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Acharis

Steampunk industrial turn based strategy

22 posts in this topic

I have been working on a prototype of a turn based strategy where you run a small country (on an island) and, well, build/improve your country (mainly industry). It's all set in a Victorian XIX century like theme.

 

First, I tried to make it an Industrial Revolution (historical, sort of), without warfare and just agriculture, industry, trade, inventions and social problems. But then I was started to think that Steampunk theme would fit much better here (non historical map, cool inventions, etc) and that maybe some warfare (defensive one, not conquest) would not hurt.

 

So, I wanted to stop for now and think/reevaluate what the game is about. Without any assumptions and such (a fresh look). How would you advice me? How could/should I proceed with such game?

(note I'm not asking how to make this game, I have my own ideas and views, but I just wanted to take a step back and listen, to refresh my perspective)

 

 

Here is the prototype http://silverlemur.com/work/ir-prototype.zip (Windows, low requirements)

 

A screen of the provinces map:

ir-screen-map_zpsec586314.png

 

 

 

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[...] neighbouring province.
How you feel about the map?

 

- Assuming the internal province stuff is relatively rich/complex, do you find the current 12 provinces enough? Maybe add more?

- How you feel about the island surrounded by endless sea? Is it OK? Or maybe I should add some other islands around it, even if with very limited interaction (like owned by AI nations but no option to conquer)? If yes, how important adding these you feel is?

- Overall, what was you experience regarding interacting with the map?

- Does the map require zooming? And minimap?

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How you feel about the map?

I feel OK about it, but I like hexagons. If I didn't, I'd be annoyed that they exist without a purpose.

I also want it to be procedurally generated so I can play more than once.

The giant leaping spider bots button needs to be more obvious.

 

- Assuming the internal province stuff is relatively rich/complex, do you find the current 12 provinces enough? Maybe add more?

This seems like a game balance question, and there is no game yet. It's impossible to say without knowing what they're for.

 

- How you feel about the island surrounded by endless sea? Is it OK? Or maybe I should add some other islands around it, even if with very limited interaction (like owned by AI nations but no option to conquer)? If yes, how important adding these you feel is?

Personally, I feel a bit bad about it. It feels isolated, and accentuates the feeling of having no aim or impact. More islands are only useful if you can interact with them in some meaningful way.

Also, possibly irrelevant, but if you give me an island, I want a boat.

 

- Overall, what was you experience regarding interacting with the map?

It was fairly smooth and intuitive, although scrolling at the edges of the window was unnecessary since the whole map fits in the window, and especially annoying because it continues when the mouse is outside of the window.

 

- Does the map require zooming? And minimap?

No. Zooming might be nice, because it's interface customization, which helps with comfort and convenience (You could zoom out so the island is small enough to fit in the right-hand side of the screen, beside that huge build interface, which could probably be smaller), but I can see no reason to have a minimap.

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Don't know if that's relevant to you, but I have had a few UX concerns.

For example, your End Turn button should be bigger, and hopefully on the bottom right.

Also, the resources overlay should be something that can always be displayed from the HUD (it looks like its important enough that I might want to have it up when making decisions on what to build next).

 

 

From a gameplay standpoint, I'm a bit surprised that construction hardly impacts population growth. I've taken one of the smallest provinces and boosted their schools/university and industry by a significant margin (99 everywhere in fact) and it failed to catch up with any other province over the course of many many turns skipped. I'd be tempted to believe that, as people increase their average income, so too would they better be able to care for their children and insure they are in good health and eventually become part of the nation's economy?

 

I'm also a bit unsure where you are headed with the overall design. It seems there's actually few to do (choose what to build essentially). What is the core gameplay loop you are hoping to achieve? (logical flow of things you expect one player to actively engage in repeatedly).

 

All in all, its good to see an executable though :) Keep it up! (never give up on the indie life)

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I feel OK about it, but I like hexagons. If I didn't, I'd be annoyed that they exist without a purpose.
Yeah, I had a slight dilemma with the hexagons. On one hand these have no real purpose, on the other I like hexes :D

 


although scrolling at the edges of the window was unnecessary since the whole map fits in the window, and especially annoying because it continues when the mouse is outside of the window.
And if you maximize the window (or even better go fullscreen - you can do it via config.ini)? Still annoying?

I was testing disabling the mouse movement if outside thw window, but then there is problem with making the map move at all (you move max to the left and you are outside...) Also its terrible if you have dualscreen and fullscreen (right part of the map scroll would "not register" since you frequesntly "overshoot").

 

A note: this is supposed to run in fullscreen by default in the final version.

 


Also, the resources overlay should be something that can always be displayed from the HUD (it looks like its important enough that I might want to have it up when making decisions on what to build next).
I have a problem/dilemma here. Should I do it? First of all, I can't display them all (need to choose what to display). Buildings will use planks and bricks to build. When you build railroads you might need planks and steel. Other upgrades (bureaucratic/laws) might require paper.

Such display would look very odd/random (imagine planks, bricks, paper and steel :D).

 


From a gameplay standpoint, I'm a bit surprised that construction hardly impacts population growth. I've taken one of the smallest provinces and boosted their schools/university and industry by a significant margin (99 everywhere in fact) and it failed to catch up with any other province over the course of many many turns skipped. I'd be tempted to believe that, as people increase their average income, so too would they better be able to care for their children and insure they are in good health and eventually become part of the nation's economy?
Not implemented yet :)

I think I should have called this TechDemo instead of a prototype, would be less confusing :)

 

I know, check this web version of my much older (but quite playable) prototype:

http://silverlemur.com/minigames/industrialrevolution/

I plan to go a bit different route (for example separating the country into individual regions and removing land concept), but yeah, it should convey the mood and mechanics I aim for much better than the .exe version.

 


I'm also a bit unsure where you are headed with the overall design.
You know, it's a brainstorming topic. I want to reevaluate my overall design (so I prefer to avoid answering this yet), instead I would like to listen what overall design you see emerging from the current map+production system+theme.
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I feel OK about it, but I like hexagons. If I didn't, I'd be annoyed that they exist without a purpose.
Yeah, I had a slight dilemma with the hexagons. On one hand these have no real purpose, on the other I like hexes biggrin.png

 

 

 


although scrolling at the edges of the window was unnecessary since the whole map fits in the window, and especially annoying because it continues when the mouse is outside of the window.
And if you maximize the window (or even better go fullscreen - you can do it via config.ini)? Still annoying?

I was testing disabling the mouse movement if outside thw window, but then there is problem with making the map move at all (you move max to the left and you are outside...) Also its terrible if you have dualscreen and fullscreen (right part of the map scroll would "not register" since you frequesntly "overshoot").

 

A note: this is supposed to run in fullscreen by default in the final version.

 

 

 


Also, the resources overlay should be something that can always be displayed from the HUD (it looks like its important enough that I might want to have it up when making decisions on what to build next).
I have a problem/dilemma here. Should I do it? First of all, I can't display them all (need to choose what to display). Buildings will use planks and bricks to build. When you build railroads you might need planks and steel. Other upgrades (bureaucratic/laws) might require paper.

Such display would look very odd/random (imagine planks, bricks, paper and steel biggrin.png).

 

 

 


From a gameplay standpoint, I'm a bit surprised that construction hardly impacts population growth. I've taken one of the smallest provinces and boosted their schools/university and industry by a significant margin (99 everywhere in fact) and it failed to catch up with any other province over the course of many many turns skipped. I'd be tempted to believe that, as people increase their average income, so too would they better be able to care for their children and insure they are in good health and eventually become part of the nation's economy?
Not implemented yet smile.png

I think I should have called this TechDemo instead of a prototype, would be less confusing smile.png

 

I know, check this web version of my much older (but quite playable) prototype:

http://silverlemur.com/minigames/industrialrevolution/

I plan to go a bit different route (for example separating the country into individual regions and removing land concept), but yeah, it should convey the mood and mechanics I aim for much better than the .exe version.

 

 

 


I'm also a bit unsure where you are headed with the overall design.
You know, it's a brainstorming topic. I want to reevaluate my overall design (so I prefer to avoid answering this yet), instead I would like to listen what overall design you see emerging from the current map+production system+theme.

 

 

 

You could have an overlay panel that can be switched on/off at the botom, but that isn't concurrent with other menus. Then replace text with icons, making it more intelligible. That way, you give the player the ability to display all of the resources when they believe they need it. I think a common misconception in design is to make assumptions for the player. A number of UI awards have been granted to games that actually allow the user to decide what they need to see.

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- How you feel about the island surrounded by endless sea? Is it OK? Or maybe I should add some other islands around it, even if with very limited interaction (like owned by AI nations but no option to conquer)? If yes, how important adding these you feel is?

Personally, I feel a bit bad about it. It feels isolated, and accentuates the feeling of having no aim or impact. More islands are only useful if you can interact with them in some meaningful way.

Also, possibly irrelevant, but if you give me an island, I want a boat.
Hmm, I get similar feeling...

 

OK, I need to tell more about the game.

I strongly want to make it assymnetrical. I mean, I don't want it to turn into a huge Europa Universalis with hunders of countries with zillion provinces and a totally dumb incompetent AI. I want to make the "AI empires" maximum simplified (no simulating economy, minimum AI), I defnitely don't want to code all this :)

 

But more than one island indeed sounds better...

 

So, how about something like that:

- the player owns an island with 12-16 provinces

- there are other AI empire controlled islands nearby, you can wage war with these bur for concessions, never to grab their territory

- there are several small unpopulated islands that can be colonized, countries can wage wars for the right to colonize these, if colonized a wild province is not assimilated but simply provides resources (all industry has to be on the main island)

 

On the map you see foreign (AI contrioled) islands as one colour provinces. Clicking on any of these provinces (within same country) opens the same panel which allows diplomacy & trade.

You also see uncolonized provinces (or colonized by others - which you can take over), each province separately, displaying resources (frequently rare like spice) and native population (good for buying your finished goods).

 

Something along these lines, what you think or maybe you have ideas for improvements?

 

 


I also want it to be procedurally generated so I can play more than once.
Everything fixed but with a campaign system instead (like Tropico). Possible scenario editor as well.

 


Also, the resources overlay should be something that can always be displayed from the HUD (it looks like its important enough that I might want to have it up when making decisions on what to build next).
Maybe a tooltip (when you mouse over build button) displaying how much you cas and what you have? Also grayed out build button if not enough resources.

 


You could have an overlay panel that can be switched on/off at the botom, but that isn't concurrent with other menus. Then replace text with icons, making it more intelligible. That way, you give the player the ability to display all of the resources when they believe they need it. I think a common misconception in design is to make assumptions for the player. A number of UI awards have been granted to games that actually allow the user to decide what they need to see.
Bleh... I hate, hate, hate these :) No matter how many avards these got I would refuse to play such a game (fortuanatelly I haven't seen any like these in the last 15 years, they seem to exctinct).

Anyway, even if, any customization is for advanced players who already know how to play. My concern is new players (like Stormynature in the first post who got confused which made my heart cry :(). Once I make a prototype that is intuitive to play I can think of customization options. Right now my goal is that Stormynature downloads the next version and says "hey, it's easy I get it all now, even without reading tutorial/manual" :)

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At the moment I need feedback on the map the most. Should there be AI empires? Or colonization of some islands (while still preserving the focus of industrailization, not on warfare or territorial expansion)?

 


I strongly want to make it assymetrical. I mean, I don't want it to turn into a huge Europa Universalis with hunders of countries with zillion provinces and a totally dumb incompetent AI. I want to make the "AI empires" maximum simplified (no simulating economy, minimum AI), I defnitely don't want to code all this smile.png

But more than one island indeed sounds better...

So, how about something like that:
- the player owns an island with 12-16 provinces
- there are other AI empire controlled islands nearby, you can wage war with these bur for concessions, never to grab their territory
- there are several small unpopulated islands that can be colonized, countries can wage wars for the right to colonize these, if colonized a wild province is not assimilated but simply provides resources (all industry has to be on the main island)

On the map you see foreign (AI controled) islands as one colour provinces. Clicking on any of these provinces (within same country) opens the same panel which allows diplomacy & trade.
You also see uncolonized provinces (or colonized by others - which you can take over), each province separately, displaying resources (frequently rare like spice) and native population (good for buying your finished goods).

Something along these lines, what you think or maybe you have ideas for improvements?
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I was thinking and concluded that unpopulated provinces and colonization would completely change the game's focus and eventually turn it into a wargame (you see an uncolonized province, you want it colonized, but the AI was faster so now you want to fight for it, so you won the colony but hey, why stop now, let's conquer the whole AI country and... we ended up with Risk/Civilization/Europa Universalis :D)

 

In order to preserve the industial/economic/technological feel of the game I need to somehow stress the importance of the provinces/territory you start with and maybe somehow reduce the importance of army and warfare (maybe with an exception to navy since it's not about controling provinces?)

 

I can see two ways:

1) Keep it as it is now (one island on an endless empty sea), maybe adding more provinces for the player to manage (like 30).

2) Make the player's island divided into provinces and then add several islands controlled by AI (without division to provinces), when you click on any AI island it opens trade/diplomacy screen instead of a province view.

 

Advice which one is better? Or other thoughts?

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I think one island is OK if you start with one province on it and expand to fill more. Maybe allow the player to manage land by selecting the hexes to form the new province, and calculate cost of expansion based on number of hexes, constitution, etc.

 

The second option sounds fine too, and it might even be nice if the AI expands (as above), and you have the opportunity to establish provinces on the other islands if you're quick enough, and willing to soak up the initial cost. The advantage of these provinces would be reduced costs when trading with other nations on the island (no need for ships).

 

My feeling is that, at the moment, there's no sense of "tangible" progress, and no motivation - all you do is make the little numbers change. That might be fine in multi-player games, because competition with other players provides the motivation, but in single-player, you need something (like expansion) to drive gameplay.

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My feeling is that, at the moment, there's no sense of "tangible" progress, and no motivation - all you do is make the little numbers change. That might be fine in multi-player games, because competition with other players provides the motivation, but in single-player, you need something (like expansion) to drive gameplay.
You are right... Instead of the map, let's start with the overall goal of the game.

 

I definitely don't want conquest/expansion/war as the core gameplay. I think, in terms of the spirit, the most similar to my vision are Tropico (just one island and only defensive battles) and Anno 1xxx (in theory there was conquest but in practice you colonized 2-3 islands at most (where one was your main island with bulk of the infrastructure) and then achieved your victory via economic/infrastructural means). I think something like Tropic/Anno 1xxx, but divided into provinces and without separate buildings whose proximity is important, is what my aim is (sort of)...

 

Upgrading your infrastructure, upgrading your population, upgrading your technology and improving your economical power. Something along these lines.

 

What you think?

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Maybe I should clarify my question. What is the nature of Tropic/Anno 1xxx games? What is the core "goal"? What is the most fun part for you? And can you see them working "divided into provinces" as I plan to do it?

(note that I played these games, just wanted to see your perspective and thoughts because, while I enjoyed these games, I'm not sure I fully "get them" :))

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I don't have a whole lot to contribute here, but I'll say this. If I was browsing games, your Steam Punk theme would attract my attention even though I'm not a huge fan of this type of game. I only hope that the game's design reflects the theme somehow, and it's not just eye candy.

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I'm sorry it took me so long to reply, and more so because of what I have to say ..

 

I'm not a fan of management sims, so if you ask me what the point is, I'll say there is none. They're a simulation (more akin to toys than games) of bean-counting (as much fun as a stick in the eye). A fan would probably tell you that the point is to make the little people do your bidding (maybe not in those words). Essentially, the aim of the game is to "build a thriving nation", which, to me, means that there is no clearly defined goal, or it is too subjective to be definable, and that's the first thing I'd want to set straight, although, come to think of it, I vaguely recall elections which you had to win to keep playing, or something like that. Honestly, my experiences with these "games" have been that unmemorable.

 

On a more constructive note, looking objectively at your own experience of this type of game in the wider context of game design, have you found the play experience, and in particular its conclusion, satisfying? And if so, what did it satisfy? I think that that will give you your answer.

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I don't have a whole lot to contribute here, but I'll say this. If I was browsing games, your Steam Punk theme would attract my attention even though I'm not a huge fan of this type of game. I only hope that the game's design reflects the theme somehow, and it's not just eye candy.

Primarily I wanted to make a turn based strategy. And during design process I noticed that steampunk theme would fit it very well (coal, factories, steam engines, brass, zeppelins, Victorian era). So, I want to make it steampunk as the core part (it simply fits with the rest of my vision) but I have not played many steampunk games so I feel a bit lost :D I could use some advices/thoughts related to steampunk theme (as long as these are compatible with turn based strategies, so for exampole no "arcade style shooting when flying steam powered zeppelin" :)). BTW, is there my impression or is there extremely few/none steampunk themed strategies?

 

BTW, I'm looking for a name for this game that would on one hand reflect the "steampunk" part and on the other the "turn based strategy where you run your own nation" part.

http://www.gamedev.net/topic/652604-steampunk-industrial-revolution-looking-for-a-name/

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'm not a fan of management sims, so if you ask me what the point is, I'll say there is none. They're a simulation (more akin to toys than games) of bean-counting (as much fun as a stick in the eye). A fan would probably tell you that the point is to make the little people do your bidding (maybe not in those words). Essentially, the aim of the game is to "build a thriving nation", which, to me, means that there is no clearly defined goal, or it is too subjective to be definable,

 

A nice thing with simulation games is, you can have a big amount of goals.

 

These can be set by the player himself *if* the game allows for some creative managing.

(movable/changable things on a map would allow some creative managing)

 

They can also be set by the game

Things like "get 100% happiness" are a bit basic, and should possibly be included in the tutorial though.

And stranger goals will likely complicate the programming.

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I have been thinking about the map & the game's premise, and I get the feeling these are not compatible. Since you are managing a country with highly detailed provices there is no point in that many provinces in the first place. Maybe like 8 provinces, so you can always remember what is where? Also, isn't the map too "important"? I mean, it takes always at least half the screen (more in higer resolution) while the province report (with all the factories, population, etc) takes only half of the screen (and even less in higher resolutions).

 

Also, I was wondering about separate cities (on the map). Currently each province is one city+countryside with factories, fields, mines. What if there were like 5 cities (not being part of provinces, technicly these would display as small provinces) that have factories & other complex structures and 8 (or more provinces) that have only fields and mines?

Maybe that would work better?

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Your map is sufficiently large to have a variety of symbolic icons    (the numbers could be smaller and alongside the name to free up the space next to the figure).   Little animated Icons chuffing away with steam could make a nice addition and be represenative of the resources (for an overall strategic view short of having to look into a detailed data page for each area.

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