Greetings, my fellow hearthlings!
Yes, you’ve read it right - today we bring you a preview of the next major update that will not be focusing on features or content but a very requested feature: optimization!
As I’m sure you’ve read a dozen times by now, optimizing Stonehearth is not an easy task. There’s a lot of the code that we don’t have access to, the engine itself has certain limitations… However we’ve decided that this is something that we definitely needed to tackle in a more aggressive way… So we did!
How Can We Optimize Stonehearth?
The first major challenge of this update was to decide what would be the best course of action for optimizing the game. To understand this we first needed to understand what causes the game to perform badly, and we could pinpoint a couple of things:
- The amount of stuff in the world
- AI, decision-making and especially pathfinding
- User interactions
Clearly these things are a problem. For the amount of stuff in the world, there isn’t a lot that can be done without removing or reducing the content in the game, although some mods like Ethereal Storage definitely help… So we need to work with the two other problems - AI and users! I mean – user interactions, of course.
But which side do we act on? Which would be the best option? Such changes would severely impact gameplay - and you all know that here at ACE we like to give options… So we went with BOTH!
When the update is released you’ll be asked which mode do you want to use when the game next starts. There’s no turning back, you’ll have to pick one! We’re calling them User Expansion and Automation Expansion! Below you’ll learn more about them.
And, of course, there’s also a little surprise at the end…
The “User Expansion” Mode
Gone is the day that you don’t have “control” over your hearthlings and gone is the day you’ll be limited by the game’s performance! With the User Expansion mode, we’ve cranked up user interactions and player control to 11! And AI to… 0, I guess! That’s right - AI causes lag? Then let’s remove it!
With this game mode, you’ll have complete control of every hearthling! You’ll be able to draw their paths, you’ll choose what they will do (which, yes - includes having your own priorities! A much requested feature!), you’ll even get to choose when they go to sleep!
To help you manage your citizens, a handy glowy cube will float above the head of the currently selected hearthling! This cube will change its color based on their mood, so stay alert! (Very helpful, right?)
Tired of hearthlings eating the food you want to preserve? Worry no more! In User Expansion mode, you get to choose their meals - one by one - every day!
There’s absolutely nothing limiting your town from becoming the empire you’ve ever dreamed now, the level of control on this mode allows min-maxers to squeeze the most out of their population!
And what’s even better? Without AI combat has never been easier! Enemies will be motionless before your attacks! (literally)
Our tests have shown that the game performs 93 times BETTER without AI! That means constantly good FPS and the possibility of having up to hundreds of citizens! Yes, that is correct - hundreds of citizens. It might require some adaptation and training to be able to handle all of them - ordering and drawing paths for them to work, eat, and go sleep every single day… Our best testers managed to handle 5 or 6 hearthlings well but I’m sure it just takes some time and practice. Good luck!
The “Automation Expansion” Mode
Is all that control too much for you? Do you feel like the micromanagement would be insanely complex for you to enjoy the game? No worries - we considered that… And that’s why the Automation Expansion mode is the alternative for you!
Everyone has been asking for more automation features since ACE started. And we have seem how successful automation can be in other games - mods like Create for Minecraft, games like Factorio and Satisfactory, logistics like in Anno… Nothing is more satisfying than setting up a reliable and efficient automated production chain!
In this mode, instead of removing the AI, we’re letting it take over! Completely! User interactions are a massive contributor to performance issues and lag… And while there are controversies and debates about whether or not user input is required for something to be considered a game, we here at ACE believe that this is a very restricting view and that intention alone is probably good enough.
After the game starts and you place your banner, the game will just play itself! To reduce performance issues even more, we’ve completely removed the user interface - who needs all these buttons anyway?
You’ll notice that the AI is a bit obsessed with organization and they will do their best to keep clutter away from your town - which obviously helps with performance!
The game will play itself very efficiently, stockpiling all the materials and resources in the game, creating efficient crafting stations and managing your hundreds of hearthlings safely so they’ll never lack anything nor be in trouble!
In fact, with the removal of user interactions the performance has been so greatly boosted that we’re able to use a quite powerful AI that is capable of planning buildings by itself! That’s right, the game will also build for you!
(Please note that the road building and template planning AI is currently a work in progress and requires a bit more training and tweaking to reach its full potential; for now we’ll stick to the default templates with the “Automation Expansion”)
We’re looking forward to watching (and so will you) the game play itself in this new, amazing mode that allows for up to 400 hearthlings on decent PCs!
And something else…
Now, we’ve presented you the two new ways that ACE will be played in the upcoming update… But for some people that’s not enough. Some people once dreamed of real empires, of nations with thousands of hearthlings. And we wanted to deliver. We really wanted to deliver!
So if none of that is enough for you… We bring you the ULTIMATE STONEHEARTH EXPERIENCE, a new mode that will truly untap the potential of your gaming rig. Our first tests have allowed the game to reach more than 12,000 hearthlings - yes, that’s it: twelve thousand. Something that also revealed a new issue that we never imagined, that we’ll need to drastically increase the amount of random names in the game…
We present you…
ACE - Console Mode
That’s it! We’ve done it! We have removed everything that lags Stonehearth. We’ve removed the graphics, we’ve removed the rendering, we’ve removed the interface, we’ve removed the sound (and the music!)… We’ve removed everything. The game runs perfectly now, with any amount of hearthlings - like we always wished!
Of course, we’re not joking over here… And there has to be something for the player. What’s the point of playing if you don’t know what is going on, right? So that’s why the entirety of the game experience has been transferred to a nice, vintage console window!
That was a lot
We can’t wait to see your new adventures when the new update hits!
So, what new mode of ACE are you looking forward the most in the Optimization Update?
Let us know in the comments!
Stay safe and have a good weekend, everyone!