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Acharis

Agriculture - plants vs livestock

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I'm designing a farming system for a medieval game and I'm thinking how to model the available land and animals connection.
The base is that the player owns X acres of land and is using it to grow things (plants and/or animals) to sell for profit.

With plants there is no problem. Each plant uses acres of land, there is perfect competition (you want wheat you don't have land for flax). But for animals this is not exactly true, and it is not necessarily recommended for gameplay purposes. For example hens, these don't really use up land, these just eat some worms and you don't allocate any land to grow food for them (as long as you keep their population small, like a dozen per household). For pigs this is half true, these eat organic waste, things humans can't eat. But that's not enough and you have to suplement their diet by growing some plants for them. Cows are probably the fully competitive ones, you have to allocate some land for grass for them and cows can't eat waste like pigs.

So, I wonder if what I wrote makes sense (it does not need to be perfectly realistic, but it should at least appear so to the player) and if yes, how to model something like that?


For hens I could just make a fixed number per player allowed (or per acres of land since that would simulate the size of the estate), not sure through what to do if player want to make a chicken farm... For cows I could just make X cows per Y land allocated as pasture. For pigs I have no clue. Oh yes, I almost forgot about manure, this could be a nice reason to keep the farmland to animals ratio balanced.

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A simple solution might be to have "animal feed" as a resource, and allow land to be purposed for that. Adjust the food requirements for each type of livestock, and you'll be able to give different animals a different "footprint" on the estate. You're right that a small number of chickens won't have a significant impact on land usage, but if you're raising hundreds of chickens, you'll need to supplement their feed because there's only so much they can forage. With pigs, waste will help, but if you have a bunch of them, you'll have to find something to feed them.

You could have a certain amount of "free" feed for chickens or pigs, determined by the size of the estate and represented as a small number of "maintenance free" animals. A couple pigs, a half-dozen chickens, no cost in land usage. If you want a hundred chickens, you'll have to grow and harvest corn to feed to them, and that'll require acreage. That would preserve the idea of low-cost chickens, but still leave players the option of building a chicken-raising empire within the rules of your game.

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I'd just go for "livstock", which would sum up all the animals you need, and animal feed as suggested above. That way you can allocate land to both.

If you feel you really need the chickens, pigs, cows etc distinction, have some sliders supply a mix -- each land unit will yield x% chickens, y% cows, z% pigs etc. Based on that, the production of eggs, leather and whatnot could be calculated.

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This lacks a lot of context, so my reply may be a little generic.

Firstly, disease. Of course this depends on the type of game, but this has always been a factor in farming. Diseases tend to target one or two species only. You could have diseases that periodically decimate certain livestock types. This is realistic, though probably not very fun for the player.

Perhaps diminishing returns on stock size, so your first farm will have 100 hens, but your second farm can only have 90, with disease being used as the magic plot device. This way, it may always be cost efficient to start with hens space wise, but you would not be able to monopolise in only hens due to the lessening productivity.

Thirdly, perhaps they could decrease in value as you sell them (assuming they are to be sold). Just like real trade, oversupplying would decrease the worth of that particular livestock and as such it would pay to diversify. While realistic, this wouldn't be very useful if you are producing meat for internal consumption.

I feel the diminishing returns would be the simplest in terms of explanation and gameplay, while also being the least annoying.

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Fodder seems to be the key question for livestock. So, what are the possible sources of fodder?
- wheat crops as a byproduct produce straw (which can be changed into low quality hay or just fed to cows directly, althrough this alone is not enough) and chaff (for pigs?)
- human household produce various waste perfect for pigs
- pastur brings hay and you can just let the animals loose there and they will graze (require dedicated land for animals)
- chicken can eat worms and small things even pigs can't, so a small quantity can survive for free

The issue is also the player recognition of these, but we could put high standards here, agriculture will be an importzant part of the game and the game is supposed to be heavier realism one, so it is acceptable if player is forced to learn a few things (still, a total confusion is not desired :D)

[quote name='Zethariel' timestamp='1318490235' post='4872118']
have some sliders supply a mix -- each land unit will yield x% chickens, y% cows, z% pigs etc. Based on that, the production of eggs, leather and whatnot could be calculated.
[/quote]No... I don't want such industrial feel of the livestock production. It's more like a richer peasant/lower noble cottage/estate with fields, some chicken moving around, a cow waiting to be milked... Things like that :) Slider and cold calcualtion of production volume is not in the mood for that game.

[quote name='Eiviyn' timestamp='1318494777' post='4872131']
Firstly, disease. Of course this depends on the type of game, but this has always been a factor in farming. Diseases tend to target one or two species only. You could have diseases that periodically decimate certain livestock types. This is realistic, though probably not very fun for the player.
[/quote]Actually, several people mentioned disease/plague. I'm not sure if they will say it is not fun...

[quote name='Eiviyn' timestamp='1318494777' post='4872131']
Thirdly, perhaps they could decrease in value as you sell them (assuming they are to be sold). Just like real trade, oversupplying would decrease the worth of that particular livestock and as such it would pay to diversify. While realistic, this wouldn't be very useful if you are producing meat for internal consumption.

I feel the diminishing returns would be the simplest in terms of explanation and gameplay, while also being the least annoying.
[/quote]Not for that game. The player is assumed a small/medium fry, there is no way his actions alone could affect the global price. He is more like a peasant selling things in the nearest city market than a monopolist with thousand of livestock.

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Ah, now I get the scope of the game! Thanks for clarifying.

Since the player won't be in charge of a large kingdom (as that is the impression I am getting here, feel free to correct me again), focusing on the smaller elements will be easy. And you could freely put more focus on maintaining servants, each type of livestock, some minor productions etc. A general description of how important the livestock is to the player could help clear this up a bit.

Having all chickens accounted for, each pig/cow taken into consideration shouldn't prove that difficult -- in the end, they are just integer values. You could just set flat values of animals per land unit -- like 200 chickens = 50 pigs = 20 cows, with possible upgrades that would decrease/increase that value or the output of the resource gained from that livestock.

A player will not think too hard if his land will be able to support 2k chickens. After all, only recently did the weapon count drop from 10 weapons to 2 in FPS games. There is this phenomenon (forgot how it's named) that actually bolsters the ignorance of "realism" in games. Humans aren't that good in assessing volume and/or space, unless they have specific knowledge and experience in that (as in, architecture or breeding animals) or they are shown an example that would be their point of reference (like, displaying a Farmville like graphic with all livestock accounted for).

Look up to Heroes of Might and Magic for example -- it is preposterous that 100 giants would take up the same space as a peasant or 10.

Also, don't introduce too much complexity via different food types. A player can only keep track of so many stats. Generalize the minor features of your game and elaborate on the core concepts (whatever they are at this moment)

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I'd go with simple capacity per field approach. So you could have say 20 chicken/pigs/sheep per field or 10 cows per field that you allocate to that animal.



You'd also need to factor in a birth rate to work out how long it takes to increase your animal populations naturally.

For disease I'd only have that as a random event which either kills off a percentage of your livestock, reduces growth rate, or prevents you from earning income that turn from them.

But it all depends on the type of game.

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I definitely don't want to allocate land to chicken. That's completely unrealistic for a medieval economy. Chicken are moving around eating worms and don't compete with cows (because if these were no one would keep any chicken since cows are much better). Of course there should be an option for the player to keep additonal quota of chickens if they desire, but it can't be the optimal choice. The "free chicken quota" Iron Chef Carnage proposed seems the best so far. But I still would want some option to keep additional chicken for some sort of forage cost.

As for breeding I though of making 5 age classes for each animal type (from young to old). After X units of time all animals move one class up and the adult ones produce new age1 animals. You can buther any age class but the most meat is from the 2 oldest age classes. I visualise it as 5 cow icons from top to bottom, with amount of animals on the left and "buther" option for each class (where you enter the amount to butcher). The 2 oldest classes would have "perfect buthering" icon.

This should work for pigs and cows but the chicken... (again chicken, I start to hate chicken :D). These don't really breed by themselves, the human perfectly regulate the birth rate by amount of eggs he takes.

I have also problem with sheep. These were mostly used in regions where the soil was poor and density sparse. That's won't fit with the rest of the game (dense populated areas of medieval Europe). I can't really make "foraging" sheep :D This would sound very odd, everyone knows sheep are on pastur and you don't prepare and store additional food for them.

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Unless this is a realistic game, I say go ahead and invent your own world rules. Have chickens the size of a monster truck or something.

But seriously, don't dwell too much on it. If a player takes too long to do one turn, it will become tedious to flip X turns each day, doing the same boring task of butchering animals, breeding new ones, regulating number of eggs etc. Think it through on a larger scale -- will it be the same fun after 10, 100, 1000 real time days?

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It all depends on how realistic you want the game to be really.

I would have chickens take a field as that would include the chicken coop to keep the chicken, fenced in areas for them to walk around, places to store the grain to feed the chicken, etc...
Another option would to all you to upgrade a house to have a chicken coop giving it a small income boost.

Don't forget the main reason people kept chickens over cows is that chickens are cheap and easy to care for. A small poor farmer couldn't afford to buy and keep a cow. Like wise its easy to put a small a coop on your house and have fresh eggs and chicken.

Unless you need the details of 5 ages for animals why included it? Can you not have something simple where each turn a cow produces 1 to 3 bottles of milk or if you upgrade your barn they produce cheese? As well the birth rate would just mean that number of turns it takes before you get a new cow or for larger farms the number of cows a turn you gain.

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The game is supposed to have above average realism or higher. It's for this project: http://www.gamedev.net/topic/610162-medieval-mmo-stuck-in-design/

[quote name='TechnoGoth' timestamp='1318516611' post='4872206']
Unless you need the details of 5 ages for animals why included it? Can you not have something simple where each turn a cow produces 1 to 3 bottles of milk or if you upgrade your barn they produce cheese? As well the birth rate would just mean that number of turns it takes before you get a new cow or for larger farms the number of cows a turn you gain.
[/quote]But what about pigs? These need to be slaughtered at some point. So, these need to "get fatter over time".

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(I get the impression your game has a Harvest Moon feel to it with the character able to walk around the farm and do things accordingly)

IMNAF but... one of the things about chickens is that they're one of the most vulnerable animal on a farm when it comes to wild animal attacks. Keeping a chicken coop of a certain size helps keep them safe. Since chickens feel safe there, they're more likely to (though not always) lay eggs in the coop. This makes collecting eggs a bit less tedious. Maybe let the player build a coop for a certain land cost that guarantees safety of a certain number of chickens. This vulnerability of the chickens could lead to other game play elements. For example, if a player wants to keep a higher number of chickens on his land, maybe it attracts more predators putting both the birds and other animals at risk.

One random thought is that if chickens are so vulnerable and are regularly attacked in the field, a player might want to ensure they're keeping up with breeding to maintain the numbers. Keeping a proper mix of roosters to hens may be a game element to consider adding. If the ratio is too low then you don't get enough chicks. If it's too high maybe the males fight with each other.

The only other thing I kinda know is that chickens can be a pain in the ass to catch. If you already intend on having the player walk up to a cow to milk it, having the player catch a chicken in order to sell or butcher it would be consistent. Running after 100 of them in a field among cows and what not could get quite tedious (even in the game Harvest Moon it could be a pain) and that tediousness could encourage the player to build chicken coops and use up land accordingly. Though I think in general chickens tend to stay in groups close to areas they know are safe and once again, that'd be the chicken coop.

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You've alraedy got a lot of good suggestions, but here are my thoughts:

Avoid adding complexity for the player to support a single result. What I mean is that if you're going to use slop for something else, then by all means allow the player to use it to feed pigs as well. But if producing slop is only of use because it can feed pigs, then I wouldn't bother.

Instead, I would calculate a free quota for each animal type individually. Chickens are easy, each plot can support X chickens inherently. For other livestock the player's household produces X slop per size, which can support Y pigs without needing to be supplemented, a normal harvest of a crop produces some level of waste that can be fed to pigs and cows and whatnot. The byproducts can be displayed as a plain number, and the player can supplement them with better parts of a crop if desired. The key is that players only need to explicitly allocate resources to livestock if those resources could have been used for something else instead.

For sheep, I would probably have a plant type that's just grass for them to crop. If it's not feasible to raise sheep in the city then a shepherd can lead them around to places that are.

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[quote name='kseh' timestamp='1318524437' post='4872240']
(I get the impression your game has a Harvest Moon feel to it with the character able to walk around the farm and do things accordingly)
[/quote]Well, there won't be any character moving around, it will be text based and maybe a few images. But yes, the feel of Harvest Moon is definitely what I aim for.

I think we should separate household area (garden and immediate surroundings of the house) and farmlands. Actually, for non industrial farming type you can't allocate more land to produce more chicken... You have to keep them near your house, otherwise wild animals will eat them all. These are not like cows that you can just move to pastur and leave without fear of wolves.

Maybe something like this: You can maintain 10 + 5 per your house level chickens for free (they eat worms in your gardens and surroundings), if you want you can build hen house which allows 10 chicken per level but you have to provide forage. You also build some pig barn (how it is exactly called in English?) which allows 10 pigs per level, you have to provide waste and forage. You get waste from household level and each time you make harvest. You also have cows barn which allows 5 cows per level, you have to provide forage. If you have some land allocated as pastur it let X cows not use forage. You can grow oat on some farmland which is the basic forage.

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Just my idea.

Any land can be upgraded with a hen house ... these cost a small amount of say .. grain/fodder but produce a supplement to your food stocks.

An ache field can sustain up to 100 cows, cow population has to grow and slows as it reaches its maximum ... maximum herd size may also increase risk of disease etc.

An ache field can alternatively sustain lets say ... 50 pigs ... but for every other field growing crops in your settlement this increases by +10 pigs (Its typical practice to have the pigs eat up the remaining crops after a harvest to allow planting in a cleaned up field as it where, things like forests could also give your pig farms a bonus), if you have more than one pig farm though crop fields might be divided up evenly between them.

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[b]Change of specification:[/b]
I was thinking and decided I want also seasons :D The game is a browser MMO, so the season could last 2 days (8 days for a full cycle) and there are 2 harvest cycles (spring and fall, every 4 days). This means you have to secure fodder for winter. So, I can't use any (or maybe I can?) "X land allows Y animals".

Also, beacuse of land acquiring system I need to avoid all "pig farm" style objects (the areage will be a bit fluid). The land has to be directly assigned only to crops and the animals have to be connected with estate (buildings like: hen house (chicken), pigsty (pigs), sheep pen (sheep), barn (cows), stable (horses)). So max pigs is determined by pigsty size and land provide only fodder (and at least part of it has to be storable, because during winter the land is assumed to produce nothing).

[quote name='All Names Taken' timestamp='1318664935' post='4872766']maximum herd size may also increase risk of disease etc.[/quote]Hmm, that's a good one...

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I see a red light here with the seasons. By this, you are forcing people to play.

If you put the player in danger (other than other players) of loosing his goods while he is absent, that doesn't constitue a good or fair mechanic. What if the player will have to take a 2 week break from the game? Will all his livestock die, unattended?

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I played your MMO a bit, seemed like it was going places I liked but I'm gonna wait until there's more to it before I dive in.

For Zethariel's point- seeing as it's Mediaeval you could have "Go on a crusade", "Visit the court of the king". Something flavoursome to say "Holiday mode". Your wife/steward/kid is put in charge and everything keeps going at the minimum required, although if it falls below the requirements (you bought too many cows) then it'll start to fix that so you don't get back to total devastation.

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Althrough, I see nothing wrong with "forcing players to play" and "not playing for 2 weeks" definitely should cause things go wrong (actually, I planned to delete accounts after 2 weeks of inactivity, except if under vacation mode) I agree that animals dying is not a nice mechanic or required one in this particular case.

But what should happen if you can't feed animals (for whatever reason)?

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Whoa, those are some harsh rules. Why would you want to delete player accounts?

There is nothing wrong with killing off livestock while the player is fully aware of the situation -- I don't like the idea of "cruise control" suggested above. Having things run at a minimum pace sounds good, but in a longer run an AI cannot make decisions for the player. I assume that each turn some growth happens, be it resources or other stuff -- so either players will be away for long times to stack up on resources efortlessly, or will be cross with the AI making decisions they don't want.

In RD, your account was frozen if you went on vacation -- nothing happened with it, it was invisible. But that does not work with the seasons part, as you mght wake up in the middle of winter.

That is kind of my point -- with mechanics dependant on the flow of days, time-zones will also screw things up -- for someone, winter will come in the middle of the night, for someone else, it will be at 1 PM. Given you still want this international and we are talking about the same game.

I admit I haven't seen this in other games -- as well as the amount of realism and micro-managment involved -- so I can't really say how it will work. There will always be someone who isn't comfortable with it, and (in theory and as a design idea) I think I'm one of those people.

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[quote name='Zethariel' timestamp='1318921796' post='4873789']
Whoa, those are some harsh rules. Why would you want to delete player accounts?
[/quote]100 players registered and 100 left the game, how many times this cycle has to repeat before the game reach 99% of inactives? Given enough time all MMOs cruise toward 99,999999% of inactives :) Even disregarding the hardware stress, would you want to play a game full of "zombies"? Sure, this won't matter in games where there is no or low players interaction, but if players play a certain role in the society and have to cooperate then such volume of inactives is simply unacceptable.

So, back to these poor animals. What happens if you can't feed them?

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Do not delete the accounts.
What about this idea:
Transfer their kingdom to the zombie area of the map. So the punishment for not being active is being relocated, but you still get to keep what you had, just in a different spot.
And assign their previous position in the map to newbies. So players who play a lot will be close to each other.
How do you handle newbie protection?



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[quote name='hiigara' timestamp='1319017556' post='4874223']
Do not delete the accounts.
What about this idea:
Transfer their kingdom to the zombie area of the map. So the punishment for not being active is being relocated, but you still get to keep what you had, just in a different spot.
And assign their previous position in the map to newbies. So players who play a lot will be close to each other.
How do you handle newbie protection?
[/quote]I answered here: http://www.gamedev.net/topic/610162-medieval-mmo-stuck-in-design/page__view__findpost__p__4874247


So, back to the poor animals. What should happen if these are not fed (for whatever reason)?

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