Status and Economy Controls

December 1, 2009

The game is roughly two and a half weeks into development now, and proceeding slower than I’d expected. There’s a lot of design work left to be done. Still, the pieces are starting to come together. There’s a functional starmap, map generator, and a fair portion of the graphical and UI infrastructure in place that we’ll need for the game. Roughly half the model of the game world is in place – stars, planets, colonies, economy simulation, and fleets are mostly there, but research/technology, trade, and ship design are still on the drawing board. I don’t want to the model and simulation to grow too far without implementing the user-interface side that connects to them, so the coding blitz is presently stymied by the need to design interfaces for controlling fleets and planets. Fleets should be straightforward, but controlling planet economies takes quite a bit of thought.

Internally, spending controls boil down to eight numbers determining spending amounts in each category, but there’s some redundancy such that certain combinations of spending just don’t make any sense (i.e. terraforming a polluted or underdeveloped planet), and the player shouldn’t need to micromanage at that level. The per-category economy sliders as implemented in the original Master of Orion are a viable approach, but I’m striving for something more streamlined. My first idea was to combine that concept with controls to automate spending – in particular, a mode which locks ecology spending at the minimum, and a “Growth” mode that balances housing and industry development as needed to grow the colony. Funds not allocated to maintenance/growth could then be divided between construction/defense/research. In a framework of MOO-style spending allocation, this doesn’t obviate the need to monitor colonies continuously except in simple cases (colonies dedicated to shipbuilding or research). Therefore I’ve departed from this idea somewhat.

The current plan is to divide available funds in prioritized stages, each stage allocating a percentage of the funds remaining after the previous stage. The first stage obviously is colony maintenance and growth. You can crank this to 100% and be secure in the knowledge that if the money can’t be spent productively here, it will be passed through to the next stage instead of being wasted. Once a colony set to 100% growth reaches its maximum population and industy it will spend only the minimum needed for maintenance at this stage and pass the rest of the funds through, but if new technology such as terraforming becomes available that allows further growth, a setting of 100% will automatically take advantage of it. Defense spending seems logical as a second allocation stage, with a target number of missile bases past which spending is cut off, so you don’t have to worry about runaway base construction. The third spending stage would allocate funds to ship construction. Remaining funds may go directly into research, or go through a final allocation stage of research versus trade. I have some ideas for a trade system which I hope will become an important part of the game, but it’s very tentative right now. Presently I’m mocking up UI ideas for the planetary spending controls. Doing a good job with planet controls means the player should see them less often, without losing flexibility in how his colonies are employed.

Greetings, Earthlings.

November 26, 2009

Welcome! This is the official blog of Funcall Games, an indie game developer. Presently it serves as the development diary for our initial project, an as-yet untitled 4X space conquest game inspired by classics such as Master of Orion and the original Reach for the Stars which will meld deceptively deep strategy and replayability with fluid, streamlined gameplay and a slick user interface. Stay tuned for daily (or near daily) updates discussing game design, technical issues, and chronicling its development.