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Dev Blog: Fuel for War - Resources Part 1

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Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm
Tagged: hegemonyrome devblog conceptart screenshot

We've dropped a few hints so far at some of the resource changes in Rome, but today we're going to dig into some details. On the surface, we've got a new wood resource that you'll be harvesting and spending to build some of those engineering marvels Caesar was famous for. But, there's also a lot of subtler changes we've made to improve the strategy in the game and we're going to look at some of those as well.

But first off, here are the basics on wood: it's produced at logging camps, transported via supply lines, stored in forts/cities, and consumed to construct walls, upgrades, ships and siege equipment. It's something of a combination between food and recruits and its purpose is to support a new stage of development once you've satisfied your basic needs for food, gold and units. In other words, once you've captured a position, wood will let you fortify it, customize its strengths with upgrades, and build more powerful units to let you take on tougher enemy positions.

That said, gathering wood can't always be an afterthought - defending a city with walls, for example, is usually more cost effective than training a similar number of units, and constructing an upgrade that reduces rebellions might be the best option to maintain control over a hostile city.


New logging camps require workers or slaves to produce wood

Interesting Choices

And it's obviously those kind of decisions that are really at the core of any strategy game and that's what we try to encourage whenever we make design changes. Which is why we weren't really satisfied with the mechanics for collecting resources in the earlier games. Whenever you'd capture a new city in Gold, you'd immediately capture all of the nearby farms, connect them up to your city, and then you were done. To borrow a line from another game designer, there really were no “interesting choices” to be made.

Our solution to this was to make all resources in Rome more like mines. Rather than just producing food automatically, farms (and also logging camps) now require that you assign workers or slaves to operate them. While this was something a lot of our testers intuitively tried to do anyways, the major advantage for gameplay is that players can no longer have everything and you've got to decide, for example, to spend those precious few recruits on new combat units or for workers to harvest food, wood or gold.


Farmers will stop production when enemy units get too close

Raid and Pillage

To further increase your options, we've also carried over the ability to disrupt and raid farms to all other resource buildings so that those pesky raiders will also be burning your mines and logging camps as well. And for consistency, mines will no longer be exempt from lengthy supply lines – all resource production is now penalized based on the length of the supply line. We've also eliminated the limit on the number of supply lines you can connect and gotten rid of their construction time since neither really added anything strategic to the game and we prefer a simpler ruleset whenever possible.

Some of the other changes you'll notice are that the mobile sheep flocks have been replaced with a fixed cattle farm (no more AI sheep wars), farms no longer have their own supply radius, and workers and slaves no longer carry food. But the resupply changes are probably a topic all by themselves so we'll leave that for a later date (or for the forums if you can't wait).

Stay tuned for next week - we'll be doing things a little differently. There won't be a regular blog post since Rick, Philippe and I are heading over to Germany to take in GamesCom, but we're still hoping to have some news to post for you.

Cheers!

Prev Blog: Concept Art - Designing The Enemy
Next Blog: An Army Marches on its Stomach - Resources Pt 2

Level 8 Human Lord-General
Alignment: Lawful
Location: Western Australia
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

You know, funnily enough I was actually thinking of suggesting some of these exact same changes earlier this week whilst pouring 25+ hours in to Hegemony Gold this week. Playing through the Philip of Macedon campaign again, I was thinking about how often armies were drawn from the populace that also worked the land. During the early (Roman) Republican era the army, before the reforms of Gaius Marius, was drawn from the land owners, often farmers.

The Republic eventually got itself in to a situation where many farms were left desolate and unused due to the number of wars and casualties sustained. It had to resort to lowering the barriers to entry in to the army to gain much needed manpower. Whilst fortunately the food situation was not quite so horrendous, as the nobility profited by acquiring the land and put it back to work, probably with all the slaves coming in from all these wars (if I remember correctly). Obviously this parallel applies to many ancient tribes and states, like the Greek City States.

Is there still time for changes to be made to the recruits (manpower) system? Whether before release, with a release day patch, or post-release through a patch? Watching a few Hegemony Gold Let's Plays reveals that often players constantly switch the hometowns of their units, an oft seen example is to reinforce one, or several, damaged units back up to full strength.

Now that seems like tedious and pointless micromanagement when Longbow Games could amalgamate the Global Unit Pool of the original Hegemony and the Recruits system of Hegemony Gold and have a global manpower pool from which to draw from, see most Paradox Interactive developed games for example. The other possibility would be to marry the current system with the suggestion, so units draw from a settlement's local manpower pool whilst being recruiting and then draw from a global manpower pool whilst reinforcing, so as to limit the exploitable ability to recruit full strength units near to the battlefront.

Though if this aforementioned situation is bending the system in unforeseen and ways the designers did not intend, perhaps units need to be locked to whichever settlement they are recruited from.

P.S: One last thing, you haven't announced who your publisher is yet have you? Just that as one of the staff at Heavengames and someone who wishes to see the Hegemony series prosper I was curious if there was some way to mutually benefit or help further. Though definitely going to publish this as front page news either way.

Level 7 Human Misanthropic Aficionado
Alignment: Chaotic
Location: The Jungle
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm

These sound like some awesome improvements. I'm glad to see mines get rebalanced based on the length of their supply line. In Hegemony Gold I often found myself upgrading supply lines attached to mines to their maximum capacity to create a penalty for connecting them over such a distance. Otherwise the player could just connect mines from all over to cities like Pella, which often had some vacant land nodes.

Although, like most information, this blog post raises even more questions from me.

You say that resource production is penalized. Is that specific to mines, or can lumber camps and farms not stockpile resources on site?

How are cattle farms unique or diverse from crop fields? Does their output vary according to different seasons? Do they generally produce more or less?

Finally, I'm curious what you'll be up to at GamesCom. Is Longbow hosting a booth, or is your group there just to take in the sites?

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Watching a few Hegemony Gold Let's Plays reveals that often players constantly switch the hometowns of their units

I agree that's not really something we wanted to encourage. In the initial design for the recruit system in Gold you couldn't change a unit's home city, but through playtesting we found that was far too limiting and so we added the option to change it and tried to make it as simple as possible via the asset list.

In general I like the idea that recruits are a local resource so that when you're under siege you've only got the resources at hand to work with. And it's also important in Rome, for example, that your captured Britons aren't used to train new legions. However, I do have a few ideas still to tweak the system that we're still testing and maybe we'll get into those more in an upcoming blog.

One last thing, you haven't announced who your publisher is yet have you? Just that as one of the staff at Heavengames and someone who wishes to see the Hegemony series prosper I was curious if there was some way to mutually benefit or help further. Though definitely going to publish this as front page news either way.

Nope, although the announcement should be very soon. Thanks for the link. We're coordinating our PR efforts through our publisher now, but if you've got some ideas on something we could do together let me know and I'll see what we can do.

Although, like most information, this blog post raises even more questions from me.

I appreciate that I dropped a lot of teasers in that post, but we're trying to keep them relatively short and leave the follow ups for the comments.

You say that resource production is penalized. Is that specific to mines, or can lumber camps and farms not stockpile resources on site?

Yep, you read that correctly. Resource buildings only produce now and no longer store resources locally. This was made to simplify the resupply mechanics and reduce the number of overlapping radii on the map. To compensate, forts and cities now have much larger resupply ranges that adapt to the terrain (extend further over open fields than into mountain passes). You can still pillage a farm to grab resources in the field without setting up a camp, but this does inflict inflict damage on the farm and can't be kept up indefinitely.

How are cattle farms unique or diverse from crop fields? Does their output vary according to different seasons? Do they generally produce more or less?

We're still tweaking this based on play testing, but one of the most obvious differences right now is that cattle farms produce food consistently all year, while grain farm production varies significantly throughout the year like they did in gold.

Finally, I'm curious what you'll be up to at GamesCom. Is Longbow hosting a booth, or is your group there just to take in the sites?

GamesCom is really out of our league for hosting our own booth. However, and I think I'm safe to say this at this point, our publisher does have a good presence at the show and we'll be hanging around their booth talking about Rome and hopefully doing some demos for the press.

Level 7 Human Misanthropic Aficionado
Alignment: Chaotic
Location: The Jungle
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 7:16 pm

You can still pillage a farm to grab resources in the field without setting up a camp, but this does inflict inflict damage on the farm and can't be kept up indefinitely.That's interesting. Does the pillage mechanic also apply to the lumber camps or will the player have to resort to that abhorred practice of honest labor to acquire wood?
GamesCom is really out of our league for hosting our own booth. However, and I think I'm safe to say this at this point, our publisher does have a good presence at the show and we'll be hanging around their booth talking about Rome and hopefully doing some demos for the press. That sounds really cool. I hope you guys have fun. Should we start speculating about a possible interview or gameplay footage?

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Does the pillage mechanic also apply to the lumber camps or will the player have to resort to that abhorred practice of honest labor to acquire wood?

Unfortunately there is no pillaging wood ... unit's don't carry wood on their own, it's only transported to where you need with supply lines. It is also the most "difficult" resource to transport long distance e.g. it has the highest penalties per km.

Should we start speculating about a possible interview or gameplay footage?

I hope so, but we won't know for sure until we get there.

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 7:13 am

When we will now something about sandbox?
Will AI will bi more agresive and will attack each other?

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

When we will now something about sandbox?
Will AI will bi more agresive and will attack each other?


Yep, we've completely rebuilt the sandbox AI for Rome so it will be playing with the same rules and goals as the player. This means they'll be both attacking and allying with each other while trying to conquer the map. We are also planning to have a few options to control how aggressive the AI will be so you can also tweak it to be more like the original games if you want.

We'll definitely do a blog focused on the sandbox at some point, but in the meantime feel free to post any questions to the forums.

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 6:27 pm

It is also the most "difficult" resource to transport long distance e.g. it has the highest penalties per km.

It isn't really that more difficult to transport if you are creative enough: If there's a river (flowing in the right direction, of course), make a raft out of it and let one of the woodcutters steer it down the river to its destination! (My father once told me about some guy he knew that did exactly that job)
Other examples I could imagine: Transporting logs (or every ware, perhaps) downhill could give a bonus while transporting them uphill could give a malus, e.g. you can send more logs/week from the lumber camp to the city if the city is beneath the lumber camp (e.g. by raising the minimum length at which the "transport decay" starts) and you can send less respectively if it's vice-versa. Could be something like adding in a solely x/y-dependant road length calculation (so, only the plane without the height), and then adding +1/3 of the height difference between two waypoints of the road if it is an ascending part of the road or substracting -1/4 of the height difference if the part of the road is descending. That would lead to a higher length if the road has two or more equally long ascending and descending parts, which would mean: The road that heads down the valley and up into the mountain on the other side again is more difficult to walk on than an equally long road in the middle of a vast plain. Which is quite realistic, I think. But you will have to decide if it is worth the effort...

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm

It isn't really that more difficult to transport if you are creative enough:

True, but we still wanted to encourage the player to gather it locally rather than ship it across the empire because that fits better with how they actually would have used it e.g. a legion would have harvested the closest forest to build their camp even if they had a large stockpile a hundred miles away.

If there's a river (flowing in the right direction, of course), make a raft out of it and let one of the woodcutters steer it down the river to its destination!

Yep, there will be bonuses to transporting resources down rivers - and there are a lot of rivers in the game. I hadn't thought about differentiating the bonus based on the direction though - it could be interesting and should be fairly intuitive.

Amusingly, I think a lot of Canadian kids of my generation are familiar with the idea thanks to a national film board animation they used to play incessantly on tv between cartoons to try and teach us some history.

Transporting logs (or every ware, perhaps) downhill could give a bonus while transporting ...

An interesting idea, my only concern is whether there are enough instances of noticeable elevation differences between logging camps and forts to warrant teaching the mechanic to players.

Level 7 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful good
Location: German-speaking part of Europe
Posted on August 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

An interesting idea, my only concern is whether there are enough instances of noticeable elevation differences between logging camps and forts to warrant teaching the mechanic to players.

You could just make the road walkers/wagons move faster downhill and slower uphill. If you can implement that distance modifier for each individual road without too much effort, then I think the acceleration/slowdown of the walk animation would not be much more time-consuming...

What could cause problems is the fact that this modifier would only be used in "one-way roads" in this concept, while the transport of wares from town to town would still be equal in both ways. So it could easily be mistaken for a half-implemented feature. I think, to look really consistent and complete, the feature should be added or for every road in both directions (if applicable) or not at all.

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Lawful evil
Location: ostia
Posted on September 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I understand this is a bit off topic, but how will the senate and politics back in Rome affect game play. Such as approval for taking certain areas or warring against proscribed tribes; will unsanctioned actions have consequences? Will population limits for the consul be dictated by senatorial favor or will Gaius be able to swell his number of legions to any amount so long as his gold allows it? Just wondering how political the game is set to be.

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Just wondering how political the game is set to be.

The gameplay in Rome is still focused on military campaigning because we didn't want to get distracted from what Hegemony's really about by adding a lot of new political mechanics. However, obviously the politics going on back in Rome played a crucial role and we've tried to tell that story as close as possible in the campaigns through the cutscenes, objectives and in-game dialogue. Where this affects the gameplay the most I suppose is in determining what legions you have at different points in the campaign as we've tried to keep that accurate to Caesar's accounts.

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I know its too late for me to be mentioning this, but what about stone?

Level 17 Extraplanar gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I know its too late for me to be mentioning this, but what about stone?

We did consider adding a stone resource since it can admittedly feel a little odd to construct stone walls using wood. But, while food and wood have enough differences to justify the extra complexity, adding stone just gave you something else to track without really adding any new strategies.

We also considered calling wood a more generic 'construction material' but we found that was just too awkward. And, with the exception of stone fortifications, pretty much everything was wood anyways. In the end our artists decided just to add some extra wood details to the stone walls so it felt a little more consistent.

Level 6 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on September 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm

ok, just wondering thank u. =D