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Feedback - on Lumber, Food, and mud(?)

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Hello, and first of all, thank you for the kindness of offering a free demo. As an old-ish person, I missed the times when we could get a taste of a game without much trouble (besides stacks of demo cds, hah) and without pirating.
I thought a bit about the game, both after browsing the forums and the steam community; had somethings that I didn't see registered, and decided to post them here. Going to break them up on topics so that they might be easier to keep up with. So I'll try to not raise the same points - order of building/worker allocation, dismantling vs destroying, mirrorring buildings, all of that would be nice QoL improvements that have been raised already.

General Feedback

- The gameplay loop is very effective; I got hooked pretty much immediately. I'm a fan of these kinds of "survival settlement building" games, and even though I don't play all of them for lack of time, I felt some pretty strong Banished/Kingdoms and Castles (K&C) and some Frostpunk vibes there. Good vibes, though! The game might need a bit of tweaking for balance, but the pacing of building and growth seems ok for now, it feels the rate of growth is neither too slow or fast. Also the pressure is not from "aggressive forces outside" (as K&C has with ogres and vikings), but from the environment itself.

- Dry/Wet cycles: it's very good that they constrain growth, force some urgency and planning, and make it rewarding to survive a dry season; but it'd be nice to know with more precision how long each season might be. Either that or, like in Frostpunk, have a science/tech building that helps to predict how long they might be. It could go both ways; if the seasons have some unpredictability, they might add a sense of danger to the game - an extra day or two on a dry season can spell death to the colony, on a wet season they could be a blessing; if the seasons are predictable/very regular (say, 15 days wet, 8 or so days dry), it might allow for some "gamey" gameplay, in the sense of number-crunching to only spend the minimum effort possible and optimize the survival, but it'd make it easier for the first runs.

This "Meteorological Station" could have a "building" that made a forecast, for a cost in science, or a "project", like drawing water or building, that when completed would give you an accurate(-ish) prediction of how long the next season would be.

- It's nice that the foodstuffs are very basic, and that "advanced" food can give the beavers bonuses, as it's an incentive to grow different foods but not a necessity. Potatoes for storage, Carrots for everyday use, wheat/bread for the bonuses, maybe? Reminds me of K&C, with their fish/pigs/fruit/bread balance for a healthy diet! That makes for some roleplaying possibilities, like a dreary opressive colony that only plants carrots and grows extensively, not efficiently, or a run where space is limited, so only productivity-dense things ought to be planted.

Still about nutrition, I'd like to ask whether the food/water needs are  stable among beavers or do they vary with activity? Does every beaver consume, let's say, a standard two units water, two units food every day (didn't make the calculations) or does this ammount vary with the type of labour executed? I ask that because it wasn't easily noticeable for me when my food or water stocks were lowering; knowing how much each beaver consumes per day would be useful for general planning. It'd also be nice to have in the UI some indication of resource production vs consumption ratios, at least for a bit of the previous period; it needs not be some realtime counter, I think; it could also be a ledger with the last 3-5 days and the consumption/production of resources listed, both gross and net. That'd make it easier to keep track of what needs to be expanded or not, especially food and water, and by how much.

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- Trees: Not having many options besides birch trees make the demo hard, but I think some of the "exaggerated" pressure I saw some people report and complain on steam stems more from the two-season constraint (and the frustration therof caused); it's hard to chop and/or plant enough wood effectively enough to do absolutely *EVERYTHING* on the demo, but.. that's the point of a demo, not having everything. As for the other types of trees, I read someone commenting about gatekeeping them with science; I agree that that would be a good idea, since otherwise it might be harder to justify planting Birches vs. Pines initially, since the time difference is slight and the pine gives 1,5x the wood/day it takes to grow. Also, speeding the birch growth rate might make it unbeatable (Go Birch Racer go!), since after the first growth cycle one'd have a steady and quick-growing supply of birch. The only disadvantage would be the area necessary for large amounts of lumber, since the lumber "density" of birch is very low per area. In the endgame it would probably become nigh impossible to mantain a large lumber consumption in a spread-out city without denser woods, since the most distant plots of birches might be too far to be efficiently used without "sattelite" colonies dedicated to felling and transporting lumber.

- Trees pt.2, the flowering - There is a topic on the forums about adding new types of trees, both flowering and fruit trees. I think that'd be a good idea, but it'd have to take account of both wood and nutrition density per area and per day. As an example, an "fruit tree", generic at first, could take about the same time as a Maple to mature, and generate about 1 crop per wet season or 1 log when cut; a "Flowering" tree could take about the same time to mature, and then give a bonus to their surroundings, as shrubs do, also having a "lumber value" of 1 log; their flowers could be temporary, lasting for 5-6 days after the beginning of the wet season; it could mark a kind of "spring" for the beavers; and their cutting could make for good emergent stories - "The season where we had to cut all our Handroanthus to cook potatoes" or something.

- Trees, pt.3, the researching: All the plant research could be concentrated in a different science building, something like an "agricultural institute" if the science system changes to a "tech tree"/"real-resource" based one instead, or have this building as a requirement in addition to science points to unlock different varieties of trees.

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- Stairs, pt.1: I'd guess the research cost of stairs in the demo was tweaked so that the gameplay verticality would take a bit to set in, especially because both maps are not so vertical-heavy; building and organizing things horizontally in the tutorial helps to get the basic "surviving" mechanics running before one can start thinking about heavy landscaping, building-stacking and dam-making. Also, for a demo, if stairs were too cheap, one'd just plonk lots of stairs everywhere on the plains map for a very transport-inneficient but dead-lumber-rich first wet season.

- Stairs, pt.2: I don't think internal stairs for lodges would be too interesting as an alternative to stacking lodges with scaffolding outside. If implemented, they probably should be locked behind tech, otherwise there would be scarce reason other than material costs to use anything other than stacked lodges to overcome any kind of height. Part of the challenge in the beginning is to adapt the buildings to the landscape, and only later can we alter the landscape heavily to favor the beavers.
Internal stairs would also beg the question, would they function as a way for beavers to access the building's roof, both while it is being constructed and after? Would higher floors grant exits to the outside around it? If that was so, external stairs could become kind of moot for many uses, unless the cost keeps a lid on using stacks of buildings with internal stairs instead of external ones. Since internal stairs would require no extra space to get the beavers up, unlike roads and external stairs, they'd be a bit too useful, combining housing and access platforms. I ask this also because the "normal" lodge does not allow the beavers to exit through the roof, and being able to do so would be very advantageous. In the demo plain map as an example, one could acess the dry pine grove by simply stacking two lodges one over the other, and then the 1st maple grove by doing the same. No need to have a waterwheel then a mill to make planks and then stairs, just plonk a bunch of stacked lodges with doors oriented toward the exits on higher ground.

- Stairs pt.3: An alternative to internal stairs in buildings could be advanced external stairs that also worked as platforms, kind of in a "Z" shape; that could allow for vertical stair-stacking and make the "khrushchyovka"/tower block design both viable and a bit more visually appealing, with a bunch of lodges with a lot of scaffolding on its face made up of platforms and stairs. That'd also help with heavily vertical maps with lots of height differences. The buildings would look a bit like old NY buildings, those with external fire escapes. It'd be also easier to make "stepped" clusters of housing, with upper levels offset one block from the lower, creating a kind of broad pyramidal shape, whenever the terrain allowed for it.

- Stairs, pt. 4, the shovelling: I don't know if this has been suggested, but one way of keeping actual stairs as an "advanced-ish item" could be having "mud" structures as an labour-intensive early alternative. One could build slopes via bulding mechanics, but it'd take a beaver let's say, a whole day (16h) instead of 4 planks and a log, and have no movement speed bonus. Same with digging holes as an alternative to explosives to open channels and such, taking let's say, 24h of work instead of one explosive charge - Moving two cubic meters¹ of dirt, mud and roots is hard, hard labour after all. If that'd sound too unrealistic - ("Where does the dirt go?!"), that could be a mechanic that'd extract one "block" of ground and take it elsewhere, or create one unit of "dirt", or "earthbags", that could be used to make slopes or earthen barriers/walls with a bit of lumber. These excavation techniques could even be used to make "caves", or a lodge covered with dirt blocks and embedded in a wall into the hills. A "hobbit-beaver-den" of sorts!
¹: I'm supposing the beavers are double their "normal" size, about 1m tall discounting their tails, and that one square'd have a 2m side.

Edited by mmek
Some typesetting mistakes
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Ideas beyond the actually-existing game
- Low-tech beavers: On the 'mudtech' note, are there plans for a 'low-tech' faction? The standard beavers on the demo seem to have a kind of european/american 17-18th century level of development, and the "iron" beavers seem to have more of an 19th century vibe. I was thinking about going in the other direction, with labour-heavy buildings and techniques, and a faction that worked around that - "diggers" of sorts; with a higher stamina/labour efficiency, but with less access to "advanced" technology and more labour-intensive techniques; They could have a Shaduf instead of a water pump to move water (to raise water from lower to higher levels, not purify it), buid housing embedded to cliffs, akin to the ancient pueblans, and plant corn and beans; maybe even have a rain cycle instead of a river cycle, with water pooling on lower elevations. That'd even make them some sort of "drylands/desert beavers", using less lumber but a lot more labour. They could even have some Çatalhöyük spark and not have lots of roads, but roof accesses to their homes to save space and have denser dwellings. I apologize for approaching "that's a whole other game" territory, sorry, just got a bit carried out here!
(here's a video of a shaduf being operated)

- Some possible references for the future: With the blocky-square lodges, my first instinct was to build an Ancient Pueblo-like village, using the terrain as much as possible and with as much verticality as possible. Çatalhöyük could be an inspiration, as well as the Indus valley civilization Cities - all peoples very much concerned with water storage and management. I also json-cheated one save to have tons of explosives to try and make a stepwell, in the indian style, but had not enough time to do so. That'd have looked very neat.

- Some map suggestions: it'd be interesting to have some very vertical maps, let's say, a crater disconnected from the river, where it'd be easy to store water but demanding a canal to be built; an almost vertical "shaft" demanding either landscaping/explosives or platform-building to open spaces to use; a kind of Machu Picchu map, very vertical/high elevation, with terraces for agriculture/tree farming and space at a premium; or even a map with very low elevation and easily flooded terrain through most of the map, and a nigh-vertical cliff face on the other side, demanding an opposite kind of water management - either digging and pumping or dike/polder building (or both) to recover lower ground from excess water. That could come in "Netherlands" or "Nile" flavours, depending on the elevation relative to the water table.

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Sorry for the walls of text, I got a bit too excited about the game 😦, and thanks again to the devs for your work!

I'm thinking about buying the game as soon as it hits on early access, and look forward to see where the Dev team will take it. It seems to have a lot of potential, and the setting has a charm of its own.

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