In Defense of a Low Birthrate: A Revival Spell is the Key Mechanism to Make the Rogue-Like Aspect Work
One of the more frequent requests on this forum is to raise the birthrate. Villages are overwhelmed, and they need more guards and workers to fight off the hordes and power the cannons. On the other hand, Ray proposed the ability to revive dead villagers has been proposed as a gameplay mechanic.
So, I see two ways that the game could be developed. In the first style, you need to birth several children per day just to keep up with the hordes of enemies. In the second style, there are low birth rates, but each birth is a momentous occasion. The revival mechanism is the key spell which provides those "pseudo-births" that keep you in the game.
My opinion: the revival-based mechanic is a clear winner. The game needs to be built around this, for several key reasons.
- Villagers are not meant to be disposable. This isn't Starcraft or Command and Conquer where you just throw away your units. It's a lot more like XCOM or Faster-than-Light. Each individual villager is a sophisticated individual with many traits. If you're getting a new villager every two minutes, like I am at day 30, you simply can't keep up with everyone. Villagers become units; houses become baby factories. Therefore, there needs to be a low birthrate.
- There must be constant deaths, or the constant threat of total collapse. Yet, the game would not be interesting as a tower-defense simulator. I've played XCOM (the DOS one) and Xenonauts run-throughs where I become untoutchable, and it's just not fun. Faster than Light is fun because one, *singular*, incorrect decision ends the game. The threat of instant annihilation is fun, and the game is rather difficult to beat until you get the hang of it.
- You need an upper-bound on expansion, and it's nice to have a system of "shields" that prevent the player from dying (or, in this case, that preserve your leveled-up villagers). This is where the revival system truly shines, because it does both jobs for you in one mechanic. In my world map play-through, I've reached 30 days and 300 people on the first map. Well, due to the nature of exponential expansion, that's it. I've won the game, because I can insta-warp in 100 villagers to any new settlement and establish an impenetrable fortress in no time. You *could* try to balance the game through by tweaking the monster rate and hoping that increasing monsters will limit player growth, but I think that's almost an impossible task. Instead, reward flawless play with a very small amount of growth. Punish failure heavily. I think that this is what will make your game fun and possibly the next FTL.
- In Rogue and Nethack, your little ASCII happy face was the Rogue. He descends each floor of the dungeon.
- In Faster-than-Light, your ship was the Rogue. It hops from star-system to star-system, each star acting like a dungeon floor. But unlike Rogue, in which you can just descend only to the level below, in FTL, you have a choice about which star-system you wish to visit next.
- In RPC, your population is the Rogue. Through the use of Limbo (the other key feature that makes this all possible), your villagers hop from settlement to settlement. But, unlike in Rogue AND FTL, your village is not a monolithic entity. You can effectively "split up your Rogue" into two, or even more, entities that simultaneously operate on two separate maps. It's like the next higher dimension of Rogue-likeness.
Fig 1. The red dots slowly follow you to the end. You have to keep settling new villages and abandoning old ones before you get Engulfed.
The golden formula is that the rate of mob-advancement on the world map is proportional to the maximum number of births you can have per week. This single formula balances the game. Perfect play yields moderate growth. On average you're getting one new birth per village site. By the end of the game, after you've visited all 7 parts of the world map, you have maybe doubled or tripled your population and levelled everyone up. Revival will save your, but it won't stop you from being overrun.
So, yeah this is a pretty all-encompassing suggestion, but I hope you at least consider it.