Mining and Resource Scarcity

What do Mass Effect, Minecraft and EVE Online have in common? Well, Mass Effect and Minecraft both have magic (effectively); Mass Effect and EVE involve space-based combat; and Minecraft and EVE Online both gain regular acknowledgement outside the dedicated gaming press due to their social aspects and the dense and fascinating metagame. What all three have in common, however, is that they each possess a mechanic built around mining – obviously this is utterly central to Minecraft and one mechanic of many in the other two, but is nevertheless a surprising similarity when one ponders this a moment. We have a third person shooter/RPG, a sandbox game and a global MMO, yet all contain mining. I’ve excluded Dwarf Fortress from this first list, not because mining doesn’t play a part, but because in all the above games you are one character (or at least one account) – you are the one personally doing the mining, even if it is conducted via a ship-based proxy. You are the one controlling the Normandy’s resource-extraction effects, hacking away with your pickaxe in a voxel world, or floating in space whilst your ship’s mining lasers tease away precious minerals from unclaimed asteroids. In games where you cannot delegate the mining to a part of your computer-controlled allies (as in DF) and you have to actively mine yourself, what is the appeal of mining? Why is it there? Does it serve a gameplay function, a thematic one, or some combination of the two? In addition to these three there are hundreds if not thousands of other games with some mechanic involving mining – how did this banal activity become such an apparently ubiquitous part of the modern gaming experience? I believe there are four reasons for this – the first three definitely matter, but it is the fourth which is likely the most essential, which is to say that mining is a method of distributing resources to the player at specific temporal intervals, either entirely, partially or barely controlled by player action and player skill, and to ensure a distribution of resources either according to the stage of the game you’re at, or according to the time invested. But first, let us consider the three lesser functions that mining serves, and in doing so try to shed some light on why something so mundane has somehow become so very ubiquitous.

1) Mining as an easy way for players to feel achievement.

Mining gives players a very basic piece of positive feedback. You see the areas you’ve mined out, or the planets you’ve cleared, or the resources you’ve accrued. Your player character will in turn be better off than when you began the mining activity as a result of the increased resources or money now available to them. Even if absolutely no skill or thought beyond a few mouse clicks or holding down the “mine” button was required (e.g. Minecraft), that can still make you feel like you’ve progressed, moved forward in the game, and placed your character in a superior financial/resource position to where they started the day. This, obviously, is a somewhat lazy way to generate a feeling of achievement; surely achievement should only be felt when you’ve actually overcome a challenge or completed a segment of the game (y’know, when you’ve achieved something) rather than just engaging in an activity which takes nothing except time to complete? Mining may provide you with positive feedback, but it’s positive feedback developed from grinding, not from any real achievement. Nevertheless, I think this is undoubtedly one core appeal of mining; it’s a kind of gradual, iterative, step-by-step progress, one that often requires little engagement, and one which allows the player to settle into a rhythm of simplistic actions and easy rewards.

Mining3

2) Mining as an uninteresting way to pad out the game.

This aspect pretty much describes itself. There is a reason why lots of Minecraft players don’t bother with mining and just give themselves infinite quantities of every resource – the interest for them lies in what you can build with the resources, rather than having to actually acquire the resources themselves. Mining adds an unnecessary extension to a game. Consider the Mass Effect variation – many players, myself included, find exploring the in-game galaxy inherently enjoyable (I loved the Mako-wandering from ME1), without having to search for resources or items. Although you “need” to mine in order to afford upgrades for your ship and your crew, a moment’s thought will show that the designers could simply make every item in the game cheaper – and scale it to those resources gathered in missions, not via mining – and thereby remove the mining component altogether. It serves absolutely no real purpose other than extending the amount of (grinding) work required to improve your team (and nominally encouraging you to look at some of the pretty planets, but again – this should be interesting in its own right). The aspects of mining from the first point, that it is slow and steady and regular, can thereby be used to extend playtime with minimal effort as well as very easliy inculcating in the player a feeling of progress.

Mining

3) Mining as a narrative or thematic tool in the fictional universe.

Whilst I feel very negatively about those first two purposes, I think this one is more forgivable, particularly in the EVE Online context, which is the example I’ll explore here. The ability to mine doesn’t really do anything for the Mass Effect narrative – how and why exactly is the Normandy, a warship, equipped for mining?! – but it does apply to Minecraft in EVE. In Minecraft, of course, mining is integral to the fictional universe, but the EVE online example is richer and deeper. Much of EVE’s literature describes the idea that the entire game world is connected, that there are no free resources, that everything comes from somewhere and goes somewhere else, and therefore some chunk of ore mined by Player #17573 will later be used in a ship by Player #88215 in Corporation #2490 against another ship mined by another player for another corporation, and so forth. Equally, many EVE Online trailers and advertisements play upon variations of “frontier” and survivalist themes – the ability to find your own place to live, carve out your own survival using the natural resources available to you, make and break alliances as you see fit, and be self-sufficient (or team up with others who are then collectively self-sufficient). Mining both emphasizes the interconnectivity of EVE’s universe and the relevance of all actions (however small) to the overall metagame, and plays into the underlying themes of self-reliance, hypercapitalism, and carving out (literally and metaphorically) a place for yourself in the universe. Mining can, therefore, function thematically rather than mechanically/temporally… but it’s much less common.

Mining2

4) Mining as a game mechanic for managing resource quantity.

Most fundamentally, however, mining is simply a method for resource control, and although we see that in Mass Effect, it is most visible in Minecraft and EVE. In these games mining functions specifically as a method for managing how many resources the player has access to at any given time. In Minecraft, when played in the “survivalist” way it was arguably “meant” to be played, at least when originally released and before the massive growth of the Minecraft community, the player’s acquisition and use of resources is central to the game. Many of these survival game mechanics become entirely irrelevant if/when the player has access to infinite resources (e.g. if playing Minecraft solely to build interesting things), and so the gradual slow progress of mining serves to create difficult and interesting player decisions about what spend these resources on, and when, and how much time they spend acquiring and using resources, and when the player should take greater risks for greater resources (near lava, near monsters), and so on and so forth. In EVE this is even clearer, where mining directly affects how many resources are in flow around the game world, and thereby by slowing this progress but allowing players (and corporations) to improve and optimise that progress through purchasing better mining equipment and committing more to the practice. Equally, by placing more valuable resources in riskier areas, mining becomes a core part of the strategic gameplay, and enables a lot of risk/reward decisions and the ability for battles to be started and initiated on the back of attacking mining fleets, whilst also giving corporations a strong incentive to capture and defend “nullsec” areas of the game world, where there is no NPC police force, but the mining resources are the richest. In both of these cases mining is first and foremost a way to ensure the player has enough resources to act but few enough that interesting decisions are made; to offer risk-reward considerations for resource acquisition and spending; and to manage how much the player has access to, since no matter how skilled a player is, mining still takes time.

dwarmin

Final Thoughts

These, I think, are the four most central reasons for the massive volume of mining mechanics we see in contemporary games: offering a sense of achievement, somewhat arbitrarily lengthening what might otherwise be a shorter game, presenting a central part of the thematic elements of a game world, and managing the resources the player has access to (this last one has a particularly strong showing in “survival” games). There are, of course, other less common reasons to include mining in games. It can be a totally optional kind of background simulationist mechanic, as in games like NetHack, or it can be a game mechanic that has little to do with resources but everything to do with spatial manoeuvring in the game world, as in Spelunky (and some of the old home computer games that exist further back in its genealogy (Boulder Dash, etc). In all of these cases they have managed to take what seems like a very boring activity and add some extra meaning to it that makes it useful or meaningful to add into a game; naturally the mining in EVE is not quite as thrilling as a close space battle, of course, but its wider strategic-economic significance imbues it with a lot of meaning and a centrality to many game mechanics. In the same kind of way, mining in Mass Effect is not thrilling but does progress the player’s character(s) and gives information about the worlds they visit that flesh out the worldbuilding elements; mining in Minecraft serves a whole range of purposes, being naturally integral to the game, and transforms mining into something that, if not thrilling, at least offers the players something whilst their pixel pickaxe hacks away.

Nevertheless, as I’ve tried to argue here, I don’t think all of these mechanics are inherently desirable. There are far more interesting ways to achieve many of the outcomes listed here, and those methods would often be less time-consuming, more exciting for the player, and require less time investment and less time spent doing, effectively, nothing – it’s not for nothing that EVE miners have multiple accounts and rarely pay attention to the account that’s doing all the mining, as that remains an inevitably unexciting element of gameplay when in the moment, even if that unexciting gameplay contributes to the massively exciting emergent gameplay that takes part in the rest of the in-game universe. I think we should hope to see a reduction in mining mechanics and a growth in more interesting ways to achieve the same goals (or, indeed, to omit some goals, such as the arbitrary lengthening), but the systems can be so effective at achieving these four objectives that it’s hard to see designers abandoning them any time soon. Unpicking what makes something as dull as mining has become so central to games, however, helps us to see how game mechanics can be drawn from real-world sources and put to a massive number of purposes beyond what we might associate with them in the real world, and the kinds of motivations developers are using when they undertake this kind of transformation.

Next Time

I’m posting this entry in the middle of the week; as noted before, I’m on something of a break at the moment from blogging and developing simply due to the work load and pressure I’m under in my job at the moment, so since this blog post was around ten days from the last one, the next one will also have that kind of time gap. As I’ve said before, I hope to resume normality some time in November, and I’m still on track for that. We should also have a guest entry or two coming soon. Thanks again to you all for being so understanding – I really appreciate all the kind messages I’ve got here, by email, on Reddit, etc. URR will resume soon, and 0.8 will be out, and with that we’ll be past the 50% mark on development. Stay tuned, everyone…

Nomadic Clothing, Tribal Clothing, Class Variation

For the last fortnight I’ve been working extremely hard on AI pathfinding and scheduling. It has been massively challenging – after two days searching for the conclusion to a single bug, only to discover that it was a single word misspelled in the 5000+ lines of AI behaviour code, something broke within me, and I need to take a break from the damned thing! So, for the last couple of days I’ve gone back to clothes and churned out all the remaining clothing for 0.8, and I feel intellectually rested enough to return to facing AI in the coming week. But back to clothing: nomads now have generated clothing, and tribal nations do as well, and these therefore now accompany the feudal clothing and the religious clothing styles that we have seen before. This entry will therefore talk about the nomadic clothing generation, the tribal clothing generation, and also small additions to feudal clothing to handle both lower-class and rulership-class variations in those clothing styles. With this done, almost all the graphics required for 0.8 are done, and it’s still just the pathfinding/scheduling stuff for important NPCs that needs finishing (as I say, I’m working hard on this in all my spare time at the moment, but it’s a huge task and by far the most intellectually challenging thing I’ve ever coded, without doubt). Anyway:

Nomadic Clothing

For nomadic clothing I wanted something fairly practical and rough-and-ready, but still visually interesting and distinctive, and something “modular”. The feudal clothing is less modular, in many ways, as there are clear archetypes that clothing will appear as a subset of, whereas for nomadic clothing I wanted to design it from the get-go to have more combinations – which is viable (unlike feudal) because it is a little less ornate, more pragmatic, and because you’ll simply see less of it in the average game, so you don’t have to “force in” quite as much variation in a single world generation. Each clothing generation selects three colour schemes, consisting of a plain colour (generally white, grey, some kind of pale brown), a pair of rich colours based on the flag of that nation (e.g. pink and purple, red and orange, blue and cyan, etc) and then a lighter version of the combination of those two colours (so a violet and red flag might wind up with a pale magenta as the third colour). Nomadic clothing is similar to the “robe” archetypes for feudal clothing, i.e. it takes up both the upper- and lower-body clothing slots when worn (unlike tribal clothing, as below) and consists of five layers – clothing shape, pattern shape, pattern pattern (you’ll get what I mean when you look at them), strap locations, and strap pattern, all combined with the various colour sets as described above. Here are some examples with illustrative flags that might be associated with the same nations, so you can see the colour-scheme similarity:

Hoifinal

I’m really happy with how these came out! As you can see there, rather than two ranks – “normal” and “ruler” – that we have in the tribal clothes you’ll see below, there are three ranks here, each rank gaining an extra stripe. I actually really like this system as another visual way to denote rank within a single civilization. So, for example, normal people in a nomadic civilization get one stripe, people like merchants or caravan leaders or the ruler’s family and the like get two, whilst the ruler will be the only person to get three stripes. You’ll also notice the background fabric of these is simpler than the tribal clothing below; as above, I felt nomads should be a little more utilitarian than tribal people, and I thought the large blocks of colour on some of the nomadic designs actually worked really well, so I decided that I didn’t need to add in any more detail in that regard. Also, nomadic boots  – quite a bit simpler than feudal ones, but distinctive and a little more colourful (as the clolthing styles of many real-world nomadic peoples often are), so I’m pleased with how these look (also, feudal ones tend to be more vertical whilst these flare out at the top more, which for some reason makes complete sense to me for nomadic footwear). The little buckle shape reflects the shape preference of the nomadic nation.

Nomboots

Tribal Clothing

Tribal clothing proved extremely challenging. From the get-go I’ve tried to emphasize relativism in URR, a lack of technological determinism, and so forth, but it is tricky to create “tribal” clothing styles that are intriguing and interesting, without them appearing “primitive”, but still acknowledging that a tiny (or at least, small) tribal nation will not have the technologies of their colossal feudal neighbour, for example. I also, of course, needed them to look very different from feudal and religious clothing, whilst still having enough variety that the clothing of one “tribe” will look nothing like another. After a lot of thought and several full days of trial and error, I’m very happy with the system I came up with. When I was doing the research for these styles I tried to find as many styles of dress used by ancient people that didn’t necessary look “primitive”, and that looked nice and varied. I looked for things like ancient Mesoamerican dress, ancient Egyptian clothing styles, and so forth, whilst accessories (necklaces, bracelets, etc) will appear in later releases. In the end I wound up with ten total possible “styles”, and three rankings of the technological sophistication of the tribal nation. For those with the greatest tailors you get something like the “high” one below – a thick background colour and lines running down it; for those with middling clothing technology (if there is such a thing) get a pale background with a coloured pattern and running lines, whilst “low” technology clothing has no lines and pale/dark pattern. You’ll also note the pattern becomes less dense each time – there are no tiles between the pattern in the left-most, a one-tile gap in the middle, and a two-til gap on the right. I also, of course, had to think about leadership signifiers. Just like religions use silver and gold thread to denote high rank (abbots, inquisitors, archivists, etc) and the highest possible rank (popes etc), and feudal nations will use gold thread for their rulers (see below), there are various signifiers of a leadership position in these clothes. They either have a number of patterned “discs” hanging on their front; a pattern down the middle of their clothing; or a bar that rests in the centre of their torso (the patterns on all of these also, of course, vary).

HG Clothes

And here we have various lower-body permutations, which will be similar in colour and graphics to the above set (the colour is always dependent on the flag of the tribal nation in question, as with nomadic clothes). These were far, far trickier to create than the upper-body tribal garments (although that was also the case for feudal clothing) but I’m happy with what I’ve come up with, most of which are (broadly speaking) kinds of skirts/gowns. As above, the most technologically advanced tribal nations have their colours inverted for someone that looks much richer, whilst each rank creates background double-line patterns that get denser as you go up in technical ability. As with the upper body clothing, there are equivalent variations for lower-body, so when you view a Chieftain, for example, both their upper- and lower-body clothes will be very distinctive with the appropriate leadership signifier. Naturally in all of these pictures any shape could be of any technical level – to reiterate,the high/mid/low distinction only applies to the detail and complexity of the background pattern on the piece of clothing.

Tribal lowers

I also in the process of creating these figured out how I actually want tribal nations to function in the game, at long last! More on this much later when I get around to it, but suffice to say the existing tribal nations are very un-varied, and adhere to very comparable “technological levels”, and it would be far more interesting to create nations that might resemble the Mayans, or Babylonians, or Hittites, or Aztecs, or ancient Egyptians, and so forth. I’d like to expand “tribal” nations to mean more than just what we would now call tribal nations, but rather to encompass civilizations that are smaller and more self-contained and inward-looking, but vary vastly more than those currently spawning in the current version. Either way, this is a future project, but I’ve already had some very interesting ideas for how this could work. Oh, yes, and as for shoes, tribes either go barefoot or have some fairly simple sandal-type shoes, which I haven’t got around to making yet, but I’ll throw those together on a spare day sometime before release.

Class and Clothing

I’ve returned to the highest and lowest class statuses for standard feudal clothing. I didn’t want to create a special clothing set just for rulers because the player will so rarely ever encounter them (although rulers do get unique crowns and unique thrones!), but I wanted something to mark out “ruler clothing” from “upper class clothing”, so I’ve gone with a similar model to the “pope clothing” of adding a special colour of highlights to upper class clothes. Therefore, “ruler clothing” now looks like this, with some nice gold/orange/white trim which varies depending on the other colours of the clothing (however, if the ruler is of a theocracy and therefore also a pope/godking/archcleric/whatever, they default to the religious clothing). Examples:

Nomcloth

Meanwhile, lower-class clothing wasn’t looking particularly impressive and needed a significant overhaul, since there is only so much brown one can look at. I tried to build up a decent library of “standard” colours that wouldn’t require any kind of serious wealth – whites, greys, browns, etc – and then I’ve tried to actually make them interesting (though I admit, this was tricky). Here are some instances of lower-class clothing types with the upper/middle equivalents for the same nation next to them:

Clothingranks

There is still one final thing to do for the lowest-class clothing, which is to make certain archetypes even less ornate (though you can see that the buttons are smaller, the belts less patterned, etc), because the 1st and 2nd on that list, for example, are still a bit too snazzy. Although, with that said, I don’t want to make the most common kind of clothing too uninteresting to look at, so there’s a balance to be found between realism and variety. I’ve also made the variety of colours possible for lower-class clothing significantly greater than it originally was, and hopefully you can see that in the left-most column. I’ll update this image later in the week once I reduce the complexity of some of the designs!

Final Clothing Thoughts

I’m extremely pleased with how different all four forms of clothing are. I feel confident saying that although the styles within each vary very significantly, it’ll always be fairly apparent when looking at an unknown person’s clothing whether they are wearing feudal, nomadic, tribal or religious clothing (and the armour sets I intend to develop later this year will obviously be highly distinct again). Here’s a rather nice image of some compiled generated clothing which illustrates this point better than I can, and shows very nicely the massive range of clothing you can now find on all the people you meet in the world(s) of URR:

Hoi2

Next Up?

I’m very happy with how these are all looking, and with these finished all clothing except armour is done (though armour won’t appear until 0.9) so we’re done with clothing for now (at a later date I will also add gloves, necklaces, rings, crowns, etc – I am really looking forward to crown generation – but not for 0.8, and probably not 0.9). I’m now turning back to pathfinding and scheduling for the third week of work, and we’ll have a large update on this in a week’s time… hopefully with it completed, but we’ll see how it goes. The task remains massive, complex and challenging, and although I’m making progress, it’s a long way from done. If I don’t think enough scheduling and pathfinding is done by next week, I’ll probably post an interim update on some of the other small additions and changes I’ve been implementing into 0.8. Either way: see you then!

Procedural Clothing Generation (Part 2 of ?)

This week I’ve finished off procedural clothing generation for the richest individuals in feudal nations. The game can now create upper-body garments, lower-body garments, and boots, for each civilization. These different garments across a given civilization maintain a consistency of colours, a general consistency of size/aesthetic, and a consistency of whether the patterns etched into the clothing are circles, octagons, squares etc, based on the visual preference of the nation in question. Thus far these are only the “upper-class” clothing variations, but I think one can reasonably extrapolate how the others will look (which will come in a few weeks, I expect). Here’s a summary of the three layers of clothing currently implemented – I’m also going to add gloves and cloaks this release, but haven’t got around to them yet (since they’re hardly a priority compared to implementing crowd mechanics before the UK IRDC in a fortnight’s time!), but they’ll probably reflect the coats of arms of important houses if upper-class cloaks, and then just have some appropriate patterns on for middle-class, and nothing special for lower-class. Anyway, onto the clothing of our procedurally-generated aristocrats:

Upper-Body Garments

There are currently seven “archetypes” for upper-body clothing, an example from each being shown below. I’m working on an eighth archetype but it is proving extremely challenging to make it look anything other than awful, so that one might not see the light of day. Regardless, each of these has three sub-archetypes, making for twenty-one high-level “clothing styles” at present, each of which then undergoes extensive randomness within that clothing style, meaning that even if the maximum number of feudal nations are present, there will still be several “unused” high-level clothing styles left over – so that’ll do for now.

Snazzy

Lower-Body Garments

It is very challenging to make “trousers” which look even vaguely as interesting as upper-body garments (or boots or gloves, for that matter!), but I’ve done my best. The “Japanese” and what I have taken to calling “Hebrewlonian” archetypes in the above picture (middle top, and third bottom) will count as both upper- and lower-body garments, whilst the lower-body garments shown here will be distributed to the rest of  the clothing styles. Although in many nations there will be little sexual dimorphism (so to speak) between clothing styles for men and women, this will not be the case in some cultures, and a “dress” clothing archetype has yet to be worked on (I’ll get to it in the next few weeks). So some nations have the J/H archetypes above for both sexes; some nations will have the other above clothing for both sexes; some will have different clothing for the two sexes (and this will all, obviously, be chosen procedurally). So, some trousers/skirts etc (skirts are especially hard to make interesting, but I’ve done my best):

Trous

Boots

Now onto the “paired” items of clothing – boots (and gloves). I decided for the time being to forego “shoes” and go with something of a Game of Thrones/TV-adaptation-of-Wolf-Hall logic, i.e. that even those at the very top of society have to give something towards practicality and pragmatism, and basically wear extremely nice boots, rather than wearing beautiful footwear which never comes anywhere near a bit of mud. Boots, like gloves, have a distinct item for each in a pair, so that we can handle things like losing limbs, damaged limbs, etc, later in the game. Gloves and boots use the same colour system – they take the established colours from the clothing above, and then blend it 70% into a generic “leather” colour, to give the impression of dyed leather. Boots are therefore deliberately a tad less “striking” in colour than other items, but still maintain a strong semblance of the same colour schemes. Remember, as always, that you’ll never see these next to each other in game!

PBG

Gloves

Gloves are coming soon… but possibly not before the end of June, since now that I have the three most essential items of clothing in place, I’m working solely on NPC mechanics in preparation for showing off an interim “0.8”-ish building at the UK IRDC at the end of the month.

Complete Generated Clothing Sets:

Here are some complete (aside from gloves) “sets” of clothing – note, of course, that the zoom level does vary across each item of clothing so that the player can see maximum detail, and you’ll obviously never see them all in-game “lined up” like this, but I think it’s quite nice to look at some of the aesthetic consistencies across different items of clothing belonging to the aristocratic echelons of a given civilization:

Clothes 1

Clothes 2

Clothes 3

Clothes 4

(Note that Set 4 contains no lower-body garment since the robe covers both the upper- and lower-body slots, and also in some of these examples, the underlying pattern – square, diamond, etc – varies, which it won’t in the actual game.)

I will be working on middle-class and lower-class/slum clothing soon, but that’s taking a back-seat now to work on some mechanics for the version I want to be able to show off at the UK IRDC. There will also, of course, be distinct clothing styles for nomadic civilizations and tribal civilizations, but those are going to come along later, although I do have some ideas for what types of generators I’m going to build for both of those.

Future Mechanics

Clothing generation is increasingly pointing towards an obvious but potentially very interesting and unusual mechanic: the ability to “fake” being a member of a given culture. Perhaps you can don clothes of other cultures (and perhaps lighten/darken your skin, as many real-world explorers and “adventurers” in the distant past did for exactly this reason?) and attempt to “pass yourself off” as a native in a distant land… which then yields potential gameplay around attempting to maintain the deception, say appropriate things in conversation, and give nothing away, whilst perhaps other NPCs are capable of noticing slightly unusual things about your character which suggest to them that all is not as it seems? I think this could be some really interesting territory to explore in the future…

What next?

Well, we now have heads, upper-body and lower-body clothing, and boots, so I’d say we’re about to ready to actually create URR’s NPCs. This week I’m going to be working on optimizing the field-of-view algorithm which needs some serious improvement for the next release, creating the new “character lookup” window which has room to include a face and to scroll through their clothing (and in 0.9 their armour and weaponry, if any), and continuing to work on crowd mechanics, spawning/de-spawning NPCs, etc. See you next time for an update on hopefully all of these things!

Procedural Clothing Generation (Part 1 of ?)

So, last week I posted an entry which generated a huge amount of discussion here, on Reddit, on Twitter, and (if past experience is anything to go by) probably a few other places I haven’t even noticed. To those who I still owe replies to – I’m getting to them! I’ll be posting a follow-up next week, but this week we’re onto another URRpdate, finally!

Clothing Generation

This week I’ve been working on both generating clothing styles for different civilizations. There are currently six “archetypal” clothing styles, each of which has three sub-styles within it, and each sub-style has its own variation between specific items of “identical” clothing (just small things like the width of clothing relating to the size of its owner, fractional colour differences, that kind of thing). As the maximum number of feudal civilizations the game allows at any one point is eighteen, this works out perfectly, so all/most of the styles will be reflected in each game (though I might add more later). I’ve so far worked entirely on upper-class clothing for rulers, aristocrats, military commanders, etc. There are several dozen colour combinations, and each nation will pick one for its upper-class clothing and then have those same colours reflected, to a lesser extent, in its middle/lower-class clothing. This week we’ll have the upper-class clothing, then next week the follow-up to the metagame post, then the week after that, probably the remainder of clothing and some early development of crowd mechanics, if we’re lucky?! So, here’s an illustrative sample of five of the six “archetypal” clothing styles (the last one is not yet finished):

Snazzy

Going clockwise from the top left, these are inspired by “classic” Western medieval clothing of leather (or other material) waistcoats and a shirt underneath, though here I’m treating them as a single garment; the second is inspired by Japanese kimonos; the third is inspired primarily by older Chinese styles of dress, and also some more “tailored” Western styles; the fourth (i.e. the bottom-right corner) is inspired from a range of styles including far more ancient Babylonian and Hebrew dress; the fifth is based on a lot of Eastern European royalty, and the sixth will be based on Renaissance Western Europe (but is proving surprisingly tricky to realize). These then have the three sub-styles as described above – which consist of different patterns, different locations of buttons, lengths of sleeves, sizes of collar, colour schemes, etc. To take a closer look at the variation within one archetype, let’s go with the Hebrewlonian (???) archetype, of which I’ve included three below. (There are actually a dozen different possible patterns which can appear on the “clasps”, but just weirdly enough, all three I took for this picture happened to select the same one, and now I’ve only just noticed this and I’m severely disinclined to go and generate them again, so we’re just going to have to make do with these). The left is “average” size (which will include “muscular” or whatever other build definitions I wind up with), the middle for someone slim/athletic, and the right for someone much heavier-set. So these would be belong to three neighboring civilizations who might have experienced a level of cultural bleeding between each other’s society, but maintain their own styles of dress nevertheless:

Robe VariationSo, each of these might be tethered to a different culture, but I’ll also be sure to place those cultures next to each other (think pre-modern China, Korea and Japan, for instance), so that you get some sense of “similarity” (sometimes) between clothing styles of nearby nations (though given that many nations might have complex territorial shapes, there is only so far this can be pushed). Naturally there will be coupled with appropriate lower-body garments, boots, gloves, etc, and then we’ll be done with clothing for this release (with armour and weapons… next release?). In the new NPC lookup (or the same for the player) you’ll be able to scroll through all the clothing on an NPC to let you examine what culture you think they might be from. Maybe a logical mechanic would be to have NPCs judge the player, at least in part, based on their clothing style (and many other factors) so that there might be some ability to attempt to pass “undercover” in nations unfriendly to your own. As with everything else: the game will never tell you “this is the clothing style of Nation X”, but once the player has that learned that, you should be able to come to recognize those you encounter in the street, or the origins of foreign merchants/travelers, etc.

I’m now working on two things simultaneously: crowd mechanics, and remaining items of clothing for middle-class and lower-class citizens, and then lower-body garments, boots/shoes, etc. I’m basically working to an “interim” deadline right now since I want to show off a stable build with crowd mechanics functioning (and all clothing items implemented) at the IRDC 2015 I’m hosting on 27-28 June, so all academic work is on hold now whilst I grind towards that goal. Metagame follow-up next week, then more delicious URRpdates!

Furniture, Flooring, and Aesthetic Consistency

I’ve now started work on 0.7, beginning with some of the graphics and new objects. 0.7 is all about building interiors, so this means all the obvious stuff – tables, chairs, beds, etc – and the rather more obscure and intriguing stuff – altars, thrones, etc. To begin with this week I’ve focused on two components of this, primarily the “mundane” household/building items, and also the floor tiles for the more expensive and up-market buildings (upper class housing, cathedrals, parliaments, etc). I decided to start working on the aesthetics first before moving to too much coding, as I wanted to have a good image in my head of the world (and the variation in the world) that I want reflected throughout building interiors before I thought about their layout. As with everything else in the game, all civilizations should vary – now, admittedly there is only so much you can do to vary a chair, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job:

Chairs

As well as these I’ve also done tables and beds, and various designs on those too, bearing in mind furniture items are not “to scale” (i.e. they are designed to take up the entire size of the lookup window regardless of their actual relative size). The more up-market the location the item spawns, the more elaborate the decoration, and the choice of wood colour is naturally based on the biome the furniture is found in:

Chairs

Chairs

I also want to take this entry to point out a certain… hidden aesthetic consistency within cities. I don’t know if anyone will have spotted this – and it is becoming more pronounced in the next version – but I rather like this. If you’ve ever looked at the gatehouses in cities, you might notice that there are several different shapes:

Chairs

In total there are five – squares, octagons, diamonds, circles (as best as possible with a tiled square grid), and crosses. Each civilization picks one at random. It’s a minor additional detail, but then if you look at shop signs, you’ll notice that those also have different shapes:

Chairs

The observant player would then perhaps also notice that the floor tiles in cathedrals, parliaments or castles have a range of different patterns based on various shapes (and also their colouring is dependent on the flag of the nation in question):

Chairs

Therefore, in each civilization, the shapes throughout the civilization are consistent throughout! In this case, octagonal:

Chairs

That’s just a minor thing, but I think helps with just a little extra distinguishing between civilizations. Now I’ve done a very good portion of the new graphics for this release already in just the first week of serious coding (perhaps a third of new graphics?), my next task is the challenging technical task of hacking down saving/loading times, and changing the game to saving the map in chunked sections within a folder on one’s computer, rather than in chunked sections within a single massive file. It’s a hefty change, and one of those which will either be weirdly trivial and only take me a day, or drag on for the week. We’ll see. Coupled with this is creating the new infrastructure for building interiors which is going to be handled in the same way, and from 0.7 onwards saving/loading times are going to be reduced to a fraction of what they are now, and  they will no longer rise the more of the world you’ve saved (which it currently does – a serious oversight). Either way, next week I’ll be talking about these technical changes in a (rare) semi-technical blog entry – see you then!

And… some strange altars have been popping up.

Chairs