Farming is super important to sustain a settlement - This is how you do it Founders' Fortune
Our creative base building game Founders' Fortune recently got a free farming update (foundersfortune.com). Have a look:
Why farming is so important
This is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It orders the needs of humans from bottom to top: Only once the basic needs, like food or safety are fulfilled do humans care about higher order needs like belonging or self-actualization.
This pyramid is one of the reasons why so many games focus on conflict: Safety is a very basic need and threatening the physical safety of the player or his colonists awakens a lot of primal emotions. This makes it a reliable and very powerful way to make a game interesting. A similar effect applies to food production: While not as fast paced as combat, it still holds tremendous emotional importance. Starvation can be deadly and ensuring ample food supply for the winter takes planning and time. If the plan fails and you're running out before spring, though decisions need to be made.
Though, from a game design perspective, emotional impact is not the only goal a developer should be striving for. The other important feature of food is that it's a resource that is always in demand. There is rarely a time where you simply have enough food. Rather, the farming is going to be done continuously throughout the entire game, demanding player attention on the way. This makes it one of the most important production chains in many base builders and it's well worth to spend a lot of time on it as a developer.
How we made farming deeper - Seasons
Founders' Fortune has been simulating seasons for a long time, so it makes a lot of sense to use it for farming. The above picture is a screenshot from our build menu: As you can see, we created a variety of different crops for food and medicinal purposes. They have their advantages and disadvantages, but crucially, they can only be planted in specific seasons. This forces you to make decisions as a player: Spring only lasts for so long. Am I going to grow tomatoes, which will not die once summer rolls around or should I focus on strawberries first since this is my last chance for this year?
However, no plant is going to survive the cold season, so building up your stock well before winter is an important task.
How we made farming deeper - Equipment
Our colonists can equip tools and clothes. We use these systems to extend farming a little more:
The farmer's clothes are pretty basic: They enable faster sowing which is crucial if you want to feed bigger colonies. The watering can however is more interesting: While there is no need for watering plants, well cared for plants yield a lot more food. So once you go through the trouble of building wells, manufacturing watering cans and giving your farmer enough time to care for every plant, it pays off.
How we made farming deeper - Colonist Expectations
As the colony grows, the player gets more experienced and has more workers on their hands. Sure, the food requirements grow as well, but so does the experience of every farmer, making them more efficient. That's why we need to be very careful that food production doesn't get too easy - otherwise it becomes an afterthought once you set it up.
The solution is to make your colonists more demanding. And it makes sense: Once your colony is bigger and more wealthy, of course your people want something better than raw pumpkins and tomatoes! In Founders' Fortune, your peoples' expectations are continuously rising and you need to provide well cooked food to keep them happy and satisfied.
To this end, we have included a wide variety of ways to prepare meals. On the campfire, colonists can roast some of their produce to make it at least a little bit better...
... but the kitchen and the bakery are where the real magic happens. Once your colonists have enough experience, they will combine multiple ingredients to make tasty meals out of them.
How we made farming deeper - Preferences and Allergies
Every colonist in Founders' Fortune has their own personality made up of thoughts and traits. It makes sense to extend this system to farming: Now that we have a lot of different crops and meals, colonists can have different reactions to them. While Hans might be in love with strawberry cakes, Michael can not share his enjoyment because he is allergic to strawberries and allergic reactions are no joke.
These traits make it important for players to mix up the food supply. Sure, apple trees can provide you with a lot of food, but you can't rely solely on them if you take your colonists needs and wishes into account.
How we made farming deeper - Infestations
Finally, after giving so many new tools and so much power to the player, it's time to take away some control: Nature is unpredictable and so is the farming season. Bugs are not typically an issue, but if you're unlucky an infestation will come down on your fields. The colonists need to act quick to remove the affected plants if they want to save their harvest.
Farming is important and we hope to do it well
Farming and food supply is one of the biggest systems in most base builders and survival games and with good reason. Along with physical safety it's one of the most basic needs of every human and failure to stock up on food can have devastating consequences. It makes a lot of sense to put a lot of effort into the system because it's going to be used so extensively throughout the game.
In Founders' Fortune we leveraged existing systems to add more depth: Seasons, equipment, experience, colonist expectations, food preferences, allergies, and infestations all work together to make farming a varied and enjoyable experience. In the next update, we're going to shift our focus to the colonists themselves: Their personalities, wishes and dreams are going to have a huge impact on the game.