Since NewCity was announced publicly a little over a year ago, reactions have been divided. Some people immediately connect with the retro style, displaying a clear hunger for a modern citybuilder with the charm of 90s simulation games. But others react pretty negatively, particularly to the appearance of the game. RockPaperShotgun even called the game “ugly” in an otherwise positive review. (I’m not bothered by that comment though. I’m just happy to be reviewed by RPS.)
It’s not true that everyone sees the game as ugly. In fact, many people find it quite beautiful, in a minimalist way. What is true is that the look of the game is divisive. Some people love it. Others detest it. That’s a good thing! It’s better to have a game that 25% of people love than a game that 75% like.
NewCity is a simulation game, and simulation games have a very limited appeal. Many simulation games, such as Dwarf Fortress, will appeal only to a small group of hardcore fans who don’t care about graphics and are willing to learn an incredibly complicated game. And that’s okay! Dwarf Fortress has made a lot of people happy. Not every game needs to be Fortnite.
We’ll never try to compete with, say, SimShallNotBeNamed, on beauty or mass appeal. I want the most hardcore citybuilder fans to choose NewCity first, and the masses can play whatever they think is prettiest. That said, there is nothing wrong with making the game look a little nicer, or with improving the documentation so newcomers can learn the game quickly.
(Okay, maybe that “ugly” remark did get to me a little…. calm down Lone Pine…)
Most of the game’s graphics are procedurally generated by C++ code, and it’s tedious to make that look nice. Additionally, procedural generation is not amenable to modders wanting to add art to the game.
Therefore, we’re moving towards a system where we import OBJ files to populate the game’s object meshes, rather than generating them in code. This will allow our team artist, Gainos, to add his talent to the appearance of the game.
The next system to be enhanced in this way will be building decorations. These are objects that appear around buildings, such as trees, smokestacks and signs.
The possibilities with mesh importing are endless, so we’re sure to see all sorts of things like antennas, billboards, foliage, sports fields, lawn furniture, piles of hay and grain, and all manner of industrial contraptions. Expect the look of the game to change pretty dramatically over the coming months.
And, anything Gainos can do, you can do too! If you want a different look, you’ll be able to make a modpack, and as soon as we get Steam Workshop integrated, you’ll be able to easily share it with the world. Once modder’s screenshots are floating around, RPS is sure to change their mind about us.
(Not that I care. I don’t.)
With a game like this, the biggest obstacle to new players is knowledge. If you don’t understand how to affect the variables of the simulation it simply isn’t a good time. And your city can get out of hand rather quickly without a clear indication as to why. We know that we built the game for ourselves and the most hardcore fans first, but it’s about time we started looking at ways to make it more approachable. This means documentation and UI improvements. As well as an open mind when it comes to community feedback.
You spoke. We listened. And in the process, we learned which parts of the game were most confusing. Players didn’t understand why their zone demand was all over the place, so we changed the info panel for the zone tool in order to explain the factors affecting zone demand. This includes statistics on unemployment, unfilled job positions, and average travel times for daily commuters.
Many players didn’t understand the budget, so we added tooltips to explain the more arcane financial concepts. And the road elevation features were confusing to everyone until we made a pass with more tooltips and some documentation.
It’s not always obvious why citizens might refuse to ride that new train system you spent a billion dollars on, so we added visuals showing the coverage of the transit system and a fancy Route Inspector which shows the time-and-cost factors that drive transportation choices.
And that’s just for starters. It’s a big game; there’s a whole lot more to cover. Maybe even an encyclopedia’s worth. So next up, we’re planning to introduce the Citipedia.
Imagine a repository containing all of the gears, cogs, and levers that make the game function. Info panels can only get us so far; with the Citipedia, we can dig deep on the specifics of each tool and subtool. We can quantify and clearly label every factor that affects the underlying simulation. We can visually display how these factors interact with one another. It’s bound to help everyone from new players to Closed Alpha veterans. So there’s one obvious question hanging in the air like smoke in a dive bar…
Why haven’t we implemented this before now? Frankly, it’s a monumental undertaking. And when the game is still being balanced and values are being adjusted, how do we ensure we don’t have to comb through the Citipedia every patch to update info?
The answer: Markdown.
Many of the values for the simulation have already been exposed through Lua. And the rest have unique variable names which we can pull straight from the code. If the Citipedia were simply a text document we displayed to the user, we might be out of luck. But with Markdown, we have the ability to make a dynamic, adaptable tool that presents the correct info every time. The result will basically be part text parser, part hypertext, and all functionality.
Hang on, I’m kind of dizzy from using so many buzzwords one after the other…
Markdown simply provides a way to turn bare text into something more. Certain character sequences may indicate that we intend to link to another article in the Citipedia, while others might tell the Citipedia to fetch the current value for the specified variable. Meaning no muss, no fuss if we change the values; it should always show the most up-to-date info.
Suffice it to say, I’m excited to get to work on it, and I hope you all will benefit from the results. This is a mid-term goal, so expect there to be a lag time of a few months before its in the game proper. Until then, I’m sure I’ll write more blog post sections in the future detailing the grind. And if you have any suggestions, comments, or requests for the Citipedia, I’m listening. Just like every other aspect of the game we’ll build this together.
Questions? Comments? Feedback on the game? Sound off on our Discord.
As always, we’re incredibly thankful for our great community across the web. We love seeing the hard work and attention to detail you pour into your cities, and it inspires us every day to keep building. Thank you again for your support.
If you want to play the game and haven’t contributed yet, head over to our IndieGoGo page. We’re also on Reddit and Twitter. Give us a follow if you haven’t, and we’ll keep you up to date on what’s new with New Cities!