Refining the main gameplay mechanic

Hi everyone!

Last week I made a massive change in the way my game works by refining the main mechanic and here's why. (I have also made a video version of this devlog)

First, let's sum up what was the previous way of merging buildings. The player could right click on a group of four buildings, and they would instantly merge into a new building based on the ones they had selected. This was interesting because it was quick and dynamic but there were a lot of downsides too.

The first one being that the player doesn't really know what will be merged. Even if I made sure things were gathered in group of four, since the cursor is focused on one building only, they could get confused. Then, the player doesn't know what will be the merged building. they will have a general Idea of what it could be but the merging could sometimes give you strange results since there are only so much possible buildings. The last downside is that the player can't really feel like they are having an impact on what is happening, it feels like they are only spectating what's happening in the game.

What I've decided to do, is not only a visual change or UI change, but a complete modification in how the merging and crafting mechanic works. I made a new gameplay component that uses a UI element that is in the shape of a circle displaying different building icons on its edge.

This circle appears when you click to merge a group of four buildings. It shows you the possible buildings you could craft from this group. Unlike before, it doesn't merge on its own and you now have multiple choices. You then click on the building you need the most, and it merges the group of four into that building. Depending on what group of four you select the choices you get are totally different. In some cases you have more choices, sometimes you only have one choice. It depends on the kind of buildings you are trying to merge. To emphasize the relevance of the kind of buildings you are trying to merge, I'm also introducing a currency. It was planned already at some point in the development, but not that early. There are no way to get or spend it yet. Some buildings can cost a lot of units, others could cost as low as one unit. The way it works is that, the more likely the group is to merge naturally into a building, the less this option will cost you.

I think this new way of merging buildings is slowing down the gameplay a bit, but it fixes all the issues I encountered with the previous method. For instance, you know exactly what will be merged since the group is circled before anything is done. You can check what will be the end result and change your plans accordingly. And most importantly it adds a lot to the gameplay experience: you were spectating the development of the town, now you make decisions, you have to create nice groups of four or else the cost of your buildings could skyrocket. It gives back control to the player while adding clarity, and a strategy aspect to the game.

I'm proud of the UI element in itself:
  • The buildings are evenly distributed along the circle, whatever the number of building options is.
  • The circle is centered around the group and will follow it if you move the camera. This was made by unprojecting the position of the group to the camera and then by displaying the element on a 2D node on top of the 3D view.
  • When you select a group to merge, the view will always zoom at the right level.
  • If you ever change the zoom level too much, the UI will go away on its own.
  • It uses a nice transition combining a fade effect and a spin effect.

I might keep using the old way of crafting buildings for the first levels, and later on in the game, introduce the player to this mechanics. That way, the player wont be overwhelmed by tons of different UI elements at the same time. Someone suggested to use a shortcut to merge the most cost effective option without showing the UI element, which could be useful.

That's it for this week's development log about CraftyCounty,
A big news for me this week was a milestone I've reached on twitter, thank you for following me there, we are already more than one thousand!

Thanks for following the development,
Have a nice day!

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