DISCLAIMER: I AM AWARE THAT THE GAME IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND THESE PROBLEMS MAY BE SOLVED IN FUTURE UPDATES WITH OR WITHOUT MY INPUT, I AM ONLY PROVIDING SUGGESTIONS
Let me start off by saying I have been here since the kick-starter. The majority of this post will be based off of my own observations of the game’s development, and how it has strayed away from (or stuck to) the game described in the kick-starter campaign.
I remember that when Stonehearth was announced, the photo that almost instantly sold me was this one: https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/000/543/151/e71af3495f07c746d9b430bc67536d1a_original.png?v=1366916986&w=680&fit=max&auto=format&lossless=true&s=624ba821710d9395285ec2adc1317fe2
The game was described as a “City management game” frequently. While the game certainly is focused around that concept, I feel that it has been moving in a direction that prevents players from managing their cities on a large enough scale.
The problem with this is that what may previously have been possible (such as building a large city filled with hundreds of Hearthlings as portrayed in the photo I previously linked), is no longer as viable. Sure it is realistic to build up a large town, but after playing the game for a while I found a couple of serious conflicts.
Issue 1: The Game doesn’t provide enough control over groups of Hearthlings
This is ironic because when the Kickstarter was announced, I thought that there would be too much control. But now that we’re at Alpha 14, I find myself questioning what is and isn’t possible because of how things have been developed so far.
Lets use Farmers for an example. In this case, I want to have two fields - one field on the east side of my town will produce wheat, while on the west side of town, I want corn fields. We are now faced with a serious issue. The farmers are set to farm ALL farmland. There is no way to allocate one group of farmers to the eastern field, and another to the western field. With the current system, it is impossible for us to have a town that has fields in different sectors because the farmers will only take care of one farm at a time and cannot split up.
The same issue presents itself with other classes. Builders for example cannot be broken up into groups to work on multiple projects simultaneously. With builders, the issue is less serious than it is with farmers - but it is still a missing control.
So how can we fix this? By introducing the ability to allocate workers to specific tasks (or zones), we would be able to resolve this issue. I could select the farmers I want to work on the eastern field, and I could send them off to work on those fields ONLY.
I am aware that this control exists already with military “parties”, but these parties are not intended for long term use. If you tell a footman to guard a spot, He will guard that exact spot without wavering until he starves to death and dies. I will address that issue later.
By adding zones, it would also enable us to expand our small settlements into large bustling cities and even kingdoms. It would be possible to establish additional settlements on the other parts of the map, and to connect them with roads. It would provide purpose to the settlements themselves. So in short, WE NEED ZONES.
Issue 2: There is no true purpose to ANY structures
This is easily my largest problem with Stonehearth. Buildings (as they currently are) are virtually pointless. There is no benefit to having beds or crafting stations inside, and theoretically a player could have everyone live outside in the cold and be completely fine. Sure, structures can be useful for keeping the bad guys away from your sleeping citizens, but aside from this they are useless.
There is absolutely no incentive for us to build anything other than because it looks cool. So how can we fix this? I propose that rather than having “crafting stations”, we have structures allocated to specific tasks. This concept has been employed to an extent in other games such as Terraria or Prison Architect, but not to the extent that I suggest. The idea is that players would have a long list of potential purposes for structures, and they would have to meet minimal expectations for that room/structure to be created.
So for example, in order to build a Carpenters Workshop(Building) - a structure would have to contain the carpenters workbench and a door. By adding additional items to the room(s) inside of the Workshop, players could enhance the effective capability of the carpenter. So for example, by adding a chair, window and a bed to the workshop, the carpenter might be 5% faster and have improved morale.
This particular system would be fantastic because it would provide purpose to buildings, while still allowing players to design their settlement in the way they want. The requirements for each official structure would only be dictated by the contents of the rooms and not the actual appearance or composition of the building. And the list of potential buildings could go on and on. There could be functional buildings like Inn’s (That allow traders to stay in your city), Workshops, Restaurants, Government buildings, Barracks, Banks, Smithies, Armories and the list could go on and on.
Stonehearth is coming along to be a fantastic game, but I really think the devs need to take a quick breather and consider the greater picture. How will it be possible to manage a large city with the current controls we have? Perhaps before we add more features, items, and classes. We should get the controls under…control.
Thanks for reading my wall of text. I plan to compile this entire post into a video that will much more effectively get these points (and the other points I don’t have time to type) to you.