Devblog 25: Beetles! Economics!

Month Fourteen

When Jamie said “the internet is a mess and I hate it”, I suspected he wasn’t enjoying network programming. Frustrations regarding IPv4 versus IPv6 aside, he has completed the core networking task, and is happy for now. Unfortunately for Jamie, there’s more mess to it than that. Matchmaking with strangers over the internet is a different sort of thing to connecting with friends over LAN or WAN. But we’re in a good place now, which wouldn’t be possible without his hard work.

Speaking of hard work, we have more concept art: Michal has finished the first harvester. This beetle will run about the battlefield gathering resources for the player. I’m not sure if technically it is a crab… given how its claws look more like arms. Regardless, we are very happy with it.

When it came to the question of in-game economics, there are already a diverse set of examples in the RTS genre. As some of you may have guessed, the existence of a dedicated harvester implies that Command & Conquer (C&C) is an influence. But there are ways our design will depart from classic formulas to provide novel choices.

While there’s nothing wrong with Age of Empire’s villagers or StarCraft’s SCVs, I wanted an economic model which provides more opportunities for drama. The low cost and fragility of villager-type gatherers makes their untimely demise probable when the enemy shows up. In C&C, the question of whether the harvester will survive is more tense, because the harvester is more expensive, carries more resources, and is much tougher. The decision to create a harvester is more serious, and losing one is also a big deal.

However, if the player wants, they can task soldiers to gather resources. The downside of this is the aforementioned fragility, but also that a harvester would be far more efficient. The point of this choice isn’t to balance gather rates between soldiers and harvesters, but to provide the player with the means to do something if they don’t have access to a harvester.

Our design philosophy is about providing meaningful choice: players must be able to respond when things aren’t going to plan. C&C and AoE provide players with options when they start losing, and in both games you can run away and rebuild somehow: the map is a canvas upon which strategy is painted. That experience is dramatic and fun, especially when a comeback turns the game around. It feels natural to want to create a mutant hybrid from those two influences, and that’s exactly what we are doing.