Revisiting the Future of Bronze Age and Bronze Wiki

The Future of Bronze Age Revisited

It's been almost two months since I posted The Future of Bronze Age, so lets take another look at it. That devlog was posted shortly following the release of 1.2, I'm now working on 1.5. 

The listed features were:

  • Mining and metals - Done in 1.3
  • Soil fertility - Done in 1.3
  • Nobles
  • Religion and Gods
  • Research
  • Happiness and Morale
  • Advanced housing options
  • Luxuries
  • More enemy types and races - Still Planned, some work on this will be part of 1.5
  • Worker job priority system - Kind of done as part of construction priority in 1.3
  • Construction queue - Construction priority added in 1.3
  • Weather and seasons - Technically done in 1.4, but isn't visible and doesn't affect anything
  • Random / narrative events
  • Pig Breeding - Done in 1.4
  • Chariots
  • Boats

Looking at that list, it doesn't seem like much progress has been made. Most of the finished features were done in 1.3. The Settlement Update (1.4) was mostly focused on a rework of settlement production and trade logic and most of the planned work for 1.5 is focused around a rework of the world structure and enemy AI.

Since that devlog there have been a few new big features added.

  • Rival Empires - AI empires like the player's
  • Graphics Mod Support - Done in 1.4

Feature Creep is a major problem in games (as I'm sure many of you know), so I'm going to look at the unfinished features on that list from the lens of what Bronze Age needs.  From my perspective (please comment if you think differently) I think what Bronze Age really needs is for the world to be more interesting to interact with, and for there to be non-combat setbacks. There's a certain point at which Masklings cease to be threatening, armies in the hundreds can stamp out their villages, and established defenses can turn away even the most savage attack. Cities can grow into the thousands and as long as you keep placing houses the only real challenge is to the CPU.

Let's call those needs Interesting World, and Management Challenges, and look at the list again.

  • Nobles
  • Religion and Gods
  • Research
  • Happiness and Morale - Fits in Management Challenges, large cities can pose a problem in keeping happiness up
  • Advanced housing options - Could fit in Management Challenges as part of settlement happiness
  • Luxuries - Could fit in Management Challenges as part of settlement happiness
  • Random / narrative events - Could fit in Interesting World, maybe.
  • Chariots
  • Boats
  • Rival Empires - Fits in Interesting World.
  • Looking at the features through that lens, about half of them don't fit. That isn't to say that they'll be dropped, but it does seem that they should be further down the priority list. Boats specifically is probably a need, due to the new world generator producing islands from time to time.

    A good way to keep track of plans is through the issue tracker or...


    Bronze Wiki

    Announcing Bronze Wiki!

    This is an outgrowth of RashGoneWrong's Beginner's Guide. It has been in development for a few weeks, and there is still plenty to do, but there's a lot of good information already on there with more being added all the time.  Community contributions are more than welcome.

    I'd like to thank Rash for his work spearheading the work on the wiki.

    Get Bronze Age

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    Comments

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    (+1)

    Keep up the great work - I'm sure I speak for the community when I say every patch is exciting and we look forward to more! 

    We appreciate your steady gameplay updates, small or large, and your openness and communication with the community!

    (Edited 1 time)

    I feel like research and technology fits under interesting world in that it provides depth to the world and a progression in terms of production. It can also be a management challenge not just in terms of allocating human (and other) resources but also effectively retooling your industrial and distributive mechanisms to account for changes in productive goals. I have a vague idea of a very opaque but organic tech system that could also supply both mystery and surprise.

    Boats can also be used for world building in that they could supply a safe means of interacting with distant entities. I doubt Sumer would've had many Harrapan trading posts if they had to walk the whole way through multiple foreign Nations each way. Think also of (admittedly iron age) Phoenician colonies as far flung as Senegal and Britain in search of trade goods.

    That said, my biggest near term desire for this game is more economic depth, especially more supply chains so that my empire has more reason to expand and my cities can be more specialized. And tin. :P I'm not sure it makes sense until you've fleshed out the city and especially intercity mechanics a bit more, as you are.

    In fact, I've been quite happy with your current pace and direction of development. I'm not convinced that feature creep is really an issue here as much as the core concept being fertile to the point of becoming a distraction in itself. I think your current focus should be on breadth instead of depth, and definitely not too much on balance until most core systems are in place. So maybe no no tin for a bit...

    That's just, like, my opinion, though. I've actually been planning to make another detailed post of suggestions. Perhaps I'll start working on that.


    edit: I accidentally a word.

    I just wanted to add that I really want to see this project grow and develop over a long period of time, maybe something like prison architect in terms of open development. I've said it before, but this really is shaping up to be the game I have been looking for, and the loops are already so strong....

    (+1)

    I'm not planning on making Bronze Age my life's work like Toady is with Dwarf Fortress. It's actually the longest I've stuck with a game so far, and I've made it through a couple burnouts. Focusing on the core gameplay is a guard against future burnouts, so that there will be a playable game no matter what.

    My hope is that after the next few releases it will still be flexible enough to add new features, but won't feel incomplete without them.

    (+1)

    > I feel like research and technology fits under interesting world in that it provides depth to the world and a progression in terms of production.

    By "Interesting World" I mean the terrain and inhabitants of the world, thinks like Maskling tribes that the player can interact with. Research doesn't really fit that role. Research in games is typically used to control the increase of complexity of the game and to provide a sense of progression. Consider Civilization, the early game has a lot fewer options than the late game. As research progresses it unlocks more tools for the player, spacing them out to prevent overloading.

    > my biggest near term desire for this game is more economic depth

    That should come with the Happiness and Morale, with the addition of luxury goods to keep large cities happy. Tin wouldn't be that hard to add, actually, most of the groundwork for it was added with Copper Ore.

    > I think your current focus should be on breadth instead of depth

    This talk on indie game development has an interesting point on features, think of them as an inverted pyramid. A narrow foundation supporting a broad top. Work from the bottom up with a tight set of core features supporting larger and larger features on top of it. It's a risk mitigation strategy, so even if a project ends prematurely there's still a workable core to it.

    There is also this interesting examination of complexity and depth. I think a key part of Bronze Age's appeal is that it's kind of like Dwarf Fortress, but not nearly as complex. That lack of complexity allows the player to manage multiple settlements without getting overwhelmed, and I'd like to build upon that. My plans for morale build upon the core mechanics of placing buildings and managing resource creation, while also reinforcing the need for multiple settlements (to acquire luxuries).

     

    There's also a deeper technical problem. Some of the really interesting possibilities of  game set in this era aren't well served by Bronze Age as it is now. I like the culture mechanics that Stellaris has, where the player can shape and evolve their empire throughout the game. I think something like that would fit really well with a game set at the dawn of civilization. Bronze Age as it is, however, is held back by the core simulation of the entire population as individuals. Some really neat possibilities could be opened up by changing the scale rather dramatically, but such a drastic change might seem more like a sequel than an evolution. I don't want to alienate all of the existing players, especially those who have donated to the project.

    What do you think the limits of the simulation will be at the end of the day? Can it be multi- threaded effectively? Thanks for taking the time to respond and engage with us.

    (+1)

    The major issue is how granular the simulation is. There's only so much optimizing that can be done with hundreds of people pathing around cities. If you look at Dwarf Fortress the same problem eventually kills fortress performance.

    Multithreading is... problematic. The simulation already occurs on a separate thread from the UI, which is why the frame-rate stays high even when turns take upwards of 100 ms. It causes crashes from time to time, multithreading the simulation would only make things more difficult.

    I'm toying with a plan to radically change the simulation, making Bronze Age more like Sim City meets Civilization than Dwarf Fortress. I'm still unsure on it. It would mean about a month or more of rework, most art assets redone, and possible alienation of players who like the more Dwarf Fortress style. On the other hand, losing the baggage of the granular simulation would streamline a lot of neat future features.