Sneaking a Peek at Strongholds Part Four

Ooft, it’s been a while without an update. The fact that the last blog post from me about where we were with the stronghold system is just before the semester started isn’t a co-incidence. A lot of my teaching for this year is front-loaded in semester one, and it involves the complete rewrite of one module and a substantial revision of another. I have roughly enough time to do that if I sacrifice some evenings and a bit of the weekend, but it’s a tight fit week on week. So, progress on the system has been slower than I’d like. I expected to be done by now and balancing my development between stronghold enhancements and our new graphical client. It was not to be.

But! There has been progress – it hasn’t been dead time since the last blog post. It’s just not been as fruitful as I’d like. But here we sit, this weekend, with the last of the major things off the todo list and only one flashing at me – ‘testing’. That’s the job for the rest of my free time – testing it all, making sure it works as best as I can tell, and then we should be ready to go. I’m not guaranteeing I can do all of that this weekend though, and even if I could I still want to do a pass over our open bug reports before patching up to 1.2 – the end of next weekend is the earliest we could feasibly patch if everything goes as well as it could. You’d be safer though expecting this thing to drop at the end of next month given all the other calls on my time at the moment. I promise though – absolutely no later than that.

So, let’s turn our attention to the last major system of the strongholds – equipment and furniture. You’ve already seen a lot of that in the first post in the series, but that was just the basic stuff. I’ve been adding more active things as I’ve been going along and making sure it’ll function consistently and coherently. Alarms and safes are now part of this system, so you no longer see them lying there in the inventory section of the room like a forlorn dog turd. Instead, they are neatly integrated into the long description. Part of that required that I restructure some of the internal caching so that you could conceal pieces of furniture, but I like how that worked in the end. It means everyone can have their own view of a room based on their skills, rather than one long description shared between everyone. It permits for concealed traps and alarms, which should be an important part of stronghold defence. Here’s how it looks to me in my entrance foyer:

Vault 69 (very brightly lit), claimed by Clan Wyrmstalker
You can hear: Activity from the stronghold and loud moaning, groaning and shuffling feet from outside.
This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. The floor of the room has been covered in exquisitely laid white wool Saxony carpet. Beautifully hanging on the south wall is a beat up painting of a tree. Artfully hanging on the south wall is a pristine fire alarm (being concealed). This area has been made into a fortress, with every effort made to ensure that if the dead came knocking they would find no weak points to exploit. The room has been wired for electricity - a very competent job has been done of the work. The wires have even been hidden away from view. The room has been expertly wired up for network traffic - data flows, and flows well, to the entirety of the area. To the south lies the entrance yard and to the north, to the east, downwards and to the west lies a fallout corridor.
There are five obvious exits: north (clear), east (clear), west (clear), down (clear) and south (closed door).

Pay no attention to the moans – we’ve let security slide around here. It’s fine though[1], we’re set up to stay in here for a while, and that’s because of the equipment we have installed. Let’s head off to my greenhouse and take a look:

Vault 69 (very brightly lit), claimed by Clan Wyrmstalker
You can hear: Activity from the stronghold and loud moaning, groaning and shuffling feet from outside.
In the distance you can see: Nothing.
This is an indoor greenhouse, with huge windows at the ceiling. An extremely well maintained large solar panel is beautifully pressed against the east wall. An extremely well maintained large rainwater tank is exquisitely in the centre of the room. Whoever wired up this room was like a Michelangelo of electricity - the wires are artfully hidden away, but the power flows. Whoever plumbed up this room was like a Pissaro of plumbing - the pipes are artfully hidden away, but the water flows. A fallout corridor lies off to the west.
The sky is beautifully clear on this very chilly autumn mid morning. A gale-force wind blows from the southwest.
There is one obvious exit: west (closed door)

Nice, huh? This is more than just furniture – this is active stronghold equipment. When the sun shines, my solar panels generate power for the stronghold. Unfortunately, because we never got around to wiring it up, that power is currently wasted – I need to install some electrical infrastructure to make use of the power generated. That might sound unforgivably lax, but bear in mind we’re in Scotland and it’s almost comically optimistic to assume that these panels will ever see the sun. I also have that rainwater tank though, and when it’s raining (yay Scotland) that captures some water for me. If my room is plumbed (which it currently is) that’ll automatically make its way into my supplies. Otherwise, I have to collect it at regular intervals. I can see that’s the case when I look at the object:

This is a large rain water tank, of the kind that a remote house might use to capture water from the sky for use in a residential plumbing system. It comes with a filtration system of its own, ensuring that whatever falls from the sky will be usable. It's huge - even a light rain probably produces a reasonable amount of water - in bad enough weather, you could probably survive indefinitely with only what this thing produces in terms of potable resources. It looks like it has some supplies to be collected.  It has a few dents and scratches, but is otherwise in fine condition.

I need to keep an eye on the damage of this kind of equipment – if it’s too banged up there’s a good chance it’ll skip the generation of supplies for a tick. Not so this time, so I can get the water for my stronghold:

> collect from tank
3x water collected within the stronghold!
You collect stronghold supplies from the large rainwater tank.

Water is an important resource of course, but so is food. So we head off to my second greenhouse[2] to check on my window-box:

This is an indoor greenhouse, with huge windows at the ceiling. A pristine large window-box is artfully located in the centre of the room. An extremely well maintained large rainwater tank is exquisitely located in the centre of the room. An extremely well maintained large solar panel is artfully pressed against the west wall. This area has been made into a fortress, with every effort made to ensure that if the dead came knocking they would find no weak points to exploit. The room has been expertly wired for electricity - power flows, and flows well, to the entirety of the area. The room has been expertly plumbed for water - water flows, and flows well, to the entirety of the area. A fallout corridor lies off to the east.

I look at my window-box, and:

This is a large grey plastic window-box. It's significantly massive in size, taking up as much space as a traditional couch. If well tended, it could probably produce enough fresh food to feed someone indefinitely - provided they understood crop rotation and could apply the principle to such a confined space. It looks like it has some supplies to be collected.

Nice! So, let’s get that food:

> collect from window-box
1x food collected within the stronghold!
You collect stronghold supplies from the large window-box.

Only one unit of food, but it’s a reliable generation – it doesn’t need it to be raining, or sunny, or anything. That can be worth its weight in gold.

Equipment can be skill-checked, so you probably want to make sure that only those with sufficient ability are trying to get the supplies – otherwise they might ruin them entirely or damage the equipment in their ham-fisted attempts. You can set your NPCs to collect too if they happen to wander into a room with collectible supplies, or are positioned in one on a permanent basis. Of course, each NPC consumes supplies of their own so you need to trade off convenience for logistics.

I’ve been putting a lot of work too into the generation of stronghold long descriptions – it’s still not perfect, but it’s gotten a lot better since you last saw it. Now it generates descriptions like this:

This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. The floor of the room has been covered in exquisitely laid white wool Saxony carpet. Exquisitely applied brown oak checkerboard tiles covers the north, south and west walls. Artfully in arranged the centre of the room is a pristine traditional black oak dining table. Six pristine traditional black oak dining chairs are artfully arranged around the traditional dining table. Some effort has gone into protecting the area from the incursions of the dead, but there are still numerous insecurities that render it unsafe. To the east lies a fallout corridor.

It takes into account your skills when placing items, as well as the quality of how other pieces of furniture have been installed when you position things in relation to them. It does some reasonably nice collapsing of descriptions, so rather than saying something like ‘a dining chair, a dining chair, a dining chair and a dining chair are arranged around the table’ it collapses it into ‘four dining chairs are arranged around the table’, taking it account how well they’ve been positioned, the colour and material, and the state of repair they’re in. As I say, not perfect but better. If you come with me to my bedroom[3] you can see another example of that as well as the display frame code:

This is an underground vault, of the kind once used by the paranoid to give some sense of safety during the cold war era. The floor of the room has been covered in exquisitely laid white wool Saxony carpet. Exquisitely applied beige embossed wallpaper covers the south, north, east and west walls. A pristine display frame containing a grey Sagittarius symbol poster is exquisitely hanging on the north wall. Two pristine traditional queen size beds are arranged around the room. The first is made of pink bamboo and artfully pressed against the north wall. Attractively pressed against the east wall is the second, which is made of black oak. Someone has managed to wire this room up so that electricity will flow. It's an ugly job with wires strewn everywhere, but it's better than nothing. To the south lies a fallout corridor.

With the display frame, display case and display pedestal you can put whenever items you want inside them to show them off to appropriate effect in the room. In the bedroom though there is a different kind of collapsing of descriptions, allowing for it to say ‘Two pristine beds are arranged around the room’ before adding in the textual descriptions for each. You might have noticed that the ‘flavour’ text from the first blog post is gone – that’s because in the end it didn’t really work very well, so I axed it. It might return in the future, but we’ll see – this is an evolving system after all.

In each of the rooms, we also have the option to add in a number of ‘enhancements’ – some of our NPCs will install these automatically if we have the necessary supplies. We might also find the raw resources for these as we scavenge around, and might install them ourselves. Currently we have fortifications (which increase security), networking (which makes available the survivor Internet), plumbing (which allows for the automatic collection of water) and electricity (which powers electrical devices). Some equipment only works if there is a minimum installed enhancement – you won’t be able to store generated power unless you have both a generator and a battery array, both of which are connected up to electrical wiring. Some equipment is also dependent on supplies being present – power generators require a supply of petrol to generate power, and won’t do anything if the supply doesn’t match demand.

All of the furniture in the game has now been converted over to the new system, and all the standard houses you encounter are part of a procedural setup of the description. The rest of this equipment comes via scavenging, although it will also be craftable before too long. There’s not a giant range of it yet, but more will come into play every patch – wind turbines, hydroponics, fish tanks – a whole pile of things will make their way into the game before too much time has passed.

I’d like to do one more post on strongholds before we release, listing some of the things that I haven’t yet been able to talk about fully – for example, Maestro, luxuries, knacks, and so on. We’ll see if I have the time to do it – I’ve already been unable to spend as much time as I would have liked finishing this off, so I don’t want to write cheques my real-life obligations won’t let me cash. We’ll see, though!

Sorry for the delay in posting, and also patching, but I promise you’ll see this system going live before too much more time has passed!

Drakkos.

[1] When I do patch this system in, I won’t be enabling the nastier Maestro events until people have gotten used to the basics of the system. That’s not to say that bad things
won’t be happening, it’s just that you won’t get zombies and raiders all up in your grill for a little bit.
[2] Yeah, I’m a total 1%er. But it’s my apocalypse and damn you all if I’m not going to ride it out in style.
[3] Ladies…

  1 comment for “Sneaking a Peek at Strongholds Part Four

  1. cheeky
    November 1, 2015 at 4:49 am

    Looks great. I am totally excited and looking forward to this.

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