BitCraft Design Blog #5

Clockwork Labs
6 min readDec 25, 2023


Shaping the world

In the last blog, we talked about how we plan to let every player in BitCraft own some space in our vast world. In this blog post, I want to explain how players will shape the world as well!

The core vision for BitCraft stems from the idea of marrying a truly sandbox game world with a meaningful, long-lasting RPG game loop. Up to now, we’ve talked publicly about how we aim to make BitCraft a fun and engaging MMORPG, but while we’ve spent much of our time focusing on the sandbox aspect, we haven’t yet said much publicly.

Concept art exploration for dirt pillars (Subject to change)

Whereas many sandbox or procedural games use a square grid, BitCraft actually uses a hexagonal grid and coordinate system for the game world. This is responsible for the unique visual world (rarely seen outside of strategy games) [1]. The world is ultimately made up of millions of hexagon shaped pillars which create the landscape. As of recently, these pillars of terrain vary in both texture and material based on environmental conditions.

The primary way players are able to sculpt the world is by editing the height of these pillars to completely alter the landscape. Currently this is done by placing a building called a “terraforming site” on top of the pillar. We chose this design for two reasons:

  1. It prevents anything that would cause issues from being on the pillar in question while terraforming is taking place, like a building half on the pillar
  2. It also acts as the place where we track the state of how much progress has been made towards changing the height of the pillar and the desired height.

A big part of balancing world shaping is deciding how much time and effort players need to invest to make changes. We want changes to the world to accumulate slowly as a result of player coordination and effort and not something that can change drastically overnight. In order to achieve this, each unit of height change is treated as a progress meter which requires a certain amount of progress to complete. Many players can contribute effort towards changing the height (in parallel or series) in a similar way that many players can work together to chop a tree down faster. We also have calculations for how much effort is needed which takes in factors like whether the tile is claimed and how much it has already been terraformed from its initial state. Our goal is that small projects like flattening small height differences in your town should not take too much effort, but massive undertakings like carving a pass through a mountain could take hundreds of players months to complete.

Terrain height changes are a big factor in terms of traversability in the game world. Small height changes can be walked/jumped over quickly and smoothly, but larger height changes require players to stop and climb. This climbing is both slower and stamina draining compared to walking. Additionally, some vehicles like carts are even more limited in the level of height change they can cross. Given their ability to move larger amounts of resources. Terraforming a ramp or staircase up the side of a cliff or mountain might be a huge endeavor, but would provide massive time savings in the future once complete.

Terraforming is currently limited around bodies of water because we still have to work out water flow on the technical side and what should be permissible on the game design side (e.g. should it be possible to block canals or create canals through land that others are using for transit).

In addition to “sculpting” the world through changing terrain elevation, players can “paint” the world by changing the character of the terrain through the “paving” system. This is essentially like adding material on top of terrain. Paving takes both time and resources to place, so paving out the surface area of a large village or making a road between two towns is going to be a large endeavor that could take coordination of a large group a long time to complete. Maybe you want to add your own flair to your town or show off just how advanced your civilization is by paving the ground with a rare resource.

Paving isn’t exclusively for aesthetics, however. It also serves a functional purpose. Many large buildings must be built on paved ground and some pavings also have the ability to grant stats buffs while standing on them. For example, you can pave a road which reduces stamina drain when running or which grants a movement speed bonus.

In previous playtests, we’ve had a limited set of pavings as placeholders, but in the future we aim to give players a huge variety of pavings to choose from assuming you can procure the materials needed for each. We even saw players use the limited options to organize different districts of their towns based on the ground paving materials or pave intricate art or messages in the ground. We can’t wait to see what players do with this.

Pre-Alpha footage — tester created settlement (All assets are subject to change.)

Of course, terrain modification is just one way players can shape the world around them. Let’s not forget about player buildings. While players can already build a wide variety of buildings with a functional purpose in the game, we’re also investigating adding buildings or structures which affect terrain traversal and terrain augmentation (e.g. platforms or ramps).

For example, we would love to create a way for players to build floating platforms which turn tiles which are underwater into “land” and can be stood on and built on. Theoretically this would enable players to build entire settlements floating in the water.

Another thing we are looking at is player-built ladders/stairs/elevators. This would be something players could build over larger cliffs as an alternative to terraforming natural staircases into the terrain.

Finally one thing we would like to allow is some sort of bridge. It might be the case that this works like a drawbridge so that waterways remain unobstructed, but we think it is possible from a technical and design standpoint eventually.

By this point I’m sure many of you are thinking about how badly these world shaping mechanics will be abused to grief others in the game. This is something we’ve been considering as well since we started down the road of adding these systems into the game.

Claims are powerful in that the only way to prevent other players from undoing your alterations to the world is to claim them, but claims also require maintenance. If you want to alter something and protect it you must spend effort and resources to do so forever.

Players often grief in games like Minecraft, because placing and lighting a TNT block takes almost no effort but rebuilding a base takes a lot of effort. To remedy this we aim to invert that. If something isn’t claimed we make sure undoing player-made alterations towards the original natural state is highly leveraged compared to making further alterations. This means terraforming ground towards its original height or removing pavings is always significantly easier than making them.

We are looking forward to seeing what players do to the world across longer tests in the future and will continue to monitor and seek input from the community on ways to improve mitigating griefing.

— Carter (Minch)

[1] and several headaches for our engineers 😅