Ratopia DevDiary #25 - Volcanic Biomes

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

After the early March update, we've had some time to catch our breath. During this time, we revisited the feedback left by users on Steam and Discord, organized it once again, and worked on business tasks and technical research that had been put off, all while reviewing the overall schedule. It's necessary to refine our long-term plans for better updates in the future.


All the feedback piled up! There's really a long way to go!


When planning our development schedule, we start by distinguishing between main and sub-systems. Main systems, like the power system in the scientist update, are of high importance and require a lot of work, but must be developed within a deadline, whereas sub-systems are features that would be nice to add, although they don't have a set deadline.


After distinguishing between main and sub-systems, we sequence the main systems according to events or festivals. Then, we insert sub-systems that would complement the main systems in between. This way, if the development of a main system is delayed, we can remove some sub-systems to flexibly adjust our plans.


For instance, the volcanic biome we're discussing in today's DevDiary was a sub-system planned from the early stages of development. It was intended to be added along with late-game content.



Volcanic Biomes


The volcanic biome is located in the deepest underground area of the <Ratopia> map. It's designed as a biome to be explored in order to dramatically increase military power and economic scale, with a distribution of various rare resources. Being late-game content, it was planned to be added after the early access phase, and we spent a lot of time contemplating how to make the use of the volcanic biome satisfying within the game. 


The various appearances of the volcanic biome that have changed over time


The volcanic biome, unlike other biomes, was intended to be challenging and dangerous to settle in. Initially, the plan was to have Ratizens lose a significant amount of health the longer they stayed in the volcanic biome due to a temperature gauge. Proper development would only be possible after supplying the Ratizens with protective gear.

However, as development progressed, we realized that supplying equipment to Ratizens was not the right approach. In Ratopia, Ratizens purchase their necessities based on their individual financial situations. Those who dared to mine tiles in the dangerous latter part of the volcanic biome were mostly unemployed Ratizens with little money, who, sadly, often couldn't afford even the basic necessities.

Therefore, we revised the plan to have Ratizens take fire damage every time they stepped on a tile within the volcanic biome. This solution was not only simpler to implement but also allowed players to solve the problem in various ways. They could destroy the damaging tiles, soak Ratizens in water to prevent fire damage, or provide Ratizens with more sleep time and recovery buildings to ensure safe development.


It seems like there's a savory smell coming from somewhere… 


However, these methods felt insufficient as preparatory steps for settling the volcanic biome. This was because, even without using these methods, settling could proceed, albeit slowly, without much inconvenience. 



Ratfiend


Digging down to the underground from the early stages to obtain rare resources was not our intended scenario, as swiftly settling the volcanic biome was supposed to involve risks. Initially, our plan was to make settling the volcanic biome without sufficient military preparation risky by applying the invasion system, where predators stronger than weasels would invade. Salamanders, which appeared in Ratropolis, seemed like a suitable choice for these invading predators.


Salamanders we tried to make cute for this game


Upon reevaluation of the plan, it seemed like it might give players a negative experience. From the player's perspective, it was difficult to know at what point of developing the volcanic biome enemies would start invading, and accidental development could trigger invasions that were too strong, potentially ruining the game. The intention was for players to prepare and then start developing, knowing the risks involved, but it seemed more likely that sudden invasions would lead to exhaustion from defending the city rather than advancing development.


Therefore, we considered limiting the salamanders' movement so they wouldn't leave the volcanic biome. The idea was to make them attack only the player's structures and Ratizens located within the volcanic biome during invasions. This way, it seemed like players could prepare adequately for invasions before starting to develop the volcanic biome.


However, even this alternative had many flaws. Players could potentially trigger salamander invasions to prevent weasels from invading the city, and there was also the possibility of the city's soldiers repeatedly descending into the volcanic biome to attack the salamanders, only to be defeated.


The more we thought about it, the more problems appeared, and it seemed like solving all of them would require a lot of time. Therefore, we decided to set aside the invasion system related to the volcanic biome and look for other ways to make obtaining resources from the volcanic biome risky. Making the player feel the danger didn't necessarily have to come in the form of invasions.


This led to the idea of introducing a giant monster that guards the volcanic biome. The giant monster wouldn't invade the city but would hinder the Ratizens developing the volcanic biome, making players feel like they need to defeat the monster for smooth development.


However, technically, adding a giant character that moves along tiles was not feasible, so, regrettably, the giant monster had to be scaled down to the size of rats. This resulted in the creation of a character that looks a bit grotesque, reminiscent of a rat living in hell.


It definitely looks much more dangerous


We wanted Ratfiend to be small yet invincible, creating an entity that players should avoid fighting against. The idea was to either block Ratfiend's path through tile construction or encourage players to develop the biome while avoiding Ratfiend. However, this solution also presented new problems. There was no information screen to explain Ratfiend's invincibility, leaving players without guidance on why it wasn't losing health, and our allied soldiers seemed eager to descend into hell by seeking out and attacking Ratfiend.


Due to these issues, we decided to give Ratfiend high defense instead of invincibility. Adding an enemy information screen is a feature that's needed in the long term, but it was too time-consuming to add immediately just for Ratfiend. Moreover, having soldiers attack an enemy that takes no damage or making invincible enemies undetectable by soldiers could appear buggy.


With these twists and turns, Ratfiend was added to the game. We haven't heard much from the players yet, but we'll need to pay close attention to see if it functions as intended.



The Greed


We also experimented with various concept designs for the animals that would appear in the volcanic biome. Since no real creatures live near lava, it was necessary to be creative. Initially, the animals designed for the volcanic biome were cute and matched the environment, but as the biome evolved to emphasize its difficulty and danger, the designs of the appearing animals became increasingly horrifying and grotesque.


Creatures evolving into monstrous forms


Adding new animals isn't straightforward due to the need for them to fit into various uses and production chains. The current animals in the game also fall short in terms of utility, necessitating minimal additions. Among these, the Salt King was added specifically for events. Rather than complicating the game with additional complex production chains, the intention was to establish it as a "joker" animal that players could use to obtain the resources they needed.


The Greed’s design change from Lucifrog to Gluttonoushark.


The Greed was designed to spit out different resources according to a formula when players input resources. The goal was to allow players to infinitely obtain limited resources or recycle unnecessary ones.


However, in practice, its utility was much lower than expected. Even if resources could be obtained from deep underground, transporting them to the city was very cumbersome, and without knowing the formula, players hesitated to input resources because they couldn't predict the outcome. Most importantly, the rewards were not significant enough to justify the effort of going deep underground to use it, lacking the appeal to make it worthwhile.


Here’s your meal~~ (What am I supposed to do with this guy…)


Ultimately, it was decided to replace the ability of The Greed, and it needed to be designed in the following direction:

  • Ensure the rewards obtained through The Greed are overwhelmingly powerful, allowing players to know in advance and act accordingly.
  • Minimize the quantity of rewards that require transportation to the extent that a leader alone can carry them if they are tangible and need to be transported.
  • Increase reusability so it's not something used once or twice and then forgotten, but can be continually utilized.


After much deliberation, The Greed's ability was reshaped to alleviate players' critical situations. By paying a high amount of money to The Greed, players could end ongoing enemy invasions or stabilize all rebelling Ratizens. This approach was seen as sufficiently appealing because it offered a way to resolve dire late-game crises with economic power.


Given its powerful capability, there was a concern that overuse of The Greed's ability could disrupt the game's balance, necessitating a safeguard. It was decided to significantly increase the cost required to use The Greed's ability each time, as a way to control its use. Although different from regular animals, incorporating The Greed added a new dimension of accumulating wealth, making it an intriguing system that encourages long-term strategic planning when used.


Moreover, there are still many systems intended for the volcanic biome that haven't been added yet. The plan is to appropriately incorporate these remaining elements during other main system updates, gradually enhancing the game. We look forward to your continued support and feedback for future updates! Thank you for reading this lengthy post today.



Steam Store: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2244130/Ratopia/

Discord: https://discord.gg/rprfSp6ct2

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

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