I'm a software engineer who works on game development part time. I teach game development (on gamedev.stackexchange.com and lynda.com). I'm always working on something, and I'll post updates here. Let me know if there's a game development topic you want to know more about, I probably know the answer, or at least where to get one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What's the gameplay like?

The back story of the game is described in a previous post, The Discovery. Essentially, you're in charge of saving the goblin race (no pressure).

Your goal is to settle a new colony on a strange and hostile land. Most of your resources and technology were lost in transit, so you're starting from almost nothing. You need to build a home for your goblins, defend it from the hostile creatures that inhabit this new land and create the infrastructure to produce the technology needed to return to space.

The game starts with three to five goblins who've just crash landed in an escape pod. You have minimal tools and limited resources. Your first goal will be to find a suitable base of operations, the location for your colony. Find somewhere defensible, with access to resources and enough room for outdoor structures and crops. Generally this comes in the form of a concave hillside or valley, but it can be anywhere that looks fun. You can always build walls later.

Once you have a location chosen, you'll need to start getting the basic necessities, food and water. Food comes in a variety of forms, the easiest of which is harvesting food from local flora. This food is typically ready to eat off the plant (unless it's poisonous, it is a dangerous land!). Other sources of food include hunting and farming.

You can create a task for collecting food from local plants to start building a stockpile. When creating a general task like that, you can set the maximum number of goblins to be assigned to that task, for starters you can assign one or two goblins to the task. Much like Dwarf Fortress, you don't assign tasks directly to individuals. You create a task, then goblins will decide who among them has the time and skills to perform that task. Occasionally splitting the task into smaller parts, for example delivering the resources to a build site and the actual build job can be preformed by different goblins.

Water can be collected with wells to underground water sources or straight from streams and lakes. Collecting from surface water sources away from the colony comes with the risks of venturing out into the open. Wells are the safest option in the beginning but take more time to set up.

Once water and food are provided for at the basic level, it's time to start gathering the materials needed for structures and tools. These materials come in many forms. Wood from trees can be used in many constructions. Stone and metal from the ground, used in structures and tools. Finally, fur, skin, organs and bones from various creatures are used in clothing, armor, weapons, tools and some advanced gadgets (more on the organic-gadget interfaces later). The tools produced will help in accelerating the gathering of materials and allow the construction of more advanced structures. The structures will be used for shelter, defense and processing materials.

Some of the first things you want to build will be for defense. Passive defenses, like traps, will be useful when resources are low. Active defenses, like auto turrets, will be far better at defending the colony, but they will be resource expensive. The easiest and most flexible defense are your goblins, however, in some ways, they are the most valuable resource you have, so they should only be used as the last line of defense to protect the colony. Goblins can train for combat and equip weapons and armor.

You'll continue to build up your colony and gather materials. Build workshops to take raw materials and turn them into building components, tools and weapons. Some constructions require parts from multiple workshops and a variety of materials. Workshops range from working automatically to requiring the attendance of a skilled craftsgoblin. Examples of workshops include a furnace for smelting ore, a smithy for forging metal into tools and weapons, or a engineer's workshop for creating gadgets.

Occasionally, there will be another escape pod that lands with more goblins. Each goblin comes with different skills and the bits of Eilliam tech they can carry, so every new member is a welcome addition. However, this introduces the challenge of continued expansion to support your growing population. Food production and living space must both be in continual growth to keep up.

You will fail, your goblins will die. A lot. I'm not planning on making it easy to save the goblins. I really like the idea of "losing is fun". It will take a long time and a good amount of luck to "win". The game gets harder with progress. There are greedy inhabitants sharing the world with you, the more wealth you acquire (in the form of technology, food, valuable materials), the more you'll be targeted by your fellow inhabitants.

If you've played Dwarf Fortress, the form of interaction is similar. However, I'm focusing on simple, but powerful interaction with your goblins. While I will have keyboard shortcuts for everything, I would like to enable the player to primarily use the tool they're most comfortable with, the mouse. Being able to use the mouse for in world selection/interaction along with a clean GUI, should open up the "entry cost" of the game to a lot more people. I don't want the challenge to be in using the game! I want the challenge to be in winning the game.


  1. It's good to hear that you plan for the user interface to be simpler than DF. Dwarf Fortress is a great game, but its UI really poses an obstacle to new players (like most text-based-graphics roguelikes I've tried). I look forward to seeing how the GUI in Age of Goblins compares.

  2. You got Disqus?!?! Righteous.