My first plan for 0.10 was procedural book generation. We already had the books generating as items and – if you’ll allow me – they’re one of the things I was proudest of in the 0.9 release:
This was always intended to be a central part of the game – I want to get the game generating texts that were logical and meaningful and connected closely to the game world, and to get the player reading these as a central part of learning about the world and finding the clues to the core mystery. However, as readers will know to some extent, 2022 has not exactly been the year I was hoping it would in terms of my health, and while things might be picking up now, I often feel like I’m in a perpetual back-and-forth between “unwell” and “getting back to where I was before I got unwell again”, with little time to actually build something and build on what I’ve been doing previously. I’m now back in the “gbtwiwbigua” phase (as we call it) once more, but I don’t know what the rest of the year holds. This is important because the generation of the book contents is something I’ve made some progress on – some incredibly exciting progress, actually – but realistically there is no way I can now finish it before the end of the year. Even if I didn’t have a full-time job to consider, and even if I did literally nothing else for 0.10 except the book contents, I still don’t think I could get it finished in time. I really don’t want to half-arse the book generation as it’s something that really excites me, but I also am now determined (as discussed in past blog posts) to keep to one major release a year, no matter what.
So, instead, 0.10 is going to be the “everything I wanted to put in 0.7, 0.8 and 0.9, but didn’t have the time to” release! I’ve been making some good progress easing myself back in, building some new code and some new content, and refamiliarizing myself with everything, so here’s what has been added so far in the past couple of months:
To begin with, we have some new items! These appear in a variety of logical shops and are items that contribute to your navigation of the world and to surviving in the world (see below). The first of these is the compass, which (like everything) can be found in various qualities and various shapes depending on the civilization you buy it from. The compass reduces how much water the player consumes when moving through desert – the logic being that you can more accurately plan your movements instead of stumbling around uncertainly. The quality of the compass – low, medium, high – determines how accurate it is and thus how much water is saved, with the lowest quality saving the player 25% of their water, the medium quality saving 33%, and the highest quality saving 50%.
The second of these is the binoculars, which increase your viewing distance as you move around the world map using the “travel” function. The lowest quality binoculars will give you one extra map tile around the player as you move; the medium-quality binoculars will give you a few more extra map tiles in each direction as you move; and the highest-quality binoculars will give you a few more map tiles in each direction than that. It’s hard to describe, but think of a circle where each quality level adds on a couple more tiles at the edge of the circle than the one before it.
Pitons are the equivalent of the compass, but for your use of supplies in mountainous or polar terrain, rather than your use of water in the desert. Pitons can be used to reduce your use of supplies in mountainous and polar terrain by 25%, 33%, or 50%, depending on the quality. Unlike the compasses and the binoculars pitons will very slowly be used up, but at a rate that still makes them a very profitable purchase compared to just using larger volumes of supplies.
We also have canes! These reduce food use in all of what I’m now calling the challenging terrains – desert, polar, and mountainous – by 25%, 33%, and 50%, again depending on quality. These can be purchased at carpenters’ shops and like the pitons will eventually wear out, but only as an extremely slow pace. On a side note I have to say I’m particularly happy with the generator I built for these, as it is (un?)surprisingly difficult to think of many ways to vary and make interesting and item that is, essentially, a stick of wood. Nevertheless, I think I did pretty well here!
And, finally, we have grenades! Modelled after pre-gunpowder and early gunpowder historical grenades, these will be available in powdermaker shops in civilizations with the appropriate technologies and policies. Shown here from left to right is a hallucinogenic grenade, an explosive grenade, and a smoke grenade, and I’m working on a couple of other types as well. As I’ve said before, I really am excited about working on combat when that starts coming into play, and these are a category of item I’ve been looking forward to adding into the game for a while now.
Part of what I have planned for this release is really expanding and developing the speech options. As part of this, therefore, you can now ask NPCs open questions of the type “What do you think about [X]?”. This means you can now question NPCs about any alcoholic drink, any prisoner (if you’re talking to a jailer), any historical event, any ship (if you’re talking to a sailor), any monastery or monk (if you’re talking to monks or priests), any political party (in relevant nations), any major family (in feudal nations), any gladiator (in relevant nations), any feudal nation, any tribal nation, any nomadic nation, any known disease or plague, any religious relic, any religion, any individual, any city, any town, any area of the world map, any animal or plant, any weapon, any artwork, any book, and any political ideology. Here’s an example of these sorts of questions in the list of questions, and then an example of how it currently looks when you’re selecting what to ask:
One of my next tasks, of course, will be to develop the responses to these questions! More on this soon.
I’ve always hated the minutiae and the constant need to keep yourself from dying in most “survival games” – eat food every few minutes, drink water every few minutes, etc. It’s tedious and repetitive and doesn’t really add a great deal (except in a few rare cases where it is so tightly integrated into the game design, as in something like Don’t Starve). By contrast, the survival mechanics in a game like The Curious Expedition, which was one of my favourite games from last year, struck me as very different. In moving survival from the constant to the strategic, the question in TCE is instead framed far more as “planning for an expedition” and making sure you have enough to survive, making good use of your resources, planning ahead, and so forth. These sorts of framings really attract me and really fit in with the sort of thing I’m looking to do in URR. It shouldn’t be something the player is thinking about every second of the day, but given the game’s focus on exploration and the size of the game world, I’m really attracted to the idea that in order to push out from one’s base city you need to make sure you have what you need to survive, and that to push out into more challenging terrains (desert, polar, mountains, etc) you need to ensure you’ve got what you’ll need to be able to properly explore them.
So, progress has begun on the “planning for expeditions” side of things by adding three meters into the game which you can see now on the sidebar on the left – food, water, and equipment. None of these are required in cities, towns, and on ships, but to head out yourself, you’ll need to stock up on supplies. Food is consumed each day you’re out of a settlement / ship; water is consumed each day you’re in the desert (the assumption is that outside of the desert you can find abundant water sources), and equipment is consumed each day you’re in polar or mountainous regions (again, it’s assumed this is easier elsewhere). These can be bought in cities when you enter/exit through the city gate (which is the part of this I’m now working on). These are pretty cheap goods, but naturally if one runs out and isn’t in a settlement or a ship, bad things might begin to happen – which should be pretty fun to code. More on this soon!
Thrones – despite having been generated over a year ago – now, actually, appear in-game when you look at a throne. So that’s nice.
I’ve also completed a number of bug fixes, such as:
- Resolved an issue where pressing ‘@’ to look at your character didn’t properly give you the same navigation option for looking at your character that pressing ‘l’ or ‘;’, and then manually looking at yourself, would.
- Removed a debugging option in the “Export” menu that I’d accidentally left in the game – whoops!
- Hopefully fixed a problem with the world generation sequence very rarely freezing (not crashing) if you move the “focus” on your computer away from it to another app; I think this has been resolved, but it might need a little more testing.
- Fixed bugs where several speech options resulted in crashes.
- Fixed a bug where pressing the “Exchange” option in a conversation would lead to a crash (though I will be coming back to this in more detail later).
- Fixed a bug where the game would crash upon going up stairs (!).
- Fixed some typos in the generation of monastery names.
- Changed the name generator for mercenary guilds, since some of the generated names were a little bit… iffy.
- Fixed a problem where sometimes asking soldiers about their armour caused a crash.
- Standardised the spelling of “civilization” to the American English version – most words in the game are British English, but I’ve always liked the look of the ‘z’ in that word (I blame Sid Meier) so I decided on that one instead.
- Fixed shading on signs outside buildings in city centres.
- Fixed a bug with a crash upon entering a fortress.
- Fixed bug where a cult ring would sometimes try to generate for a non-cultist civilization, resulting in a crash.
- Fixed a BIG and long-running crash bug with some towns on the coast not generating enough homes for people to live in, resulting in a crash! This was because the game couldn’t find somewhere to put a dock in time, and then ran out of “can I place a building?” cycles before it was able to get to placing houses (which come after the larger, more important buildings). I’m really pleased to have finally solved this one, as this now means there are very few remaining known major bugs – in fact, only really one.
- Fixed a bug where turquoise mines did not display correctly in the encyclopedia and caused a crash, and also sometimes appeared as “metal” mines instead of “gem” mines (even though I am quite sure turquoise is not a metal).
- Fixed a bug where looking at a mine in the encyclopedia belonging to a nomadic, instead of a feudal nation, caused a crash because it was trying to print the wrong kind of flag.
- The list of ships in the encyclopedia now shows the images of the ships alongside their names, destinations, owners, traits, etc.
So: I’m pleased to say that 0.10 is now going to be a release focused on the stuff I couldn’t get into the last few releases, plus a load of new items, some new mechanics, plus a load of polishes and refinements and fixes for bugs and things of that sort. Again, I think it’s really important for me to settle into a regular annual release schedule of any size, rather than focusing on huge releases across any time period. I just don’t think after being pretty unwell for eight months that four months – even four months of focus – is simply enough to do credit to the book generation ideas I’ve started working on, and that I’m excited to deploy. With that said I’m sure I will be continuing to do a bit of work on book content generation, since that excites me and I’m incredibly keen on developing this system I’m building for this – which I think is distinct from others? – and seeing where it can go. However, my priority will be on this 0.10 content, building on 0.9, polishing, fixing, improving, developing, and fleshing out, what’s in the game right now. 0.11 might be book generation; it might even be combat; it might be some combination, or something else; but 0.10 is going to be a release of significant size, deepening both the gameplay interactions in the URR world, and the game world detail, and I’m excited to get working on it.
Thanks for reading everyone, and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks – I promise! – for the next update! 🙂
Dr Johnson, always great to hear more from you! Putting off book content generation in order to ensure that you don’t feel under any time crunch so that you can do it justice is a good idea I think.
I definitely like the new resource consumption mechanics – Being well-prepared for an expedition really helping with expeditions but not strictly required if you cant manage to source a good bit of kit & arent going into too much danger.
I think the systems as stated also have good potential for tweaking down the line for balancing / adding “extreme” conditions to encourage extra preparation / purchases, even if that’s not currently in scope (Compass reducing the travel-slowing effect of a theoretical “fog” condition for example, or “blizzards” increasing Equipment usage while climbing to the mountainous location of the sought treasture…)
Can’t wait to see what other interesting (And of course, beautifully generated and rendered) things await!
Hello dorsi! Thanks so much for the comment :). Yeah, that’s what I think on the book generation; I have actually made some really exciting process, started to develop what I think is a novel way of doing a book generation, and the (very) early outputs (I’ve been trialing the system on generating Lovecraftian short stories) is honestly really promising and exciting… but yeah, there’s no way this can all get done by the end of the year. Touch wood, my hope would be to work on these across all of 2023 and pursue regular and iterate updates, but we’ll see whether the universe agrees with that plan or not! Anyway, I’m glad you like the resource consumption ideas, and as you say, I think it’ll be fun to add things like weather conditions and the like later on. As long as survival stays firmly within the *strategic* realm for the most part, I think that’s a good way to keep it interesting.
Nice work on the new item generators. It’s amazing to see how many categories of generated items there are now in URR. Those grenades look especially interesting — they remind me a bit of Christmas ornaments (Kevin McCallister would surely approve). And is that a beer stein emblem on the throne? Love it! Looking forward to the next release and the generated text for books.
Thanks crowbar! I’m glad you like them, and hahaha, you’re right, they do actually like somewhat bauble-esque! Yes, that’s a beer throne, I think the currency of the nation was the “Iron Tankard” or something that time around, and I decided that the currency icon should be the one that appears on the thrones as well…!
With z-lib closed and twitter corrupted, finally there’s some good news to stick to…
Thank you soooo much–
Hahahaha, thanks Silencess! (I feel the same way – Twitter is very dispiriting right now, especially as it’s really the only social media platform I’ve put a lot of time into building something on. We’ll have to see how things develop…)