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Medieval city builder: ground water for wells and fertility

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Im planning a medieval city/castle builder in the vains of stronghold, anno and banished.

Water is needed for civilian houses and some processes (brewing ale etc). Farms need fertile soil to boost productivity. How are these connected? Im thinking water will work like this (to have two sources of it):
1. Build wells. Habitants fetch water from it. It must be replenished so 1000 guys cannot get their water from the same well.
2. Get water from fresh water (streams, lakes). Is it strange to demand a "water-station" building or should the habitants just get water from the waterline? A water-station building could work like a bottomless well, making coding it easier but it seems a bit odd.

Soil fertility
Fertility come in approx. 5 levels from none to excellent. Higher fertility means higher yield (more output of food/goods per year). Is fertility always higher close to surface (fresh) water? 

Question: Should there also be a "heatmap" for water availability? So that wells are better in some areas? Would such a parameter always correlate to the heatmap (fertility) for farms? Im not sure it's realistic but it could be a good gameplay choice: do i use this "good" land for farms or a residential area?

I do feel fertility for farms is a must for the game i'm planning, but may skip it for wells to simplify things. How is this visualized? It's a 2d game with simple top-down graphics. Maybe fertility can be shown by density of grass or grass color? I would prefer to not use a modern "heatmap overlay" like many modern city builders do (like sim city or cities skylines) as they doesnt feel very medieval.

Any comments? Examples of how games solves similar issues?

Edited by suliman

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As you say, ground water level is difficult to visualize (although possible with some vegetation hints), so I would make it simple - uniform or a basic gradient, so player intuitively knows what to expect.

From there, I see two ways to add 'well optimality' - well depth based on ground height (affects construction time, or perhaps depth is limited by technology), or digging cost based on ground material (if you have seasons or biomes, cold terrain could be harder or even impossible to dig).

Both approaches require visualization, but both should be useful for more than just wells (ground height could be visualized with vegetation, height contours, terrain slope, maybe just mark hills with special trees and let player sample absolute height with mouse).

The height based approach means wells get cheaper near water bodies (lower terrain) - this is important for balance, since otherwise it cant compete. Wells also get more expensive further inland (assuming higher terrain), which allows carrying water from shores to compete (since that gets more expensive with distance). Obviously both keep their home ground advantage, but this dynamic keeps it small enough to not constrain the possibility space (external factors can make wells optimal near a stream, or a distant stream optimal for sourcing water for an inland settlement).

Another effect is that players are discouraged from building wells on hills. Useful if you want to encourage scenarios where water is distant (like making player deal with difficult to put out fires early game). Would also encourage building water storage. A well on a hill could be useful for irrigation if you can use gravity (aqueducts/dug out channels). Fertile ground on high terrain would also discourage farming there until later on (if you want to ensure player has these untouched pockets of fertile land available later on).

For gameplay longevity, I would absolutely make fertility go down over time, so keep the player moving their settlement (expand, move, create new ones - many approaches). This could also encourage eventual transition to inland farming if you decide to make shores optimal early game (also makes sense given that the shores might fill up with all kinds of buildings over time). You could even make some land lose fertility faster than other (so two variables, fertility, and uhh... longevity?) for long term strategical decisions. Of course it could be restored over time or player could use specific farming techniques to keep the land forever fertile, but not really necessary (worst case, player can just trade for food end game - probably bored with basic farming by then anyways).

Groundwater could have a similar effect (either deplete or pollute) on a more global scale (so the gameplay goes a bit like shore->inland->shore with no good farmland). Feels more like a driver of endgame chaos, leading to collapse of the city - maybe at this point a few settlers can leave in search for better land, or you can allow the player to eventually bounce back and rebuild (the remains of the old city can seed the new one, so its a whole new experience, but for it to work you need proper decay systems and resources have to renew or be infinite)

If you use streams instead of lakes, making those dry up or widen over time could add challenge (and again add strategical decision, since wells might be more reliable). Even changing the water level map-wide could work (no need for fluid simulation). Heh, make former riverbed super fertile, just so you can trick the player into building there and then hundred years later flood the thing (if you have proper fluid simulation, this could be one source of fertile land, if player can build dams or drain high altitude lakes?).

Bodies of water that appear/disappear with rain could be a really high-risk high-reward inland water source (if there is some huge benefit to building inland). Could also save the player on a really dry map.

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Lots of interesting ideas!

I do think forcing the player to resettle the town due to changes in water availability is a bit too much for my game. It's more scenario-based: when you solve your conditions you move on to another map. 

I was thinking about "well depth" as well (pun intended). Maybe simply as an upgrade to a normal well that provides more water and faster repenishment. Water storage  in dry areas that needs to be refilled from wells/streams in areas with ground water.

Im not a big fan of terrain altitude in topdown games so that's probably something I will skip. It would also make military movement and shooting and general construction a bit more complicated.

But the simple question: do areas with good "water well effectiveness" and good "farm effectiveness" overlap? It seems logical but I guess it's not necessary. But if they do, I just need to visualize it once. If they don't i need visualization for both "ratings".

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The altitude would not need to have any effect besides depth you need to dig for a well (so every other system would just assume flat terrain). So no short-distance features like cliffs, just these larger scale smooth variations (since its basically visualization of groundwater depth?).


If wells must be within fertile land, and cities must be close to wells, this adds a potentially interesting decision regarding city placement/layout - player is driven to put wells on the outer edge of farmland, and put the city right outside that. But that halves the well effectiveness, so perhaps player puts some of the city on the farmland. But hey, if the fertile area is a weird shape, maybe they can find a location with an island of fertile land in the middle for a well, and put the city around that (without wasting good farmland).

Of course there are probably other factors affecting city placement, so they need to be balanced such that no one factor rules over the others, and that the factors combined dont constrain player freedom too much (not fun if there is just a single actually good location/layout for a city).


Prebuilt/placed wells (by earlier visitors, for example), would be good for replayability, since they force the player to deal with a potentially suboptimal situation that they would naturally avoid if well placement was up to player (player would just seek familiar/optimal placement, which gets old quick). Basically wells could be point-shaped streams (perhaps you could have springs instead of wells, with wells as a more specialized building).

If you want to encourage water logistics (distance between source and consumer, to get all of that storage/supply lines/latency stuff), the fertile area and groundwater area should probably be different, but not overlap much (perhaps there is always some non-fertile no-groundwater land between the two zones, to take it to an extreme). In such a scenario, cities would be built between the water/farm zones (in that dividing zone, basically), or just stretched out to cover both as building preferences differ.

If you put the housing in the well/water zone, that will encourage a natural flow of water in one direction and food in the other, which you dont really get if its all mixed up (fertile/well zone being equal/overlapping)

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