Ratopia DevDiary #24 - Electricity Structures and Engineering Tech Tree

1 Mar 2024
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Hello all, it’s Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>.

This February also passed in a whirlwind of development. The original plan was to carry out a major update within February. However, during our internal testing, numerous shortcomings were revealed. Moreover, the development was further delayed due to the Lunar new year, ultimately preventing us from achieving our development goals as intended.

We cannot keep postponing the schedule indefinitely, so we have decided to proceed with the update next week. We aim to quickly address the parts that have not yet been developed through subsequent updates. Despite dedicating as much time as possible to development over the month, it's disappointing that things didn't go as planned. It has been a time for reflection, wondering if we attempted to add too much all at once.

There is also a discount planned for next week! 

During the preparation for this update, we undertook many experimental attempts. Now, I will introduce the newly added electricity structures and the engineering research tree.

Electricity Structures 

Electricity structures are broadly categorized into those that generate electricity, manage it, and consume it. The newly added electricity generation structures include a Ratpower Generator that uses the working hours of Ratizens, a Wind Turbine that utilizes space, a Hydroelectric Generator that harnesses the flow of water, and a Thermal generator that uses resources. We aimed to diversify the necessary elements for production, allowing the selection of a generation method that suits the city's situation.

Generating electricity often leads to the city's finances running dry. 

However, the problem was explaining the functions of structures with different electricity generation methods. We added UI and help sections to explain the new features, but it was challenging to easily convey how much electricity each generator could produce. Most generators have a structure where the amount of electricity produced varies depending on the situation, leading to significant variations and making it difficult to provide an average value.

We tried various approaches, but all were unsatisfactory, and we are still looking for a solution. The construction diary, which shows the amount of electricity produced in the previous 24 hours, was somewhat useful information that could be utilized. However, it had a critical drawback: it was impossible to know the amount before 24 hours had passed since installation.

We'll have to see if the explanations are adequate. 

In any case, the electricity generated by the generators must be stored in electricity storage structures through power lines. If the power lines are not properly connected, the electricity produced by the generators will disappear, prompting considerations on how to install power lines within limited space and resources. Additionally, electricity exceeding the storage capacity of the storage structures will also disappear, making it necessary to carefully plan where to build sufficient electricity storage structures.

There are two types of power Transmission Wires: one that Ratizens can pass through and another, the Transmission Block, which Ratizens cannot pass through but can step on. We designed it so that these could be mixed and matched according to the situation. Furthermore, in the latter stages, we made it possible to transmit electricity over long distances wirelessly without connecting power lines through Tesla Towers.

The primal joy of connecting electrical grid! 

Electricity transmitted to the electricity storage structures can be used through electricity-consuming structures. However, connecting all the electricity-consuming structures with power lines could be too cumbersome, so we made it possible for them to be supplied with electricity simply by being built near the electricity storage structures. To facilitate this, it was necessary to implement features that show how far the electricity supply can reach and how much electricity is remaining.

It's similar to the Pylon in <StarCraft>. 

Among the basic electricity-consuming structures, there are those that provide status effects to the Ratizens. Installed on the ceiling, these structures increase the movement speed, work efficiency, and health regeneration of nearby Ratizens. Although this sounds like a simple effect, implementing it was not as easy as anticipated. It was necessary to ensure that effects were not provided to positions obscured by walls, and because constantly checking for Ratizens passing through the effect range could significantly increase computational load, shortcuts to reduce this load were also needed. 

Wouldn't you prefer not to go to a home without lights and cameras? 

Among the electricity-consuming structures, we planned not only those that can increase the city's productivity but also those intended to enhance the player's convenience. An upgraded version of the Mailbox, the Communication Tower, allows for the remote adjustment of settings for structures located at very distant locations. Similarly, an upgraded version of the Crematory, the Electric Crematory, which is reusable, is also planned to be added soon.

Why we cannot just use Thermal Generator as a Crematory? Well it would not generate power then, you silly! 

We've also added a Drone Hangar, a structure designed to alleviate many of the inconveniences expressed by our users. The Drone Hangar facilitates large-scale construction projects in the later stages of the game by deploying drones. In the late game, there are often not enough surplus Ratizens to carry out mining or construction orders, leading to exploration and city expansion progressing very slowly and frustratingly. The drone hangar was planned as a solution to this problem.

Once a drone hangar is built, drones are launched from the hangar to start work on orders before the Ratizens. However, finding paths for drones could have required significant computation, potentially jeopardizing the game's performance. To minimize computation, we reduced the size of drones to 1x1 and allowed them to fly and move only around the drone hangar area. As a result, drones can perform tasks in aerial locations that Ratizens cannot reach, without causing excessive computational load due to pathfinding.

Move at the speed of Mach 10, you maggots! 

Having introduced the structures related to electricity production, transmission, and consumption, we plan to continue improving the game by adding a variety of new structures. If you have any fun ideas for structures, please leave a comment!

Engineering Research Tree 

Many users found the existing research tree challenging. Since the structures were categorized by their functions such as foundation, production, and service, it was common for the game to progress with the structures needed to produce the required materials for operating new structures not being researched yet. For example, it was possible to research structures that required stone without having researched the Masonly, often leading to situations where they couldn't actually be used.

Thank you for your valuable feedback. 

In light of these issues, we felt that incorporating the new electricity structures into the existing research tree could exacerbate the mentioned problems. To generate electricity, generators, electricity storage structures, and Transmission Wires are needed, and there are separate electricity-consuming structures. Users had to navigate through the research screen to find and research various electricity structures, and there was potential confusion if electricity-consuming structures were built before the generators. As more structures became available for research, the existing research tree became increasingly complex and inconvenient.

Therefore, in this update, we introduced a new structure called the Engineering Workbench, allowing users to research electricity structures separately. In the Engineering Research Tree, we decided not to use the conventional function categorization and instead arranged the research slots according to the game's progression order.

Arranging the Research Tree According to Progression Order 

The new electricity research tree was easier to understand and more convenient, but there were still minor elements that needed to be addressed. It was necessary to add category icons for the structures on the research screen and to enable the system to handle simultaneous research with the existing research bench.

It seemed like a good idea to similarly subdivide the existing research tree into categories such as beginner/advanced research or carpentry/masonry research. However, considering that the game is still in early access and continuously adding new structures, it feels premature. We plan to reconsider this approach once the game is more complete. In the meantime, careful consideration is needed to ensure there are no issues with implementing such changes.

This update added so much content that even testing it was enjoyable. However, with that comes a mountain of improvements that need to be made, making next month incredibly busy as well. In the next development diary, we will introduce content that we couldn't cover this time, focusing on the new biome, the Volcanic Biome.

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