Food plays major role in the game. Let’s try to understand why and what we can do about it:
So what is this food thing anyway?
When we think about RTS, we think about strategic part of it, making decisions and taking actions to follow them. What we would like to see in NextGame is a rich strategic potential. A setup where player needs to manage several different interconnected areas. Additionally to usual chores like city building, resource and army management, we can also add/expand an activity dedicated to maintenance. Many other RTS have caps on maximum number of units/houses that player can own, which is raised by building habitats/powerplants/etc. Food sounds like a good candidate on this role. So player needs not only to build houses, train workers, but also to rig them all together in right proportions.
Plainly speaking – food in NextGame is the running cost of everything. The bigger the town and/or army, the more costly it is to maintain and the more strategic load is on player.
There needs to be several distinct, but interchangeable food types in the game to allow different strategies.
Properties we can control are:
- Investment cost. How much materials are needed to start making this food. There could be a food with almost zero investment cost, e.g. mushrooms and berries that can be eaten without any extra processing. On the other side – a kind of food, alike bread or smoked ham, that needs a long production chain of 3-4 houses and specialists.
- Production start delay. Some foods become available instantly (same again berries) or need a long time to grow up (e.g. kettle for ham or sausages).
- Nutritious value. How much stamina this type of food can restore.
- Production rate. How much of this food in a unit of time can be produced once production is running at a stable pace.
- Depletion. Is this food a renewable resource or not.
- Side-effects. These are by-product wares, such as cow skins.
Combining these traits we can create different kinds of food aimed at different usage scenarios:
- Early food. A kind of food player can start producing early in the game to sustain the rapid economy growth. Usually these are fairly good foods, but they deplete quite soon and player has no choice as to start his own food-production industry.
- Cheap food. Food that requires little investment of materials and/or time. It works good in the early game, but later on it becomes surpassed by more cost/effective foods which might also have some important side-effects.
- Capital foods. Foods whose side-effects are required in military area (skins, etc.).
- Superior food. This is the best food of all, very nutritious. Requiring a lot of time and materials investments, but more profitable in the long-run.
Food management strategies
There’s an interesting side-effect of the cheap/low-nutritious food. Since every ware needs to be transported to its destination we can can calculate a transportation cost per unit of food value. For low-nutritious foods that cost gets rather high. In other words – “cheap and small” foods clog up the roads. That naturally makes more nutritious foods more attractive, even if they have the same production cost.
Villagers in the game could be split into two groups: labor force (serfs, builders, starting professions) and skilled citizens (coinmakers, smiths, etc.). With that in mind we can make the running cost of skilled citizens higher, by making them demand better and more expensive to produce food types or add another running-cost resource they would consume.
There could be a new property to the food types – food lifetime. Some foods may be prone to rotting after a period of time. So for example berries become inedible after 15min since collection. This means they can’t be stored and used for later. I’m not sure what kind of impact that can do on a game and if that ever feels right to open a Barn and discover all food is gone.
“make the running cost of skilled citizens higher”
Sounds a bit like Anno series, where pioneers only needed simple wares like food and some clothing, and more ‘advanced’ people need stuff like perfume or jewelry.
However, I’m not sure if it fits in a game where everyone is more or less the same. Surely the blacksmith may have a higher status than a simple serf, but that doesn’t mean he only drinks wine and eats expensive food – he is still a simple man.
Food lifetime sounds very interesting. 🙂
That would also overcomplicate things, like Ben mentioned earlier – it depends on what kind of game we want to make, Anno sandbox, or StarCraft brawl.
Food lifetime is tricky to implement in UI in a way that player will understand the concept and be able to handle it.
I think you misunderstood me (or maybe I misunderstand you). I suggested to drop the idea of having ‘skilled’ villagers require more ‘expensive’ food. I was not suggesting to create some kind of Anno system. 😛
On another note – complicated stuff is not always bad. It can bring variety, which is nice.
Now I’m not sure that I understand you right – first part contradicts second 😛
Both ideas in the post are kind of examples, I’m not sure we will even test at implementing them, cos they seem rather clunky and unneeded.
Food lifetime is very interesting and will surely add to the realism level. Though I think that the same effect ( you need continuous production) could be achieved with having finite storage capacity. That way you don’t have to worry about berry A being edible for 11 minutes and berry B being edible for 10.43 minutes.
Thinking again about food lifetime mechanic I see how hard it is to deliver to the player, because of all the wares are uniform and are in stockpiles.
Similar mechanic can be found in Total Annihilation series, where metal and energy are resources with very short “lifetime”. This fits well into magic/future setting. Does not fit well into realistic medievality.
Hi, distributing food to soldiers is in my opinion mechanism that makes, that KAM is unique. Even in Settlers you can use food, only to produce soldiers. Not to keep soldiers alive. I hope you wouldn’t remove this feature from your game 🙂
About “lifetime mechanic”: I think it is too complicated. Few food types should be enough complicated, to create many strategies to survive.
My question is: what about soldiers? Like in KAM, each type of food will restore MAX stamina?
I agree, lifetime mechanic would fit if the game was set in “survival” setting, alike Banished or Don’t Starve.
This is not settled yet. Restoring different amount would require control over it, GUI solutions and such. Could become over-complicated.