[Gameplay] [Discussion] City Building: too complicated or not enough so? Two schools of thought.

By on June 13, 2010 10:57:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Beric01

Join Date 01/2009
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So I'm a little disturbed at how the cities are going right now. It seems we have two distinct camps, And I thought we could consolidate the discussion on the level of complication of the city-building element (no pun intended) of this game.

 

On the one hand we have: Complicate it still further

Frogboy seems heavily in this camp, and seems to have asked us how to do this. For example, Frogboy has asked us to think up additional building that can be built next to the current plethora of buildings to further complement the existing buildings. He has also stated that he believes housing to be relatively simple as it is. Others have also suggested that food is supposed to be a rare resource, hence making it normal to build 5-10 gardens in every city. The devs also seem fine with stretching a city across the map to reach that one rare resource.

 

On the other hand we have: It's too complicated already

Many other have noticed the focus on garden-building and house-building. It seems that first 1 workshop for materials, then 2 gardens, then 1 hut, must be built before even considering other types of buildings. Then you need research, money, prestige - there's no thought to it - you just have to build it all. And yet food is so rare, you're forced to flood a city with gardens. So you may not even have much room to get that research/materials city you wanted. Cities also seem to look like a mess - it's hard to tell buildings apart, and the square-based build with no room in between the buildings looks unnatural.

 

In the interests of making this readable, I'v kept the sides short. But please add more info to your side, or develop another side if you think we have one.

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June 13, 2010 11:09:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I originally thought they wanted to get away from complexity in city building, but now it seems they are LOOKING for ways to make that aspect more strategic.

I would prefer to keep the city building simpler if other parts of the game contribute the strategy, but as of now it is tough to say where and how much complexity will be contributed by those other systems. If the RPG side is 'lite' then I can see needing more strategy coming from city building.

 

For me, make city building basic and have research, combat and exploration be where the tactics come in. There are already enough town-building RTS games out there.

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June 13, 2010 11:20:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm not sure if I feel it's "complicated" but it is tedious.  Busy work.  Often times I don't feel like there is any point for me to manually place the buildings.  Sins of Solar Empire, for example, had an "auto-place" toggle for structures that might be useful for people like me who don't want to play SimCity.  The tedium becomes painful when there are more than two or three cities to deal with.  Worst of all is when you conquer computer owned cities and you have to sort through whatever mess they made in managing their cities.  A breakdown of the buildings in a city, and the bonuses which they provide, would help greatly.

I think the distribution of gameplay at the moment is heavily slanted towards city micromanaging

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June 13, 2010 11:21:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Beta 2 is my first taste of the game, so I don't know all the tricks & info from Beta 1.

It's probably a bit early to say, but I like the complexity (so far) of city building so far.  My number one problem with city building is knowing what everything does.  Some is obvious - I build near an Oasis, and can't build the "Oasis" city structure.  It shows up on the build list in gray, and the requirement for 50 materials in red clearly shows I need to stockpile some.  Some is totally not obvious - I build next to a crystal resource, research Crystal Harvesting, and yet it does not show up on any build list - until I also research Forges.  Or maybe it was because my city level increased to 2.

A lot of my confusion stems from a lack of information about what each building requires to build.  Is there any kind of in-game civopedia, listing info on research, buildings, etc?  I have only found the Hiergamenon, which shows very, very limited info.

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June 13, 2010 11:24:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't see that city building as complicated at all. Things are a bit cumbersome, but it's not hard to figure out what you need to do.

Also, the devs have said they DO NOT want cities to snake in all kinds of directions to accumulate resources, which is why they introduced the pioneer unit to secure resources outside your cities' reach.

I think all that needs to be changed is the available city space vs food vs housing. That along with making cities look less blocky would go a long way to improve things imo.

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June 13, 2010 11:50:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

i am in the "make it more complicated" camp.  this is a PC game and a strategy game, i want it to have as much depth as possible.  i like the idea of adjacency and merging.  it would be nice if they included a city manager that could take over some of these tasks for the people that doesn't want so much complication.

I do agree that more balancing is necessary to alleviate the current problems people are having.

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June 13, 2010 11:55:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

City building needs two things:

1)  Some randomization among the graphics to make cities look like cities (and distinct cities at that) and not sprawling masses of tiles.  Each tile is beautiful individually, but they don't mesh well.  As the city grows, little roads should develop, people should be walking about, the tiles shouldn't all be facing the same way.  That sort of thing would go a long way to making the cities look better without adding anything to the complexity.

2)  Frogboy has already said that they can add buildings that effect nearby buildings.  Doing this would go a long way towards making city building less tedious.  At the moment the only thing that matters when placing city tiles is whether or not you're trying to get to a particular resource.  If buildings had adjacency bonuses and/or if they could grow into other buildings (four schools in a 2x2 block become a university, four gardens some sort of farm, etc) then tile placement would actually matter.  There would be a reason for you to be placing each little block in the city.  Right now you have to place each block individually, but you don't get much reward for that effort. 

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June 13, 2010 12:12:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Personally, I would agree that complexity isn't really the issue at hand, if anything it's not complex enough, because you don't really have to think about where or what you are building, you lack interest in your cities, this is not helped by lots of buildings that do essentially the same thing, as well as the horrifically ugly nature of the cities themselves, not the individual designs, simply the "I am square building stuck randomly in square with a bunch of other square buildings". 

As to there being an issue with needing to build lots of gardens, having not experienced it, frankly I think you get what you deserve, if you build a city where there is no food, then what are you expecting? My unfounded guess would be that many people are still just building cities in where ever there starting location happens to be, instead of going looking for a good location

Housing is more a interesting issue, my personal opinions is that you shouldn't have to build crap housing, slums specifically, they should auto build as your population turns up, noting much of your population is supposed to be immigrants from the wasteland, for you to then replace with good housing should you care to, I mean this is why slums exist. One of the actual city builder games does it like this, I just cant remember which one.

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June 13, 2010 12:16:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Count me in the "add more complexity" camp.  I do hope Frogboy can find a way to make building placement matter.  In general, I'd like more decisions, rather than fewer, when building cities.

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June 13, 2010 12:16:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Kantok,
City building needs two things:

1)  Some randomization among the graphics to make cities look like cities (and distinct cities at that) and not sprawling masses of tiles.  Each tile is beautiful individually, but they don't mesh well.  As the city grows, little roads should develop, people should be walking about, the tiles shouldn't all be facing the same way.  That sort of thing would go a long way to making the cities look better without adding anything to the complexity.

 

I agree with this, but didn't Frogboy say they were holding off on some of the city-related eye-candy until release? If so, such a thing might already be in the game. If not though, I'd also like to see little paths and roads show up between the tiles so that the cities actually look...'connected' and some randomized features on some of the tiles would be nice - especially the ones that we have to build a lot of (i.e. farms etc.)

As for simplifying things, well I don't see how its exactly 'complicated' at the moment except for the fact that building info and descriptions aren't in for all of the buildings in the game yet - which I could see leading to some confusion. Especially considering the fact that some of the tiles give exactly the same bonuses. With that said, I'd rather see city-building get more added depth and more complicated then see it simplified.

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June 13, 2010 12:24:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Terraziel,

Housing is more a interesting issue, my personal opinions is that you shouldn't have to build crap housing, slums specifically, they should auto build as your population turns up, noting much of your population is supposed to be immigrants from the wasteland, for you to then replace with good housing should you care to, I mean this is why slums exist. One of the actual city builder games does it like this, I just cant remember which one.

I like this idea. I'd also like to see population growth even if you don't have enough housing down but as long as you have enough food and prestige, creating the above mentioned slums and such (while lowering your cities prestige and therefore reducing the population growth over time if you don't replace the slums with ordinary housing.)

I think this would make the cities feel much more organic and 'alive' while also helping the pacing of the game by reducing the wait between city stages (since population growth wouldn't halt when you run out of materials for housing or while housing is being constructed.)

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June 13, 2010 12:28:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Terraziel,

As to there being an issue with needing to build lots of gardens, having not experienced it, frankly I think you get what you deserve, if you build a city where there is no food, then what are you expecting? My unfounded guess would be that many people are still just building cities in where ever there starting location happens to be, instead of going looking for a good location

I kind of agree,  I always seem to be moving my Sovereign to a place with some sort of food resource at the beginning of the game.  The last game I played my first four cities all were placed near a food resource, be it Bees, Oasis, Farm, or Orchard.  Like you I have not had the "gardens taking up all my tiles" problem that is reported heavily on these forums.

In fairness, the game at the moment has pretty tough monsters which can contain the sovereign to his starting location, and makes finding a good spot tough.  Further, many probably have background in games like Civ 4, Gal Civ, or AoW, in which either you were given a city right away, or at least an ideal starting location.  This game reminds a bit more of Fall From Heaven.  In fall from heaven your first settler had expanded capabilities, more movement per turn and greater sight range, because finding a good spot for your first city was so important. 

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June 13, 2010 1:10:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think that city building should be more complicated, less...busy work. No one wants to start each city off the same way, but instead cities should be reactive to where they are and what they are meant to be.

I see a few ways to do this...

  • Governor/Mayor Method - this revolves around allowing us to click the 'governor/mayor' button, tell it what to favor building, and let the AI build our city for us. Alpha Centauri had this method, and it was extremely wonderful - especially since you could not just say to build buildings, but by setting the governor to a particular focus (exploration, expansion, conquest or discovery) you could have a city turn into something. Exploration cities would focus on producing scout-like units and spies; expansion would build terraformers to enhance the land in your control and produced colony pods to build new cities; conquest produced a mixture of attack/defense units that protected your territory on their own (without player direction, I mean) and discovery focused a city on reseaerch/development. It kept the city building complicated enough, and you could at any time change what a city was doing. If we do this, I'd also favor automated units - I am a mage, not a general.
  • Natural Building Method - This method favors things coming naturally to a city, based on what it's about and where it's at. In this method, there is basically a split between the cities. You have the 'inner city', which is within your walls, and the 'outer city' which is...not in your walls. The outer city will grow with your city as it sees fit. Houses and farms will spring up outside your walls, taverns will be created in people-dense areas, if your city has a lot of trade going on a market will be created, etc. Inside the walls, you are free to direct the city as you will. Build up a city to be a walled fortress, or build up mansions, museums and academies to attract the highborn. Perhaps make it a 'city of scholars'. This revolves around natural growth based on what's around. If I build a harbor, for example, people will think harbor = boats = goods = WORK! and homes will naturally spring up around the harbor. This takes out having to build homes on your own unless you want to, for the sake of attracting more people, and leaves you free to design a truly grand city.

In fact, now that I think of it, I'd like to combine them both. Natural Building makes things happen...naturally. I mean, I thought it was fairly foolish that people would actually avoid my city because there wasn't enough housing, and then resume as soon as there was - it made me feel like there was a long line and I was calling out "Number 86! Number 86 your house is ready! Alright...number 87!" which was mildly degrading. Especially because my city was one of a handful in a world where death and destruction are commonplace.

Having a governor/mayor lets the AI build up a city as I wish it to be built. Having the natural building lets the city grow on its own because it WANTS to grow, not because I force it to. And really, even in medieval times it was uncommon for a walled city to have everything inside the walls - usually people would have houses outside, too.

-N

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June 13, 2010 1:20:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm starting to agree that there's too much busywork and not enough complication. Good stuff so far.

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June 13, 2010 1:30:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well there is even 2 more schools of thought when coming to MORE COMPLICATED.

1. More complicated as in adding more micromanagement and things to do.

2. More complicated as in add more strategy.

Right now the game needs #2 for sure. I feel im not getting much from city building. Seems boring.

as far as #1, i wouldnt mind a happiness/loyalty meter to keep people from rioting and destroying stuff

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June 13, 2010 2:46:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Grove12345,
Well there is even 2 more schools of thought when coming to MORE COMPLICATED.

1. More complicated as in adding more micromanagement and things to do.

2. More complicated as in add more strategy.

Right now the game needs #2 for sure. I feel im not getting much from city building. Seems boring.

as far as #1, i wouldnt mind a happiness/loyalty meter to keep people from rioting and destroying stuff

 

This.

 

More complicated as in add more strategy and purpose to what you build and why you build it. Strategy is a double-edge sword. If I chose path X then path Y disappears or is postponed. 

I have stated in other threads that we need to ask ourselves what is this game primarily about? Is it city building? Is it your sovereign and its RPG elements? Is it questing? Is it tactical battles? Can elemental do all these things greatly or should it narrow it down and focus on one or two things. To me the game centers around the sovereign and all that entails. And everything should come secondary to sovereign gameplay.

I will not play elemental for its city building gameplay and never will. When other games provide that. This game is about strategy, questing, war and conquering, and rpg. City building to me should come secondary to all those mechanics. City building should just lay the ground work for all those other things and never once take away from them.

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June 13, 2010 4:33:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting lswallie,

Quoting Grove12345, reply 14Well there is even 2 more schools of thought when coming to MORE COMPLICATED.

1. More complicated as in adding more micromanagement and things to do.

2. More complicated as in add more strategy.

Right now the game needs #2 for sure. I feel im not getting much from city building. Seems boring.

as far as #1, i wouldnt mind a happiness/loyalty meter to keep people from rioting and destroying stuff

I have stated in other threads that we need to ask ourselves what is this game primarily about? Is it city building? Is it your sovereign and its RPG elements? Is it questing? Is it tactical battles? Can elemental do all these things greatly or should it narrow it down and focus on one or two things. To me the game centers around the sovereign and all that entails. And everything should come secondary to sovereign gameplay.

And what exactly is this 'sovereign gameplay'? A Sovereign is a ruler and not just a champion and so citybuilding/empirebuilding is always going to be a big part of the game even if it isn't the focus.

I think it would help though if there was a Governor/Advisor option that would autobuild units and tiles within your city (with the desired goal in mind; i.e. Economic, Military etc) if you so choose so you are not forced to directly deal with citybuilding all of the time.

 

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June 13, 2010 5:03:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

"[Gameplay] [Discussion] City Building: too complicated or not enough so? Two schools of thought."

There is people who knows how to build their cities and people who doesn't. And there is also people who prefers other types of systems of the game (i.e. combat) and prefer to have every other system that he doesn't like to be out of the game or as dumbed down as possible.

I have no trouble with my cities but it obviously takes time to get to know the buildings (damn granary, still trying to figure out the archery range) or how many cities you can have. Certainly there is room for improvement (and make some buildings more significant). With 3 research trees currently capped, I find my cities with less choices to make the available space and forcing me to choose, so I can spam gildar-generators or reserach-generators.

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June 13, 2010 5:56:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There is people who knows how to build their cities and people who doesn't. And there is also people who prefers other types of systems of the game (i.e. combat) and prefer to have every other system that he doesn't like to be out of the game or as dumbed down as possible.

Hehe, well said.

 

----------------

 

I agree with some other posters in here, that the current system is not very strategic, but quite a bit tedious and opaque.

Juggling houses around the cap needed for the next city level isn't much fun. It's necessary to do and if you fail to get enough houses you get punished (by your city stopping to grow) without any choice involved.

I also don't like the arbitary limits for certain buildings. For example workshops. I can build one at a level 1 city and two at a level 2 city. Yay? (Making it possible to build a duplicate of an existing building at a higher level city isn't really much fun imho.)

 

I'd prefer a system where I could do something like this:

I need food to grow one of my bigger cities. So I try to find a food resource. I can't find one though. Thus I build 4 gardens in one big tile which then converts to a farm. This farm doesn't produce as much as one you'd find naturally, so I build a well to bring its production up to normal levels. The farm then allows me to build further buildings to increase food production even more, like mills, grannaries and a bakery. Houses get built automaticaly according to people coming in the city and with the increasing food supply.

 

What we have at the moment is this:

I need food to grow one of my bigger cities. So I try to find a food resource. I can't find one though. Thus I build a garden. And another one, and another one, and another one. Then one house to grow the city to level 2. Then more gardens and a grannary when the city is lvl 2. Some more gardens and 2 more houses. Lvl 3. Even more gardens. Another house for lvl 4. More gardens...

 

Well... that's how I see it atm.

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June 13, 2010 6:28:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Vandenburg,


...I'd prefer a system where I could do something like this:

I need food to grow one of my bigger cities. So I try to find a food resource. I can't find one though. Thus I build 4 gardens in one big tile which then converts to a farm. This farm doesn't produce as much as one you'd find naturally, so I build a well to bring its production up to normal levels. The farm then allows me to build further buildings to increase food production even more, like mills, grannaries and a bakery. Houses get built automaticaly according to people coming in the city and with the increasing food supply...

I don't like this.  Fertile ground, or orchards, etc. are supposed to be special.  Allowing one to essentially recreate fertile ground with buildings takes something away.

My approach is to make sure one of my early cities has food resources, if not my first city then #2 or #3.  And try for multiple food resource cities.

The current map is limited and the mobs are tougher than intended.  Changing parts of the game because of these temporary conditions is not productive.  In release if you don't take the time to settle good starting cities then you should have some penalty, but this isn't release.

That said, I'd like to see Essence be able to take normal ground and turn it fertile.  Take normal animal population and make it 'fertile' -- wild game.  etc.

It'd give another purpose for essence, and make it 'special'.  If it cost ~the same as to place a city it'd make it costly enough to not abuse but not so costly to never be useful.

It'd also make the 'smaller empire' strategy more viable.

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June 13, 2010 7:27:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Strategic depth and difficult choices are good.   Micromanagement that adds little depth and/or requires very little thought but forces the player to take extra steps is just busywork.

I think adjacency bonus stuff like "Place one windmill next to each farm" ends up being a no-brainer -- the only strategy involved is in trying to remember to leave space open for the windmills so you can add them later if you currently can't place them.  And to me, that's just a hassle, not depth.  

What would add real strategic depth?  Hmm, that would need a lot of thought, but some quick ideas:

  • A certain special resource in/near the city can be developed with a choice of benefits (and perhaps even corresponding drawbacks), the selection of which would help focus the city or at least make a difficult choice over which benefit to pick.
  • Similarly, a choice of special improvements that, say, a single one of which can only be built at levels 1, 3  and 5, which provide a focused benefit or which is a prerequisite for certain higher-level improvements.
  • The infrastructure and/or best/most useful improvements of any particular city focus area take long enough or are expensive enough to construct that only the oldest or richest cities can "have it all".
  • Similar to the above, the first focus area for the city has normal costs, but once chosen, buildings from a second focus area cost a bit more, and those from a thrid area even more, etc.
  • Allow "home grown" (ie: locally produced) resources in a city to have more benefit than resources "imported" (ie: generated) from other cities.  This will also help focus cities, based around what's local to them.

 

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June 13, 2010 7:43:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good feedback. We're reading this thread closely.

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June 13, 2010 8:12:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Mkay, what about this...if you've ever played Black and White 2, you'll get it. Basically, when you go to build a farm, the map turns green. Brighter shades of green = more fertility. If you build a farm on fertile land, it'll grow grain faster (B&W had a system where you get grain at a steady income rate) compared to having it on non-fertile land.

Perhaps when we first (first city) restore the land, it's naturally very fertile - we have just single-handedly brought life where only death once was, after all. We can then take advantage of the land's fertility to build farms. If, say, a farm normally gives 10 food, putting it on fertile land gives it a boost - barely fertile land yields +50%, very fertile land +100%. Land that isn't fertile at all gives no bonus. Thus, you are then able to build a farm or two that doesn't require gardenspammage.

Fertile land (the current in-game tile) should be something extremely great to find. Maybe it has its own fertility %, and then doubles that afterwards. Or perhaps building on fertile land (the current in-game tile) gives a city-wide boost to city food production.

My point of view is this - when I was glancing over the wiki, I read about these tiles and thought, "okay, so they're boost tiles". They should be of a massive benefit, rare and something worth fighting over. These tiles shouldn't be necessary for your civilization to flourish.

And, pet peeve of mine...

My capital city is the heart of my empire. My first city is where hundreds flock for salvation in a shattered world. It feels really demeaning that 90% of my city is made up of gardens and makeshift houses...for the rest of my civilization to have any chance.

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June 13, 2010 8:46:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,



Many other have noticed the focus on garden-building and house-building. It seems that first 1 workshop for materials, then 2 gardens, then 1 hut, must be built before even considering other types of buildings. Then you need research, money, prestige - there's no thought to it - you just have to build it all. And yet food is so rare, you're forced to flood a city with gardens. So you may not even have much room to get that research/materials city you wanted. Cities also seem to look like a mess - it's hard to tell buildings apart, and the square-based build with no room in between the buildings looks unnatural.

 

In the interests of making this readable, I'v kept the sides short. But please add more info to your side, or develop another side if you think we have one.

 

I find if I keep following a similar path over and over in a game I start to wonder if it should just be included already into the game. I am not for dumbing down city building at all. If it isn't strategic(giving the player choices that greatly affect their game) or enhances the gameplay then it needs to be reworked. Some believe the problem is in the spaces versus house and garden buildings. Yes if this could be streamlined it would smooth out some gameplay and make the town more visually pleasing. But I think more can be done.

Someone posted about how they lost interest after their 3rd-4th city expansion because knowing all the tedium that will be involved in building up a city, and managing it through an already layered gameplay experience. Games on huge maps could be quite daunting with dozens of cities.  It would also be nice to somehow see quickly and easily what buildings each of your cities already have.

Perhaps in some universal screen we could easily build structures within dozens of cities without actually placing a building down at all and without actually zooming down to each city. The computer or City Manager places the building for you. Perhaps this option you could turn on or off.

Then you could possibly tell the city manager what default buildings you would like to automatically be built upon creating a new settlement or upon conquering one.

You could save these orders as named presets. Econ build, Spell pwr build, warrior rush, tech build, - whatever you want. You save these presets and set all cities or individual citys to begin building your preset. Could be done in the city manager or maybe individually by right clicking your city.

You could then possibly place level of importance on cities. Maybe some cities you could place a high rating of importance so all available resources would build these high important cities first before going down the pecking order. Or there could be medium or normal levels where all resources were divided evenly among all cities build queues.

This still allows the user to completely control city building in all its complexity but with the help of presets that the user designs. I am normally not for any city manager ai that automatically builds things for you. I don't like complete automation. But partial help may be in order.

 

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June 13, 2010 9:27:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Nathikal,
...My capital city is the heart of my empire. My first city is where hundreds flock for salvation in a shattered world. It feels really demeaning that 90% of my city is made up of gardens and makeshift houses...for the rest of my civilization to have any chance.
I'd hate to see significant gameplay changes made because of circumstances unique to the beta (too tough mobs, pre-determined unchanging map).

The food problem can be gotten around -- instead of changing the rules, change the way we're playing.

With only 2 cities, a pop of 2464, and no gardens in either city I still have a surplus of 38 food.

First city is at the bottleneck by an oasis (~middle of the large single-continent map).  Second city near a wild game, beehive, and a sorta-distant fertile ground (that took a while to expand to).

There are other spots on the map where you can get multiple food resources in a city.

Here's a location (SE corner of the map) with an oasis, bees, fertile ground, and fruit all fairly closeby.  Two cities could claim it and have plenty of food without needing any gardens.

It takes a bit of time to find spots and it means not plopping down a city where you start, but that's an important choice to offer -- settle now and start building or wait to find a better spot.  Changing the game by allowing one to get the equivalent of a food resource fairly easily thru buildings removes an important strategic choice.

Instead of making the game easier (by removing a tough choice) change how the game is played -- adapt. 

If there was no way around having to put in multiple gardens then I'd agree it needs changing, but it's not.  And this is with the beta map and too tough mobs -- at release it'll be different.  Don't change things due to temporary circumstances.

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June 13, 2010 9:28:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Haven't read all posts here, but I don't see the issue, really.

There has been a lot of talk regarding the "standard start" thing (you know, starting the game in the same way every time, like researching the same stuff in the same order because of some ultimate progression).

The "complicate it still further" thing really reduces the risk of these "standard starts", because if there are only a few special food tiles in the world, then you'll have to consider whether you want to wander aound and explore until you find a food resource, or if you'll simply settle for a "garden-city" and look for resources later. It depends on whether you get a lucky starting position, and in luck, there's no "standard". It would be different every time.

Now, I'm not saying that only building gardens is any fun, but by adding more kinds of improvements, and, like Frogboy mentioned in a Dev Journal, being able to merge improvements of similar types when putting them close to each other, there would be so many possibilities that worrying about gardens wouldn't really be an issue. Smart city planning would really become key, and cities would be more realistic.

Say, perhaps, that you place a command post, barracks, an archery range and an armory next to each other, and it "morphs" into a "military academy" with stats equaling the former buildings plus bonuses, for example. Imagine how rich the city building would be, almost like a crafting system! And to return to the garden thing, gardens could gain bonuses when placed next to each other, perhaps in a 2x2 set they could become "farmlands" or something, which would have bonuses.

But the most important aspect to this, I think, is that it could remove the need to delete outdated buildings. (The following is just an example for examples' sake, I know it might not be accurate in actual game rules:) If I had four merchant improvements, for example, for a total of 4 gildars per turn covering 2x2, and then researched the market improvement, which is also 2x2 in total size but gives you 6 g per turn, I'd normally have to remove the merchants and replace them with the market for optimal gildar per used tile, which is boring and "micromanagementy". Now, what if the system worked in such a way that the four merchants had merged into a "merchants' quarter" which gives 5 g, and then, when I research the market tech, the market replaces the merchants' quarters giving 6 g instead. Instant optimal upgrade without having to replace anything manually. It might sound confusing written like this, but essentially it would be: 4 g -> 5 g -> 6 g, without having to micro and remove old-tech buildings and build new ones, while still not sacrificing complexity (eg. not just having one single economy improvement that upgrades through three steps, for example).

Now this can get very complicated. But, a nice way to solve that would be colors. You know, at the moment, all the buildable squares are green. But with a system like this, it could work like this instead (example):

I have built a commandpost. Now I have researched barracks, and I'm going to build one. All the tiles around the commandpost are green, because placing the barracks there would build towards a military academy. The other squares are yellow, because placing it there would not build towards any bonuses.

To further simplify things, there could be a note in the improvement description, for example: "Builds towards: Military Academy". The ultimate thing would be to make the words "military academy" clickable, which would lead to a little popup with descriptions on how to build it (unresearched improvements would have to be listed as unknown or something, though), for example: "A military academy consists of: Commandpost, UNKNOWN TECH, Archery Range, Barracks. *stat summary follows with bonuses made clear*".

So, yeah, that's what I had to say. I brainstormed all this just now so it has some rough spots, but I believe it would really make for some rewarding city building and really separate the "men from the mice" without being hyper-micro or time demanding, instead just relying on city building knowledge.

 

EDIT: I realize now that this could work against snaking (building a line of 1x1 improvements to reach a resource), because all those 1x1 buildings would miss out on bonuses.

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