Ratopia DevDiary #23 - Electricity and Ratrons

Cassel
29 Feb 2024
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Hello all, it’s Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>. The Electricity and Ratron system that I will introduce this time have been systems that we have been preparing for a long time, aiming for the February-March update. Now, we have finally reached the stage where we are conducting tests and verifying the plans, so I can introduce them to you. Let me share with you the work that has been done and the issues that we have considered.



Electricity


Unfortunately, <Ratopia> is a game with a limited number of Ratizens. The structure of the game is such that the computational load increases exponentially as the range of movement and tasks of the Ratizens increase. Therefore, to ensure the proper functioning of the game, it was necessary to limit the number of Ratizens.


In the later stages of the game, when players can no longer accept more Ratizens, the growth momentum of the player gradually decreases, and from that point onwards, quantitative growth of the city through additional Ratizen acquisition becomes impossible. To grow the city, it's necessary to enhance the individual abilities of Ratizens and redesign the city layout to reduce their movement paths and thus achieve qualitative growth. Currently, there's unintentionally no limit to the increase in Ratizen abilities, which may be less perceptible, but rather than just waiting for Ratizens to grow, I wanted to add a mechanism that allows players to directly drive the growth of their city.


Electricity was planned as a resource to increase the work efficiency of Ratizens and grow the city. Various power generating structures such as Wind Turbines and Hydroelectric Generator can be used to produce electricity. The generated electricity is transmitted through wires connected to the generators and stored in connected electricity storage facilities. The stored electricity was then consumed by Ratizens in nearby structures that were constructed.



Just like the concept image, it was hard only to visualize the wire connections.



If Ratizens using electricity could work twice as fast in production tasks, it would enable more goods to be produced per unit of time. This, in turn, would create surplus Ratizens who could be redeployed elsewhere, allowing the city to achieve additional growth. 



Expected Ratizen surplus using Electricity 



However, this straightforward approach left something to be desired visually. Since there were no changes to the game screen, it didn’t feel like any advancement had occurred. The challenge was how to represent the use of electricity and visually reward the player for the city's development.


To address this, I considered attaching lights to production structures to indicate changes and thought about replacing animations with electric tools when Ratizens are working. However, applying this rule to all production structures was problematic as some structures were unsuitable, which was quite a headache. Additionally, how to handle situations when electricity to a structure was cut off during operation, and how to show that a structure was using electricity when a Ratizen was absent were also issues to consider.



These sure were not fulfilling our artistic standards.



After a long period of consideration, it was decided that changing the images of the structures was not suitable. It seemed difficult to perceive a change without significant visual alterations, and dramatically changing the appearance of all structures would require an excessive amount of work and imagination.


While the planning for the generation and transmission of electricity was completed, the plan for its usage was still unresolved, causing a standstill in progress. Attempts were made to add support-type structures that use electricity to enhance the abilities of nearby Ratizens, but these alone seemed insufficient compared to the structures producing electricity. Continuously brainstorming various ideas eventually led to the introduction of Ratrons. Ratrons, powered by electricity, seemed like they could provide a sense of the city's advancement.



Ratron


Ratrons are NPCs that can work in production structures instead of Ratizens. Unlike Ratizens, they do not require food, services, or sanitary needs, resulting in less computational load compared to Ratizens. They provided a clever solution for giving the impression of an increased Ratizen population while minimizing system load. Additionally, if they were created the same size as Ratizens, allowing them to use hundreds of Ratizen animations, it seemed feasible for quick and system-collision-free integration into the game.



Fired up and ready to serve.



Initially, the design allowed Ratizens to own Ratrons. After building a Ratrons charging station near the owner's workplace, activating Ratrons use at the workplace would mean that every time the owner left the workplace to fulfill needs, the Ratrons from the charging station would come to work in their place. This system was designed so that the Ratrons's owner would primarily handle the purchase of materials and sale of products, and the owner's income would increase due to the Ratrons.


However, this approach created a problem where the efficiency of Ratrons varied greatly from one structure to another. Since Ratrons were only responsible for production tasks, in structures producing resources with low workload, Ratrons would quickly finish production and spend a long time waiting for the owner to transport the resources. Assigning resource transportation to Ratrons could lead to operational conflicts with their owners. In the current system, where material supply, production work, and product sales occur sequentially, Ratrons created for specific structures were not utilized at all.


In an effort to increase Ratrons' production time and efficiency, a feature was added that doubled the workload, requiring double the resources for double the output. However, this ended up being a feature that increased production efficiency even without using Ratrons, and the fundamental issue remained unresolved: the more systematically a player designed the movement of Ratizens, the less efficient Ratrons became. Continuing to add features without addressing this fundamental issue was problematic.



After several discussions, it was decided that maintaining Ratrons in their original form was not feasible. It was felt that Ratrons needed to be made more quantifiable and user-friendly, and it was decided to change them to take on tasks like resource supply and sales, just like Ratizens. Now, instead of just aiding in production, Ratrons took over the production role entirely, making it difficult to use them as personal assets of Ratizens and making them dependent on the city.


Ratrons are not Ratylent Green, hands and feet colors are just bug. 


Ratrons can be manufactured by putting material resources into a Ratron Assembly, similar to weapon manufacturing. The materials required vary depending on the basic abilities of the Ratrons, and if players succeed in a matching mini-game, they can gain additional small bonus abilities.


You might need some skills to create exceptional Ratrons. 


Ratrons were intentionally designed with low abilities and are set to not gain experience. This is because Ratrons have the significant advantage of not having needs, and the intention was to prevent them from becoming superior to Ratizens. Instead of replacing all workers in the city's production facilities with Ratrons, the aim was to make players consider whether it would be beneficial to replace Ratizens in certain structures with Ratrons.


The situation might change a bit when more powerful Ratrons with greater abilities and work ranges are added, but for now, the plan is to first observe system issues and game flow using the currently developed basic Ratrons.



It's regrettable that the content related to economic and social phenomena caused by Ratrons is still lacking. As things have just been wrapped up, the plan is to test and gradually develop them. If you have any interesting ideas related to Ratrons, please feel free to leave a comment!



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