|Update: Apocalypse 2.0|
December 28, 2018
First, a few important fixes that you all should be aware of.
There was a bug in temperature weighting on mothers. It was supposed to make ideal-temp mothers more likely to have a baby, but it was broken and not working. That has been fixed now. Furthermore, a Yum multiplier factor has been added to this weighting. If you have a large Yum multiplier (from eating a chain of unique foods), you will also be more likely to have a baby. If you're warm in addition to being on a yummy diet, you will be even more likely to have a baby.
And the way that Eve spawn locations were remembered---when Eve died of old age---was buggy. Thus, the surprise appearance of Eves near villages. This has been fixed. But even when it's working correctly, it's meant to only function on low-pop servers, and not as a way-of-life for reviving collapsed villages, so that has been fixed as well (your last-Eve-death location will only be used for your next Eve spawn if there are fewer than four fertile females on the server currently). This fix is even more important in light of this week's update, which I will describe in detail below.
In last week's update, I talked about how there will be no magic in the game. What I meant to say is that there will be no non-inherent magic.
Some things about the game are inescapably magic. Reincarnation---a reality for any commercially viable game---is the prime example of this.
But the map itself, and the servers, and how they get set up, and how they get updated, and how they get cleared, is another example. I'm doing all this stuff behind the scenes to keep things updated and working. I'm making choices. I'm adding things. I'm in control of the parameters that control when and how certain parts of the map go back to their natural state.
And the map is huge---unnaturally huge. 36,000x larger than the surface area of the earth. Walking from one edge to the other in the game would take you 34 years of real-life time. Walking around to visually see the entire map would take you 14 billion years.
It's a big map. Mind-mindbogglingly so. Yet I can change the entire thing with the push of a button, like when I add a new biome, or wipe it back to its natural state in the blink of an eye. How can something so big be changed so fast? Through procedural generation and the properties of computer file systems (where deleting data of length N is a constant time operation on N). It's not magic, really.
But when we try to square these possibilities with a simulation of the real world, the end results are nothing short of miraculous.
And what does that make me, the guy pushing the buttons behind the scenes?
There's an amazing idea lurking in this game, and credit for the idea goes to Edmund McMillen. When I visited him a few years ago, in between petting his hairless cat and having him kick my ass in a Magic draft, I told him about the game I was working on. In a game that starts back at zero as a premise, a question arises: how did we get to zero in the first place? And what if, Edmund suggested, players were in control of taking everything back to zero? What if, at the top of the tech tree, the most difficult-to-craft item was The Button?
It seems that, after all is said and done in this game, after all my updates are out, and the game stops evolving due to developer input, this just has to be the way that it will work. Otherwise the game will stagnate. Edmund was right.
But what about along the way? In the arms race of player progress in the face of my weekly updates, players always win.
So, the idea of an along-the-way apocalypse arose. What if The Button was a moving target? Some item at the top of the current tech tree that represented the current endgame?
The problem here is that players can get to the top of the tech tree ridiculously fast.
This means that the apocalyptic item can't be technological. It needs to be magic in some way.
Long ago, shortly after the game's release in early 2018, I tried something like this. A monolith in the desert that you could use to conduct a kind of absurd ritual using a bit of material that was high-level tech at the time. This experiment was an utter failure, as the first apocalypse was triggered four hours after the update, and subsequent apocalypses were triggered hourly after that until I gave up and disabled the whole system.
I left that failed experiment behind, without thinking about it any further. Players can get through the tech tree---and craft any imaginable thing---way too fast. This even planted seeds of doubt in my mind about Edmund's Button, even at the end of the update process, once the tech tree was gigantic.
Still, I really liked the shared collective event that had occurred. People who were playing that fateful day will never forget that flash of white...
In the mean time, other ideas surfaced, like the bell tower, which involved slowing down player progress toward a goal and ensuring trans-generational cooperation. A bell tower takes 18 hours to build. In order to build it, your village has to survive that long.
This takes a page from the Clock of the Long Now.
The insight this week was that these two ideas can be combined. An apocalypse, for the time being, is a magical, not technological event. So there's a ritual. What if it was a very slow ritual? What if people had plenty of opportunity---and warning---to interrupt the ritual before completion?
That was always the idea with Edmund's Button anyway---that people would be fighting to stop it along the way.
So, I give you a new and improved apocalypse. It has:
--Rare, unsustainable ingredients that you cannot procure while working completely alone.
--A map-wiping wave that is limited to one server only (no more chance of an Easy Apocalypse on a vacant server causing wipes on the populated servers).
--A map-wiping wave that you can live through and come out the other side.
--World-wide warnings as the ritual gets closer and closer to completion.
--The ritual itself is very fragile and easy to set back along the way.
--The entire ritual, if uninterrupted, takes 24 hours to complete.
And, for the time being at least, it's magic.