Heya everyone :D I’m going to try something a little different this week. Normally I try to avoid the long-winded, overly-granular design discussions and give you something short and punchy about our latest feature. I thought for a change it might be interesting though to show you guys a more granular level of the thinking that goes into how we pick what to do each week. Disclaimer as always, everything is in a state of flux and it liable to change (hopefully for the better!). So here we go!
We’ve been considering the soup “satisfaction system” that went in a week or so ago and the flow-on effect it’s having to ‘pressure’ on the player in game. Currently, the level of pressure feels somewhere between mediocre and frowntown. :( Here’s a run down of the current system, the results and some potential fixes.
Satisfaction system: Customer satisfaction starts at 0%. Shipping soup increases satisfaction between 5%~15% depending on how much they like the flavour shipped. Satisfaction slowly decays over time and sending a bad flavour can sharply reduce it by -5%. Money is earned each payday from shipping the soup to satisfy customers.
Motivation to ship soup:
- Buy research (the research and upgrades purchased are all quality-of-life improvements related to building a base & shipping soup).
- Collect as much money as possible for Soup Co. to fulfill an end-game condition (effectively a high score with no functional application beyond bragging rights).
Here’s the two pressure points that are currently in-effect.
ENEMIES: Spawn conditions:
- Fail to ship soup for a while (punishes players already under-performing).
- Ship bad soup (punishes players already under-performing).
Available design knobs:
- Spawn timing
- Number spawned
- Relative strength (HP, damage)
- Behaviour (flying, charge attacks, lays eggs, aim target buildings)
OXYGEN: Spawn conditions:
- When outside, the player’s oxygen bar depletes over time until it runs out and they suffocate. Linked to the world environment, it is omnipresent and unchanging.
Available design knobs:
- Suffocation speed
Current pressure problems: Neither of these are currently tied into the gameplay cycle. A regular player will never be attacked and not engage with the leash-range of the oxygen. Without external pressures there is no forced validation of your base design (“Oh noes! My eastern wall and corridors were breached. I need to build more towers over there and change the corridor angles!”). This also means there’s no “Yay” moment to watch your newly improved design overcome previous challenges.
The research rewards are related to soup shipping but, that activity itself doesn’t produce any pressures (“Yes a new robot and quicker soup factory! Now I can make even more soup faster!”). These rewards are helping perpetuate the current pressure-free play cycle.
On the note of “pressure”, what constitutes “good” and “bad” pressure for Inc?
Good pressure: Present a problem that has multiple solutions requiring player action.
Bad pressure: Present the player with a problem that has no engaging counterplay. Can also be short on available design knobs to turn for tuning or balance.
So what do we do?
The first low-hanging-fruit change would be to tie enemy wave spawning to soup launches or the satisfaction percentage. Pressure it creates will naturally scale relative to player base size. More soup exports on a bigger base will certainly incur more enemies, but a bigger base also implies further research progression and better defenses. This should feed nicely into the soup export reward-cycle which already produces things directly related to the act of building a base & shipping soup.
A potentially more impacting long-term test (albeit difficult with our low number of developers) would be to try replacing the oxygen system with a fog-of-war. Fog-of-war maintains a similar vibe to the oxygen while also creating a new currency of ‘vision’. Buildings produce a light radius, so base building for safety is still necessary. Navigating the dark is also a problem that comes with better risk/rewards (restricting information can lead to enemy attacks or your base being partially destroyed rather than the time-tax of returning for air vs death).
Let me know in the comments if you guys enjoy this sort of thing and I’ll try to do one every now-and-then. Or yell if you just want more GIFs. :P