Since i’ve posted this already in the comments directly under the ‘article’, i’ll just quote and build up on the quote a bit underneath.
I am pretty sure that with how SH works right now, the main multiplayer would be more of a rivalry of economies than anything else. Maps are big enough to fit 2 or 4 villages on them and still have enough space to build and expant to full population capacity of each player, while still having enough space to have monsters spawning etc.
This would be a great opportuniy to have trading stalls (can’t remember how that is called :P) used in actual interaction with each player having an opportunity to change a regular laborer into a trader that would have to have a cart that he would take and trade with other players. This way each player can have a different zone with one having a limited supply of wood, other having not enough land to feed a larger population or maybe a climate not suitable for growing some kinds of plants.
This way the ultimate goal of multiplayer would be winning by reaching a certain growth and development level by out-trading the other players who are doing their best to also reach that same kind of goal.
Additional features? I would still allow monsters to spawn, so that they attack “caravans” and players are forced to assign soldiers for protection, or so that they have to actually attack these monsters (together or as rivals) in some sort of a mo mans land areas that divide their villages.
But I don’t know if I’m the only one who enjoys the whole economy and production chain ecosystem in SH, or do other players enjoy that just as much.
So now a little bit about my idea of a fun multiplayer game and why I’d go down that path.
First of all SH is not a a game that would ever do well in a hardcore competetive RTS kind of gameplay. Combat, even if made into a simplified RTS (like Settlers 3 for an example) would most likely not work that well, as hearthlings are not made to work like a well organised squad. Fighting is more or less random and just having good unit composition is most likely enough to deal with enemies. This means that ay combat units would only be an addition to other, more important mechanics.
So… what IS Stonehearth good at? Most of all, production chains, resource management etc. - having a production chain with your villagers perfrming certain tasks within that production chain is the bread and butter of this game, so multiplayer will have to mess with that in some way. Above I mentioned having limited resources in different areas that would lead players to trade in the end. Of course, if one player has a LOT of wood and another has more stone, most likely they will also prefer to build out of that material they have in abundance, but there is a point where we all just NEED to get this and that and those materials and that is where the trade kicks in.
A player having a lot of fertile terain would be able to trade food with a player mining a mountain that was enerated in his area, while somebody else would have great hunting grounds or plenty of land that trees can be gron on. The thing is that this wuld also require adding some features to the land in general, like fertility, ore availability etc. We will not have any trade if the world generator will just spread resources evenly and create a landscape that more or less has every resource in every tile.
Another thing is time - since multiplayer games can’t drag on for 10 of 5 hours (well, they could, but there would be barely any game ever played till the end), some aspects of building would probably have to be changed to make the game paced well enough for a multiplayer game. As much as I enjoy watching my hearthlings build a large building for an hour, I am not that sure if other players would enjoy that as much ;). What could be an option is to add a “quick build” tool that automatically places walls and windows along with the floor and just like there is a simple button to select the roof slopes, adding a simple button to select where doors go etc. could be a game changer and could allow players to focus on trade deals and so on.
And when it comes to trade deals and trade itself? Well, that’s borrowed from all PC games that adapt certain aspects of board game mechanics into them, so that players can have a fun way of interacting. Have fixed exchange ratios, just to simplify the rules and make the game more accesible (would probably require some tuning for balance reasons), add a risk of loosing a caravan in a goblin attack in “the no mans land” if you don’t add enough soldiers for escort and make it optional to hunt these “bandits” to gain some extra resources or items. These are the three basic principles of every good board game that involves competetive actions:
- Player interaction (trade)
- Spending resources for certainty (soldiers protecting caravans are not building up resources)
- Risk-reward system (soldiers DO NOT protect traders, but MAY or may not bing in some nice loot)
Plus of course what any game has:
- Failure states (loss of caravan stock, loss of soldiers on raids etc.)
That’s just from the top of my head, based on games I’ve played in the past (both board and PC games), so there will be a LOT of polish needed to turn this into a reasonable model of multiplayer rule set, but I am pretty sure that is one of the ways to start thiking about Stonehearth multiplayer.
Another way is of course going “full Factorio”, but prodution chains in SH are not nearly long enough to have multiple players focus on individual branches (as: X deals with mining, Y with ore processing, Z with production, Q with monsters). It could be doable, but that would probably require adding another “layer” of proffesions etc.