Monday, October 25, 2010

Thoughts on Strategy Game Resources

The purpose and exact function of the resources in Deep Field have changed a lot since I began working on the game, and I'd like to talk about some of the stuff I learned along the way. I think I'll likely write up two posts about the topic. This first one is going to cover basic resource mechanics, and the second one will be about the interplay between local and global resources.

When I began work on Deep Field, I set out to make a fast, fun, casual version of the 4x genre that I love so much. I thought, at the start, that I would do away with the general idea of having population that builds up over time. My plan was to make colonized planets provide a flat level of income for each resource, and have it only change due to constructing buildings, which would also provide flat benefits. But the more I playtested this, the more it grew to disappoint me. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming.

The reason was fairly simple -- without a mechanic like population, which multiplies the base output, specializing planets is pointless. If a planet can't multiply its output in any way, why would you care if your +4 research building was on planet A or planet B? That decision no longer matters, since you'll get the same benefit regardless of where you build it. You run into a similar issue with buildings. If you *do* have multiplicative population (5 population gives + 50% to all production), but you don't have buildings which provide multiplicative benefits, then your best strategy is always to build buildings on planets with high base food. It's better to build that research building on a planet with 5 food and 2 research, than to build it on one with 3 food and 10 research. Eventually, I realized that I need multiplicative effects on both population and buildings, because it provides the most significant synergistic effect when you specialize a planet. And deciding how and why to specialize your resource producing objects (cities, planet, whatever) is one of the most interesting decisions you have to make in any decent 4x game.

4x Lesson Learned:
Making decisions about colony specialization is fundamentally enjoyable, and there should be room for synergy between buildings, colonies, and population.

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