Game Design: More stats equals Easier Balance
Last week I stated that more stats will make the job of balancing our game easier. Since for a lot of games this is not true at all, let me explain how it works here. For our new game, we want to have statistics for a certain segment of the planet. These stats should answer the question:
“What kind of terrain is this?”
Some important stuff should be answered in the stats. Is this area fertile? Is it solid enough for people to build upon it? Is it a rain forest or is it a deserted wasteland?
Our initial thought was: “The fewer stats the better!” So we started out with 4 gradual stats: Water, Temperature, Density and Minerals. Water represents from desert(no water) too ocean (full water). Temperature speaks for itself. Density is the “solidness” of the terrain: Oceans and swamps have little to no density, while mountains have high density. Minerals was the richness/fertility of the ground.
Things went pretty well, and we thought we found a good solution that was very elegant. However, we soon came up with two big problems. The first one was that there easily was some overlap. We were defining whole ecosystems with only 4 features. We were vastly simplifying the complexity of these terrains we would like to simulate. Take for example a tropical rainforest and a swamp:
Now we have a piece of terrain that is defined by the black lines. But what is it? It could be a warm swamp, but it could also be a rainforest. How the hell did we read out what that black line represented. Our answer was pretty simple:
The problem was too complex. Everything was entangled. And even worse, the player must have some kind of spreadsheet to see what kind of terrain it is. “Ow, so a rainforest is 55 water, 90 temperature, 50 density…”. That sucks. The other big problem is that everything is depending on everything. For example, we wanted to add oil. Oil is high minerals with high density. So by our definition, oil in a swamp is impossible. Huh, what?
So we expended stuff a little bit. We decided to create some more stats that work waaay more independently. For example, the oil would be represented by a “mine-ables” stat. Heck, we could even store a label that tells what kind of terrain it is, like “Desert” or “Pine forest”. This is also a lot easier for the player to interpret. So it makes the simulation a lot easier to read and develop! 😀
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