BitCraft Dev Blog — Buildings

Just want to provide a quick update on what we’ve been working on and our current plans for the next launch of the game.

Buildings

One of the things we’ve struggled with over the past 6–8 months is the building system. It’s one of the most important aspects of the game and something we’ve put a huge amount of thought into. I must admit that the hex grid tends to make everything much more difficult, but hopefully we can do

To see where we’ve arrived at, it helps to look at a bit of the history of the designs we’ve gone through.

First Attempt: Single model buildings

The single model building is the building system that we adopted for the last play test. With this mechanic we only allowed players to construct buildings in the center of a hexagon cell and all buildings of the same type looked identical. As players upgraded the buildings

The reason we started with the approach is simple. It was really really easy to implement. The only issue was this system didn’t look or feel good at all.

Problems

  • Buildings were all uniformly placed and faced in random directions.
  • All cities looked the same.
  • It didn’t give the player much choice about what they wanted to do.

Second Attempt: Fully modular buildings

We knew we wanted to try something more complex and customizable than the single building system, so the next thing we looked at was making the buildings as customizable as possible. In our minds Minecraft has the most freedom for creativity in designing buildings of any game available today. We wanted to see how close to that style of building we could get in a top-down 3rd person RPG game like ours.

The logical next step was to try out fully modular buildings. Players would construct buildings by placing approximately player sized “building modules”. Basically chunks of buildings that would combine to form one large building. Our idea was very much inspired by Oskar Stalberg’s Townscaper game.

To create a building in BitCraft players would place one a single primitive module down on the grid. The player would then upgrade the building by attaching other modules to it. As the building increased in level, the buildings would appear to be made out of more advanced materials as well.

Problems

  • With a fully modular system, all buildings tended to look the same until you have very large number of modules. There are only so many ways you can place 1–5 modules after all.
  • In a game like Townscaper the buildings merge together to form a sort of uber building. Even roads and land created/constructed by players. However, in BitCraft we need players to use and create buildings which are physically distinct from other buildings.
  • As buildings get upgraded, they also expand in size. This means that you have to continuously rearrange your buildings so that they have room to grow.
  • Very difficult to ensure that players can always reach all the buildings.
  • In Townscaper you can, in a way, paint with buildings. This style of gameplay doesn’t really translate well when buildings are being upgraded over time.

Here’s another concept we did with modular buildings. You can see that you need a substantial number of modules to create a distinctive looking building.

It looks very cool at first glance, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit very well with the gameplay of an MMORPG. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to give up on modularity in our game entirely though, which brings us to our latest attempt at a building system.

Latest Attempt: Semi-modular buildings with modular roads and cosmetics

We want to somehow maintain the customizability and character of being able to design your own buildings and cities, without the gameplay being confusing or frustrating for players. The current system, which is in development, combines ideas from both of our previous attempts.

What we’ve settled on is creating specialized buildings which have a fixed hexagon cell footprint; that is to say, they don’t get wider as they level up by default.

However, there are four important things that distinguish this system from our original building system:

  1. Roads and walls are necessarily modular and will function just as they would in the modular building system.
  2. Buildings are much larger than in our first attempt and can take up more than one cell from the moment you build them. This means they can take on all sorts of interesting shapes.
  3. Some buildings will allow you to add modular components to them to increase their functionality. For example, a storage building will allow you to add storage modules to increase its capacity or a farm will allow you to add plots of land to increase its size.
  4. We are going to allow players to place building blocks which are purely cosmetic, but will allow players to create complex structures/staircases/levels, etc. This way players can create awesome castles and structures just like they would in the modular system. The only difference is that now, we also have fixed sized buildings as well.

This means that players can clearly see distinct buildings and we can create custom art per building type, while still ensuring that cities don’t always look the same. It also gives us much more freedom to give BitCraft a distinctive art style and classic city builder look, without compromising the RPG aspects of the game.

We should have a workable system shortly, which will unfortunately not have the complete art and art direction, but will be functional enough to play the game with if you guys really want to give it a try.

We’re hard at work implementing the new art for the fixed sized buildings as well, so that should be coming out a few weeks/months from now. In the meantime, I’ll share some concept sketches we’ve been working on!

We’ve started working with a concept artist to flesh out some of our building system and to give the game a bit more of a cohesive design. We’re really excited to share with you more of our development as it comes along.

Creators of the BitCraft Online mobile MMO.

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