seem like they would add significantly more depth to the game play.

  25. I too am looking forward to this game. However I really do hope that you will not use just steam to distribute. I do not wish to have a steam account, or any distribution method that prevents me from playing when I want, without having to call home(yes, I know steam has an offline mode). I have played tons of games over and over through the years, and love not having to download the whole thing every time I want to wipe my system, or move it to another one.

    Sorry for the rant, but I have such high hopes for this game, and I really am looking forward to playing it. 🙂

  26. I felt like you do about Steam for a long time, but after needing to use it for Empire Total War, I have to say I'm a complete convert now. There are ways to back up the Steam files locally and save them to DVDs so you don't have to download everything again, and if you switch machines or need to redo the OS, you can just copy the entire Steam folder en masse to another location or external drive and move it back later.

    Regardless of how it's distributed I, too, am very excited about this game. It'll be a nice way to unwind and relax.

  27. I love these updates. I will buy at least 2 copies (one for me and one for the wife), and if it's good enough I'll buy some more for my friends so we can talk about it.

    The only concern I have is that you still think it's fun, and according to some of your old posts you basically say if it's not fun, you scrap it, I like this :D.

  28. Sounding better and better with every update.

    If it's going to be a digital release then the advantage to the consumer of a big operator like Steam is that you can be pretty confident the servers will be running and they will still be offering the product in 2,5,10 years time if you need to reinstall.

    @predek: wolf attacks are actually very rare and not usually fatal.

  29. @John Michaelson: I can respect your opinion, I know many people like steam, but for me it is a deal breaker. I passed on many major games that only came out steam, even though I would have loved to play them, and had played all of their prior versions. I am reminded of the "Golden Rule" when I think of these sites. They have the gold(your software), so they make the rules, and given the industry's(EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Sony, and even Steam) track record, I am not encouraged. I would much rather see something closer to GOG's methods.

  30. I really enjoy your writing and especially appreciate the peak behind the curtain. You have inspired me to seek out more indie dev-blogs and sparked a desire for me to make my own game. Thanks!

  31. The frequency and detail of these updates gives me comfort that there is progress and the game is headed towards completion. UvU Rather than just announce a game and have the fans wait in uncertain silence until its release. These updates are a good way of setting up the right amount of anticipation. Sorry I'm wordy at the moment.

  32. Looks nice! And I love the idea for water, I think you need to put it in. And I'm really okay for you taking as long as you want. Even though I'd like to have a beta at least by the end of summer. Either way, keep up the good work!

  33. I'm going to lose myself in this game, looking forward to playing it.
    The water, landscape, vegetation is all just perfect and beautifully worked 🙂
    Well done, I hope you make a gazillion dollars for your work on this game and all your dreams come true !!

  34. I -- like many others -- can't wait to pay for this game...

    I was reading Haruki Murakami's excellent "A Wild Sheep Chase", and one of it's chapters is a sort of diary/retelling of the first years of a remote settlement in northern Japan and its hardships. I've read your updates, and you hint at different conditions for different seasons, and spoke about disasters: will there be heavy drought leading to starvation, and maybe even ravaging locusts?

    Man, this comment is grim, sorry. But it would certainly up the ante! 😉

  35. I can't wait for this game to come out. It looks amazing and it sounds better then Simcity already! I will be sure to share your name around with my friends.

  36. Man, I want to play this game so bad. I'll be hittin Citadels until this comes out. It looks great. I am glad you are passionate about this instead of just rushing through.

  37. If I were any more excited about this game, I'd hyperventilate.

    I am eager to give you my money, so I can start playing!

  38. Show me where to sign! Been following this for a while now and also can't wait for release. I respect that you are doing it alone, and in your own time but I would be more than happy to pay upfront now for it. Keep up the good work!

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