General Ideation: Beauty Mechanics

Hey all, I’ve recently started ideating a bit on the concept of beauty, and what it could mean to represent it mechanically inside of Stonehearth. In other words, how should a hearthling figure out if we’ve spent that extra effort to make an area look really nice?

Systems like this tend to be fairly wide ranging and can be approached from a bunch of different angles. What I wanted to start this thread for is to ask you guys how you decide if an area is pretty or not in Stonehearth as you are decorating it, from a player perspective? As an example, some of the things I personally use to figure this out include:

  • Is the furniture in the area of high quality?
  • Does the area feel cluttered with unnecessary objects on the ground that need to be hauled?
  • Is there not enough variety in the objects that are in the area?
  • Is the lighting good?
  • Are objects evenly spaced?
  • What is the color of the floor/walls?
  • Are the materials used to construct the decorations of a similar style/base material?

Understanding what types of things we as players naturally ask ourselves can help inform what questions a system should also be looking for, if it were to try and give rewards. Of course we don’t want to be overly restrictive here, as different players may have different perceptions of beauty, so it’s unlikely that a system would actually address even all of the questions I raised above. That said though, I’m hoping you guys might be able to share some of your insights for things you design around, in case there are obvious and healthy patterns we should be incorporating.

So, long story short, when you set out to make an area of Stonehearth beautiful, what do you do?


One thing I notice I am doing more in my houses is putting an extra effort to not leave them empty. I usually don’t care about having small spaces, and that is the style I’m using. Small houses, full of things. I think they look way better than a big house with just a bed, table and chair.


Fitting a certain style.
When I build things, I try to replicate a certain style, either real or imaginary. There is that vague understanding of what impression should it make. And I’m chasing it.

The problem is, I don’t really know how to formalize it in game terms and calculated values. Take a half-ruined castle tower, an old library or a “forgotten abandoned mine” feeling you’re trying to recreate, for example. Here we have old furniture, scarce lights and vines growing everywhere, maybe even a few water streams beaming through the stone. It may look beautiful for you but your hearthlings may not necessarily view it as beautiful or cozy, because what is programmed in them as “beautiful” may not fit your own understanding of it.

Trying to formalize a “beautiful” concept in programmer’s terms is an awfully ambitious task, if you ask me.


Yeah, this is a definite challenge, but not insumountable. I think some core ideas include:

  • Effort should be rewarded more than objective style considerations. As such, if hearthlings had the ability to make “spooky statues”, those statues should have a similar beauty value as happy statues.
  • Hearthlings can have inherent style preferences. Maybe one hearthling really likes wood, so they get a bonus to wooden furniture, even if it’s less beautiful than marble.
  • The effect of beauty should not be overpowering on the whole simulation. So, yeah, maybe hearthlings prefer to live in beauty, and get sad if they don’t. But a hearthling should not die from uglyness, nor should town production come to a crawl. So if as a player you decide to do something of suboptimal beauty for some reason beyond what the game can interpret, you still can. Maybe you just need to compensate for it in another way. Yeah, they will live in a old ruined castle, with vines and dust everywhere, and don’t like it, but they stick around because the poyo pot pie is really freaking good.
  • Avoid “optimal” solutions by having many things that accomplish the same goal.

It’s a good worry though!


This is a hard question to answer for me, as it differs from building to building. As an example, I have one set of buildings in one area for just my footmen. I don’t use fine items in their houses, but I do place decorations to make it look lived in and a home. That being said, my upper-class part of town does use all fine items, tend to be bigger homes, and look more like homes than barracks.

On top of this, the color of the outside of the houses depends on the area of town they’re in, while the interior is honestly just my best effort to match some colors together that don’t look that bad. I’m partially color blind (I can’t see purple at all) so most of the time I’m either asking my wife for help or taking the best-educated guess I can. Because of this, the interior of my homes all tends to look the same, color wise.

So to answer your question, I can’t tell you what (from a programming viewpoint) would count as beauty, more than clutter. I can say that I have flowers here and benches there, and I use different benches in different places for different things. But in the end, it depends on what the building’s purpose is and where it is in relation to my town.

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To me, it would be appealing if furniture which don’t serve any real purpose (desks, dressers, bookshelfs?) would still carry some kind of “fancy number”.
The better the quality, the heigher the number. The more (unique) of these fancy-number carrying items, the heigher the number (Desk + Dresser > only Dresser). And so on.
If higher fancy-number brings more happy Hearthlings, then this, to me, would bring a purpose to decorate my house with these “usless” items.

I don’t know if the colours of the walls would raise the mood; but maybe they would prefer stone walls over wooden walls (as these are more sturdy?).

Long story short: I try to make at least the first floor of my houses out of stone as I keep telling myself this is more safe.
I also tend to decorate my houses with items that don’t bring any real purpose, as I wish they would make my Hearthlings feel more at home.


This could be interesting…if it wasn’t color limited to the materials. I like white houses, so does that mean I should get a penalty?

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But, of course, they might prefer the coziness of wooden walls, especially if they’re not dwarves. Rayya’s Children might have a predisposition towards clay buildings, or maybe they like the odd building with more exotic (to them) materials? Wood being scarce in the desert could make it somewhat of a luxury item.

I don’t know. It seems like there’s a lot of things that could be argued either way - heavily decorated rooms are nice, but Hearthlings might prefer their grand chambers with plenty of space (and getting beauty to work nicely with the already existing personal space system might be a challenge.) Slabs are going to throw another wrench into the works… It would make sense for slab wall decorations to add to beauty, but how do you know if it’s a wall decoration or just a raised floor or custom roof or stair?

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This topic is really cool :merry:

As you already stated, beauty is quite relative to each individual and i guess a system where furniture gives some kind of bonus should be divided into a minimum of three layers? (the three little pigs and the wolf :jubilant:)

The first could be some kind of minimalist, feeling free without to many possessions, finding their bonus in the lack of items in their house? Maybe even prefering to sleep under the stars or just in a small structure?

The second then would get a bonus from furniture and a certain size of home?

And the last would only get the bonus from a big home and fine items and furniture?

It could even be applied to clothes and outfits aswell?

What about a favourite color? (and then of course we need the ability to paint the inside of our walls :smile: )

Maybe the player in the startscreen, when choosing heartlings, could have three boxes to choose from and each could make the game focus on one of the layers of beauty? So maybe 80% of the towns future hearthlings will like that certain style? Maybe even a fourth option, to keep it random?
I dont think a penaltysystem would be very good, since it will take away the creative freedom in the game…

Just a few thoughts…


I believe this friction between the systems is perfect. You can use it to your advantage. If you balance the friction perfectly, and then use attributes/traits/thoughts (mainly traits) to push it in either direction, then you can have hearthlings who like a lot of personal space, and prefer great halls, while people who prefer small cozy homes will be more content with a little less personal space. Now the friction is a feature, not a bug, and we’ve simulated the phenomenon that beauty is different from hearthling to hearthling.


For me, one of the biggest factors of beauty is consistency – if I’m building a farming village then all houses should work well as part of a cohesive whole, if I’m building a particular house then every decoration in it should be telling the same story rather than, say, one room being bright and modern while another has an antique and cosy feel.

Unfortunately, in games this usually turns into an expression of “variety=clutter”, and that’s restrictive. Of course, the opposite idea “variety of decorations = high score” can be just as painful.

One game which handles the idea very well though, IMO, is Terraria. It gives you a huge palette of decorations and design options – dozens of furniture sets, dozens of paints (and of course you can paint furniture and such, not just walls), printed and thematic wallpapers, statues, lighting options, etc. – but doesn’t restrict you to using a particular set together for a bonus. To make a valid house for an NPC, you have a minimum and maximum size constraint and a certain furniture set (a “chair” which can be anything from a stool to a couch to a bathtub, a “table” which can be a workbench or a dresser or so on, and a light source), the style of those sets of furniture have a purely cosmetic impact. It is, however, easy to theme a room even when you’re mixing and matching styles; e.g. you can get a really cool spooky/horror style from using just the Halloween furniture but you can also mix in bone, crystal, corrupt, demonic, boreal/arctic and even hallowed materials to complement each other. Juxtaposing some hallowed bricks and pearlwood with the leering skulls of demonic furniture, for example, can create a focal point which the player considers beautiful, but from the game’s perspective the two different sets are doing the same job.

I think that one option for Stonehearth is to draw from Terraria’s “home” system – come up with a set of furniture that counts as a minimum set for a home (that might be just a bed), then have a “comfy” home set and higher levels going up to “luxurious” or even “regal” if you want to get into having royals/leaders/aristocrats. So a home with a comfy bed, a chair and a desk might be considered comfy, whereas a grand palace which only has statues might not actually be so comfy as that rustic house.

I like the idea of different hearthlings having different ideas/expectations of beauty, though. It could be tied partly to their traits – as an example, hearthlings with high Spirit like rustic, comfy, home-style furnishings, while hearthlings with high Mind like artistic flourishes and good lighting, and hearthlings with high Body like statues, trophies, fences, and “solid” decorations and structures.

There’s also the question of nature vs artifice – some hearthlings will prefer trees and flowers, while others will prefer columns, paintings, stained-glass windows… I think the best way to handle that is to not have any decorations ever have a negative impact on beauty, even if a hearthling isn’t into that kind of decoration; only have “problems” and ugly things (e.g. logs needing to be hauled, or rotten food, or a warning totem built by goblins) have a negative impact. So if a hearthling isn’t a fan of trees they won’t get upset about being surrounded by them, they just won’t appreciate that natural beauty like another hearthling might. However, if you add a few choice items, you can preserve the natural beauty and complement it (perhaps with a statue and a park bench) so you give that hearthling something to enjoy without changing the overall aesthetic.


That’s an interesting consideration and a great idea. I thought about that, too. However I want to “balance” things, so the player still has some creative freedom and

  1. Can follow his chosen style (maybe with some adaptations to what his little folks think)
  2. Doesn’t need to “micro” houses to the tastes of particular hearthlings too much. Some tweaking is good, but excessive tweaking makes you focus on microing again and pushes into the Sims territory. That’s something I personally would like to avoid, Sims tend to annoy me because of how picky and whimsical and whiny they are.

Hahaha. Typically, no - but seeing how it is you, yes! just kidding of course.
There should not be a penelty based on this; I forgot that not all materials come in all colors :frowning:

Yeah, perhaps it could (would need to) be integrated with the personality of the Hearthlings somehow.
Kind of like @Brackhar is suggesting here:


As i see it there are two sides to this. On one end there are those people who want their creative freedom and are not interested in some arbitrary algorithm to tell them how to design their town, and on the other end there are those people who are more mechanically driven and won’t bother to spend resources on things that have no gameplay effect (so they need encouragement from the game to do so).

Beauty mechanics can serve several purposes but the biggest one in my opinion is to guide this second kind of players to make their town look nice and, if possible, to do so in a way that will be engaging, not too micromanagy and will encourage the creative players to think outside the box and to get inventive within the system (at a minimum cost to creative freedom).

The other two purposes that a system like this can be used for (that i can think of) are:

  • to give the heartlings more personallity.
  • to create emergent behavior in the game (with combination with other mechanics).

But those, in my opinion, should be secondary to the first one (a system where each hearthling has his own taste of style will give a lot of personallity but will be too micromanagy, for example).

I think that in order to fullfill that first purpose a mechanic similar to what @YetiChow described above will be good, Like in terraria where there are certain required items to make a room be considerd a room but you have a lot of choice for how those items will look like.
I can see how this kind of system can work in stonehearth. There can be defind a beauty score for a room, so, let’s say, a room with just a bad is bare, a room with a bad desk and a chair is ok, a room with all the above and X amount of decorations is nice, etc.
A system like this will encourage you to build nice places for your earthlings, but will still allow for a lot of creative freedom (provided that you have enough verity to choose from).
This can also be expanded to thing like wall materials (where some are more “beautiful” then others but you can still choose exactly how you whant them to look so it becomes a qustion of spending a more expensive material) or if there is light in the room etc.

I also think there is a place for a separate system that will work beside the one described above that will give more personality to the items in the world. So certain unique items can have a beauty score, so, for example, a lagendry statue will have a beauty aura that will give a happy thoughts to hearthlings that look at it.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject, i hope you find them usful :stuck_out_tongue:


This I like. However…

The clause I quoted above sort of bothers me. Maybe because of the implication that one type of furniture by default would be superior to another. E.g., it implies that stone > wood always, unless a trait is present that says otherwise.

The 3 basic material types should all have the same base result on happiness, and further bonuses should come with the “fanciness” of said item and individual hearthling preferences.

I really hope I just misunderstood this, and there’s no such implication. I really wouldn’t want to pack my houses with those ugly gray stone furnitures.


Note the use of the word marble, not stone. Marble is, traditionally, a much fancier kind of stone, and many games make it into basically another kind of ore. In fact, there’s even already a marble mod for Stonehearth, which adds it in distinct veins and gives new decorative recipes using marble.

So, we can potentially take that quote to imply that there will be more than just boring old stone – we might be seeing enhanced geology, or even just have it so that the marble furniture is made from normal stone but takes more effort to make.

Either way, I think that the more effort idea is the key part – marble furniture being prettier because it’s harder to get, rather than something inherently more beautiful about marble. We could perhaps also see a rare kind of wood which is prettier than basic wood, as a similar example.


I’ve not had time to read this full thread yet, but I’ll try to get through it on Monday or Tuesday. Thanks for all the input so far!


Arent quite a few these subject to personal taste ?

Is there not enough variety in the objects that are in the area?
Is the lighting good?
Are objects evenly spaced?
What is the color of the floor/walls?
Are the materials used to construct the decorations of a similar style/base material?

I think what would really make the game a stunner to me. Is stuff like more lighting options,esomething as simple as more color options for blocks would mean the world., ability to make nice tall waterfalls…And i cant help to feel when i start a new game the landscape feels incredible boring and static and does not really promote creative or beautiful buildings So personally i would love to see much more radical landscape generation.

And finally items! lots of them! and nature! lots of it!!! flowers, tress, bushes, scrubs and weeds!! its all amazing.
And when i look at that guy who does photoshop i cant help to think where are the weather effects :stuck_out_tongue: morning fog, rainbows, foggy weather or whatever.


Thanks for the input everyone! Here are some broader takeaways I have, and I’ll call out specific replies below.

  1. Individual hearthling preferences resonate, and likely help the system as a whole
  2. There possibly should be a concept of clutter that is separate from beauty, to help reinforce creating tasteful decors. Tying decorations into the space calculation we do currently might be an elegant solution.
  3. Mixing and matching thematics isn’t inherently bad, as players may self-ascribe a meaning or story that the game can not. As such, doing things like style set bonuses should be handled carefully.
  4. The impact of beauty should probably be thresholded into discrete levels, as opposed to a purely analog scale. As an example, having 25-50 beauty in an area should add +5 happiness, and 50-100 should add +8. This is opposed to a system where 1 point of beauty adds +.1 happiness to a hearthling. The reasoning here is that the latter focuses the player around micro optimizations of decoration (and opens up a space for optimal solutions), whereas the former it’s just important to be beautiful enough.
  5. Beauty is a little awkward for a system name. I think I’ll start using “Appeal” instead.

Thanks for all of your inputs guys! I’ll be actively working on the design doc for this this week, and I’ll see if there’s a good potential vehicle for exposing the work to you for feedback.

I think there’s a middle ground that we can do here. One thing we could explore is the idea between finished and unfinished walls. So, as an example, maybe stone and wood walls are treated as equally beautiful, but if you spend the extra cost to, I dunno, smooth the walls, or paint them, or wallpaper them (whatever is appropriate for the design), then that finished wall is prettier than an untreated wall. That way we could shift a lot of the color schema over to this other system and add some cost to it, while not doing something awkward like “Blue walls are more appealing than red walls.” I think we should try to avoid tying value to specific color choice, because it’s an interesting customization vector. So, then, the correct pathway may be to cost and then reward that extra effort of customization.

This is a bit of a worry of mine, and is why I might not consider wall type in the appeal calculation. I’m unsure here.

This is my honest hope for how such a system would work out.

I’m a little wary of creating any sort of explicit “this house needs these specific things”, but I understand your broader point. One of the things you’re calling out here, which may be worth investigating further, is splitting the concept of appeal into multiple axiis; comfort, value, etc. I’m a little hesitant due to the complexity involved in displaying all this stuff simultaneously, but it may be an elegant approach to solving the balancing act.

There’s a balancing trick I haven’t resolved here yet. Broadly speaking, I think there may be value in associating some amount of appeal with the difficulty in creating the specific thing in question. So, something that takes longer to make or is more expensive to make should probably be better than something that is fast and cheap to make. If you accept that, then “more expensive” becomes an interesting concept, since that doesn’t simply refer to the number of resources needed, but the rarity of said resources as well. Gold is harder to find than wood, so a chair made of gold conceptually is more expensive to make than a chair made of wood. Should that gold chair be more appealing inherently as a result?

I need to think on this particular point a bit more, as if I follow this logic too far I start to run into the exact design issues you are worried about. Your proposal of treat wood, clay, and stone as equivalent may be sufficient, as then I can still layer this gold concept on top. I suppose the core question is, should wood, clay, and stone be considered equivalent? I lean towards yes, absent larger economy changes, and then adding noise to the simulation with individual hearthling preferences that can push one type over.


In terms of construction materials, maybe, but in terms of resources?
There is an important point of who decides on things being “beautiful” or appealing.
If it is the player, then we want more artistic freedom to express ourselves. So we may want the system to be able to value “rusty look” if we are going for that.
If it is the hearthling, that’s a whole another story. Hearthlings have traits and views and preferences of their own, and may not necessarily like what we like - leading to controversial situations when we’ve created a house we like but they don’t like it, but we don’t know what exactly they don’t like (kinda what I was talking about). Also, should “beauty” work only to “positive” side or also to negative?

Another consideration. Value of a resource depends not only on its overall rarity in the game but also on a biome and how developed your settlement is. For example, Rayyas may treat wood as a luxury (which is actually quite realistic), but what would happen later in the game when we have a farmer who can grow trees? Or our town is rich enough to buy wood? Should their views on wood change? Will they consider it to be less valuable, because they have it in abundance (presenting new challenges for the player late-game), or, on the contrary, view their town as “successful” and get bonus happiness from this thought (rewarding the player for working hard on improving the town earlier)?