+ My Main Thrust With This Thread:
There are a whole load of great little player suggestions for adding this feature or that, and a metric-bunch-ton of additional content that you have alluded to on various threads that I'd love to see. (I've researched as best I can, here and on Steam.) However, these mostly treat 'the game' as playing an individual map, in isolation. As such, they only add small increments of extra play. Also, as of inDev22, I'd say that barely half of that (building types, etc) are needed to get to a point where you can feel like you've won.
What I'm most eager to see implemented is the frameworks that tie playing multiple maps together in a structured and purposeful manner. Some relatively modest additions here could easily multiply the player engagement time 2-10 fold.
I appreciate RPC is still early access, and I presume you are wanting to put in as much content as possible before capping it off. But I think there may be a decent argument to develop additional content such that it fits into an overarching framework from the get-go. Have the two reinforce each other.
Also, you said that you were aiming at one point (I think I saw) to have a complete game very roughly around 2015, so it's easy to be a little concerned about development getting stuck in a kaizen (continual improvement) situation, adapting to feedback, too. I think it might be good to be able to move RPC towards being a truly releasable whole while still continuing to augment (and refine) it with additional free content - the Terraria model that's been pretty successful.
+ Preamble and Praise (Waffle):
Village/city simulators (Banished, Sim City/Skylines) and tower defense (Defense Grid, etc) are my favorite, most addictive, kind of games. So you've really sparked my interest here. I certainly got the same un-put-down-able (too many) hours of flow-state game play from RPC. (On my second attempt).
I love the WYSIWYG format where my brain is continuously assessing the setup, adding little improvement and tweaks. It's very mentally easy to not have to re-orient or task switch. There's no hidden tech trees or such to break this up, or to have to try to keep in in the back of my mind.
I love being able to take the grand, high level, strategic overview, and have the minions figure out all their own little steps in between. It's entirely possible to not have to worry about what each villager is doing, or if the best one is assigned to the job. Scrolling endlessly through personnel lists to repeatedly solve that grueling multi-variable optimization problem isn't that much fun (as in SpaceBase DF9) and doing it manually greatly limits the scale of settlements.
I was going to say that the AI was excellent and left nothing to be desired. Certainly they are pretty robust at not getting killed, fleeing overwhelming situations, etc. Although, as I looked closer to qualify this, I noticed how painful the process of building a single wall section can be, with villagers coming in from all over to each give it a little hit in turn, (or running around the other side for no particular reason). Presumably largely intended, to make building look more involved. Then I also saw a farmer die of starvation while carrying home a carrot... But I don't think this is a micro-managing game and these niggles go away if one can relax to take a broader view.
There are a lot of neat little details down there too, that are great to discover: them chatting away, their names, etc. But I actually like that there is much oversimplification, abstraction and not trying to be too 'realistic' to real world technologies. I anything, I think it could bear to develop in more fanciful, perhaps slightly silly/entertaining mechanic directions, a little like Theme Hospital diseases, say. The minimalism of no time factor control is a good simplicity. When I have such luxuries I tend to over-use them (e.g. in Stronghold HD recently), getting bogged down in slo-mo, trying to finesse everything perfectly (or worrying that I'm not).
I don't like heavy handed RNG that's dominant in determining success, as with FTL, rogue likes, where there's a good chance that whatever you do, you'll be screwed most times. I like that if you've figure things out and play well you'll succeed. And the desire for replay is to do things better from a fresh start. I think that with such a heavy focus on building up a well laid-out settlement that most players who enjoy this will really hate to loose their hard work - too much to tolerate (once they've learned to get past the initial quick failure modes).
Better to let them keep their creations, but provide good reason to want to start over and build something new/better. Startup is great for games that are 30min-1hour long, like skirmishes in Supreme Commander (vanilla - another favorite of mine), but having spent most of a day (or more) on a base I personally found Don't Starve to be too brutal (kind of got too stressful trying to avoid loosing, such that I couldn't really commit to playing it as intended). I'm sure there are plenty who love this kind of survival meta though, I'm probably just too weedy! ;-)
+ First Impression (more waffle):
With lots of options on head, I went to try a quick skirmish first.
Apparently I picked an overly protected/cramp starting positions and couldn't figure out how to make any additional space for enough buildings to get going.
So I watched the official 'tutorial' (by FallenShogun). It was probably a little tooo informative and prescriptive, in that once I knew that monsters path infinitely (around walls) and what the most essential buildings are, that was it: I walled in quickly, mazed up and won... Well, in conjunction with fire ball weeding of graveyards (which felt cheap, or at least too simple and final in it's efficacy - I know there's changes to meta afoot).
I didn't even get to harvesting crystals, way-making, etc, hence saying that there's a lot of underutilized content already.
The rush of throwing everything up was great, but the influx seemed almost too overwhelming, until it just plateaued and stopped. Not just that I was fire-balling spawn sites faster than they went up, more that they almost stopped spawning altogether. (Something that might be very quick to tweak, for a massive impact on game experience.)
Then after that one initial long evening of play (way past sleep time), there was another 2 of being at a loose end: finishing out the build tree, upgrading paths, the slow process of waiting for births. I actually left it running for over an hour (while at the supermarket) and came back to only 10 more population, up from 70. Then the fiddly process of plucking and plopping individual villiagers (and resources) into the cullis gates, staging for the next map.
Actually, I'd first tried to start a new map assuming I'd get a new allocation of ~30 (free) villagers... But because my limbo only had a half dozen random people plus the 100 odd monsters I'd dumped there to get past the early rush, I had a rather more ignominious spawn in. Lol. Pretty amusing, to be fair, though a little too brutal. Then of course the map was lost, unplayable, and as far as I can figure unsalvageable: seems to be no way now to port in villagers fast enough to jump start things (against heavy odds).
+ Closed Loop (down to business):
I generally dislike the concept of games scaling enemy health bars entirely arbitrarily to match player ability, worst still if the game asks up front how big they want those bars to be; the game should be the game, a problem set to be solved. But there could be more mechanics in RPC that calibrate around player progress to step things up at various waypoints.
Currently, it seems like monsters/graveyards spawn in a kind of open-loop style, at predetermined time, without any feedback...(?)
I think that can make sense for a skirmish, or a future sub-type of skirmish(?), where one is litterally trying to see how long one can last on a map as things ramp up inexorably. (As per your initial "no winning" goal, that's still up here on the website.) The reward for that could be as simple as an end score, ideally tracking personal bests (like Don't Starve), ranking Steam friends, for that top spot, and globally (like Defence Grid, Infinifactory, etc). Maybe it's even possible to still beat (some of) them, in theory, if you're insanely clever at it. So then the aim becomes maxing out parts of the scoring metric (like Magicka missions). I don't know how tricky a scoreboard system would be to setup and maintain from a Dev perspective(?).
But for the campaign maps, perhaps it might make more sense that rate of graveyard spawns ramps up (asymptotically) towards a set level, such that the more you weed out, the faster they grow back.
And how about setting that level somewhat like Terraria does, where reaching certain conditions (e.g. player max health) triggers an increase in monsters and/or a boss. And/or taking explicit objectives might instigate a 'hard mode' thereafter, which is itself necessary to access higher tier builds.
+ Progression - Escalation and Narrative:
Although I agree that you shouldn't try to shoehorn in a 'story', per say, it'd be cool to think you have some kind of underpinning concepts in mind, even if they are barely ever hinted at. (I imagine you do already...?)
Like, what I'm getting so far: it might be that these monsters are crossing over through/from the void, drawn by the warm bodies of the villagers... So then the more population you have, the more (quickly) monsters might be drawn in.
Here I'm thinking of Charles Stross's Laundry Novels ('computational demonology' in the context of an IT tech support protagonist in a budget strapped civil service department, with major human resources issues, staving off the end of the world): the Cthulu-like monstrosities can hear the sound of conscious thought (or complexity) between parallel universes (and certain mathematical, geometric constructs can open portals, etc). But anyway, back to RPC... So past a certain threshold (of population) you might make enough 'noise' to disturb the attention of progressively bigger horrors.
Loosing population might scale spawns back a little, but only to a way point baseline, perhaps.
+ Focus on Expanding Tower Defense, Please:
The initial monster rush is a fun challenge to figure out how to survive, with fairly short map failure times. But getting overwhelmed by monsters after spending ages building a substantial base is more dismaying, especially when it can take hours to be slowly, but unavoidably, worn down. (Since the villagers are actually such a robust line of defense, and monsters never attack the castle itself, for a knock-out blow). That's basically why you've retained the ability to fireball the enemy's (main) spawners into oblivion, right, to avoid being overwhelmed while there isn't yet the tower scaling to cope. (The monster level cap too.) Hence why the difficulty curve kinda feels more like a step change (and then a step-off).
You've already been talking about this, of course. Expanding tower capabilities is obviously in your pipeline. I'd just like to support you working on that soon, beefing up this other side of the game play, which will hopefully help things scale up more.
I think play should transition to be increasingly about this tower defense aspect, as a map progresses, with more player time and villagers soaked up by it. Currently it's a kind of a side dish, rather than a whole second course. I personally would like to see RPC as a more fully hybrid (and therefore more unique(?)) game.
+ Monsters the Problem *and* the Objective:
Again I'm going to reference Terraria, where monsters are initial just a pain in the ass, as one's trying to mine resources. But further through progression (in later updates) they become a resource in themselves - 'farming' monsters for RNG loot drops. You already have this, which is cool, but again it's currently pretty marginal.
I really want monsters to become a major, limiting, resource. Such that the player will want and need them to attack them in volume to progress further.
Currently they mostly drop essence, but that's far from essential. Even if you had later, more challenging, maps without any crystals to harvest, for example, it's only the defense structures that currently consume it anyway. Village enhancing buildings that need it might be one option (e.g. hospital - for life extension, or monster to villager re-animator, or 'radiance school' - for leveling up the little-uns). Or you could rework/re-balance essence. Or add in some new resource(s) dropped by (new) higher difficulty monsters (of specific types, maybe), to be used as a building/crafting material, fuel, currency, whatever.
+ Purpose in Village Optimization:
I really like the wayfarer road upgrades. They're a great sink of resources (and play time). But they currently seem mostly superfluous, only worth utilizing after one has already 'won' the battle to survive a map. (Also a little overly fiddly - perhaps we could have a dedicated, expandable brush, preferably that only upgrades to a one specific tier at a time, avoiding creating accidental mis-match patches, at overlaps, etc.)
I'd like to see that my efforts in building up a fast network really pay off. That it's essential even. I imagine this tying in with the idea of higher population attracting more enemies, such that one needs efficiency to progress capabilities, rather than just throwing more villagers at work.
This could be particularly pushed for, say, building an objective within a limited time frame. Say, a huge monument/tribute that can only be built during a particular season. Particularly if it is necessarily located a good distance from one's main base, or the only source of stone/wood in the map. (So greatly benefiting a fast road connection.) But it could also just be the ongoing, daily process of village life would falter without that speed boost. A kind of stealth progress barrier. Emergent.
+ Motivation to Play More Maps:
With Terraria there seems to be quite a number of players who will obsessively chase down and remove/purify every single block of 'corruption' (or 'crimson') in an entire world (taking a huge amount of play time), just so that an NPC's dialogue will read: "this world is 0% corrupted [how wonderful]!". So a similar RPC world completion readout might be sufficient reward to motivate some enthusiastic players to build up settlements on every map. Just pushing back the evil veil of shadows with your light of life, or whatever.
Most will need a denser trail of breadcrumbs. You could have a linear Super Mario style campaign trail leading from map to map... (But meh!) That could more deliberately introduce building elements, while ramping up difficulty (pseudo-tutorial style), but would be a lot of careful work that could be better spent elsewhere.
The simplest, most logical mechanism I can think of to limit map accessibility and reward/enforce playing more maps: start of with a circle of influence, with only 2-3 maps within it and accessible (the rest greyed out). Currently the island region does look like it's set up to invite players to start in the green middle, the 'Vale', and work outwards through tougher landscapes, towards the black sands of 'Mordor'.
This radial progression could be made by having your circle expand as a product of 'super-influence' keyed off total world villager population. Centered upon some epicentral artifact/totem of your initial power. Or, the frontier could expand out around each populated village in a more bubbly manner.
I think simply limiting access can be a decent motivator to progress, verses having everything laid out with no particular reason/excuse to bother with any option. But you'd probably want to still make latter accessed maps tougher in some way, than earlier ones. Merely tweaking the resource distributions in maps could do this a little (but awkward to overhaul all those maps).
You could remove some resources altogether, requiring them to be exclusively imported from other maps... Provided you could make that process far slicker than it currently is (with accessing limbo) and also without requiring need for continual, rapid map switching (tedious).
Monster presence could be heavier earlier, seasons harsher, etc. These may already be implemented, to an extent? But I found black sands (for example) currently just as easy as other maps. Topology seems to be the main difficulty modifier - if there's nowhere sheltered or if there's little/no space to expand into (without clearing it).
New debuffs against your powers could be brought in, with increased mana expense (and/or decreased potency) on maps further from your regional nexus. (Possibly to the point where you can barely ever even afford to grab things, by the end.) And/or debuffs against your villagers, e.g. confusing/distracting them at random, shortening their lifespans, reducing fertility, or walking speed, or whatever. But I'd favor working with what you have already, as much as is reasonably possible.
Of course, as you add new buildings content, those could be rewards per map progression too...
+ Unlocking a New Building/Ability From Each of The Adventure World Maps:
- Via a Map Specific Objective - an abandoned (non-destructible) church/school/etc to be restored, enabling that technology to be built anywhere in the world while it's up and running. There might need to be multiple maps with essential unlocks on, to avoid punishing village failure too harshly (or not ).
- A Monument - for each unlock that can be built on any map. But it requires so many resources to build, or rather personnel to maintain it, that it would be unfeasible to have more than one (or two) per map. e.g. teacher/alchemy academy, training hospital, monastery. I like this in that it's like real world technological development, with larger connected populations needed to maintain the number of trade specializations for a certain level of technology (there are historical cases of island becoming isolated from mainlands and backsliding, interesting stuff).
- Simpler (but less logical) - just surpass an arbitrary total population count, or other objective, for permanent unlock... e.g. excavate a ruined building from a mountain, get a plans drop from a particular monster boss (meh). Total population might work fairly well psychologically as an unpredictable reward (at non-obvious intervals).
- (Additional) abilities might be unlocked as you fill up some kind of 'super-influence' bar that they hang off (along the top of screen). That would make sense based of the total world villager population (a measure of 'belief'). Or off the number of maps with a threshold of 50 villagers, say, and/or with a specific enabling building, like church/temple, or (boss) monster widget drop...
With one of these kinds of system you could continue to add more new building unlocks to the game as you develop it, with new maps further out on new islands that pop up out of the sea, with later game updates (kinda like Besiege's growing content).
+ Smoother Map Transitions:
Could you have a new building specifically for the purpose of collecting together colonists to travel off to the next map?
I found manually collecting up villagers fiddly and uncertain, especially to make sure I had enough females (and that's before I knew of their 3 child limit) and time consuming just waiting for the influence mana to use.
So, an 'excession encampment' or 'portcullis caravan'? Set the building to take 30 'workers' and it'll automatically select a roster of most viable candidates. And maybe have them load up some bonus/required starting resources too. Then to launch it could charge up with essence, or take a big chunk (entire bar) of regular God mana, or whatever.
Something like this could be a building unlock a couple maps in, to make the player appreciate it's helpfulness and be happy with the compromise over exact control.
+ Popping Out Expansion Kiddies:
Others players have lamented how slow populations are to grow (even with no work set and loads of spare housing). I found this to currently take significantly longer than the initial build up to a stable village base. I think you've already been talking about having taverns, perhaps coming to boost happiness and impregnation...?
But maybe you could (also) implement events like throwing a 'festival', committing to a somewhat risky day's holiday, with significant bonuses including fertility. Also, hospitals could prevent birth complications, like maternal mortality or infertility (if you then had a softer, probabilistic cap on number of offspring per female).
Of course, if the difficulty of keeping monsters at bay is better balanced towards continuous challenge then that would give more things for player to be doing while waiting (precluding the possibility of risking AFKing it). A busy-task that directly enhances population would be a good compliment here, even if it didn't contribute all that many new minions.
For example: additional ghosts (that can be resurrected). These could be spawned occasionally/rarely by graveyards. (Also providing another reason to not want to blow those up.) Or very rarely from monster kills. Or forged from collecting some new monster drop. Or some gimmicky building that re-souls zombies, or meatifies spectres, or whatever. Or a (randomly located) map objective that pops up to be captured/killed.
+ Closing (Disclaimer):
Anyway. Apologies for being super-waffly and perhaps pushy. This is all just my vague notions, given on the off-chance that something happens to align with a direction you were already thinking of. That I might then help reinforce, clarify or even aid your motivation.
I imagine a lot of the above has been fairly obvious, that you've already considered all such things, ruled them out, or even have some in mind still. I personally hate being told to do things I was already going to do, so sorry if that's the case. And great work on being so open to people like me tossing their 2 pence in.
I'd be happy to try to sound off further thoughts arising, or just leave this all uncommented on ( no offense taken). I obviously have the utmost respect for your artistic/creative prerogative, especially seeing everything you've created here so far - very impressive!
In fact, I'd implore you to stick to your guns and be brave taking your own direction through the well intended rain of suggestions and demands. I'm a little weary of the potential for memetic selection with these requests: they will be biased towards additional features, that are small and simple to articulate, that sound good in writing (though not necessarily in practice), etc. In addition to the potential for design-by-committee bland/bloatedness, or just generally getting way-laid, with doing such a great job listening to (seemingly) all the feedback everywhere. Hence the attempt above to convey more nebulous and overarching ideas (that I think are important to take time to consider).
I was planning to make a second thread with a big list of relatively simple, little tweak and addition suggestions too, as a lower priority, but we'll see...
Thanks for reading and happy developing! Also, HEY THERE to all you longer sitting super-fan-supporter peeps! I'd be happy to see any of your thoughts too, of course.