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Update: Strange Visitors
November 1, 2019


Off-screen speech is now shown on the bottom, left, and right of the screen, not just the top. When you are targeted by a killer or posse, you can tell that they're coming for you by the double-! for their off-screen sounds (posses coming for other people have single-! for their off-screen sounds). You now GASP when targeted, along with making the usual shocked face.

The kill-target swapping bug has been fixed, and the waiting time before landing a kill has been increased from 3 seconds to 6 seconds, giving your victim more warning.

Babies are now truly helpless for the first 12 seconds of life.

Springs and tarry spots are now on the same 40x40 grid of ley lines, so they're both plentiful and easy to find. Tarry spots now use a similar area-based tap-out mechanism. After tap-out, dried springs and tarry spots provide gradient directional pointers to help you find any well along that ley line.

The jumpiness of genetic scores has been reduced by around 4x. This makes it harder to climb to the top, but easier to stay there once you get there. After around 100 offspring have been factored in, your genetic score very closely approximates the average lifepan off you and all your offspring, and players of different offspring-preservation proficiency are cleanly differentiated by score (before, the scores were so jumpy that there was a lot of score overlap between players at different proficiency levels). Mothers and grandmothers now count toward your own genetic score, closing the matricide genetic score exploit.
[Link][22 Comments]

Update: Tool Skill
October 26, 2019


You now have between 8 and 16 tool learning slots in your lifetime, depending on your genetic fitness. Each tool that you learn consumes one of your slots. You can't learn everything, so you must chose carefully and coordinate your efforts with those around you.

A more complete explanation of this idea is described here:

[Link][14 Comments]

Update: Cartography
October 19, 2019


One of the arcs last week was much closer to being the gripping, collective story that I'm trying to create. Someone built an Endtower near the center of the map and surrounded it with a maze full of locked doors. While some players tried to protect and rebuild the Endtower to usher in the apocalypse, others grouped together and used locksmithing techniques to chip their way into the center of the maze. I've always hoped that this kind of player-created quest would emerge.

But how do you find your way to this maze? Once you find it, how do you tell others how to get there? And how many interesting mechanics are available for a would-be maze builder?

The new map-making feature allows all kinds of interesting interactions. You make a map by standing in a target location and speaking a title while holding the map and a piece of charcoal. After that, whoever picks up the map will automatically adjust their current navigation point to that destination. Like any written piece of paper, maps can be stored in backpacks or locked away in chests. They can also be erased to be reused, or made permanent with the help of an elder.

I'm still working on that whole "oil eventually runs out" thing, and as I do, maps will be helpful to locate and exploit the remaining oil resources.

But in previous arcs, I realized that oil was never even necessary for long-term water pumping, because more low tech wells could be built when the first set of them ran out. Yes, spring heads are far apart, but not that far apart. They need to be somewhat close together to give you enough options in terms of settlement locations. But as a result, the rift has hundreds of them, which is just way too much water if they are all exploited with low-tech wells.

To solve this problem, building a well on a given spring head now permanently taps out neighboring spring heads in an 80-tile square radius. Think of a long straw drinking your neighbor's milkshake. Now instead of hundreds of exploitable spring heads, there are at most dozens. By tweaking this radius in the future, I can adjust the amount of low tech water available without reducing the number of viable settlement locations.

Hopefully, we're getting closer to low tech water actually running out, and thus dependence on oil for high tech water, and eventually oil itself running out. My goal for the game is that a village always needs to be on its collective toes.

You probably noticed that backpacks stopped decaying a while back. My general design philosophy here has changed a bit. Instead of an endless supply of resources that allow you to constantly re-make old and broken things, I'm more interested in forcing you to make difficult choices with a limited supply of resources. The non-consumable things that you decide to make can last forever. But did you make the right thing at the right time?

Backpacks were still hooked into a vestigial piece of the old, infinitely-regenerating resource system. After making one snare, you could catch an unlimited number of rabbits with no further resource inputs, and rabbits were respawning almost hourly. Rabbits also represented one of the last few infinitely regenerating and resource-free wild food sources.

As a result of this mismatch, in a recent arc, I personally visited a village that had 50 surplus backpacks stored away. Backpacks were so plentiful as to be worthless. Nothing in this game should be worthless. You should never make something without carefully weighing the costs and benefits. Backpacks had very little cost, so over time, many generations of villagers had made them until they collectively had amassed a whole pile of them.

Snaring rabbits now has a resource input, in the form of bait. This is is one way that people actually do it in real life, as I'll let this gentleman from Kentucky explain:


Bait can be made either from a finite natural resource or a cultivated food resource that requires water to grow. So rabbits are now part of the water resource economy, as they should be.

There are also a bunch of little fixes. The posse speed-boost exploit has been fixed, and some glitches with the blue hint arrows have been cleared up. Framerates in cities with lots of floors has been improved on slower graphics cards.
[Link][12 Comments]

Update: Oil and Water
October 12, 2019


The point of the arcs is to see what happens over the long haul to villages as fundamental resources run out in a finite area. However, those fundamental resources have been so plentiful in the past that villages died out for other reasons before the experiment got to run to completion. Oil was one of these primary resources, but taking a quick survey of a sample map, I found 42 tarry spots. That's a lot of oil in a lot of places.

It's much more interesting if only some of the villages manage to find and monopolized oil. So in this update, there are now a fixed number of tarry spots---five of them---scattered randomly on the map. And to make them easier to find, they only occur in the snowy biome.

Oil is primarily needed for pumping water long term, but what about the intermediary water pumps leading up to the diesel pump? I took another look at those and made them both more reliable and long lasting, which will give a village a bit more breathing room before they need to rush oil exploration.

The hint system has been refined even more since last week. Now, when you type a filter like /HATCHET, you see a list of step-by-step instructions for making the target object, with blue arrows pointing to the ingredients for each step as you go, and the current step switching automatically whenever you pick up a new ingredient. For simpler crafting tasks, this system almost works like magic to lead you step by step through the process with blue hint arrows guiding your way.

The posse system has also been adjusted to allow you to join a posse verbally (I JOIN YOU), even if you are unable to right-click on a fast-moving griefer. You need to be holding something to join a posse, but it doesn't necessarily need to be a deadly weapon. Your joining adds moral support to the posse and speeds it up. Setting down whatever you're holding takes you out of the posse, just like before.

You can fly over the rift barrier with a plane again, but you can't have babies outside the rift. The past few arcs were ended by escapees sucking babies away from the remaining arc families.
[Link][25 Comments]

Update: Ancient Names
October 4, 2019


First of all, if you live in the Denver area, I'm speaking this Saturday at the Whaaat festival held at CU Bolder. More info here:


When baby naming was added to the game 18 months ago, there were 86,000 possible last names and 30,000 possible first names. That's a lot of names. The last names were taken from the US Census 2000 and included all names that occurred at least 200 times. The first names were taken from the Social Security database for the year 2016, and included all first names that occurred at least 5 times.

Taking a closer look at the source data, I noticed that far more names were available. I must have picked the 200+ cut off for last names myself, because the source data went all the way down names that occurred only 100 times. I suppose I was trying to cut down the data size, but now I realize that there's no reason to do this, thanks to the logarithmic time complexity of the name matching algorithm. Adding these extra last names almost doubles the size of the name pool, taking us up to 151,671 last names, and adding gems like Bodnarchuk, Gathof, and Shcnitkey.

For the first names, the list from 2016 only includes babies born in 2016---in other words, modern baby names. Turns out that many widely-known antique names like Helga aren't on that list. Furthermore, the available data is insanely comprehensive, covering all birth years going back to 1880. Might as well merge all these lists, to get a mega-list of all baby names that were ever used in the past 138 years. And wow, all the names are tagged with the gender of the baby. We can do something with that too. No more girls named Robert or boys names Sally.

Yes, there are some unisex names, but we can easily tease them out of the mix. Each name is accompanied by an exact occurrence count for each gender in each year. If a name is more balanced than 80/20 in any year, we call it unisex. It's also interesting that the gender associated with certain names shifted over the past century. Charlie was exclusively male early on, but now it's more female than male.

The result is 7917 unisex names, 32,074 exclusively male names, and 58,411 exclusively female names. Why are there nearly twice as many female as male names? People apparently exercise more creativity when naming their girls. This was true to some extent even back in 1900, when there were 1500 male names and 2200 female names. But it's clear that baby name creativity has blown up for both genders since then, with 18,000 female names and 14,000 male names in 2017---we've gotten almost 10x more creative, or maybe just more diverse, in the past 100 years.

Anyway, these changes mean that there's a lot more first and last name variety available (welcome to the party, Helga), and also that your baby's name will auto-match to the closest available name for their gender, including unisex names.

There's also a small improvement to immersion, as your mother's naming speech will be auto-filled with your actual name. YOU ARE ROBEFJLSKDF might auto-correct to YOU ARE ROBERT, for example. The same is true if the name your mother tried to give you is already taken. If Lucy is taken currently, YOU ARE LUCY might auto-correct to YOU ARE LUCILE. So you don't need to mouse over yourself after naming to find out your actual name.

The other big thing is an improvement to the hint system. When actively tabbing through or filtering the hints, a helpful bouncing arrow highlights the closest target object in the world. No more mousing over a bunch of stuff when trying to figure out what a flint chip looks like. There have been many requests for visual crafting hints, but there are problems with auto-scaling huge objects (like the rubber tree) in an aesthetically appealing way. Visual crafting hints would mainly help you find the object that you're looking for, and this bouncing arrow may solve that problem even more thoroughly.

The arrows can also be leveraged by expert players who are searching far and wide for a rare object. Tab to a hint that requires a tarry spot, and then roam. It will be impossible to miss any tarry spot that passes by on your screen. Since these arrows are only activated when you're actively tabbing or filtering the hints, they'll be invisible during regular, moment-to-moment play.

And bugs have been fixed, including one last cause of grave duplication and spurious (!) off screen sound notifications (sorry for making you paranoid last week, folks).

And what about the changes made last week? Did they work to extend arc longevityl? We just had a record-setting arc, lasting 4+ days after the Eve window closed, as can be seen in this family population graph:


We're getting close!
[Link][8 Comments]

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