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a multiplayer game of parenting and civilization building

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#1 2017-07-26 15:55:45

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 305

Everything runs out

A friend of mine summed up a design theory for this game as "evolve or die."

Essentially, there should be no steady state, where you finally break free from the survival struggle and can be fat, dumb, and happy for the rest of your life.  The garden of Eden can never be returned to.  No living off the fat of the land.  The land is too thin for that.

dustBowl.jpg

On a larger scale, the same is true for a village.  Maybe it can start to feel like a steady state for a few generations, but in reality, those generations are making a grave mistake by living that way.  If they're not developing the next level of survival technology, they are dooming their village in the future.

The graph of progress should look like saw teeth, with catastrophes every so often when we realize that what we thought we figured out isn't working long-term.

As I was playtesting yesterday, testing some server fixes, I was noticing how infinite anything makes that particular thing robotic and uninteresting.  I don't need to care about it or think about it or consider it or spend it wisely.  I just go to the known spot and get more of it, as needed.  I was keeping a fire going, and like a robot, every so often I'd walk back to the branchy trees, pick a new branch (respawn time for branches is something like 60 seconds, and yew branches are infinite), chop it into kindling, and feed my fire.  It was tedious.  The computer might as well have done this action for me, each time my fire ran out.  I never had to make a decision.  Should I use this wood for fuel?

So.... what if each tree only has one branch to give?  Each yew tree only one yew branch?  What if the clay node only gives 4 clay before running out?  What if the fertile soil node only gives 4 tilled rows before running out?  What if each tule reed patch can only be harvested once?  What if the ponds run dry (and geese leave) after enough water trips?  What if rabbits don't respawn after snaring?


As Eve, you are literally plopped down in Eden, with all of these wild resources in their best possible, full state.  Every tree has a dead branch waiting.  Fertile soil nodes just brimming.  Berry bushes full.

Eden.jpg

It could even "feel" easy at first, but that feeling is an illusion.  You won't make it past age 30 unless you kick it into gear and carefully shepherd these actually-limited resources toward better survival tech before they run out.

And, this pattern should continue, all the way up the tech tree.  You are planting berries and carrots, which helps you survive when the wild bushes and rabbits run out, but eventually you run out of water.  You are developing the steel ax to harvest more firewood and building wood after the branches run out, but you eventually run out of trees.  You develop a pump to pull water out of the ground, but eventually you run out of fuel for the pump.  You are developing fertilizer that lets you make your own fertile soil, but eventually you run out of the base ingredients for the fertilizer.

It seems like all of this engenders difficult decisions every step of the way.  If I have a bit of grain, do I plant more wheat with it, feed it to my horse so I can travel distances, or feed it to my cows so they produce milk?  If I have a bit of fuel, do I put it in the plow to till some rows, put it in the pump to get some more water, or put it in the mill to grind some grain into usable flour?


One question that arises:  when I say, "run out," do I really mean it?  I'm not sure.  Like, if one population strips the wild world bare in some radius, and then time passes before a new Eve, she could actually be stuck with no means to re-bootstrap if nothing comes back, ever.  If branches and berries are permanently exhaustible, there's no starting over, for anyone, without moving elsewhere.  And wandering around looking for greener pastures isn't very interesting.  Salvaging progress from the last failed civilization is much more interesting.

So, I'm currently thinking that everything is "lifetime exhaustible."  As far as a player is concerned, each tree only gives a branch once.  Each berry bush can be emptied once.  But they replentish every hour, so the next Eve has a chance.  Wild stuff is always there, slowly building in the background, as a possibility if needed, but it can't be depended on for more than a short bootstrapping phase.  After you've got a farm or whatever, a trip out into the forest to pick berries can still happen from time to time.

But some things are perma-exhaustible.  Like if you chop down a tree and don't plant a new one, that's it.  If you dig a wild carrot up, that's it.  And a few trivial things, like tinder and leaves, are still infinite, because it would feel too weird to make them limited.


I do worry that this encourages an Eve strategy of "quit playing and come back in an hour."  Like if the wilderness feels too lean, or you mess up too much, waiting an hour will bring it all back and give you a new start.

I could also refresh everything on each new Eve, but again, that seems to make Eve suicide a viable strategy.

If it refreshes on Eve, but only if she's different than the last Eve, then it encourages multiple accounts.


The only way around this seems to be to make everything perma-exhaustible.  There's no timing trick that you can use to work around it.  If you, or the person before you, exhausted the wild resources, your only choice is to find greener pastures to re-bootstrap.  You can find you way back to the old city later.

This reminds me of the book Ishmael.  There's an analogy in there about civilizations being like flying contraptions, and it's easy to confuse falling with flying for a while, when we jump off the cliff with our flapping wing suit or whatever.  The ground seems to be getting closer, so we flap the wings harder.  We look down on the ground below and see an array of other crashed flying contraptions.  Why did they crash?  We'll never know.  But we're not going to crash like them!  We have it figured out.

flyingMachine.jpg

Like every time we find the ruins of an abandoned civilization, we scratch our heads.  Why would they ever leave all of THIS?  Well, we're never leaving ours, that's for sure.

treeThroughBuilding.jpg

Just to prevent the map from forever expanding into greener pastures, maybe wild resources could respawn on some kind of glacial time scale.... like every 24 hours, or every week, or something.

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#2 2018-03-07 15:31:03

coderone
Member
Registered: 2018-03-07
Posts: 24

Re: Everything runs out

I like the idea, but you have to keep resource respwaning in relation to how quickly people age. If one minute is one year, then 24 hours is 1,440 years, and entire forest can grow and die over many times within that time frame. Plus with aging happening so fast it, if i stop and "think or decide" for one minute, then spend another minute looking for tools. Two years passed turning one branch into firewood.

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#3 2018-03-07 18:08:11

asterlea
Member
Registered: 2018-03-01
Posts: 55

Re: Everything runs out

For gameplay reasons, keeping the time it takes to do things completely proportional would not work. If there were new trees every 24 hours, for example, they wouldn't really be a limited resource, you could just chop down all the trees and then the next day there would be more. Also, if everything was accurately scaled you'd have to make a lot more fires, because fires don't usually burn for years just because you added a single tree branch to it. In fact, you couldn't actually interact with the game fast enough, because you'd have to do a years worth of farming, eating, fire making, getting water, etc. all in one minute.

It's not a 100% accurate simulation, so some creative licence has to be taken to balance things so that they provide the challenge you want the game to have. There can be tweaking of course trying to hit the sweet spot of what's fun but challenging, but just trying to make all the times be exactly like in real life would not end up with a very good game.

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#4 2018-03-08 01:28:02

Uncle Gus
Member
Registered: 2018-02-28
Posts: 255

Re: Everything runs out

Yeah, it's abstracted somewhat. If it was to scale, you'd have to eat 18 times a second.

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#5 2018-03-08 02:32:29

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 305

Re: Everything runs out

Yes, someday I'll make a more accurate simulation where you have to eat 18 times per second!

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#6 2018-03-08 10:04:51

Novakrae
Member
Registered: 2018-03-08
Posts: 7

Re: Everything runs out

I like to imagine that we just happen to age rapidly.

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#7 2018-03-09 00:03:45

Potjeh
Member
Registered: 2018-03-08
Posts: 101

Re: Everything runs out

I think you might be overestimating efficiency of randomly grouped people with limited communication abilities. Villages are virtually guaranteed to mismanage their resources, and leaving uninhabitable areas behind, without trees or water, will just lead to starting fresh being the only option. IMO the "wait an hour" issue is the lesser evil. A way to nerf that could be introducing decay, so waiting for resources to replenish would lower the tech level of the area you're waiting on. I think it's a bit too easy to pick up after a long gone civilization anyway. And it makes sense for food to spoil and wood to rot. Heck, given enough time metal will rust away and even buildings will collapse. And it's unsightly how much random trash is strewn across the world. Plus I reckon it'd make things easier on the servers if old items were culled.

I definitely agree on being forced to climb the tech tree, though. Ponds shouldn't replenish fast enough in a reasonably local area to indefinitely sustain a small farming community. A well should be enough for one, but building wells should require a bit bigger community with more specialized roles for making the materials. This community would deplete a well faster than the groundwater would replenish, so you'd need an even bigger community to build an aqueduct from a nearby spring, etc. Now, the issue is that you can have the well building civilization collapse and a new small community taking the well and being sustainable indefinitely, or  simply the civilization contracting after building their infrastructure so they can sit on it forever. This is where decay can help, because the well will eventually collapse and they'll be down to unsustainable pond regeneration. In other words, climbing the tech tree should require a large and sustained civilization, rather than short bursts of advancement continuing from previous such bursts (ie a series of dead civilizations). I do like the idea of getting some use out of marvels of a lost civilization that you can't recreate or even properly maintain yet. So maybe decay for infrastructure could be usage based, that way it won't be all gone and reverted to basically a fresh start if it takes a bit too long before somebody reclaims the site.

Also, once a community reaches a certain size it's virtually guaranteed to implode even without external stresses. Size combined with lots of specialization and poor awareness of what exactly other people are doing is sure to breed distrust so civilizations will easily collapse for purely political reasons. Efficiency generally drops with size of a group, so people will feel like others are freeloading even if they're not. And it's all cranked up by the way in which communities gain and lose members, and the administrative nightmare it is to get the new members into correct roles.

Last edited by Potjeh (2018-03-09 00:13:59)

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#8 2018-03-09 02:55:57

NyanRose
Member
Registered: 2018-03-09
Posts: 20

Re: Everything runs out

It is actually possible for a primitive civilization to sustain itself over a long period of time, under the right conditions.

I think large water sources should be made possible, which would lead to people wanting to be in them. Crop fields maybe can require being 'rotated' like an actual farm would be. You can't use the same spot indefinitely for a crop farm, so it would make sense that every now and then there can be signs you need to move to another field. Farmers will do that where they seasonally swap where they grow.

As for wild resources, right now it's very easy for people to screw up resource regen, and completely ruin an area. Rather than it being done for good, I think maybe after a few generations, it should be possible  to come back. Maybe rabbits return to the old dens, or new berry bushes sprout up. It shouldn't be too fast, so there is a punishment for not tending to the wild crops, but not a complete loss.

There should be a way to breed live stock, so that people don't feel too comfortable living on just carrots. It would take time and effort to raise the live stock, but it could provide far more food that may sustain you longer.

If things are made too difficult, people will get frustrated. But if it's too easy, that people get bored. Honestly I would LOVE a way to be reborn into a previous community easier. I would love to see how one village did, where my mother set up a beautiful seed farm, and I created an impressive graveyard.

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#9 2018-03-09 10:59:02

Potjeh
Member
Registered: 2018-03-08
Posts: 101

Re: Everything runs out

Also, a big concern with permanently ruining land is malicious players. If it's this easy to do it accidentally, imagine the scale of destruction caused by somebody who both knows what they're doing and wants to cause as much damage as possible.

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#10 2018-03-09 16:26:36

asterlea
Member
Registered: 2018-03-01
Posts: 55

Re: Everything runs out

NyanRose wrote:

Crop fields maybe can require being 'rotated' like an actual farm would be. You can't use the same spot indefinitely for a crop farm, so it would make sense that every now and then there can be signs you need to move to another field. Farmers will do that where they seasonally swap where they grow.

You do need to replenish soil by composting. Carrots only need it when seeding, but it still makes you put in extra work into the soil to sustain the farm. Crop rotation would be interesting, but I think composting is filling that niche atm.

There should be a way to breed live stock, so that people don't feel too comfortable living on just carrots. It would take time and effort to raise the live stock, but it could provide far more food that may sustain you longer.

You can breed live stock. smile

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#11 2018-03-09 19:51:42

sMartins
Member
Registered: 2018-03-09
Posts: 12

Re: Everything runs out

Potjeh wrote:

I think you might be overestimating efficiency of randomly grouped people with limited communication abilities. Villages are virtually guaranteed to mismanage their resources, and leaving uninhabitable areas behind, without trees or water, will just lead to starting fresh being the only option. IMO the "wait an hour" issue is the lesser evil. A way to nerf that could be introducing decay, so waiting for resources to replenish would lower the tech level of the area you're waiting on. I think it's a bit too easy to pick up after a long gone civilization anyway. And it makes sense for food to spoil and wood to rot. Heck, given enough time metal will rust away and even buildings will collapse. And it's unsightly how much random trash is strewn across the world. Plus I reckon it'd make things easier on the servers if old items were culled.

I definitely agree on being forced to climb the tech tree, though. Ponds shouldn't replenish fast enough in a reasonably local area to indefinitely sustain a small farming community. A well should be enough for one, but building wells should require a bit bigger community with more specialized roles for making the materials. This community would deplete a well faster than the groundwater would replenish, so you'd need an even bigger community to build an aqueduct from a nearby spring, etc. Now, the issue is that you can have the well building civilization collapse and a new small community taking the well and being sustainable indefinitely, or  simply the civilization contracting after building their infrastructure so they can sit on it forever. This is where decay can help, because the well will eventually collapse and they'll be down to unsustainable pond regeneration. In other words, climbing the tech tree should require a large and sustained civilization, rather than short bursts of advancement continuing from previous such bursts (ie a series of dead civilizations). I do like the idea of getting some use out of marvels of a lost civilization that you can't recreate or even properly maintain yet. So maybe decay for infrastructure could be usage based, that way it won't be all gone and reverted to basically a fresh start if it takes a bit too long before somebody reclaims the site.

Also, once a community reaches a certain size it's virtually guaranteed to implode even without external stresses. Size combined with lots of specialization and poor awareness of what exactly other people are doing is sure to breed distrust so civilizations will easily collapse for purely political reasons. Efficiency generally drops with size of a group, so people will feel like others are freeloading even if they're not. And it's all cranked up by the way in which communities gain and lose members, and the administrative nightmare it is to get the new members into correct roles.

Good thoughts there ... also Hi big_smile, wondering if Jason knows about H&H ...

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#12 2018-03-11 10:29:50

DaZZZ
Member
Registered: 2018-03-10
Posts: 2

Re: Everything runs out

I agree with the original post there needs to be forced evolution, but some items are scarce like rope and are a key ingredient in many of the base tech lvl items.  How many milkweed plants are needed to make 1 of EVERY item in the game?  Can a player be expected to gather/farm that many?  the current "grind" of the game forces the repetition you claim to want to remove by creating a slower regrowth in nature.  of course we could plant milkweed and farm it but the slow growth rate turtles the game if this is your communities' bottleneck.   

I think there is are a few points mention above that could be fixed with game mechanics...wells and cisterns have ZERO usefulness in the current game.  We need to rob ponds to fill our wells?  what kind of backwards logic is that?  IRL you dig a well to access groundwater you don't dig a well then call the water truck over to fill is up once a month. 

Also, currently the tech tree doesn't run deep enough to justify changes to the surrounding world I've been in cities that have maxed the tech tree out and it doesn't feel any different to being a fresh even making a farm...we are still running water in rabbit skins and making food. 

if we could create a

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#13 2018-03-15 09:50:18

Hans Lemurson
Member
Registered: 2018-03-12
Posts: 45

Re: Everything runs out

jasonrohrer wrote:

A friend of mine summed up a design theory for this game as "evolve or die.

From what I've observed, players value stability and certainty above all else, and only explore new things once they have a stable foundation.  If the world is uncertain or dangerous, don't innovate, just double down on the things you already know: Naked Carrot Farming.

When confronted with "Evolve or Die", most will choose Die.  It's a simple and effective plan that is easy to execute and protects you from uncertainty and doubt.

Last edited by Hans Lemurson (2018-03-15 09:50:54)

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