Prince of Gameplay
- Jun 12, 2018
As you all know the Tyrannosaurus Update is coming tomorrow, on February 18th! As a bit of a warm up I thought it would be interesting to do a deeper dive into the changes we made to the economy system.
Sector levels are one of the more unique parts of Planetfall’s economic system. The idea is that by investing more production into sectors, and by placing them in good locations, you can increase their level, which in turns boosts the amount of income and the bonuses that you get from them. Although most players like the system, many players were having trouble understanding how it worked, or found that it was quite fiddly and demanded too much of their attention.
To begin with we decided to take a look at the bonuses that the sectors gave themselves, to see if there was anything we could do to make it clearer.
The above screen shot shows a sector exploitation before and after the update, they are quite different!
- Clearer opening description - The initial description now contains information on why the player would want to choose this exploitation (because it speeds up production of units and structures). This is important information for new players, who may not understand what production does or the effect that it has.
- Simplified Incomes - The actual impact of each level is now much simpler. The original design was giving multiple bonuses of different types at each level, this made it hard for players to judge what effect getting a new level would actually have on their economies. The new versions now always give an extra 5 income per level, and 1 colonist slot, which is much easier to predict.
- Starting Levels - A sector can now start on a higher level than 1, this is due to terrain change which I’ll also get back to later, but the main impact is that by starting a sector at level 3, players are introduced to the system in a more natural way. Where before they needed to go through multiple steps to level up a sector, it now happens immediately and seamlessly.
We also had a look at the specializations that can be built to enhance these sectors:
Although the functionality here hasn’t changed, we’ve done a pass on all of them shortening the text, so that the effect of each level is easier to understand.
The Income Curve
In the base game, there were a lot of multiplicative bonuses that stacked in such a way that meant that bigger cities would produce a lot more income than smaller ones. For example, level 5 sectors would give a 10% income bonus to the whole colony, while levels 3 and 4 would give bonuses to each colonist working on a particular income type. For small colonies, these bonuses are small, but for large colonies, with a lot of colonists, the bonuses can grow out of hand, especially when players start stacking multiple sectors of the same type.
This led to an issue that early game cities had quite low income, slowing the game down, while late game cities had too high income which was hard for us to balance around.
The new design gives far fewer of this type of bonus, which flattens out the income curve, speeding up the early game and slowing down the later game for a better overall gameflow.
The Effect of Terrain
We always wanted the type of terrain in a sector to have an important impact on the game’s economy. This helps give shape to the world by making some areas more useful than others, and encourages players to explore and expand into new areas to gain advantages of economic resources their starting location does not provide.
In this sector the Mountains are granting a bonus level to Energy and Production sectors, the Arid climate is also giving the same bonuses. In order to gain these bonuses the player must research a tech for the necessary terrain, and then build a structure in their colony. Although this approach has some advantages, many players found that it was quite a cumbersome system which had a lot of steps and investment for a fairly minimal return. There was also an issue that the research for Terrain types came much earlier than the research for Climates. So in this sector, the Mountain bonus is much more relevant to the player than the Arid one, since the research for the Arid bonus comes at tier 8 while the Mountains are at tier 4.
In the Tyrannosaurus Update we’ve removed the research and building requirements entirely, so if the player were to build an energy sector in the sector above, it would instantly become level 3, giving better bonuses.This means:
- What you see is what you get - When a player sees that a sector is good for an energy sector, then it is straight away, no extra steps are required.
- Less to build and research - So players can focus a bit more on the interesting bonuses, such as doctrines and operations
- Faster early game economy - Higher level sectors early on give more income, speeding up the game
- Better advantages from specializations - The buildings that players can make in structures give leveled bonuses, and these structures often give something special at level 3.
For example, this specialization that can be placed in production sectors, grants units bonus armor at level 3. This used to be a mid game bonus, but can now we accessed close to the game start with the new terrain rules.
Impact on the Tech Tree
After the above changes, 8 techs had to be removed from the tech tree, one for each terrain and climate type. When we did this we had to evaluate what else was in those techs to try and judge what impact it would have on the game.
The terrain skills look like this. As well as the sector level they unlock:
- Navigation - Units on that terrain type get a movement bonus
- Extra Structure - A structure that gives an economic bonus that scales with how many sectors with that terrain are in a colony.
The extra structure gives a bonus type we were trying to get rid of anyways (see The Income Curve) so it could safely be discarded. The movement bonus was trickier though, since some terrain types are very annoying to move through without this bonus unlocked. Around this time, our multiplayer team was reporting that another tech “Colony Infrastructure” was causing balance issues. This skill gave a huge move speed bonus to players in their own domain, and it was being unlocked very early in multiplayer (at tier 3), leading to a huge advantage to defenders in wars.
We decided to try and fix both issues at the same time by creating a new, higher tier tech that would contain both the Infrastructure tech as well as Mountains and Ruins navigation. Moving the tech later would help the multiplayer issue and give players the option to get the most important terrain bonuses. The Forest movement bonus was left out since it’s built into the Amazon race, and removing it from the main tech tree made Amazons more interesting. There was also a Fertile Plains movement bonus, but movement on plains is already quite fast so we could safely lose the movement bonus there.
The tech was also given a slightly higher cost than other tier 5 techs to try and reduce its impact on multiplayer games further.
The climate skills were much later in the tech tree:
As well as a level up structure, they unlock:
- Recovery - Units in that climate heal faster than normal
- Habitats - Colonies gain a happiness bonus for each sector of that climate they contain.
We decided that the recovery bonus was safe to ignore, since that late in the game the need for constant healing on the world map wasn’t that great. The happiness bonus was trickier, but since we’d already decided to rebalance the happiness economy, we decided it was safe enough to remove that as well and deal with the fallout in another way.
Yes, we’re still going. Yes, we really did change a lot! Here’s a picture of a christmas dinosaur to make up for the incoming wall of text:
The happiness system acts as a brake to growth, so that something other than Food is important when letting cities grow. It also gives us another value to play with when we design doctrines and operations for the player to use.
In the base game, a city starts with 10 happiness income, with an extra 2 for your racial happiness bonus. This means you can grow a city to 6 colonists before you need to start acting (each colonist needs 2 happiness), meaning you need to unlock the Recreation dome quite fast to avoid rioters. Many people felt this was quite restrictive however, so we decided to allow a city to start with 2 happiness slots, giving a potential happiness income of 22 (or 11 colonists). This gave the player more freedom to choose how they wanted to act in the early game, and made the system more forgiving for new players.
Another effect of the economic changes we’d made was that players had a lot more colonist slots, and testers wanted the system to be able to potentially support very large cities without suffering from chronic unhappiness. We’d already 10 happiness to the system with the extra slots, but we decided to rebalance the happiness structures as well to push the limit higher. To this end, we increased the happiness income of the recreation dome to 6 (from 4), and the number of slots from the Virtual Entertainment Plaza to 5 (from 2).
Basic Colony: 10 income, 2 slots
Recreation Dome: 6 income, 2 slots
Botanical Garden: 6 income, 2 slots
Virtual Entertainment Plaza: 5 slots, +2 happiness per slot
Total: 22 income, 11 slots, 7 happiness per slot = 99 happiness or 49 colonists!
Finally, Happiness Events in Planetfall boost the income of a city by 100% for a turn, we’d gotten feedback that players felt forced to rearrange the colonists in their colonies to maximize this income, which lead to annoying micromanagement. To fix this, we changed the system to just give a fixed amount based on the colony’s current income, with an enforced minimum to prevent low income cities giving pointless tiny rewards.
As a last touch, we also added support for happiness events to give cosmite and influence as well as the other 4 resources, since those tended to be the resources people wanted the most. These would only be given in colonies that naturally had an income in those resources however.
And that’s it!
I could keep talking about the other changes we’ve made, such as the rebalancing we did to the sector specializations, changes to unit costs and other tweaks, but I think that’s enough for now!
The Tyrannosaurus Update will be released TOMORROW on February 18th! We hope that you all will enjoy it!