Let's talk zones!

So, I’ve been having a little think about zones, the kind of zones we want, and how they might work best in Stonehearth…

1. Overlapping Zones
Some zones clearly need to overlap other zones. For example, a military patrol route might cut through the trapper’s hunting zone, or a carpenter’s workshop zone might have a small stockpile or two in it. I do not think there should be any need to overlap the existing (non-mining) zones though - just the new ones below.

2. Merging Zones
By this, I mean the option of having identical zones adjacent to one another become one zone, rather like floor plans in the building editor. This would ensure that odd-shaped rooms etc can be properly created for a single zone.

3. Zone Menu
I’m probably jumping ahead a little bit here, but I think we can get away with just 5 new buttons in the zone creation UI: Mining zones (@Tom showed off how they’d work in a Desktop Tuesday recently), Ownership zones, Military zones, Organisation zones, and Exclusion zones. Read on for what the last 4 all do, and their sub-types…

4. Farming Zones: New Options
Rather than create a brand new type of zone, expand the regular farming zones to include the following options: orchard, plantation, and pasture . These will be used to ensure a renewable supply of fruit and wood for your settlement: berry bushes, apple trees etc could be placed in orchards, and oak or pine trees etc could be grown in plantations. The pasture option is obviously for farming various animal types. Note that under this scheme, your farmers would no longer plough up fallow fields, because that would obviously be of little use for these 3 new options.

5. New Zone: Ownership Zones
When you drag this down, you have five options: Unclaimed, Pick Hearthling, and Public Use, Barracks, and Great Hall. The first means that the first hearthling to claim the zone will own it, with the game AI determining who that ends up being. The second means you must select a hearthling from a drop-down menu (must show professions!) to own the zone and everything inside it - beds & chairs can only be used by the owner, etc. Add a check-box to permit the chosen hearthling’s family to use the zone too, if that’s ever a thing in the game. The Public Use option means that everything in the zone remains unclaimed, including things like beds etc - it’s always a “first come first served” area. The Barracks will be reserved exclusively for military hearthlings, who can claim beds etc in it, and the Great Hall becomes the preferred meeting & partying place for all your hearthlings. These options should also be given to buildings, but that’s for another topic :slight_smile: .

6. New Zone: Military Zones
These can be created just about anywhere, and come with several options: Training Field, Patrol Route, Chokepoint, Guard Point, Bunker. Your guards will spar with each other and combat dummies at a Training Field to improve their combat abilities (combat dummies & archery targets sold separately). A Patrol Route must have a squad assigned to it by day and by night (including “no squad” if you want), and will cause that squad to alter its sleep patterns to fit (as there aren’t squads in the game yet, we can just use individual footmen). A Chokepoint area means that your soldiers will rush to defend it if an enemy attacks, and try to stop any enemies getting between the Chokepoint and any stockpiles or campfires (they can be assumed by the AI to be in the direction of the town). A Guard Point is like a stationary Patrol Route - pick squads to guard it at day & night, and they’ll hang around there all the time and keep an eye on everyone and everything. Useful to guard your bank vault from pirates, ninjas and politicians for example. Finally, the Bunker zone tells your hearthlings to hurry to this location (or the nearest bunker zone) in the event of an attack, keeping them safe and out of sight/mind/danger whilst the soldiers do their thing.

7. New Zone: Organisation Zones
This option is a sort of catch-all for all the various other zone types that you may want to pop down. For example, a hospital zone for injured units, a throne room for your leader, zones for prisons, arenas, caged beasts, and so on.

8. New Zone: Exclusion Zone
Simply put, this tells your hearthlings to not enter this area if at all possible. You can set it to allow military units or particular professions to enter, however - perhaps your trapper has permission to risk the haunted woods. Ideally it also works by making travel through the exclusion zone very expensive for the pathfinding algorithms, forcing your hearthlings to go around it as well. Ideal if you spot some monsters and don’t wish to disturb them.

Well that’s me done - would love to hear what everyone thinks, especially @sdee and the team at Radiant :wink: . I’ve tried to do a really comprehensive list of what everyone’s going to want etc, but if I’ve missed something say so :slight_smile: !


Why is it that all suggestions end up so good? Love it. Only thing missing is the hidden tunnels cough cough :wink: Maybe also class specific zones; like the trapper. This would also include the Engineer’s traps and golems effective area (Not really). Also maybe a moat designation, but that would need to take a lot of other things into consideration. Might needs to add stables somewhere too.

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Very nice, and these are all pretty different from my own zone suggestions in my previous thread ( Additonal Functionality: Crafting, Stockpiles, Zones ). Here’s hoping both lists are considered!

You could collate your main points and write up the proposal again, together?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how such a thing would be possible, given that mining is going to be such a big part of the game. Anyone willing to avoid hidden tunnels etc would just make a grid of their own tunnels underneath their settlement so as to block any more tunnel creation by NPCs.

I think that traps will be individually placed, like Dwarf Fortress, but yeah, maybe they could redo the Trapper Zone into a “Class Zone”, then let you specify whether it’s for the Trapper, or some other class that needs its own special work area.

Regular mining tunnels open to the air, and with water pumped in.

Pasture for horses, or a zone/building owner = Chestnut Mare (Tame).

Forgot about that thread :blush: . I love the more complex stockpile controls you mentioned there :slight_smile: . I’d probably have them accessible from an “Advanced Options” menu when you select a stockpile - it might be a bit confusing to beginners otherwise, but I’d love to see them implemented :slight_smile: .

Indeed :slight_smile: .

Also, I forgot - the Organisation Zone option would include the (DF-style) Trading Post zone.


Excellent ideas! I can see setting up patrol routes with zones being very simple and common-sense to implement.

Ownership zones sounds like almost a silver bullet for any desired micromanagement of citizens and their stuff - this deserves its own thread, I daresay!


Agreed–from the discussions on how settler’s “belongings” are going to be defined, specifying a zone (or dare I say it, a three-dimensional zone??) seems to be the least restrictive. Other possibilities I saw mentioned were through beds and doors–but that means everything is tied to that object, not the actual living space or quarters. To me, an Ownership zone seems the most straightforward and creative method to do this (object ‘X’ in Olivia’s house/room = bonus morale, use of specific object, etc; larger zone = more morale, to an extent)

The one thing I am interested to see is how house component materials themselves (such as the roof and walls) can be incorporated into this zone without overlapping; if two people reside in rooms in the same house, would both of them ‘owning’ a wall result in zones overlapping? I figure sharing Ownership zones might drop some morale, as they’re being forced to combine their living space.

Maybe house components are neutral, or they only add to each room’s ‘value’ without specifically being owned by one settler or another.


I think a ‘military zone’ wouldn’t be the better option to deal with military units in stonehearth, which aims to have RPG elements and few micromanagement as possible

I suggest that stonehearth deal with military units the same way old Majesty did in it’s time:

  • You recruit the units (craft weapons and promote) and they would
    explore the world on their own, attack enemies, run from danger, get new equipment,
    make parties, help friends, follow a quest, etc, like if they were playing an RPG.

  • Any low level warrior like the footman for example could be set as a
    ’guard’ and he wouldn’t follow the behavior described above. Guards
    would stay around the town perimeter, protecting the villagers and
    the stockpiles.

  • If you want your units to attack an specific target or defend an
    specific area you can set it with an attack or defend banner which
    can be added multiple times, while the units will prefer the banner
    closest to them.



The micromanagement issue is more about playing the game like an RTS - think StarCraft 2. This is generally considered a Bad Thing by Radiant for the style of game being developed. It’s completely different to giving general directions to your soldiers - which is what, after all, you do for your farmers etc - or should they choose what to farm & where to farm too :stuck_out_tongue: ?

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I reached the same conclusion before seeing this post, as you can notice by my changes. A military patrol zone doesn’t go against the micromanagement mindset, generally speaking, but there are better ways, as suggested in the same post.

I strongly disagree.

First, there is the issue of the AI and pathfinding, both of which will be a lot of work to get right, at least if the units are to act intelligently. And not just the exploration AI, but the town guard AI too. Under a patrol zone scheme, you can if you want have multiple layers of defences, cover back routes, and so on.

Second, why would you even want your military units to go off exploring? Stonehearth is a sandbox / town management game, so having your soldiers go off on their own adventures and either (a) get butchered, (b) run out of food early and starve / never get far or (c) leave your town defenceless to get wiped out by goblins… well, it doesn’t seem to add to the game much :stuck_out_tongue: .

Third, your banner idea is exactly the kind of micromanagement Radiant are trying to avoid. It just provides a means for StarCraft 2 players to assign specific targets rapidly with their ungodly-high actions per minute (APM) skills, making it the most efficient way of doing things.

Finally, I can imagine it just being incredibly frustrating for players. Look at Dwarf Fortress by comparison: you build up the military, tell it to patrol areas etc, which gives you a useful level of control over the individual units, without turning the game into Command & Conquer whenever a monster appears or a dwarf has a tantrum. With the model you describe, you either have too little control (“explore under AI control” vs “patrol town perimeter”) or too much control (with the banners).


Yeah I think the Majesty example works for the possible Treasure Hunters Radiant has hinted at, but not military.

So @Scal, you’ll get your random explorers possibly… just hopefully not with our military units. :smile:


Zones or not, military units have to be directly under the players control. Something like automatic exploration would kill the hole combat system and just frustrate the player. The player must be guilty for the death of every single unit or he will feel cheated by the game.

Something like a patrol routes could work very well, but in the point af attacking or defending there has to be a direct control. It would be really frustrating if you need to draw new zones while it’s a matter of life or death. Same with saving units by escape the battlefield. Even if the combat isn’t the main focus of the game, it have to feel right. A solution could be the red alert mode. So it could be the standard to manage the guards with zones, but adding a direct control while the attack.

Only if the AI is absolutely perfect, a more or less automatic combat could be a working feature. But looking at many other Indie Games and looking at the hard work behind AIs, this could be a really unbeatable goal…

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I think DF, Gnomoria etc manage alright with zones. In singleplayer Stonehearth there’s the pause button as well, so you could micromanage them more that way (cheater! :stuck_out_tongue: ), but I’m still not convinced that we need anything more than the zones for regular military units. The point of the game is that you’re supposed to be more like the overseer of the settlement, and so some level of the combat must necessarily be outside your control*.

*That said, I have modding plans for… call them hero units that WOULD be directly under your control. Think unique individual units with a bunch of abilities, a bit like the earliest examples of the trapper class. But again, they’re not regular military units.


[quote=“Teleros, post:14, topic:7972”]
I think DF, Gnomoria etc manage alright with zones. In singleplayer Stonehearth there’s the pause button as well, so you could micromanage them more that way (cheater! ), but I’m still not convinced that we need anything more than the zones for regular military units. The point of the game is that you’re supposed to be more like the overseer of the settlement, and so some level of the combat must necessarily be outside your control*.[/quote]
I understand your point, but even if I could play such thing, I think many players will not. As said the AI must to be near perfect, If you don’t want to frustrate your player. And if you loose to soldiers against one goblins because both have just near zero hitpoints, while 5 guards standing near by, then this wouldn’t be acceptable. Sandbox overseer or not, it is always frustrating if you loose things unnecessary…

The pause button is there, but interrupting the cole game because it’s not playable on normal speed is just a compromise. This just say “We couldn’t do it better!”. There shouldn’t be as much micromanagement like in Star Craft, but you commanding the units to directly attack the enemy (and the right (!) enemy) is the heart of every combat. Even more if distance combat find it’s way in the game.

I personally think, zones are really great to define a Status Quo. But when your plan fails (and this could happen very often) it is necessary to do some very quick changes without building new zones, deleting old zones and hoping for the big AI moment. That’s the thought behind the “red alert” idea. It doesn’t matter, if you have direct unit control, some squad controls, something like the flag idea or some priority system like in startopia (with better AI^^). But even if I don’t want to say that Radiant can’t code the perfect AI, It would be better to has a Plan B if there still are some unnecessary AI errors…

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Like FTL. But for that game, I don’t see the pause feature so much as a sin than a very welcome gift

To me, zones exemplify an easy formula for the defense portion of the game. You can set defense and patrol spots, essentially laying down another portion of your city’s systems. But I believe that force controls/commands are needed at some degree of exploration and attack. Outside of your city system, there needs to be quick and efficient ways to combat issues that come your way. I’m still particularly in favor of squads as a means to limit RTS overload, but–for example–if a single soldier gets stuck or confused due to pathing, I’d like a way to manually guide them back to the group, at the very least.

It wouldn’t be acceptable with a zone model either IMHO :stuck_out_tongue: .

One thing that does occur to me though: I’ve been mostly doing all this from a defensive / town management point of view (as @Atralane says): that is, setting up defences against the outside & all that. It occurs to me then that more offensive tasks for your military… well basically I haven’t covered them, and that a zone model probably isn’t ideal for them.

If it’s okay with you then, let’s focus just on the zones stuff for now, and have a separate topic for offensive military controls? I’m thinking waypoints plus perhaps some simple controls for targeting the big / important enemies, but again, that’s probably for another topic.


[quote=“Teleros, post:17, topic:7972”]
It wouldn’t be acceptable with a zone model either IMHO .[/quote]
But a more direct way of controlling the units could give you a chance to save them.

I really see the benefits of a zone-system in the defence. That’s why I don’t say “Buuh” but “We need some more…”. Even in the case of defence some fast actions could be really useful. If the enemys break through the right side, while the other soldiers just doing their patrol - that would be bad. That’s the idea of adding more control, if you enter a “direct battle mode”.

But as said, I really don’t think these things can’t together. So a big plus for the zone system with a little “but” in mind :smiley:

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I think a possibly huge advantage to the zone system is that, being a static, defensive-oriented system, it could eventually allow the player to actually ‘create’ their own military AI for their particular settlement. For example:

If enemies enter zone (X) or break gate (Y), squads A and B are called towards that area (unless manually told not to at that moment). If enemy total # is greater than (Z) in zone (X), send settlers in (X) to (Safehouse 1).

This allows for some very different playing styles between exploration/offence and city-building/defense; while giving a little more to worry/learn about than just purely RTS, it would give considerably more depth to the military aspect of Stonehearth. Although ultimately, you have to accept that eventually, something might throw your neat system into disarray. I think the ultimate goal, however, should be to find that perfect system for you and adapting it as more types of enemies and challenges arise.


You’re entitled to your opinion.

There has been no real measurement of how much work what I have suggested would need.

Besides, even if it demands a lot of work, Team Radiant has already expressed their will to make a great game even if it takes a long time instead of a ok game delivered in a short time, for reference:

[quote=inkblot]We would rather ship the Stonehearth we want late than ship a watered down version of the game on time.[/quote] From http://stonehearth.net/2014/09/02/stonehearth-kickstarter-and-upcoming-releases/

A very common mistake is to see a game from only one point of view depending on your personal preferences and personality.

Stonehearth can be an Interactive Town Manager for some or an Adventure Role Playing Game for others. And it can be both and much more.

It is unfair to a game like Stonehearth to fall in a specific game category just because one or some of it’s attributes resemble games in said category.

With the above said you also seem to have misunderstood my suggestion, where you took one of the suggested AI actions, the ‘explore’ action, and wrongly judged it as the core point of my suggestion when in fact it is only one of the many actions the units could perform.

But to clarify on the ‘explore’ action, units versed in exploration and more in tune with the wilderness (like hunters, druids, beastmasters) will prefer to stay outside of town, hunting and exploring, while others units would prefer to remain closer to home unless if it decides to do a quest or in a party which is questing. This adds immersion to the game and belivability in our units varied personalities.

This is not a game where every ‘soldier’ is named ‘soldier’ and devoid of any personality. There are a lot of game that do this already, having you command an army of standard silent soldiers and, by judging the current and past actions of Team Radiant (the addition of varied names, personalities, attributes, diaries and even a chat for the villagers) this is not what Stonehearth aims to be.

For reference:

[quote=Team Radiant]Stonehearth is a game about exploration and survival in an epic fantasy setting.

The game is equal parts Sandbox, Real Time Strategy, and RPG.[/quote]
From Stonehearth by Radiant Entertainment — Kickstarter

Throwing an attack banner near a goblin stockpile is no different than setting your military patrol zone near a goblin stockpile, at least in essence as banners can be much more:

The ‘Banners’ concept comes from Majesty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majesty:_The_Fantasy_Kingdom_Sim), which was a combination of many genres (like Stonehearth is) and it had a unique twist.

Instead of choosing an area for your units to go, it allowed you to set a gold reward, which made going to the banner and killing whatever is there much more interesting for the heroes in your kingdom, the bigger the gold reward you set in the banner the bigger the numbers of interested heroes.

As we know Stonehearth will not use currency between the villagers, making rewards useless, still a similar system could be used, where the banners could become interesting to heroes depeding on the location and dangerousness (known and uknown) where the banner is located.

A far location with unknown dangerousness is much more likely to make strong heroes interested than a close location with goblins. While a close location with goblins is much more likely to make weak recruits interested than a close location with zombies and skeletons.

With the above said, it is clear that Majesty’s ‘Banners’ concept can, with the needed adaptations, be a much better way to get rid of nuisances (goblins and the like) and still avoid sending weak units to their deaths.

There is also no incompatibility between my suggestion (first quote) and your military patrol zones if you leave the patrol zones to do their single role as patrol zones for guards. Even truer to this is the fact this was posted under the patrol zones topic, suggesting that my idea was originated from the discussions of the yours.

With all the above said (excluding Teleros quotes), the ‘banners’ concept has been thoroughly explained, proving this last quote to be misinformed and in lack of touch with the reality of the aforementioned concept.