Ratopia DevDiary #17 - Events and Seasons

Cassel
3 Aug 2023
Views 126


Hello all, it’s Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>,

As Summer reaches its peak, heat and humidity are maximized.

On today’s DevDiary, I’d like to talk about BitSummit, the game show in Kyoto, Japan,

and <Ratopia>’s systems of events and seasons.



BitSummit


Last month, we’ve participated indie game show named BitSummit in Kyoto, Japan.

Normally on such event, BIC (Busan Indie Connect) supports really well,

But we were not the recipients this time, so we’ve applied by our own.


Applying to BitSummit was not really hard.

You can apply just by getting into the web page, which opened in February,

and uploading the game’s information, files, and screen captures, just like applying the other game shows.

A while later then they will send you a notice whether you are qualified or not.

If you are qualified, then you will need to pay $300 to join.

Many of the information were announced through Discord channel, in Japanese and English.

Since free accommodation and equipment supports were provided,

I think quite a lot could be saved through keep checking the notifications.



Exhibition area was a not that large making the area enjoyably crowded



On the indie section, there were so many foreign teams.

Mostly I think the games were action and puzzle in genre, really few mobile games I think.

And even with that limited area, people were using all what they could use to advertise their work;

Table cloth, easel, ball-joint dolls, and even beam projectors.

Among those, <Ratopia> was not really attracting the attention.


So instead, we did some ”Irasshaimase~~~” and “Come! Play play!” kind of things.

Even when the players came to play, since I am not really good at Japanese speaking,

it was quite hard to help them out to play.

Even the tutorial got updated, people were confused with the buttons on the tutorial,

the buttons on Steam deck they were using, and button they are used to play; Nintendo.

Still we I could see where they got problem on playing,

so I could check where of the tutorial is needed to reinforce in the game.


Our booth had more players who are developers than are normal customers.

So I wonder whether the game would be advertised well enough.

Normally, if we were to get advertising effect, local journalists would be really helpful,

But this time I barely got such chances.

Luckily, reporters from  GameSpark and  Indiefreaks came and wrote columns of the game, 

But I guess I did not get the marketing effect I expected.



Rather than the marketing effect, I could get many feedbacks from the other developers.

Translations on English, Japanese, and Chinese, I could get direct feedbacks,

And almost in the end, former engineer from <Subnautica> visited our booth and gave so much feedbacks and knowhows:


  • Make the steam page’s images to have more impacts from the beginning.
  • Change the steam tag so that it could be related to other games with similar styles.
  • Making a merged community page that fans can communicate.
  • Use open page Trello and Notion to share the progress with the players.
  • After early access, communicate with the fans at least once a week so that the players would not get cooled down…


Some we cannot apply directly due to practical reasons, but some I applied right away after I came back.


Now, let’s finish the enjoyable game festival here, and let’s get back to <Ratopia>.

Today, I’d like to talk about <Ratopia>’s even system and weather systems.



Event System


When we repeat something for long time, we would feel bored.

This also happens even when we play a game, and of course,

it might also happen when we manage a city for a long time.

Event system is put in to refresh this atmosphere and arouse interest,

with many unique situations to give objectives and awards.


With the various events given, the player will be needed to make choices.

With the choice, there will be benefits, righteousness, and justice.

But perhaps, just as in <Frost Funk> or <Crusader kings 3>,

the player might decide with his or her own values.

And with the results, the player will face the situation as a consequence, and feel the joy with it.


The stories, cut scenes, and mini games might be followed,

so that if we successfully make the players to wonder what new would come with different choices,

then they would think again every time, make other choices, and get different joys.


Development of Event Scenes


We had to make how will the event happens and how will we show it to the players.

Since it would get tedious if the game pauses every time when there’s a caused event,

We’ve tried to make it happen only when the player interacts.

The event would pop up when the player interacts with the citizen or the structure with exclamation mark on it.


I am not gonna work if you don’t pay attention!


But not all the events were fit to this style.

Firstly, citizen would lose a lot of worktime, chasing the player.

If the player does not check the event, then the citizen would keep lose the worktime.

The second is that if the player does not check, nothing would happen at all.


The first problem could simply be solved by putting a time limit on chasing,

But there was no clear solution for the second problem.

Instead of solving the problem within the condition,

we’ve decided to make some of the events to be sudden,

which would happen without interaction.

However, if this is too often the player would get irritated,

so we’ve took quite a care for the frequency.

Still, we are seeking for a better solution.


The event system was a mean of make the play a bit less boring.

But we could get various ideas using the same system,

Such as giving the objectives and controlling the difficulties of the game.


<Ratopia> is a Sandbox simulation genre,

Meaning that the game’s objective could be quite vague,

and the difficulty of the game could really vary with the playing styles.

But with the event system, we could give objectives to build something or to reach prosperity level.

In addition, for less skilled players we could put supporting events,

and for skilled players, we could put some challenging ones.


However, as it is filled with more possibilities, more difficulties followed.

As more events were put, more complex relations, similar stories, and translations were needed.

Adding an event is getting harder each time a new one got added.

In addition, since the event is quite indirectly affecting the game play,

We also needed to add a direct one.



Seasons


If the event system is indirect method to refresh the atmosphere,

Weather is directly changing what’s in the game, and also the view of the players.

Many of the objects and weather would be affected by the season change,

So that the player would get awed with changes on visual and playing aspects.


Before setting the seasons however, the weather system must be put first.

The first of the weathers we’ve made was rain.

Rain provided the water that the city needs,

But when put on a dirt tile, with certain chance, plants would grow from it.


Rain system was put in much easier than we’ve expected.

So we’ve added some variety using the rain system,

Such as ‘heavy rain’ that pours water for long time and would cause flood,

Paralyzing the structures’ functions with ‘sink’ effect.



Think to not sink


These additional functions provided the needs of roofs to prevent water flowing into the city,

And the sewers to make the water to flow on certain direction.

Those were not in the planned designs, but were really satisfying.


This raining system could be used on the other weather too.

For instance, on the winter, we could simply make the snows to stack up.

We are still testing on whether the snows would be fine to stack up colliding with the objects,

So currently it would not stack where the objects are.

We also need to test whether it would block the citizens’ path too much,

But we’ve decided to put as many weather as possible first.



This sure looks weird, but well, that’s how the winter goes.



As blizzard, which snows even more heavily, got added,

We had to put visual differences between those weathers.

Firstly, we’ve put rain and snow fall in diagonal direction to show the heavy ones,

But it wasn’t clear enough.

So we’ve added shadows on the edge of the camera and objects swaying effect.

Now the players will be able to see what to watch out for.


After the weather was implemented to some extent, we decided to now add the seasons,

which represent the periods when these weather conditions occur.

First, we set the possible weather and events for each season,

as well as the growth rates of animals and plants.

Next, we paid attention to the visual aspect so that one can see at a glance what season it currently is.

We tried to change the appearance of the background image of the ground,

deciduous tree objects, and grass decorations according to the season.



4 distinctive seasons of <Ratopia>



The result was satisfying,

but how to show the timing of the changing seasons was also an issue that needed to be considered.

It was awkward and unnatural for the seasons to switch suddenly without any particular effect.


After much thought, we tried to draw attention by displaying an animation in the center of the screen.

Since it was a directed scene with animation, it focused the attention and reduced the awkwardness. 

By also adding a circular gradient spreading from the center of the screen,

we were able to give the natural impression that the energy of nature was spreading and changing the seasons.



Concentrate!



The enthusiasm for developing the season system quickly spread to the composer responsible for the BGM.

The composer suggested that it would be nice to add seasonal sound effects and BGM for each season and provided samples.

The applied samples matched the seasons so well that we decided to compose them formally and add them to the game.

As a result, we were able to feel a distinct difference in the atmosphere audibly.


Although the system changes according to seasonal variations are not as extensive as we initially intended,

we hope that more systems linked to the seasons will be added for diverse gameplay in the future.

There are many ideas, such as more seasonal events,

peak trading seasons depending on the time of year, animals hibernating in winter, etc..

But if too many things change, additional explanations will be needed, so this is also a concern.



It's already August.

The weather keeps fluctuating between heatwaves and torrential rain,

and experiencing this real-life weather seems to make the weather design in <Ratopia> even more intense.

However, in reality, I hope you all get through this summer safely and in good health.

We will continue to work hard on development for early access,

which is only about three months away.

Next time, I'll visit you with content about trade and exchange rates.



STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2244130/Ratopia/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/CasselGames/

X (Twitter): https://twitter.com/CasselGames

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