I have some news and info and then I'll quickly reply to the comments I've received. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures right now, I've been working on another large picture but it's going to take some time to finish. Here's a sneak peak:
Regardless here's some news:
Regarding actually making this game, and what's missing from current sandbox town building games
I've been playing a lot of Fallout 4 recently - Fallout NV being my favourite game ever - and came to the realisation that if it were easy and viable to extensively mod that game it would make an excellent base for my game. It already has AAA character models and animations, weapons and effects and so on, an interface for building towns and basic resources and management, and clever AI workers that can do tasks in a timely manner and so on. The biggest problem would be that I imagine such a complete and polished game would be very hard to modify in any extensive way - most mods I know of for games like these simply add more of what already exists or change around models/textures/other content.
I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I found the settlement building in Fallout to be like many other games released recently. It becomes tedious to build simple structures over and over, and the ability to customise extensively - which should be the positive trade off to tedious manual construction - is limited anyway. The townsfolk seen smart enough, but they're also frustratingly dependant on your micromanagement, and what management you can give them is pretty stunted. In short, the mix of micro and macro building elements just hasn't been balanced yet.
I feel like some simple fixes can bring these town building elements up to scratch, and that's what I want in my concept. Firstly; change manual wall, door, or floor mat placement into the construction of entire buildings in one go - with options for customisation if the player really wants it. Fallout actually has some pre-built shacks you can place, and this is a good start, but these need to be made the normal way to build rather then a 'lazy' extra. Decoration of homes should be up to the NPC inhabitant - this will take that burden off the shoulders of the player and also make your townspeople seem more real and wilful. And that would be the second biggest fix - focus more on the townspeople to make them appear more alive. Fallout has some nice little tricks to do this; the people will all meet up at a bar as the day ends. But it also has many issues. Once they get to the bar, they stare at each other and the player with vacant expressions, simply waiting until the time they shuffle off to sleep.
The townspeople should manage their own lives. This sort of independence can be faked pretty easily with some AI routines and a random number generator. The people will do their jobs in a fairly robotic manor, but in their downtime will behave in a (at least somewhat) human fashion, going for walks, buying groceries, talking to neighbours, tidying up their homes, or going out for entertainment or dinner. This sort of detailing really goes a very very long way in making the player feel like they're actually building something real and worthwhile, rather then a cold and lifeless pile of bricks inhabited by some robots.
Possible expansion #1 - religions?
This is one aspect I've been thinking about for months now. But first, by expansion I originally meant as in 'expansion pack', or I suppose DLC. Some extra content that could be released later on to keep the game alive and new. However if I'm planning DLC this early on it might as well be 'expansion' as in an expansion on the game's concepts, and be considered content to be included in the first release. With that out of the way, onto the ideas!
Basically the idea here is to add religion as an aspect of your town's and people's culture. This being a game set in some fictional world, the religions would of course be fictional as well, and would almost certainly be created by the player themselves. There's a lot that could be done with this concept but here's what I've been considering as of now;
The player can choose to have their settlement be religious, atheistic, or neutral. As a religious settlement the player creates and controls the spread of their chosen/created religion and gains certain benefits from it. An atheistic settlement will have it's own benefits and detriments, and will behave much like a religious settlement. In a neutral settlement the player has no influence on what their people worship or how, and so gains no benefits from any stance, but can have issues with their people worshipping all sorts of ideals.
When creating a religion, the player can choose from a bunch of types of religions, from New-Age-ish belief in crystals and energy vortexes, to cults of personality all focused on the player. I'll give my ideas below. They can also customise a great variety of features, like sacred colours, materials or places, religious holidays or festivals, rituals and beliefs and so on.
After a religion is created the player can enforce it however they see fit. By default most people will support the town's religion in a muted capacity, participating in some events or rituals when they see fit. By focusing on the spread and influence of the religion the player can increase the amount that their people care about it, eventually forming a holy city full of zealots, with banners and sacred symbols all over if they want to.
Certain constructions and abilities will only be available to certain religions and levels of religious fervour, see below for my lists.
By choosing atheism the player actively attempts to stop all religious worship in their settlement, which again is a function of how much effort they put into enforcing their chosen path. A fully atheistic city will disallow all worship in any form, but comes with it's own benefits, like increased productivity and a unified population.
Here are those lists
Monotheistic: the worshipping of a single all-powerful god. Choosing this makes your people rather intolerant of other religions and keeps the religion very stable. It grows slowly but steadily and no one really leaves the religion. It won't slow production in any sense and generally makes your people happier; it's a good solid choice all around. However in times of strain or when the population is very faithful your people will tend to get violent and even less tolerant. Most of this religion's benefits focus on making your people more unified and happier.
Polytheistic: the worshipping of a pantheon of smaller gods. Choosing this religion is another solid choice, as it grows very very quickly and is incredibly tolerant of other religions. Your people will be able to quickly absorb other religions into your own, giving you their benefits but at a reduced potency. However this flexibility is also a great weakness, as a polytheistic religion is not very stable and can be usurped by other, more solid, religions, causing your people to convert and leaving you with empty temples. This religion mostly benefits your people's happiness and boosts trade in your town.
New-Age: the belief in magic and the paranormal. This religion is an interesting choice. It grows at a normal pace and people leave and join as they want, it's also tolerant of other religions. Your people will start doing weird things like collecting crystals or wandering around looking for ley lines, which will take them away from their work, but their strange new habits pay off in increased immigration and trade to your town. Sometimes your people will stumble across meaningful discoveries in their activities too, gifting the town with resources or religious artefacts. Choosing this religion will increase the overall happiness of most of your people, and will bring in weird and unexpected benefits, but it also makes your people less focused and so less productive or ready to defend.
Cult: this religion is all about worshipping that which shouldn't be worshipped. Picking the cult path is not for the faint of heart. Your people will become more violent and restless, and will be intolerant of other views. This religion grows slowly but no one can ever leave the cult once they join. The payoffs can be great, in the form of tithes, more powerful soldiers, and greatly increased unity. However they come with high costs; trade and immigration will be highly stunted, crime will increase, happiness will decrease, and occasional human sacrifices from your own town might not be out of the question. It'a all worth it though to keep U'laqm'k'ams benevolent though right?
Personality Cult: the people will worship you! Choose this religion if you know who the real deal is around here: yourself. Your people will be much more productive and attentive, while other religions will be snuffed out. This religion causes increased immigration but decreased trade, and will actually make all your people a little less happy (though they'll never tell you that). You'll grow rich off heavy taxes, but your town will be poorer for it. This religion is concrete in it's stability - unless the player is killed, in which case the religion will shatter in a few short hours.
Buildings religions unlock:
Sacred site - the smallest place for worshippers to gather, unlocked by polytheistic or new-age
Shrine - a small site to worship at, unlocked by personality cult or monotheistic
Alter - a sacrificial alter, unlocked by cult
Temple - a large, standard religious site, unlocked by a moderately religious new-age, cult, or personality cult population
Church - a large, standard religious site, unlocked by a moderately religious monotheistic or polytheistic population
Cathedral- a huge, magnificent building, where the entire settlement can worship at once;unlocked by a highly religious monotheistic, polytheistic, or new-age population population
Cult statue - a gigantic statue of the cult god, unlocked by a highly religious personality cult or cult population.
Templar Guard - a special guard barracks of highly armoured holy soldiers that only fight against those of other religions - unlocked by a highly religious monotheistic, cult, or personality cult population
Inquisitors - a special guard barracks of brutal guards that only punish people not in the town religion - unlocked by a highly religious monotheistic, or any cult or personality cult populations.
My ideas on this whole topic are a bit up in the air at the moment, hence the 'expansion' concept. Instead of saying that all this is definitely going into the game I'd like to spend a lot more time refining it before I decide whether or not it would be too much.
Possible expansion #2 - heroes and the arts?
I remember reading a while back about a town-managing game with a twist: the game was a traditional RPG world with heroes and dungeons, but your job was to run the town that the heroes rest in before heading out to slay dragons and so on. I never played this game but I suddenly remembered the concept while I was thinking of my own. While it would be too much to wack the entire premise of that game into mine I was thinking of ways to incorporate some of the elements, while also adding some extra dieselpunk flavour. What I was thinking was that there would be certain hero like characters that might enter the world every now and again, and stop off at your town. If you're really lucky they might choose to stay, bringing a raft of bonuses to your people, but most of the time they'll pass through, providing some temporary boost. These would be people like explorers, celebrities, or mercenaries. Here's a list of some appropriate ones I thought of:
An explorer who is charting the wilderness beyond your lands. The explorer will buy supplies in your town like food and clothing, and will help you identify nearby deposits or resources or hidden treasure before leaving. If they stay full time they'll take up residence in a house and continue to leave and return on expeditions, bringing back resources or other items.
A big-time celebrity musician who's either looking to retire or take a break in the outskirts of civilisation. They'll stop off in your town to give a performance, making your people happier, and continue on their way, or might stay for good, putting on a show every few days and buying lots of luxury goods.
A mercenary who's looking for their next paycheck, they'll stop off in your town to see if you want anything done for money, and might stay for good, doing military tasks for a discount price.
A travelling merchant who will stop by to sell some rare items. They might decide to stay and set up a shop.
A detective hot on the heels of a big shot criminal, who will stop off toe quickly settle any current crimes and buy coffee. They might stick around and become the town's police force.
A few things here might need explanations. While crime didn't feature in any of my original plans, it could become an important element of gameplay that opens up a lot of avenues. Having criminals in your town doesn't have to be due to poor management (when people are poor or hungry they'll resort to stealing like in most city-builders), even perfectly happy people might commit murder for one reason or another. Having town guards helps to alleviate crime and they might be able to bring some criminals to justice, but they're not really trained to act like police. Having a detective hero can help to bring criminals to complete justice - with the player being able to dispense whatever punishment they deem reasonable.
From the start I wanted bars and restaurants to feature live music in game, with some of your townspeople acting as musicians. This I feel would add a nice little touch to your town's nightlife, with patrons tapping their feet along as they drink. This of course could be expanded. Perhaps dedicated musicians would perform this role, with player build musician apartments. Maybe there would be radio stations, and you might earn profits from artist's selling their records. Of course why stop there? There could be art studios in general that produce paintings and sculptures for your people, and even newspaper buildings that print the current times. Then that opens up having reporters, flash bulb cameras and the associated lightbulb production chains, and perhaps even the possibility for regular townspeople to become celebrities. Then we get into tourism, and the effects that might have on your town, and even the possibility of having a Las Vegas style town where nothing is really produced except entertainment, where all other goods are imported, and where the snap of flash bulbs mixed with the harmonies of big bands echoes out from a neon lit city blasting spotlights into the sky. It certainly allows a different sort of game then building another depressing pile of steel boxes with robots inside.
In these sort of games, it's important that the player has lots of things they can add to their cities so that the game isn't 'over' in a few hours. While a lot of this is extra content that can be added later - hence the 'expansions' - it's not all just feature stacking.
To be honest through, every bright idea I might have is another 2 years on the projected production time of any sort of implementation.
Now onto your comments!
Really glad you went that middle route with the soldier concept. The striklers have their own thing going for them, no doubt. Are they somewhat like mutants?
The soldiers were tough, but I'm also really happy with how they turned out. The striklers are supposed to just be the creatures that live in this world, they're not mutants any more then you might consider a snake a mutant. I don't really want any supernatural enemies in this game as it's supposed to be grounded in a real (if fictional) world that follows the same rules as ours. That's not to say there's no room for any imaginative, I just don't expect there to be ogres or anything.
Hit the nail on the head there! I was thinking about spiders recently and I'm pretty sure people aren't scared of them because of their danger (they're pretty harmless mostly), but just because their 'freakiness'. The freakiest things about spiders I can think of are:
They have lots of long legs that go all over the place - it seems unnatural and unsettling They don't behave like most other animals - they sit waiting for extremely long times before suddenly and expectantly moving all over, we can't see their faces and we can't predict what they're going to do They move very very fast and erratically, zooming around walls and floors.
In a lot of video games spider monsters are just reskinned animals that behave in a predictable way, they see you and charge for you, spitting acid or waving their jaws at you up close. I've never really been scared of an in game spider, except for by their sheer size. To make a really scary spider in my game I have some ideas. Firstly, make the legs move a lot. Nobody likes spider legs, so we animate their legs to flick and twitch all over when they're moving. Next we make their behaviours unpredictable. Most of the time they'll ignore you, sitting perfectly still on a wall or tree as you go past - you probably won't even see them. Sometimes they'll suddenly move to another branch, or slowly move their legs around to feel the floor. The player should have no clue what they're going to do next, and should get the willies every time they see a strikler staring at them with unmoving eyes from the roof. Finally when provoked, they should move really really fast. They should zip all over and hide behind some scenery, so they player panics as to where it went. Then it'll pop out at the last second and grab onto their leg or arm, biting away.
That my friends, is a terrifying monster that I would run away from in a game!