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Update: Boundless World
November 8, 2019


Thank you for your patience during the long-running Arc and Rift experiments, which have shed light on a number of important design issues and improved the core of the game immensely. The list of Rift-based discoveries is long, but to summarize, we have a better biome map layout, a more balanced birth placement algorithm, a tap-out system to ensure upper-end resource scarcity, a more powerful and intuitive cursing system, and a map system.

It's time to test out these improvements on an infinite map and in a perpetual world, shifting the focus away from community-wide story arcs and back to individual family arcs, happening in parallel. The full reasoning behind this change is described here:


Eves spawn into this boundless world whenever they are needed, when there are too few families or too many babies for the existing mothers to handle. These conditions occur rarely, so a new Eve will be a special event. The privilege of being Eve is granted to a player with a relatively high genetic fitness score. Eves are placed in a zigzag pattern spreading out to the west, which looks like this:


Thus, to find older villages, you can walk to the east, while walking west will take you to the frontier.

Each water well and oil strike taps out ground water and oil in a radius that matches this Eve placement pattern, meaning there can be roughly one water well and one oil well per Eve settlement, though distant resource outposts are possible.

The map has been set to never cull anything, except for during server updates, when areas that haven't been visited in a full seven days are cleared to conserve database space. Thus, in active areas, perpetual road networks are possible.

Things will obviously end up being more spread out than they were in the Rift, so the plane will become useful again. To make the plane more reliable, your destination can now be set by looking at a map immediately before taking off---you will land at the closest available landing strip to the map's destination.

With genetic fitness scores mattering more than ever before, the question becomes: how long can you keep your offspring alive, and what will you have to do in order to keep them alive? The resources in the immediate area surrounding a family's home base will run out. Survival beyond that will require quite a bit of planning and coordination.

The wastefulness of high-value food items has been reduced, because adults now have a large overflow store to accommodate the last food item that made them full. This overflow area starts small and grows along with your stomach size, so young children still have a tense eating game. This also helps to differentiate low-value food like berries from high-value foods like pies. Munching four berries is no longer equivalent to eating a piece of pie, because the pie can fill a larger portion of your overflow store. This graph shows the size of your overflow store, based on your stomach size:


Indoor areas have been buffed by applying a flat time-per-food-pip bonus while indoors. Being indoors makes you burn food much slower, no matter your heating or clothing situation. Mousing over your temperature meter now gives you information about your current food burn rate.

When a well or oil strike taps out neighboring areas, gradient markers are now left to the north and south as well as to the east and west, making finding the well easier.

The kill-spam bug has been fixed. In order to target (or re-target) someone, you must first drop your weapon.
[Link][13 Comments]

Update: Strange Visitors
November 1, 2019


Off-screen speech is now shown on the bottom, left, and right of the screen, not just the top. When you are targeted by a killer or posse, you can tell that they're coming for you by the double-! for their off-screen sounds (posses coming for other people have single-! for their off-screen sounds). You now GASP when targeted, along with making the usual shocked face.

The kill-target swapping bug has been fixed, and the waiting time before landing a kill has been increased from 3 seconds to 6 seconds, giving your victim more warning.

Babies are now truly helpless for the first 12 seconds of life.

Springs and tarry spots are now on the same 40x40 grid of ley lines, so they're both plentiful and easy to find. Tarry spots now use a similar area-based tap-out mechanism. After tap-out, dried springs and tarry spots provide gradient directional pointers to help you find any well along that ley line.

The jumpiness of genetic scores has been reduced by around 4x. This makes it harder to climb to the top, but easier to stay there once you get there. After around 100 offspring have been factored in, your genetic score very closely approximates the average lifepan off you and all your offspring, and players of different offspring-preservation proficiency are cleanly differentiated by score (before, the scores were so jumpy that there was a lot of score overlap between players at different proficiency levels). Mothers and grandmothers now count toward your own genetic score, closing the matricide genetic score exploit.
[Link][22 Comments]

Update: Tool Skill
October 26, 2019


You now have between 8 and 16 tool learning slots in your lifetime, depending on your genetic fitness. Each tool that you learn consumes one of your slots. You can't learn everything, so you must chose carefully and coordinate your efforts with those around you.

A more complete explanation of this idea is described here:

[Link][7 Comments]

Update: Cartography
October 19, 2019


One of the arcs last week was much closer to being the gripping, collective story that I'm trying to create. Someone built an Endtower near the center of the map and surrounded it with a maze full of locked doors. While some players tried to protect and rebuild the Endtower to usher in the apocalypse, others grouped together and used locksmithing techniques to chip their way into the center of the maze. I've always hoped that this kind of player-created quest would emerge.

But how do you find your way to this maze? Once you find it, how do you tell others how to get there? And how many interesting mechanics are available for a would-be maze builder?

The new map-making feature allows all kinds of interesting interactions. You make a map by standing in a target location and speaking a title while holding the map and a piece of charcoal. After that, whoever picks up the map will automatically adjust their current navigation point to that destination. Like any written piece of paper, maps can be stored in backpacks or locked away in chests. They can also be erased to be reused, or made permanent with the help of an elder.

I'm still working on that whole "oil eventually runs out" thing, and as I do, maps will be helpful to locate and exploit the remaining oil resources.

But in previous arcs, I realized that oil was never even necessary for long-term water pumping, because more low tech wells could be built when the first set of them ran out. Yes, spring heads are far apart, but not that far apart. They need to be somewhat close together to give you enough options in terms of settlement locations. But as a result, the rift has hundreds of them, which is just way too much water if they are all exploited with low-tech wells.

To solve this problem, building a well on a given spring head now permanently taps out neighboring spring heads in an 80-tile square radius. Think of a long straw drinking your neighbor's milkshake. Now instead of hundreds of exploitable spring heads, there are at most dozens. By tweaking this radius in the future, I can adjust the amount of low tech water available without reducing the number of viable settlement locations.

Hopefully, we're getting closer to low tech water actually running out, and thus dependence on oil for high tech water, and eventually oil itself running out. My goal for the game is that a village always needs to be on its collective toes.

You probably noticed that backpacks stopped decaying a while back. My general design philosophy here has changed a bit. Instead of an endless supply of resources that allow you to constantly re-make old and broken things, I'm more interested in forcing you to make difficult choices with a limited supply of resources. The non-consumable things that you decide to make can last forever. But did you make the right thing at the right time?

Backpacks were still hooked into a vestigial piece of the old, infinitely-regenerating resource system. After making one snare, you could catch an unlimited number of rabbits with no further resource inputs, and rabbits were respawning almost hourly. Rabbits also represented one of the last few infinitely regenerating and resource-free wild food sources.

As a result of this mismatch, in a recent arc, I personally visited a village that had 50 surplus backpacks stored away. Backpacks were so plentiful as to be worthless. Nothing in this game should be worthless. You should never make something without carefully weighing the costs and benefits. Backpacks had very little cost, so over time, many generations of villagers had made them until they collectively had amassed a whole pile of them.

Snaring rabbits now has a resource input, in the form of bait. This is is one way that people actually do it in real life, as I'll let this gentleman from Kentucky explain:


Bait can be made either from a finite natural resource or a cultivated food resource that requires water to grow. So rabbits are now part of the water resource economy, as they should be.

There are also a bunch of little fixes. The posse speed-boost exploit has been fixed, and some glitches with the blue hint arrows have been cleared up. Framerates in cities with lots of floors has been improved on slower graphics cards.
[Link][11 Comments]

Update: Oil and Water
October 12, 2019


The point of the arcs is to see what happens over the long haul to villages as fundamental resources run out in a finite area. However, those fundamental resources have been so plentiful in the past that villages died out for other reasons before the experiment got to run to completion. Oil was one of these primary resources, but taking a quick survey of a sample map, I found 42 tarry spots. That's a lot of oil in a lot of places.

It's much more interesting if only some of the villages manage to find and monopolized oil. So in this update, there are now a fixed number of tarry spots---five of them---scattered randomly on the map. And to make them easier to find, they only occur in the snowy biome.

Oil is primarily needed for pumping water long term, but what about the intermediary water pumps leading up to the diesel pump? I took another look at those and made them both more reliable and long lasting, which will give a village a bit more breathing room before they need to rush oil exploration.

The hint system has been refined even more since last week. Now, when you type a filter like /HATCHET, you see a list of step-by-step instructions for making the target object, with blue arrows pointing to the ingredients for each step as you go, and the current step switching automatically whenever you pick up a new ingredient. For simpler crafting tasks, this system almost works like magic to lead you step by step through the process with blue hint arrows guiding your way.

The posse system has also been adjusted to allow you to join a posse verbally (I JOIN YOU), even if you are unable to right-click on a fast-moving griefer. You need to be holding something to join a posse, but it doesn't necessarily need to be a deadly weapon. Your joining adds moral support to the posse and speeds it up. Setting down whatever you're holding takes you out of the posse, just like before.

You can fly over the rift barrier with a plane again, but you can't have babies outside the rift. The past few arcs were ended by escapees sucking babies away from the remaining arc families.
[Link][25 Comments]

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