Clockwork Empires: Development Progress

Last update: 2015 July 23

Welcome to our progress report!
The purpose of this document is to inform you about the current status and ongoing progress of the Clockwork Empires project as a whole. This involves all the work, from start to finish, that goes into completing the game. Spoiler alert: There's a lot of work involved, so this is necessarily a very high-level perspective. If you would like to follow the weekly development blog updates which discuss more specific details, check out the Gaslamp Games weblog or sign up for the mailing list.

This document itself will evolve as work on Clockwork Empires proceeds, we receive feedback, and find better ways to communicate with players. We are committed to updating the project's status on this page for each major public release, once per month, without exception.

A note on progress numbers:
It is difficult to represent how finished aspects of Clockwork Empires are with just one number for percent complete because a great deal of the work done over the course of developing a game is not visible to the player through the then-current playable version of the product. Development is front-loaded in terms of cost while payoff is back-loaded. In other words, the most progress visible to the player necessarily takes place in the final months of a project in almost all cases. As Sheng-ji Yang put it, "Technological advance is an inherently iterative process. One does not simply take sand from the beach and produce a Dataprobe." Just so with game development: a character cannot walk across the screen until there is a 3D renderer, a 3D asset importer, an animation pipeline, a game aesthetic to build assets to, a scripting engine and database structure to instantiate entities from, and so on. Only after the infrastructure is in place can anything resembling a game begin to form.

Much of the initial time of this project was spent on technological infrastructure. We're now progressing through the phase of development where we see payoff of this investment as we rapidly implement player-facing content and game mechanics. This is the exciting part!


Total Progress

Project Progress: 92%

Project Progress: 92%

Playable Progress: 68%

Playable Progress: 68%

July 2015 update notes:

The major development themes this month were:

First, the UI refactoring was finally pushed to public branches. The underlying system is now much more reliable from a standpoint of the final result looking like the XML put into it, and it does so faster than before. Perceptive players will notice that things may look a little different in places - that means it's working. There's still much to be done in terms of implementation of course, and a few processing-hog spots remain which need to be cleaned up, but we're getting there!

We now let the player select their starting characters and goods. This was an obvious move once we realized how terrifically easy it'd be to do, plus it lets players opt in to their desired level of difficulty. This also ties in to a beginning of implementation of the Overworld. A map generation system has been built, we can show off the results, now it just needs to connect meaningfully with all of the systems at play in the game proper. This will take some time to fully implement but we've now got the foundation laid.

Speaking of foundational features, colonists received a few of their own which now enable us implement a ton of interesting character content. Colonists now have a concept of claiming property (just beds right now), a concept of desires (now mostly just "Claim a Bed", "Join a Cult", and "Murder"), and they can drink booze to forget painful memories. Which can be pretty important considering how rough life on the Frontier can be.

Lastly, a lot of work was done on figuring out how to measure a player's economic progress then how to control (say) immigration based on those numbers. This is that bit of game design that involves analytics and spreadsheets - and it's really pretty fascinating once you get into it, trust us. Iteration upon the results of these first tests will lead to a better balance of challenge versus reward and rate of interesting-things-over-time.

In broad strokes this was more of a feature development month than a content implementation month. The fruits of this progress will become all the more sweet over the next few updates, if you'll allow this painfully indulgent metaphor.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late June to the middle of July:

(You can read the previous months' update notes and blog post listing at the bottom of this page, here. There are also pictures of cute animals.)


Project Timeline

In the broadest strokes, these are the major public-facing milestones of the Clockwork Empires project:


The Engine

This is the key component that brings every part of the game together. The engine makes sure that mouse and keyboard input is processed, that visuals display, that the game can pull information from the correct space on-disk, that the UI renders and responds correctly to input, that a character is drawn in the right place and is told what to do from the right script. Every part of this infrastructure must be in place in some form before player-visible game content can even be implement. As Nwabudike Morgan put it, "Each interdependent piece must be materialized simultaneously and in perfect working order; otherwise the system will crash out before it ever gets off the ground."

Nowadays most games are built on engines purchased from an outside company so the developer does not have to build their game from the ground-up. Popular examples of such engines are Unity, Unreal, CryEngine, and idTech. This category is easy to underestimate compared to other projects because we've built an engine from scratch. The game engine is hugely complex and, if everything works correctly, the player will not even notice it. The intangibility of the engine needs to be emphasized because it's such a huge portion of the work done on Clockwork Empires during development but it's one of the absolute least visible components to players. In short, it's a huge deal, but you won't be able to tell unless something goes wrong. Much of the work remaining involves making sure things don't go wrong with the wide variety of hardware and operating systems out there.

MacOS Clockwork Empires is out in the wild and Linux shall follow.

Project Progress: 96%

Project Progress: 96%

Playable Progress: 98%

Playable Progress: 98%

Latest Updates

After all the stability enhancement of last month, there's little new this month that solidly falls under the category of "engine" No, actually there was a bunch of last-minute engine-relevant work done, listed below. Otherwise, we've been generally pushing ahead on some major features that will unblock major swaths of content implementation.

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Human Characters

Simulating human characters is perhaps the cornerstone of Clockwork Empires, and as such it's one of the systems we've spent the most time on. As far as what's visible to the player, it probably appears about half as sophisticated as we intend the final product, but there's a lot of solid back-end code to support much more than what's been done. Now that we have a comprehensive design for characters as well as a completed framework to build that design on, most of the work that remains involves adding new 'jobs' (a job being what our engine calls any unit of a character's physical action eg. chopping down a tree or rubbing their stomach and making hungry, unhappy sounds), new memories, a more sophisticated relationship model, and physiological responses.

Project Progress: 94%

Project Progress: 94%

Playable Progress: 85%

Playable Progress: 85%

Latest Updates

A bunch of really exciting features went in this month, let's break them down one by one.

The interaction between memories and food got some attention. Memories affect mood, and mood affects morale (and selection of social jobs, besides). Going hungry creates very negative memories -- eating food would stop the creation of additional negative memories but did nothing to reduce the emotional impact of the existing ones. But it stands to reason that if you were very hungry and then ate food, you'd stop being so upset right? Well now that actually works!

Building on these mechanics, drinking alcohol will effectively remove the emotional impact of a memory at random -- a feature we've been talking up since forever. Finally it works correctl! The strength of the memory negated relates to the strength of the alcohol consumed: brewed beer will ease low-impact memories, distilled liquor will ease medium-impact memories, and medicinal liquors will remove high-impact memories (and may have interesting side effects). Bottoms up?

We've also added the start of a personal property system: middle-class characters will claim middle-class beds. That's about it for now, but this is a sort of proving-case for the framework that will likely see a lot of expansion between versions 41 and 42.

That's not all - along similar lines, characters have been given the start of another important feature: desires. Basically, people want things. Maybe they simply want to make a friend, or be the one to finish building a building, or perform science on the Frontier, or see a fishperson and live to tell the tale -- or maybe they want to kill a man simply to watch him die. The possibilities are huge and we've got our work cut out for us in populating the list of possible desires.

Now let's do bullet-points for the little things:

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Scripting System

Like the game engine, the scripting system is somewhat intangible to a player but exceedingly important to development of Clockwork Empires. The scripting system allows us to use a scripting language - Lua is this case - to control game logic without messing with the underlying functionality of the game engine, such as graphical rendering, or keeping assets loaded in memory.

The scripting system is also essentially complete. Almost all of the game object definition, and the interaction of these game objects is handled through Lua. These objects interact with each other by passing messages that are scheduled by the C++ engine code. We need to do a cleanup pass to make sure that all the strings for localization are out of C++ land, and we need to clean up leftover code used for various tests, but we're very pleased with the state of things.

As far as the player is concerned, this system is effectively done. A lot more content remains to be scripted, but the infrastructure to allow this to happen is all in place and works very well. Any error that occurs here would almost certainly an issue with an individual game object's script rather than the scripting system itself.

Project Progress: 98%

Project Progress: 98%

Playable Progress: 100%

Playable Progress: 100%

Latest Updates

We've nothing particularly large to mention in this category for July after all the fun stability fixes of last month. We're all fine here. How are you?

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Combat & Military

The combat system currently works pretty solidly as a base upon which to build deeper features: soldiers will defend the colonists who call for help, colonists tasked with hunting will shoot animals with slightly alarming zeal (even peppering the already dead bodies with an extra bullet or two, depending on their traits), and everyone from bandits to fishpeople to your colonists can be wounded, take afflictions, and be killed.

Now the lovely system of military control that we painstakingly designed while the project was still quagmired in engine code is beginning to be implemented! We needed to allow for the characters themselves to be sufficiently complex that they would be affected by military service (this is done), for the job system to allow interrupts (also done), and for additional sophistication and UI support for work crews in general (getting there). We also needed enemies to be sufficiently complex that military controls are necessary (working on it). So the characters are able to do everything needed, and the scripting of complex, interesting enemies is starting to show off what it can do (though pretty much all of the art assets are done, as mentioned in the "Non-Human Characters" section).

There's a lot still to come. We want to allow the player to build barracks to base troops out of and act as a control panel for more interesting control over soldier behaviour and loadout. Additional tactical options are being considered as well; patrol points, at the very least, seem essential, and more options for constructed fortifications.

Project Progress: 58%

Project Progress: 58%

Playable Progress: 45%

Playable Progress: 45%

Latest Updates

We're still awaiting the decision tree overhaul so work on military combat logic as-such is mostly "fix things if possible so it's not super annoying". Along those lines, we altered morale calculations used for retreating, and balanced those so soldiers were less apt to retreat. What players will really notice is the additional of melee combat back to soldiers -- if a soldiers has no gun and has sufficient morale, they'll pull out a knife or a sabre to attack their enemy. For The Empire!

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Non-Human Characters (Animals, Monsters, Vehicles)

All of the character (human and otherwise) in Clockwork Empires are based on very similar code with different amounts of complexity added on. Various categories of NHCs (non-human characters) have been created and integrated nto gameplay but this code, aside from the animals, hasn't been generalized sufficiently that adding new monsters and non-colonist humans is quite as trivial as it should be. This isn't difficult per se but it hasn't been the most important task yet versus our priority on getting human colonist character behaviour feeling really good, plus all the supporting UI/UX features involved in allowing the player know WHY characters are doing what they do. It is only natural that the player focus on their own colonists, so that had to be our starting place. We're getting to the point where that structure is very solidly in place so we're starting to flesh out the other beings of the world/other worlds.

The benefit of having the human characters essentially done is that every other active entity (animal, horror, vehicle) in the world is a version of human characters with simpler behaviour, so they're relatively easy to create in comparison. This process is being done gradually, in thematic groupings, as development proceeds.

Project Progress: 81%

Project Progress: 81%

Playable Progress: 53%

Playable Progress: 53%

Latest Updates

This month saw a lot of work on iterative improvements for the various non-player agent groups that use missions: bandits, fishpeople, foreign militiary along with a little cleanup to animals (whose herd collection object type got a very 'lite' version of group missions to do simple movement controls). Basically, everything got a little smarter and more stable without radical additions or changes.

There are a couple of fascinating ways we could go from here but it's not my job to speculate here, merely to report!

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Buildings & Building Creation

This section includes everything the player can build: workshops, machine modules, dynamics (pipes), and zones (farms, stockpiles, graveyards) as well as any game mechanics that employ these structures.

... Not anymore! We've added a new "Economy & Logistics" section for anything to do with the economy: workshop functionality (not visuals), machine modules, dynamics (pipes), and zones (farms, stockpiles, graveyards), etc. This section will now be just about actual building of buildings and their visual display.

Let's talk about buildings. Procedural building geometry is pretty solid unless you cram a lot of modules together in a particular way or manage to find certain edge cases in blueprint placing rules. With this more or less working, we're focusing on improving the UI for placing buildings and modules as well as the gameplay mechanics that use constructions generally. (The last major features required for building geometry proper is support for more varied building styles including gabled roofs and more exciting decorations, but this is all visual polish, so gameplay comes first.)

Again, everything else to do with buildings has been moved into the next section. Bear with me as we re-organize this thing.

Project Progress: 94%

Project Progress: 94%

Playable Progress: 93%

Playable Progress: 93%

Latest Updates

Just a few small items here. The most notable for players is the new Naturalist's Office building. Build one, assign a workcrew, and they'll do naturalism jobs like exploration and searching for ore. Speaking of ore, and related to general economic balancing, mineshafts were made a touch cheaper and require just an ingot of iron rather than a plate of iron (so you don't have to build a forge before a mineshaft).

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Economy & Logistics

We've gone too long without this category. 'Til now matters of economy and logistics have been awkwardly stuffed into the "Buildings & Building" creation category. No longer!

So what's this about? Harvesting resources, exactly how work crews accomplish said harvesting of resource, how commodities are moved from one place to another, how commodities are stored, how commodities are transformed via labour and machine modules into different commodities, how the rate of commodity production is balanced versus commodity consumption and what this means to the colony. Karl Marx will have something to say about coats if you stick around.

In terms of specific game objects, this'll all be to do with resources, workshops, stockpiles, jobs, work crews, and commodities.

Project Progress: 66%

Project Progress: 66%

Playable Progress: 41%

Playable Progress: 41%

Latest Updates

A cleanup of stockpile code is being performed to kill what turned out to be an unexpected performance hog as well as add some important little pieces to finish the puzzle, ie. containers in stockpiles should be combined when possible. This is about half done; it's getting there!

We also created a cool system of measuring economic progress in-game based on commodities produced to control immigration rate plus the info is output to the console for economic balancing - if you send in your console logs from long game sessions we can mine it for useful balance information!

Other items are smaller, so bullet points:

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Biomes & Terrain

We currently have two biomes: "Temperate Colorado" and "Tropical Jungle". Each has unique flora and fauna, and the tropical biome is much more difficult to play due to dangerous... things.

The terrain generator is capable of much more than is currently shown to the player, both on a small and large scale, and taking advantage of these abilities would tie into overworld development.

We've also got a lot of completed assets that aren't being shown yet. As perceptive readers may recall, we have generated desert and swamp biomes, and the art exists to support these and many more. So we have most of the technical capacity to expand the biome numbers, but we want to ensure that they really play differently from one another instead of just doing quick, superficial implementation of art. And besides, this requires a more fully developed economic system for biome-unique products well as more monster & animal content for unique challenges in each area. With all that in mind, new biomes will be rolled out over time in thematically appropriate chunks with accompanying economic and animal assets as development on the game proceeds.

Project Progress: 81%

Project Progress: 81%

Playable Progress: 39%

Playable Progress: 39%

Latest Updates

As noted previously, we've got a ton of assets here but are waiting for the right moment to deploy them.

... And this may come up soon, what with the overworld/embark features chugging along. In the meantime, there are a few scattered changes done in this category, mostly to do with balance:

Completed Features

Upcoming Features

Seemingly Random Aside


Events, Metagame, and The Overworld

We've decided to roll game events into this section. Well, they sorta were before but we're going to make it explicit by writing "EVENTS" in the title.
Reasoning: 1. Events form a bridge between the simulation level of the game to abstracted game concepts like Empire Prestige, what biome you're on (stored as an abstract variable which can affect things quite apart from the actual content of the game map), and what day bandits last attacked. The metagame is all about abstracted game concepts, so events are the obvious method to making them matter to the simulation. 2. We worked on a lot of event stuff this last month and there really wasn't any other obvious category to put them in. Onward!

This category includes events now, plus from before the world map itself, the ability for a player to found a new colony in different conditions based on where they choose to settle on the world map, tracking player progress through different settlements, interaction with different factions, and having in-game events tie in to what the player sees in their colony.

This is one of the less developed systems, but also one of the simplest with the fewest unknown variables because it interacts with the core character/colony simulation only sporadically and largely at the beginning and end of a game to provide context and consequences for actions taken in the body of the game. So far in development there's little point in having a meta-game without a strong core of the colony simulation game itself, so while we had a great time designing all the systems involved for the metagame and are eager to implement them, it's not going to get done until it's the best way to improve the game experience.

Project Progress: 38%

Project Progress: 38%

Playable Progress: 38%

Playable Progress: 38%

Latest Updates

We added embarkation loadouts! Basically: upon gamestart you can select a different setup of starting characters and items for your colony. Some starts are more difficult, some easier, some just let a player focus on some particular area of interest (science, military, trying not to starve).

In addition to loadouts, a couple major rebalance changes went in. First, lower and middle class immigration was split into separate events that trigger based on different conditions. Lower class immigration (the ability for your workcrews to do their jobs at a greater rate) occurs based on the passage of time. Middle class immigration (the ability to have workcrews which do more different things at the same time) occurs based on your economic progression.

We also added some new events. A list!

And a lot of general iteration, balancing, and usability improvements were rolled in to most events.

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Multiplayer

Networked simultaneous multiplayer has been planned for Clockwork Empires from the start - and such a feature must be planned from the very start for any modern game because it requires that the game engine and gameplay mechanics operate based on architecture which enables multiple instances of the game to coordinate events. It should suffice to say that this is a significant investment of time, but as any fan of multiplayer games knows, the reward is great. The underlying system architecture of Clockwork Empires has been built from the ground-up to support networking, using a deterministic lockstep architecture. Most of the required code investment is already done, and we have successfully run networking code on our internal LAN. We simply need to take the last few steps for completion, give the system a nice frosting of user-interface and usability features, then undergo testing, optimization, and "hardening" against poor connectivity and Interfering Firewalls. We also wish to have a better concept of what a multiplayer "game" of what Clockwork Empires looks like, and will write additional gameplay code to support this.

We also plan to offer support for non-simultaneous "multiplayer" games of Clockwork Empires; in these "succession" games, you play a game for a period of time then hand the save file off to a friend to play. They may hand the save file back to you, or possibly to some random person on the internet. This is fairly straightforward compared to networked multiplayer, mostly requiring game saving & loading plus ease-of-use features. It will also require some design iteration as we discover the most interesting ways to convey the concept of "succession"; this will in turn require some unique interface features.

Project Progress: 92%

Project Progress: 92%

Playable Progress: 0%

Playable Progress: 0%

Latest Updates

Same as last month: Not much change here, awaiting some deep engine work and then a ton of scripts upgraded and UI/UX slathered on top.

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Music & Sound

This category encompasses all of the audio assets, sound and music, heard in the game. The dynamic music system mixes up to six tracks of different moods together based on events in the game; for example, during combat more martial-feeliing music will play, and if weird monsters from another dimension show up, the music will get very strange indeed.

The dynamic music system was finished shockingly early, is implemented, and works. Not all of the events that should alter the mood of the music are set up to do so, however. This will require a series of housekeeping passes to go through all relevant events in the game and paste the one line of controlling script plus appropriate variables wherever needed. It's not difficult, it just needs to be done in a lot of places as development proceeds. In terms of sound effects, we need to tweak a few sounds, flesh out some more variety in assets, implement support for ambient and cleanly looping sound effects, and replace the placeholder character vocalizations. (Right now the character's are all voiced by Matthew Steele, whose voice you may recall as the announcer from Dungeons of Dredmor, though rest assured that he sounds nothing like that in Clockwork Empires).

All in all we're very happy with the way music and sound has come together so quickly.

Project Progress: 92%

Project Progress: 92%

Playable Progress: 82%

Playable Progress: 82%

Latest Updates

Again, here's another one of those categories with a lot of assets queued for when The Stars Are Right.

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


UI/UX

UI/UX is really important and deserves its own category! In terms of project assets this category includes the art for icons, art for UI elements (every window, every button), the illustrations for events and backgrounds, and any other visual effects used to signal the player about what is going on in the game that isn't a part of the game-world itself. Behind the art, there is an xml layer which controls UI layouts -- what goes where and controls what -- as well as how the art is applied to these layouts. Behind the xml is the engine's UI rendering system to draw the art to screen according to xml as well as the code to send player commands through UI layouts into the game itself.

It should be emphasized that the current state of the UI is not set in stone and we fully intend to continually iterate UI/UX based on player feedback throughout the course of development. Again, it's really important because the UI is what stands between the player and the game; it should have a facilitating, not frustrating, effect.

Project Progress: 96%

Project Progress: 96%

Playable Progress: 84%

Playable Progress: 84%

Latest Updates

This month saw the roll-out of the huge UI system overhaul! As expected, a lot of stuff got better, and a lot of little things were broken. Often this was because the UI was previous hacked around an error in the underlying system which, when fixed, became broken. Other errors have arisen just due to paying very close attention to exactly what was going on. In short, it's a process. The UI is getting a lot better and will indeed take a good deal more work to get to a state of completion, but this month was a significant step.

That said, it should be understandable that this month's UI work was mostly fixing a huge list of variously and peculiarily broken things in the UI. Plus a bit of a polish pass in various places as UI xml was scrutinized, refactored, and otherwise improved.

Completed Features

Upcoming Features


Overview Of Additional Project Work

There is a great deal of work to launching a sucessful commercial project which is not directly related to the development of the game software and art assets. Most of it is invisible to gamers, which is fine, but it is important in this circumstance to acknowledge the hard work and effort involved which is absolutely essential to the game even though it doesn't appear in the game itself. This overview will be necessarily brief and should serve only to give an idea of what has been done and remains to be done.

Completed Tasks

Current & Ongoing Tasks

Upcoming Tasks


As a reward for anyone who read this far, we present to you a picture of Daniel's kitten:

CEO kitten

For those of you who stuck with us 'til now, here is David's cat in a basket:

Godiva in a basket

You lucky people! September gives you Nicholas' TWO cats just hanging out:

Vining Cats

This month? You get Mr.Hamilton's 'pig:

Hamilton Pig

Hello Margaret Catwood!

Margaret Catwood

Here's David's other cat. No, really, this is a different cat. I can tell which is which. Usually.

Leeloo is tall

We're running out of cats, so here's Daniel's other cat! Note that this is NOT Leeloo from the previous picture, Arya is a totally different cat. You'll pick up on the subtle differences with time. (Arya's paw is shaved because she had to go to the vet.)

Arya the kitten-cat

This month it's Micah's turn, so we present Misha the Cat:

Misha

Say "hello" to Scout who Nicholas saved from a life of drugs!

Scout

This is Derek's dog who will be assigned a completely random code-name so all identities are protected. Thus: "Mr. Pink".
Or you may use "The Musher". Whichever you prefer.

Secret Dog

Micah again - it turns out he fosters kitties looking for a home (and therefore probably has an endless supply of cat pictures). Meet Moxie aka Eddie. Isn't he nice?

Moxie

There's a lot going on in this picture from Daniel. I can't explain it. You're on your own.

Wat

This is Myspace. Myspace is a cat. Andrew will answer any additional questions.

Myspace the Cat

Old Update Notes

June 2015 update notes:

There were three- no, four!- major initiatives this month:

  1. Ensure game stability when saving & loading.
  2. Overhaul jobs/assignments/workshops for stability & optimization.
  3. Overhaul UI for consistency & optimization (and stability again)
  4. Implement new game content enabled by recently completed system.

Game stability is obviously of utmost importance. This has been a problem, particularly as we develop a meaningful mid-game which can't be accessed unless the game itself is stable, so we made a dedicated effort to improve the situation. This involved tracking down lots of crashes and finding what fiddly thing exploded to cause the game to crash. Some game systems were known to be problem areas and required particular attention to ensure stability, which brings us to #2...

Jobs, assignments, and workshop handling of jobs & assignments were totally re-written. It's all much better now! The primary aim of this effort was, as stated, stability but we got a number of workshop UI improvements slipped in because it was a convenient place in the code.

As mentioned last month, we've also taken apart and put together the entire UI rendering system to find all the long-standing errors, enable a few new features, and ultimately allow ourselves to use the UI system to do more with more confidence. This also has the benefit of optimizing computation pitfalls which existed in certain fringe cases, notably the "Work Crews" window. This task is essentially complete, but in the interest of maintaining a stable public release we're delaying widespread roll-out of the new UI until the first experimental patch after the public revision 40 is released - be sure to check out 40A when it hits experimental release.

Finally, we're continuing to implement new game content that's been unblocked by the past few months work. It's particularly rewarding to be able to see art in game that was completed over a year ago finally becoming a part of player's game experiences! More on the details in the appropriate categories below.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late May to the middle of June:

May 2015 update notes:

The big development themes this month are stackable commodities (plus some of the economic implications thereof), colonist social job overhaul (hugs!), new fishpeople faction/interaction system, lots of UI work, and (as ever) lots of fixes and additional bits of content sprinkled tastefully throughout.

Let's get a bit more into how this update furthers said key aspects of Clockwork Empires. First, commodity stacking advances economic gameplay by offering a solution to the logistical crunch of stockpile sprawl and ever-increasing hauling cost (in terms of worker-time) by allowing stacked commodities and allowing stacks to be moved. On the colonist AI front, a swath of social jobs have been created & artfully rebalanced to allow colonists which are in a particular negative state to attempt to relieve themselves of that negative state by means appropriate to their situation and unique traits - for example, both hugging and hitting other people are valid options and Brutish colonists will of course tend toward the latter. The new Fishpeople faction/group system lays down both the design groundwork and script framework for player interaction with other factions, mundane and eldritch, and serves as a model for the player establishing faction policy based on events that arise out of the simulation (rather than triggering from a pre-determined path or tree). There are also very important UI upgrades, an autosave feature, combat behaviour fixes, and a whole pile of other good stuff going in which will be described in more detail below.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late April to the middle of May:

April 2015 update notes:

Upon starting Clockwork Empires the first thing you may notice is that you now start with just seven rather than fourteen colonists. This is a tuning of both player experience and economic progression. You will soon notice a number of new UI elements: progress bars for jobs and a "Factions" window. As you continue, you'll find lots of new little pieces put together in the game, many new events, new character behaviours, and more feedback about what's going on.

The focus of the more directed developments this month center around giving players better control over and feedback from characters doing work in game. This is essentially "making the economy interesting" and "making it be a thing the player is interested in meaningfully playing with". Thus: progress bars, work crew panel iteration, tweaks to feedback given to player, a radical re-balancing of the gamestart, more UI stuff, and polishing some details of how characters carry out jobs.

There are also a number of parallel development streams based on different themes such as fleshing out the concept of factions generally, adding more events to bring out character traits (and player choices), tightening up combat behaviour, and more. Then there's a bunch of random stuff that seemed fun or convenient to do such as adding the 'making out' animation which led to some very interesting discussions about how character relationships ought to work.

Greater detail about making out and everything else shall be revealed in the report below! We've also decided to add a new category to the dev report: "Economy & Logistics". It's a rather important subject that 'til now we've been trying to cram into the "Buildings" section.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late March to the middle of April:

March 2015 update notes:
Our focus this month was on UI, performance optimization, characters, cults & bandits, and events.

Let's start with UI: We've been honing in for a while on better unifying how the player queries & orders workcrews to do their jobs. We've come up with a system for unifying jobs which were previously scattered over the map into a single control handle, an "assignment beacon" so that, for example, if you order a bunch of trees chopped you'll be able to click on one icon in the center of that area. This will open a window with workshop-like controls, allowing you to see sub-tasks, cancel the assignment, and un- or re-assign workcrews. This will also show the map area covered by the assignment, which will tie into a revamped area selection tool - but that'll be for another month. To sum up, we want to give players clear, consistent, and powerful tools to control what workcrews are doing. But do note that this implementation is in-progress, of course, and shall coalesce (before your eyes!) in upcoming weeks/months.

In character-land, we've added character skills! A workcrew leader with higher skills will allow their workcrew to finish jobs more quickly, the higher skillm the faster they work. This suddenly makes individual characters matter a lot more and serves to distinguish your lumberjack overseer quite distinctly from your metalworking artisan. Additionally, both the overseers and their labourers will now get special uniforms based on their highest skill. So lumberjacks get lovely flannel shirts, farmers have overalls, and metalworkers get heavy leather gloves and aprons. It's all quite adorable.

Meanwhile, random events have received lots of attention. Weird stuff happens based on the people and happenings in your colony, and in many cases you can decide to react to these events in different ways! Lord Palmerstoke's Science Crate is particularly devious.

Just so you don't think we're going to let you off easy, cults and bandits have gotten a lot more sophisticated. Cults will form, ask you to allow shrines (which you may accept or reject), hold creepy rituals that make them happy and other people creeped out, and if their shrine is destroyed (by, say, a stray airdrop crate) they will be greatly angered. Bandits now form gangs with unique names, and when they're in a gang, they're in all the way / from their first cigarette / to their last dyin' day. (There's a lot of framework behind bandits to enable more complex behaviour in upcoming patches, including overworld tie-ins, so that'll be fun).

Oh, and a ton of stuff has been optimized, from rendering to AI. Performance should be noticably improved.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late February to the middle of March:

February 2015 update notes:
This month our development goals were to get in fog of war, overhaul character jobs, finish some loose ends for economic progression, and roll in some cool events. And that's what we did.

Details? Sure: the job overhaul involved Daniel making a giant spreadsheet of every job and looking at exactly what affected everything. This revealed lots of balance issues, a number of bugs and typos; basically the sort of stuff you expect to find when doing what amounts to an audit. So that got some cleaning. We got a system for proportional utility so that a job can be added to a set where it is chosen randomly from a set based on it's value rather than simply always choosing the highest value - this lets social behaviours have more interesting variety. Combat jobs also got their logic tightened way up so that soldiers carry out their duties more according to player expectations.

Work on events including tying them to traits possessed by particular characters (who got a nametag option so you can see who people are on the map) as well as tying them to groups of character, in particular cult groups. Cults got an overhaul from the start so they form according to specific causes, have given names (which the player is actually told about), and follow strict night-time recruitment practices (as is only appropriate). Tutorials also use the event system so we hooked up a handful of new contextual tutorials and reduced the length of the infodump upon gamestart.

On the economic side, buildings cost a lot more and it generally takes longer to get together the materials required to advance. And there are a few more important reasons to advance, such as upgrading weapons (we got gun reloading, so six-shooters are much more effective than pistols now) and medicinal products that can keep madness and therefore cults at bay. Plus bricks are cool. (At least I think so.)

Fog of war is just creepy. Enjoy!

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from late of January to the middle of February (which is an absurdly short month, isn't it).


January 2015 update notes:
This month our development goals were more about stability, usability, and cleaning up a lot of smaller features that will build toward a sense of gameplay progression for the player who runs a successful colony from early to mid-game. The December holiday season is necessarily a somewhat short work-month punctuated by all varieties of festivity and plague, so it lends itself better to completing smaller tasks than doing one big feature.

Lots of little things got done: tech fixes and optimization, new UI pieces, more control over small systems, lots of small gameplay bugs squashed, problems with jobs hashed out, re-balancing here and there, graphical polish on things we've been putting off for a while, and even some more work building up to the multiplayer back-end. So rather than continuing to list small things we improved, let's shuffle you along to the sub-sections to learn more about the details of what we got done - the UI/UX section is particularly beefy.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

And here are our development blog posts from the middle of December to the middle of January (the holidays forced us to do the obligatory holiday post, and there's a vegan-themed homage to that awful TNG season 1 clip show episode with Riker; you know the one).


December 2014 update notes:
This month saw a few parallel streams of development. Perhaps most important was the continuation of developing economic gameplay with the ability to order dismantling of modules, buildings, and zones. These don't feel at first glance feel like "positive" feature developments, but what they do is introduce the essential element of iteration. Now a player can build a colony, tear it down, then re-build as a better, faster, more effective colony. Alongside this we wanted to introduce some fun themed gameplay elements, so we've fleshed out the behaviour of Naturalist characters, added the Laboratory along with Scientists and Laboratory Assistants to work in them, and sprinkled the world with Strange Artifacts to discover, study for prestige, and possibly (probably) make things go Terribly Wrong with. As usual there are also a ton of small changes and improvements which will be discussed in the appropriate sections below.

Oh, and we moved into a new office in the last month! The new place is rather nice, though we're still not sure about this "sun" that keeps shining through "windows"; it's all rather alarming and if anyone can explain what's going on, please do.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

Here are our development blog posts from the middle of November to the middle of December (which appear slightly fewer than usual due to how the Wednesdays line up, but hopefully the title length makes up for it):


November 2014 update notes:
So, this ended up being a weird month. Our plan was to go in and crank out a pile of economic features and UI in support thereof, but our MacOS/Linux build ended up requiring a two-week+ rewrite of the entire renderer to work with OpenGL 3.2 standards which took most core coder time away from economic feature development. That said though, there are indeed a few important features snuck in, details below. While held up on the big features required for the economy-focused work, a lot of secondary coding and implementation got done on other parts of that game which did not depend on the planned features. So this is all good stuff, just not quite the good stuff we expected this month to be about, and much of what we wanted to accomplish has had to be pushed back due to unanticipated complexity in getting the MacOS and Linux ports working.

As ever, adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

Here are our development blog posts from the middle of October to the middle of November:


October 2014 update notes:
This month we've focused less on big showy things and more on the player experience. We've made existing gameplay smoother, fixed as many little broken things as possible, and have otherwise started putting together the infrastructure for really getting the game economy working. In this update, notably, the module construction and workshop system have received attention to set us up for further economic features. With the foundation set by this month, we will be able to implement much stronger economic gameplay in the following month (with details revealed as we implement them). Meanwhile, we've also put time into making the save/load system more stable, reduced combat micromanagement with AI improvements, and added an ammunition system to tie combat to the economy.

As ever, particularly adventurous players should opt-in to the "experimental" build of the game using the properties>betas option in Steam. You can see the new content we're working on plus receive specific technical fixes that don't affect enough players to require hotfixing into the public build.

Here are our development blog posts from the middle of September to the middle of October:


September 2014 update notes:
This is our second month in the public eye and our first on Steam as an "Early Access" title. It's an intense experience for all of here at Gaslamp to be putting the game out in the public on Steam. The feedback has proven incredibly valuable and we hope it shows in how far we've brought the game in the last four weeks. Our big features are new Cult actions, an entire new biome to play in (with new flora, fauna, crops, and cooking products), improved Fishpeople behaviour, conscription of militia soldier and better squad control, improved farming, and lots of general UI and stability fixes. All the details will be described in the categories below.

Here are our development blog posts from the middle of August to the middle of September:


August 2014 update notes:
Our first month of the public playing Clockwork Empires had generated a tremendous amount of feedback and a great deal of work has been done as a result. As expected, much of the initial technical was necessarily focused on getting the game to run at all on the huge variety in hardware and software setups that gamers own. Apart from that, the range of perspectives vastly increased which gave us a huge amount of user interface and "user experience" feedback concerning how the game is controlled and how information is presented to the player. Upon reviewing our changelogs from mid-July to mid-August, we realized that we did not include a UI/UX category on this page even though it's an essential component of Clockwork Empires. So we added a new category to track UI/UX progress! You will find it below.

More details about the month's work will be added to each section below. In the meantime, here are the development blog posts from the last month:


July 2014 update notes:
The overall status of the project is, as one would expect, quite far along. We've hit the point (as of July 2014) where the game is getting very visibly better with each update we send to testers, and the experience is becoming less about basic functionality as it is about playing the game itself. Hitting this tipping point was the most important criterion for us for any form of early access and we're at the point where people who want to participate will be able to watch the project take shape, submit bugs, help us prioritize features, suggest how to resolve design issues, and play the game largely crash-free.