Energy is Everything

Game #2's design is fairly well established in my head and on paper, but I'm still very much in the stage of exploring what I can reasonably do from a technical perspective - not to mention from a time perspective. (Read as: I'm trimming down the scope by figuring out what I can or can't do.) I'm running through the big picture list of features to make sure that each can be implemented in a way that I like and fits the vision for the game. This is an iterative process. As features are implemented other aspects of the game are getting adjusted or redesigned, but that's not exactly news worthy...


A core feature/game mechanic of Game #2 is going to be energy. Energy is everything. With more energy we become more productive. With more efficient use of energy we can do more with less. The use of energy is what allows for modern society to function and, to hint at a game mechanic, use of more energy allows for a higher standard of living. 

There's of course a dark side to energy consumption.Increases in efficiency allows more to be produced with less. That might be less workers, less energy or less effort. All of which improve the quality of life. While this can drive down prices, increase production and consumption it also has the effect of higher unemployment or underemployment - i.e. the current stat of the rust belt. 

A rigged and animated steam engine model. This was also the first animation I'd ever rendered in Blender - GIF made with GIMP.

This give and take concept is something I very much want to explore in Game #2. The first step of which means I need to develop an energy mechanic. The mechanic requires the "generation" of energy (the physics teacher in me cringes writing that), the distribution of the energy, and the "consumption" of that energy.

The game is likely to be set in the industrial revolution time period. So... Steam engines!

Steam engines can provide a local source of energy. They can be fed with wood, charcoal or coal - really anything that'll burn. All of which can be found or produced easily with low tech methods. Steam engines can be built on site in a variety of sizes. Seems like a win. So off to Blender I went to see if I could produce something that I liked. 

A view of the rig in Blender.

Nothing profound in the modeling department, but rigging and animating is still pretty new to me. I didn't want to "fudge" the animation I wanted a rig that with the rotation of a single object could animated the entire model.  I wanted this for ease of animation as well as for a degree of realism. 

A combination of bones and constraints to tie the mechanism together and allow smooth animation. The constraints of copying location, rotation and or scale were all new to me and opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities. I'm excited to play with more mechanical animations...

There are very few tutorials on mechanical rigging - I might put one together in the future. Who knows?

I'd like to work renewable or at least pollution free energy sources into the game as well. At first glance windmills are a pretty obvious choice - so those will be added at some time in the future. At the moment I've avoided rivers (as I have no idea how to make a good looking low poly river) so water power is more or less out for the moment.  

Energy Transfer

Power Lines - Mostly eye candy at the moment

Power Lines - Mostly eye candy at the moment

The industrial revolution largely used mechanical energy which (clearly) has limitations. Moving towards electrical power as a way to transfer energy could help in several design areas, but could break the immersion or at least a sense of believably.

While it may not fit with the (current) intended time period I spent a little time playing around with power lines. Being able to generate power in a centralized location could lead to higher efficiency and more contained pollution. This is further specialization would allow workers (and the player) to spend more time doing something besides feeding fuel into a steam engine. 

Borrowed Code that when passed an Array of Points with Return a larger but smoother array of points - Don't Remember the Source, Oops.

I can see the game going away from a historically accurate time period (ha, as if I'm capable of historical accuracy), but I don't want to delve to far in to fantasy or steampunk styles either... 

The power poles are just to cubes scaled to look like modern poles. The lines are line renderers that start with three points and then are smoothed by some (borrowed) code to add additional points. 

The performance of moving the poles is pretty bad and will need some optimization if the code makes it into a build. I have to redraw all the lines when a pole moves - at the moment EVERY line is redrawn.

To be honest the power lines came out of frustration (lack of creativity) with another idea. They may just be a short lived idea that goes away.

Some form of energy transfer mechanic will need to make it into the game whether that is power lines or not I have decided. At the moment the energy transfer mechanic is simply the player or hired workers stoking the fires of steam engines - I think a step up in sophistication would be good.

Plenty more to iterate on...