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codeman_nz

Population growth in space colony game

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HI everyone,

 

I am designing a space colony where a player builds a colony capitol, housing, factories etc on a planet.

 

What I am trying to figure out is how to handle the population growth.  Does it just keep on going and the player has to build more housing to accomodate the additional population or is the amount of housing the limit and the population growth stops when it gets to the limit?

 

I'm leaning towards the growth dropping to zero when the limit is reached because otherwise the player might have a huge population and not know what to do with them.

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I think physically limiting the player's access to population is pretty common when it comes to population management. If the managing bodies of an organized society fail to organize the population, the population organizes itself. This mechanic could be as simple as increasing authority during civil unrest or riots or it could be complex matter of diplomatically dealing with the fragmenting groups and bringing them back to the ideals of the whole. The later strikes me as the more interesting game but also the more complex the dev. 

 

Generally its the responsibility of the governing bodies to accommodate expansion and use hindsight and foresight to plan for the inevitable expansion.

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I suppose it'd depend on where you want the gameplay to come from.

If colonies get overcrowded, is there enough food being produced to feed everyone? Less food, do people get more unhealthy? More unhealthy, and cramped in close quarters with overpopulation, does disease and plagues spread?
Are there riots because of the lack of food?
Vandalism and vagrancy (even when there is food) because of close quarters?
Do you (the player) implement a one-child policy like China? How does do the people react to that?

 

Do you already simulate population death (apart from the colony getting destroyed)? That's probably a must (I'm intuitively guessing), if you're to explore this properly.

There's plenty of gameplay possibility here, but there's plenty of gameplay possibilities in alot of areas and you can't explore them all. There's too many fun directions to explore when designing a space sim. laugh.png

 

I'd take a note from Will Wright (designer of Sim City among others), and try to strike a balance between detailed simulation and abstract simulation. Detailed enough to be interesting, but abstract enough to be simple for the player to comprehend and manipulate.

You don't want the player to feel his attention is divided between too many areas at once - while trying to manage the population of one colony, aliens attacked another one, and a third is being sucked into the sun - that wouldn't be fun (cool, but not fun, since I'd have to be doing three things simultaneously).

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I am designing a space colony where a player builds a colony capitol, housing, factories etc on a planet.

 

Is this building of housing supposed to be some kind of challenging gamemechanic which the player will need to manage properly to accomodate for the population(-growth) or just something so the player has something to click ?

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I remember it was an interesting sort of balance when playing Outpost 2 back in the day. Usually you would start off and could easily get enough food and housing for everyone, and then you are constantly suffering for a shortage of either workers or scientists.

 

Then eventually I would hit a tipping point and be left trying to figure out what to DO with everyone and where to put them. The over population could quickly slide into food management issues and morale dropping like a stone.

 

 

Personally I've been toying with designs for my own colony management game, but I was using back story elements to throw an interesting little twist in there: The colony is a massive ship of survivors, but something went wrong. The game would start off with only a fraction of the planned setup lander craft which is limiting how quickly the colony infrastructure is initially expanded. Combine that with a failing life support system on the ship in orbit, and the player is then left with hard choices on who and how they try to save as colonists come out of cold storage on the ship in batches at various times during game play.

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Personally I've been toying with designs for my own colony management game, but I was using back story elements to throw an interesting little twist in there: The colony is a massive ship of survivors, but something went wrong. The game would start off with only a fraction of the planned setup lander craft which is limiting how quickly the colony infrastructure is initially expanded. Combine that with a failing life support system on the ship in orbit, and the player is then left with hard choices on who and how they try to save as colonists come out of cold storage on the ship in batches at various times during game play.

 

That's a neat idea.  I hope it works out.

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Another issue to think about is what kind of time scales are we working with, and what kind of game play are you really looking for? And how are colonists represented within the game. Ideal game play growth patterns are vastly different if your colony plays more like The Sims vs an older version of SimCity. One having each colonist as a distinct entity that must be tracked, vs a fairly simply integer comparison of NeededWorkForce isLessThan TotalPopulation isLessThan Housing and LifeSupport.

 

If the game is "in for the long haul" and each colonist is a distinct entity then it could be that you have a preset 'seed' population that arrives in cold storage. You have X number of colonists on life support, and then have set needs you have to achieve before you are allowed to unlock the next batch. ie: Enough food, air, and water production to keep everyone alive, plus some minimum level of living space. After you exhaust your initial pool you then are reliant on new colonists that the colony itself can produce.

 

By that point in your game play you can be getting into building more automated systems to replace your initial constructions, rather than say needing 12 workers to control your main fabrication facility that produces parts for buildings, you can instead crew it with just 8, freeing up 4 people to work else where in your expanding base.

 

This lets the player 'keep going', and expanding their colony, but doesn't drive up the processing requirements as much if you are simulating each colonist beyond being just a number. "New" colonists then trickle in far slower as youth develop and are trained, but can be offset by older generations beginning to die off from age or accidents. It can also open the door to interesting plot points and choices, especially if the game relies heavily on colonists personality and factions. 

 

Maybe you could have the option of deploying Clones. Clones can be matured faster than natural birth children, meaning they are ready for the work force sooner, but may be opposed by members of some factions. Similar with 'simple' advanced robotics that merely reduce labour requirements in facilities and 'complex' advanced robotics that can be full blown AI crew members. Maybe some colonists don't mind that their food was totally grown by mindless machines slaving away in a aquaponics bay somewhere at the edge of the colony, but when a dozen androids march by to their next job site things will feel a little different. (Especially if you have some kind of revolt and oppression mechanic.)

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It depends on how realistic you want it to be...

Birth rates are effected by War and Peace time + Medical tech + Culture

Death rates are effected by the same thing

Death rates are further modified by quality of life and population density...

and this is further modified by food availability.

 

Now if you're being realistic there are multiple vectors in controlling population...

 

If you're going the less realistic you can have a general cap and have the represent some sustainable number which then if you go past in population you get unhappiness and people begin to die. till you reach a sustainable number again.

 

Even less so you can just have a stat which is increased by increasing residential areas and ignore all the other factors and so if you build a residential area that supports 7 billion you have that many people... unless the area gets destroyed/deleted/whatever.

 

Again there are various options and it's up to you, but I'd consider what type of game you're trying to make and then decide how important it is to have depth and realism or if it's there for some other thing. The game I'm working on designing has to do with empire building and running an empire. That needs more depth and realism than say a more RTS style game like StarCraft.

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What is the length of a game-cycle: is one minute weeks, days or does it represent years? If decades then children could be feasible. Otherwise I think colonists would be a cool population growth factor. Then you can have colony advertisement, shipment, and other factors for the player to tinker with to optimize the influx of colonists. 

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