City Centres Part II: The Drastic Improvement

Y’know, looking at city centres now, I’m almost embarrassed by how plain and downright uninteresting they looked last week. Nevertheless, I suppose this serves as a good indication of how much can be done with a week of time, some thought, and some excellent suggestions from my fans (even if a lot of that week was spent house-hunting and a wide range of exciting vaccinations). So, here’s how centres currently look. Those that have a cathedral (a Vatican-esque building, only one exists for each religion, in the home civilization of that religion, and if the religion is a theocracy, then the civilization is ruled from there) look like this:

NewS

…whilst those without a cathedral look something like this (the core “wall”/structure is the same shape, you will note, as the corner towers and the gatehouses in each district, which is different for each civ):

NewS

There’s a range of buildings here, and each of them I tried to make look visually distinct in order to both add variety, but also add in identification when you may encounter a number of these potentially quite large structures exploring a city centre.

Embassies

City centres contain a few embassies to other civilizations. These are the only buildings with walls around them – I reasoned other civs would want to have some sense of security for their footholds abroad. They also have a pair of flags outside (the white symbols) which will show you what nation that embassy belongs to. I also decided it would be interesting if they used the brick style/colour of that nation, not the nation of the city centre – as you can see in these pictures, this combination and the flags make embassies very easy to identify. At the same time, I had to make sure there were never too many in any one city, so you can’t learn about too many other civilizations at once. There will never be more than three embassies in a city centre, and two is around the average. They also have their own gates leading into the embassy grounds.

Courts

For courts, I found myself thinking about the shape of courts in the real world, and I came across the Star Chamber (mentioned in the Baroque Cycle, a secondary inspiration for the game). From these I decided to have courts roughly follow variations on the shape of a star, some more circular than others, some more pointed than others (though truly circular buildings are generally arenas in lower-class districts). In the first picture the court is the second building in the last column, and in the second picture it is the top-left-most building. These only appear in civs with certain justice policies, and they may be hubs for information like the wanted level of certain NPCs, bounties, and might play a role in any future legal systems that the player can fall foul of.

Guilds

I’ve added guilds. Currently these are mercenary guilds, from which you’ll be able to acquire the most expensive and best allies (vs taverns, slave markets, etc). Fancy recruiting from the Legion of the Black Flame or the Chapter of the Bloody Fist? For these I drew inspiration from real-world guild halls which often consist of several buildings over several layers (there are many where I live in York) – guild halls are thus buildings with many “layers”, and you can see one in the top-left of the first picture, and the second across on the top row in the second picture.

Slave Markets

These will crop up (as you might expect) in slaving civs – they will be closer to the open-air markets in nomadic fortresses than the enclosed shops that predominate in feudal nations. There aren’t any visible here, but they consist of a small number of thick, straight lines, with clear “market areas” at their intersections where you’ll find vendors in 0.8. Where guilds offer skilled and well-trained allies, slave markets will generally offer somewhat less competent allies, but cheap… though that’s not to say some skilled allies might not have been trapped into slavery here and there.

Galleries

Art galleries. These are generally either an L shape (start of third row in picture 2) or a U shape (third down in third column in picture 1). These are similar-ish shapes to stables, but you’ll never find a stable and a gallery in the same district (and galleries, like most other buildings, have signs outside to denote their function). They are going to contain paintings. These are going to be awesome.

Memorials

Several people suggested these, and it fits in very well with the future history-changing mechanics. These were inspired some of the larger real-world memorials which are more like something you walk around, though these also have a “statue” in the middle which will be related to a historical event. In the top picture you can see one third in the top row, and in the second picture one is third on the bottom row. Statue generation will not be fully present in this version, in the interests of actually getting it released before the end of November.

Mints

All city centres have a mint for the bank of that nation – these are similar to banks in that they are built around “blocks” and a square-zigzag pattern. The bottom-right in the first picture and the bottom-right in the second picture give some examples.

Parliaments

NewSFor those nations with a democratic preference, they are ruled from Parliaments. They’re based primarily on the UK Parliament building, and have “corrugated” walls, and often clock/bell towers and multiple entrances. Here’s an example from another city on the left. Like many buildings in city centres I would think Parliaments will have some guards patrolling outside them, and might have vaults underneath containing something. This is around a fifth of all civilizations, so parliament buildings are relatively rare buildings to crop up in city centres. Parliaments, like Mints, take up two “blocks” of a city centre, whereas all the other buildings listed here only take up a single block. There are also gardens and lakes around most city centres too, though those particularly packed with buildings may have little room for the greener things in life.

Wonders of the World

There will also be fifteen super-special buildings, approximately one in each city. In a few worlds one or two might not generate, or one or two cities might be without a wonder. These will be buildings that are sometimes in the centre, sometimes elsewhere, which are special and unique (the Panopticon in a previous post) and are to do with the story. More on these as and when.

IN SUMMARY

City centres are now actually interesting to walk around. I need to work on flag generation, but that should be a pretty snappy task. Otherwise they’re pretty much finished. Hopefully next week (or at worst, the week after) I should be able to unveil an image of a complete city, which should look bloody amazing.

A final note. Development is now about… 80% of my activity? I’m not really full-timing it yet, but I’m not far off. There isn’t much more doctorate that needs doing, most of my time is spent waiting for feedback and then sending in more edits. Moving house is, as things always do, proving trickier than expected, but we’re still hoping to move in November. Lincoln (where we’re moving to) seems to be a town inundated with flats with low ceilings, and for someone of my elevation, that is sadly not workable, not to mention that almost every flat seems to come with damned tiny bedrooms. Development is going to stay rapid until then, though, so don’t think the fact I’m not full-timing yet doesn’t mean we aren’t back to weekly URRpdates (I remain oddly proud of that term), because we are!

(Lastly, yes, I do know I switch between the UK/US spellings of centre/center constantly in these entries. FORGIVE ME)

City Centres Part I

I’ve finished up Military districts – each part now has a wide range of variation in terms of how it appears, as well as where exactly on the map grid it actually appears. Some military districts contain features others do not, but all contain sufficient locations for two training NPCs to spawn – something we’ll get to once 0.8 is properly in the works. I’ve now begun work on City Centres.

I’ve been struggling with city centres. What you see in this entry is already the third iteration, and I’m not sure how much I like this one. There also isn’t much to show yet. This is partly because most of this week has been spent looking around flats and investigating a possible academic post that might be coming my way, and because much of what I’ve been doing is under-the-hood stuff. There are ten possible layouts for city centres, as aptly illustrated by this lovely MS Paint infographic:

City centres centers

I am sure you can see why each is named the way it is, and the number notes how many things may spawn in it (large buildings discussed in this paragraph count as 2). There’s a key difference between the last three designs – star, fat X, and cross – and the other seven. There are two types of building that are very large and need extra space in a city centre to spawn: these are religious cathedrals (the hub for each religion), and parliaments. Cathedrals only spawn in nations designated as the home nation for that belief, whilst parliaments only spawn in civs that have the Representation policy as their choice of leadership. In the first seven, the cathedral will spawn within the square – these can be of almost any shape and having this shape adjust the spawning of the rest of the district causes things to spiral into revolting complexity, so they are contained within this area and some interesting patterns of grass, road and fountains on the ground around. If there is a parliamentary building, meanwhile, it will cut across the other larger sections. However, if there is no religious building, the last three designs can be used, since these have no room for cathedrals.

City centres also contain other buildings – currently each contains a mint, a number of embassies for nearby nations, and at least one garden. However, I think this is a little sparse. Below is a very early example of how a city centre currently looks: this one contains a cathedral in the centre and various buildings around it (gardens do not yet spawn).

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NewS

The Mint is the building in the bottom-left corner (after posting this entry I intend to change its design significantly, but I always want to upload at the weekend, so it is staying that way for now since I don’t have time to add new designs and upload this in time) and the rest are embassies. However, I want fewer embassies – we must maintain some mystery! – and more other buildings, but I’m not really sure WHAT. There are a small number of unique structures that can generate within city centres which I’m not going to give too much away on right now, but I need more. I’m happy for the overall structure to be very careful and regulated like in the above example, but more variety is clearly needed. I considered libraries/universities, but having so many books in the same location would damage the game balance of how I want books to work. So, bearing in mind that gardens are not yet present, nor the other thing unique to each centre, I still think they need more variety, but I’m not really sure what else could be included – thoughts? I never finish or release anything until I’m entirely happy with it, and centres are definitely lacking some interest at the moment, and this needs fixing. Throw me your ideas!

Edit for clarification: monarchic and stratocratic rulers rule from the city castle; theocratic rulers from the cathedral; representation leaders from the parliamentary building.

Military Districts

Until today three districts remained without generators: docks, military districts, and city centers. I knew how I wanted the centers to generate but hadn’t worked on them yet, whilst docks I’m leaving until I actually implement ships and naval travel, but military districts needed to be done this releae and were proving very challenging. I didn’t just want to have huge regions of endless barracks – I wanted something much more varied – but at the same time I wanted to try to only add things that would have gameplay valuable if/when you gained access to a military district. I’ve settled on a middle-ground between the two – some areas are just for decorative purposes and to make the world feel consistent, coherent and real (akin to farms, for example), whilst other parts have clear gameplay goals, will contain important NPCs, etc.

So, military districts (like upper-class housing districts) are split into four parts. Each of these has a number of features which slot together in a fairly complex manner, and in a range of different orientations. These can be: Barracks, Parade Grounds, Archery Ranges, Siege Weapons, Armouries, Officer Quarters, Hospitals, and Stables. These combine in a range of different permutations to produce military districts. Each military district is also guaranteed to include two special combat NPCs – these may be able to raise a stat, or train you to use some of the more complex moves for a weapon. More on this in a few versions time when we’re doing weapons and combat. Here’s a labelled example:

NewS

Archery Ranges and Siege Weapons are self-explanatory, and (currently) for decoration only (you can’t raise stats by using the ranges or anything like that). All the others, however, will have gameplay use. Barracks contain troops, their beds, possessions, etc, and therefore may contain important NPCs. Parade Grounds are self-explanatory, and once we have NPCs in two versions time, you may be able to see soldiers marching around there in times of peace, or actively drilling in times of war (not sure how much variation it’s worth thinking about here). Armouries are most certainly not decoration and will contain huge numbers of weapons if you can gain access to them, but will be well-guarded. Officer Quarters will contain high-ranking military officials, and possibly some expensive items too. Hospitals will contain a range of healing items and those able/willing to heal you for a price (or if you are a close ally of the civilization), and Stables, funnily enough, will contain lots of horses (though I am still working out how exactly riding is going to integrate with the rest of the game). There will also presumably be patrols moving around the outside ring road of the district in the future.

I tried hard to make each building recognizable by shape, which is something I’ve already been putting a lot of emphasis on with the different kinds of special building that spawn in housing districts (banks, theaters, arenas, etc). In this case stables are all right-angled shapes, barracks are a 9×7 grid, hospitals are more uneven, organic-looking lines and branches of building, officers quarters are a loop than encloses an area within it (or sometimes two areas), armouries are either octagonal or a number of octagons with a large gate at the front, while catapults and archery targets have distinct characters by which they can be recognized. The circular buildings – there is one in the top-left near the central fort, and one within a loop of road in the bottom-right – are the buildings that house training NPCs.

However, military districts have two restrictions on your entry – they are expensive to enter, and you must be very friendly with the civilization in order to gain access (or be playing as the player class which allows you to try sneaking into districts, though I am still figuring out the exact mechanics there). Starting in a civilization with a military district will therefore be a significant early-game boost, though I will try to balance this by giving significant value to non-militaristic civilizations too. I’m currently working on the lookup images for these new items. We already have archery targets:

Target

And I’ll get siege weapons done soon enough. Along with city centers and upper-class housing districts, I want entering military districts to be a significant investment that makes you think about whether it’s worth it for what you may find inside. However, these – along with markets – will be arguably the most valuable districts to explore, although market districts are deliberately free to enter. If you’re low on money you can always check out a market district (assuming you can get to it within the city), but you’ll have to think harder about entering those other districts. So, all that remains to be done here is siege weapon lookup images which I’ll probably draw this week, and then as everything else we need some appropriate door graphics, but otherwise they’re done for this release. Once I’ve got them finished off I’ll be working on city centers, at long last. I’m anticipating a 0.6 release somewhere around mid November, which is also when I hope to finally start my full-time development year. In the real world I’m currently house-hunting (at last!) and hoping to move at the start of November, and once I am settled in the new place, that’s when the full-time year starts. Updates as and when…

Glorious October Cities

I’ve spent most of this week URRing, which has been a nice break (I’m waiting on a lot of PhD feedback from my supervisors, so rather than twiddle my thumbs, it made sense to get some coding done). Hoping to start full-time year at the end of this month, or possibly the very start of next month, depending on how fast I’m able to move house. In the mean time I’ve been working partly this week on finishing off religions for this next release, but mostly on cities. As a whole I’m past the 3/4 mark on 0.6 (after which no release will ever be this large) and there isn’t that much which needs finishing off. The largest part of what still needs doing is city centre generation and military district generation which I haven’t even touched yet, and then a large number of smaller things – improving market generation, finishing off hunter-gatherer settlements, a few issues with world/map generation, etc. Docks are going to be closed this release since they require integration with a number of other factors – the movement of ships, ships docking (so handling multi-tile “creatures”), departure/trading schedules, etc – so they will appear probably in 0.9, as I don’t want to code part of them, leave it for half a year, and then come back and have to figure out how the hell it all works. Anyway, this week’s stuff:

Firstly, I added a lot of variation to religions based on the discussions in the previous blog post. Religions now have four special factors, and some religions will have none, one, or all four of these factors. These are a unique feature (festival, pilgrimage, animal sacrifice, etc), an exclusion (a particular type of weapon they consider heretical and cannot be used if you worship them), the punishment for leaving that religion (none, excommunication, open hostility), and then a list of other religions, if any, that they consider heretical, and whose believers they are hostile to. Here’s an example from the in-game encyclopedia:

Transit3

Aside from that, the major thing I’ve worked on this week is the city exploration screen. If you’re on the world map and you move into a city, the screen changes from this:

Transit1

…into this:

Transit2

…which is quite a complex screen when you first see it, but there’s a lot of information that needs to be stuffed in there without compromising on clarity (as much as possible). It displays the nature of each district (the characters in the corners, [, $, 1, etc), whether you are currently in it (displayed by a lighter shading, the @ symbol, and the arrows on the edge of the screen), and most importantly, the cost for entering that district. This is the first aspect of the strategy layer of the game and the use of the player’s time and resources. The cost is shown in this picture in the nation’s currency – some nations only have a single currency, whilst others have two levels of currency like most real-world coinages. The “this city is not populated” message will only be there until coinage and NPCs are implemented, of course, but I thought it was important to be clear for 0.6 on this point.

Transit4

The sidebar display a load of information about the city. The top text will describe your relationship with that nation, and therefore whether you are given discounts or charged extra for movement, and below that how much of the appropriate currency you have. Movement within your capital is totally free, however, as is any nation you are closely allied with. Then it tells you what district you’re in, and lists all the buildings you know of within that district. All districts within your home city will start explored, whilst you will be able to purchase maps to other cities, or ask for directions to specific buildings when exploring abroad. For the next release or two currencies are not implemented so your movement will be free, but in either 0.8 or 0.9 currencies, and currency exchanges, will appear. I’m looking forward to generating the images for the currencies too, as there’s a very cool selection of possible coins in there.

Other stuff:

- All castles, graveyards, crypts (below either graveyards or cathedrals in theocratic nations), taverns, arenas, jails, theatres and asylums now have full (and pretty awesome) name generators. Fancy visiting Blackwish Bastion, Whispering Orchard Necropolis, the Sepulcher of the Golden Bones, the Tankard and Dragon, Boneblade Fighting Pit, Slate Palisade Lockup, the Theatre of the Choleric Faces, or the Tranquil Gate Sanitarium?

- Some cities which don’t have enough roads going into them now gain extra gates so that you can always access them from various directions, and these are shown on the world map.

- Player stats have been updated to reflect the upcoming combat mechanics – you now possess strength, dexterity, endurance, perception, finesse, and marksmanship, two of which will determine your skill with each of the six types of weapon (slashing, long, heavy, short, bows/crossbows, and gunpowder).

- Marshland is fully implemented and hunter-gatherer settlements, towns and city districts all generate correctly on them, allowing for pools of marsh water without jeopardizing pathfinding.

- An early draft of religion-spread mechanics has been implemented; any civ that believes in “Religious Freedom” as their policy will have the religions from all neighbouring civilizations reflected, including those they neighbour with a colony, rather than their main body of land. This then determines which buildings spawn in religious districts, and they are described in the city view screen appropriately – “a Stupa of the Six of the Leaves”, “a Church of Her of the Mountain”, “a Chapel of The Thousand Divines”, etc etc.

- I fixed a bug causing towns to generate large circles of road in the middle of the ocean.

The Thousand Religions of URR, Part 2

Kept working on religions this week in my spare time. I abstracted out the religious-building-generation into its own function, and can now be used wherever I need it. In addition to these rare religious districts in “religious freedom” civs, I’ve also figured out how religious buildings are going to be distributed elsewhere in feudal civs (nomadic civilizations never have a state religion, whilst hunter-gatherer civs always have their own unique beliefs). There are five religious policies, and each places religious buildings differently (in addition to having other specific buffs for the player character, but those aren’t relevant just yet):

Religious Freedom: cities have a single, well-organized district for religious worship; towns will have a single random religious building chosen from all the religions within that nation. This means finding a religious freedom civ early in the game might give you a chance to encounter a lot of other religions earlier than you otherwise might.

Cultism: These civs have no religious buildings in them whatsoever, but the secretive cults (which will be making more of an appearance later) will be much more likely to have a presence around their cities/towns. Religious worship wouldn’t be banned within the home, however.

Collective Faith: I decided to make this and “Organized Religion” into opposites; collective faith religions have a religious building in every town, but only a small number in their main city. I wanted to get a feeling that this was slightly more of a ground-up religion, perhaps without too much wealth at the top, so it’s distributed well through-out the nation.

Organized Religion: By contrast, Organized Religion civs have a religious building in every middle-class or lower-class district within their capital, but no churches out in the far-flung reaches of their nation (causing those people to probably result to quiet worship, idols/shrines in the home, etc). Wanted to emphasize the centralization of this religion in this case, and that it’s a religion very focused around the nation’s capital.

Zealotry: Civs with the “zealotry” religious policy go all-out: they have a religious building in every housing district and in every town, and no religious buildings from other civilizations are allowed anywhere within their borders.

Here’s an example of a town with a religious building in:

NewS

…and, since I’ve been working on it, a town in the marshland (though totally unrelated to all this religion stuff, I just wanted to show off this new and very rare terrain type)…

NewS

…and a lower-class city district with a religious building, a tavern and some slave quarters…

NewS

…and a middle-class district from the same city with a park and a religious building (in this case with a road around it, and some flower/vegetable beds):

NewS

As an aside: I intend to have it spawn trees in the “gaps” where it cannot fit middle-class houses, but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

There’s also now a bunch of variables for religious buildings, primarily whether walls spawn around them, whether roads spawn around them, and whether vegetable/flower beds spawn within their walls/roads. Currently in a religious district they have walls, in middle-class districts they will have roads, in lower-class districts they will only have roads if they intersect a main road, and in towns they will have roads; they will have vegetable/flowerbeds in middle-class districts and religious districts, but not in lower-class districts or towns. This means that even though the church structure for each religion is the same each time (picked from the 1000+ variations mentioned last time), each actual iteration will always look a little different. My objective now is to finish off adding some variety to religions – in the comments in the previous entry it was suggested I add unique identifiers like festivals, likes/dislikes of other religions, pilgrimages etc, and I love these ideas, so they’re going in – then religions will be pretty much done for this release. I’ve also been doing some bug-hunting this week and a lot of bugs to do with placing city gates, handling roads and slums/graveyards, towns generating on rivers and handling unusual cases of combinations of coasts and cities have been resolved. Until next time, internet friends!