My Thoughts on Game Direction

Hey everybody!,

Time again for one of my poorly written, way-too-long, doesn’t make sense, what are you trying to say topics! WHOO!!!

Haha, no, but I wanted to take a second here and once again write about what I think, or rather, where I think Stonehearth should go in terms of gameplay direction. I bring up this topic because of one of the latest streams on Twitch, where I believe it was Stephanie who started discussing the ideas behind that question, and in one instance, the idea of having Stonehearth be a game where you create a central city, and then can build off of that by adding additional towns and cities to other maps and in the end, combine them of all to form a massive empire.

I’ve said something like this from the start.

But! To add to this, here’s my little list of ideas to expand off that main concept.

The first thing I’d argue is that I’d say the game, in terms of map expansion or moving to another map, should work somewhat close to Sim City 4.

For those that don’t know about Sim City 4 or don’t know what I mean - when first choosing where to build in Sim City 4, you where given this huge map, the map divided into a huge number of sections, large, medium, and small squares, expressed here in the image below.

In this form, you had this the ‘world map’, and then once you chose a tile to build in, well, let’s just say that was the ‘city map’.

From there, once in your selected tile, you could build as you please. If you backed out to the World Map, and then started building in the tile adjacent to the one you just built in, you could connect roads, establish essentially trade routes and deals, and share resources.

Anyway! I think Stonehearth should work something close to this. For one, there’s talk about the edge of the map. I can get behind the idea of the map edge behind an open book. It actually sounds really cute. However, what about off in the distance? What does the player see then? I’m going off topic here, I know… But I’d say that it’d be cool to have the map edge be representative of the next tile over. So for example, if you’re in the forests, your starting tile is mostly just flat lands and dense forests. To the North, you have a large lake and to the West you have a bunch of medium-sized mountains.

In this case, what does the player see? I think it’d be asking too much to actually get a photo-copy of what the tile looks like. Rather, I think it should be some large cartoon, hand-drawn image in the background, so that if you’re looking North, you’ll see some cartoon trees and a lake in the distance. And if you look to the West, you’d see essentially just construction-paper mountains.

Furthermore, to answer how you could combine both the book-border idea and the cartoon image background idea, I’d argue having some clouds in the mix to add a type of buffer zone if you will.

Alright… totally went off topic there, but you get the point!

ANYWAY! Back to it - Sim City 4, tiles, Stonehearth Empire - all that stuff.

I think the player should start off choosing from a huge map where he wants to settle down. After a while of playing, if the player decides the location is really great and wants to keep it, they could decide to make that location the central city, or tile, of their empire.

From there they can send out more scouting expeditions. There are many options with this, but for now, since I talk too much as it is, let’s just say this expedition is to build a new settlement. Let’s say you want to go build a mining town since your central tile has no mountains to mine from, for example.

You create a new roster from your available Hearthlings, and then tell them which direction to head out.

A couple things here - For simplicity, let’s use an example and say you tell your scouting party to head out West.

  1. You head West, it unlocks that new tile. It’s clear of enemy encampments and all that stuff and has plenty of resources. So, you can claim that land, setup a trade route with your central tile to start taking what you mine from that town and ship it over to your main city - this would be an excellent reason to finally include horse-drawn wagons and carts, and maybe even small supply boats… Just saying… Hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, kiss, kiss… What?

  2. You head West, but it’s full of enemy camps. You decide to move to the next tile over and build there instead. You don’t clear out those enemies and two things happen. One, since this new tile you built on is one tile further away from your central one, it’ll take even longer to get shipments from that mining town. And two, because of the enemies, you open yourself up to attack and possible robbery of your resource shipment. This creating an opportunity for the player to decide if they wish to create a small army of footmen and handle the problem, or just pay ransom.

And overall, that’s the gist of things. Now expand this idea further with a huge selection of built-on tiles and multiple trade routes setup and everything.

Now, there is one thing. I remember when I last brought up this idea, the question was asked on what exactly would happen if you left your central tile let’s say and went over to a new town. What happens in that central tile while you’re away? I think for gameplay sake, your central tile would essentially be on ‘Pause’ until you return. You could take this a little further and say that if you were building something, leave to another tile and were gone long enough, I’d say it would be perfectly fine to allow that construction to finish-up while you were away. So basically, if you had the right resources, whatever the cost of the building, the game would automatically deduct it from your storage and just have the building finished when you came back. If you didn’t have the right amount of resources then the building wouldn’t be completed. Pretty standard.

Additionally, the question I’m referring to also asked about Goblin attacks and what have you. Like I said, I think largely overall, while you’re away, your other tiles are essentially on ‘Pause’. Can’t have 18 different maps / tiles / towns / cities, what have you all working and computer-processing at the same time… That’d be crazy!

But, I like the idea of Goblin attacks. I’d say as a toggle-able option for the player, while you’re away you can potentially get alerts that another tile is being attacked by raiders or Goblins, and that alert could give you the option to immediately save your progress and load you into that conflict.

Finally! There’s the idea of re-playability. Because, what happens after you build your empire? What happens when essentially you’re too strong? A common problem in a lot of games.

Well, a few things. One, I think this is where Titans make an excellent addition to Stonehearth! Once you’ve made massive cities and armies, the next best challenge isn’t just some Goblin camp, but rather this massively powerful, huge boss-type monster.


Second, now that you’ve made an impact in your world map, you’ve disturbed the peace, and created an empire - I think in terms of singleplayer, this creates an opportunity for any enemy types, an example being the Goblins, to want to strike back with force. What I’m getting at here is the idea of having very large-scale battles between the player and an enemy empire. Moreover, you could make these battles in two different fashions. One being just a battle, period. Literally no reason for it other than just battling. Two though, being a fight for land. You win the battle, you keep your tile. You lose the battle, you lose your tile.

— To avoid going another huge rant here, I’m starting to get a bunch of ideas here for battles and multiplayer, but I’ll spare you guys from that. Overall though, you get the picture!

Anyway, third and finally, in terms of re-playability, I’d say another addition to keep the player going would be to have quests. First, allow the player to choose which Hearthling they want to be their ‘Hero’. Attach a group of archers and footmen (and maybe some cavalry units COUGH COUGH) and whatnot, and send them out on a quest.

Quests I think should be small, tiny little maps - inside a cave, in a swamp, mountain hills, whatever it may be - just specific locations to fight through. Story-wise, this not only allows for the development of the portals Team Radiant mentioned they wanted to include in their game, but also allows for the community to get involved and create maps themselves to share with everyone!

HUH! Okay… That’s it.

Now, let’s have a discussion! What do you guys think? Let me know what’s wrong with my idea, and what you think would be an even cooler way of going about all of this!

Let me know!



Thanks for a great read :merry:

Made me laugh out loud… :laughing:

This idea with expanding maps sounds really great, but how would it look or function in multiplayer?

Other than that, this is a concept i would love to play!

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I didn’t get to read all of the post, mainly because i’m slightly lazy, but i think i get the jist of it

I love the concept! This would clar out some problems such as procedurally generating the map, i mean, it will be generated to connect the existing map, but it’ll be on one big and controllable chunk, a lot less messy i’d say

I think maybe have the large Tiles function as territory? A large map would be a lot harder on the pathfinding, but what if we could seperate te tiles? No structure can be built across and onto another tile, and no Hearthling will pass ot path over the tiles unless commanded to trade goods with the other town/city if we do this, we might even be able to make each tile be processed by seperate player, reducing the load on the host

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This, honestly, is pretty close to one of the exact ideas I’ve pitched to the team. The one thing I wasn’t able to super resolve is that this approach creates a tension that may not be good for all players. Some people play Stonehearth from the view that they want to have a single city that they invest in for a very long time, and others play Stonehearth constantly restarting, hoping to make a better city this time than they did the last time. Stonehearth currently supports both styles of play, but this pitch definitely pushes the game towards a constantly restarting cycle.

The other thing that I didn’t particularly like about this pitch was when I imagined what the game would feel like when you returned to your main town. Setting up these side outposts/cities would not be a fast activity in Stonehearth, nor do I think we’d particularly want it to be. There’s a lot of joy to be had in the act of getting to know the people of your town, establishing a story for the residents there-in, and growing attached to them over time. Given that goal, I think for most players it’d be a pretty distancing/confusing experience when they went back to their main city. You’ve been away from it for hours, maybe days or weeks in real world time, and during that time you may have likely forgotten a lot of what made that town appealing the first time you were there, or any of the stories/concepts you had running in your mind at the time you left it.

But, yeah, I developed a pitch for exactly this type of structure, and I do think it has a lot of core merit, even if it’s not where we end up. Good work dude. :smiley:


Except not exactly, because each new Alpha pushes you to restart anyway. So it’s not “hoping to make a better city this time” as much as it’s adapting to the game’s dev cycle.

I understand the reason behind this, backward compatibility is a whole another level of complexity. But still, continuous gameplay for over than, say, two months is currently out of question. The thing is, people get used to things after a while.

Impressions cracked that question in their series of Master games – Zeus, Master of Olympus, Pharoah: Master of the Nile, and so on.

You’d probably know them, but in case anyone wants a refresher on those games: you started out founding a major city settlement (i.e. a capital), building up your basic infrastructure of houses, amenities, roads and industries. As your capital developed, you could support more impressive and interesting structures, such as palaces or temples.

In the campaigns, you’d have a set goal to advance to the next chapter. Every so often, one of those chapters would see you leave your capital to start a new settlement, which would still be a part of your empire but was basically an independent city-state. Your capital would be run by a vassal while you were busy colonising somewhere else, and you could generally rely on them to ship you a steady supply of resources, and to provide assistance in an emergency.

After completing the chapter for that colony, you’d go back to the capital and the colony would now be a vassal city/state, shipping goods to you. This generally gave the capital new options to construct more impressive and powerful buildings, military forces, or temples.

However, on top of the colonies you could found yourself, there were other “AI” cities. Most would be open to trading (after being liberally buttered-up with gifts), and some would be antagonistic military threats; but some would just refuse to negotiate or co-operate. If one such hermit city happened to be a major supplier of, say, marble (very important for temples!), you could then launch a military action to try and change the way things were run.

Military actions came in two flavours: raids, and conquests. Raids, as the name implies, were a mission to acquire and make off with a bunch of resources that the target produced – exactly as the goblins currently do in Stonehearth! Conquests, on the other hand were explicitly built around conquering the city and making it a vassal. This would, in turn, open up trade and make them pay tribute to you (so you can get at those resources they’d been hoarding), and you could in a pinch ask them for assistance with other matters. However, freshly conquered vassals were generally kinda salty about the whole thing, so you usually had to butter them up a little too before they would accept that you were the boss now.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is that I can see it working very well in Stonehearth. Players can found a hamlet/camp/town to supply resources to their capital, or they can alternatively use diplomacy or military action to interact with other settlements. Don’t want to bother mining out a couple of mountains for your grand construction project? Pay someone else to do it! They don’t want to do it? Make them! Or, better yet, pay the goblins (who you might have a very good relationship with) to make the other settlement do it, by getting the goblins to undertake a conquest and make that other group your vassals!

It also opens the door to politicians, giving them strong gameplay reasons to exist and a good whack of narrative purpose to boot! Which hearthling you choose as your envoy/mayor/overseer of a vassal group will have an impact on how they run things in their neck of the woods, which in turn impacts what you’re likely to receive as gifts/trade offers/tributes.

So, if a player wants to take a break from their main city to go build a mining hamlet or a farming village to help support their capital, they can. If they’d rather not mess around with making a second city, they can either trade or conquer their way to the resources they need.

I think one improvement on Impressions’ model, though, would be to let the player actually lead the raid/conquest rather than just sending the army off and hoping for the best. IMO it’s much more interesting to lead a daring raid, hiding from patrols and planning your escape route, than it is to auto-resolve the whole adventure. However, that auto-resolve option should still be there for the benefit of players who just want to press a button and send their soldiers off to do their thing. This means, of course, that players who lead the attack themselves would have a far more flexible range of options; while auto-resolving would probably be a simple comparison – your attacking strength vs their defending strength, with maybe a bonus based on which hearthling you pick as the commander for the attack.




Okay, so multiplayer… Whew… Well that’s something I could talk about for a very long time. I know… shocking…

But, to keep it brief, I think that all depends on how Team Radiant wants to approach multiplayer. We really haven’t seen any concrete ideas from them on the issue as of yet, but for this reply, I’d say we can just stick to the basics. So, let’s say Co-op and PVP.

All other game types and modes aside, and my ideas for them, let’s just stick with the basic game.

So first, co-op:

If it’s co-op, you two are assumed to be on the same team. In this idea, you both start out in the central tile. … (Just stopped myself from going on a rant there full of my ideas on co-op) … But, just in reference to map expansion, I’d say you can do pretty much the same thing. One player can remain at the central tile, while the second player could choose to leave that tile and go off and let’s say start a mining town for that game’s main empire.

As a twist though - I was just thinking that if player 2 decides to leave the kingdom and turn his mining town into a well defended castle, player 2 would then have the option to leave the kingdom and form his own. In that, player 1 would decide player 2 is now an enemy. With it, player 2 will not be able to return to the original central tile. If he does, it could be considered an act of war and start an entire battle.


Generally speaking, I think at this point, both players would be given the chance to select where they want to build. So for instance, player 1 chooses to build in the Northeast corner, while player 2 decides to build in the Southwest corner of the World Map.

And simply enough, they can either trade, battle, what have you.

There’s a lot of assumptions there, and there’s a lot of unknowns, I know… I just leave to once we know more about singleplayer, the more we’ll be able to expand our ideas on multiplayer. For now, it seems like it’s open season so stuff like this is easy. But further into production, well, we’ll just wait and see.

Thanks for the comment Fornjotr!


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Not lazy at all… You did hurt my feelings though not reading it all… : (

: D Just kidding! I’m the same way.

Anyway, yeah, you got the point of it really.

One of the best things I love about this idea is that instead of having one massive map, as AMAZING as that would be, I don’t think even the best computer could keep processing all those Hearthlings and towns and enemies and so on so fourth… Having individual sections allows for safe-levels of processing, which means basically, more in-game content and more interaction with your world.

Yes, I’m aware that didn’t make sense. I’ll put it like this - it’s sort of like GTA IV over GTA V. GTA IV had a really good physics engine. But to process all of that stuff, car damage, rag doll, all of it, pedestrians were limited and cars on the road were limited.

GTA V however has a far worse physics engine than GTA IV. However, it makes up for that with more pedestrians on the sidewalks, cars on the road, and “supposedly” a bigger map.

In essence, we could have one single huge map, but to keep everything running smoothly, I’d say Team Radiant would then have to cut back on stuff like building destruction, or the amount of enemies in one area at a time - just stuff like that.

Quality over quantity basically.



Pitched nearly the exact idea, huh? Well then, I love you…

Haha, only kidding… maybe…

No, but joking aside, if you’d be interested, let’s have a discussion.

For one, I think this idea, this pitch, would actually favor what you talked about in terms of play-style. One being building just one city and working on that one continuously. The second one being building a town, and then starting over multiple times.

For the first style, a player could do this. They simply stay on the central tile and continuously work there.

For the second, starting over and over - well, they can do that too. That being either starting completely over and getting another ‘World Map’, or… Let’s say they’re on their central tile. They built their town and now just want to start over. I’d say create an option, the “Pack-Up and Go” option, that allows the player to simply take their resources, or perhaps a reduced amount of their resources due to travel and then choose a new tile.

For the second topic, talking about essentially getting to know your Hearthlings and forming a relationship…

I love this idea. But, let’s say we just stick with the original idea and keep everything on one map, one ‘tile’ in my own words. Stonehearth as it is. What happens when the player reaches 100 Hearthlings? Or 200? I don’t think many players will be able to remember all of those Hearthlings and form relationships with all of them.

In this idea, the Sim City 4 Idea [Trademark] … please don’t sue me… I’d argue that you’re allowing the player to continue on with those relationships actually.

I think we need to find out at what point the player starts not really caring about their Hearthlings, in terms of getting to know them, but rather just assigns them a job and then that’s it.

With the Sim City 4 Idea [Trademark], you’re creating a situation in which the player is actually now forming relationships with a huge number of Hearthlings rather than just the ones they started off with in their central tile. In other words, the player will now have a select group of Hearthlings he’ll remember and be connected with not only in his central tile, but in his farming town tile, in his mining town tile, and just other town tiles.

Now, that all said - you work for Radiant, so I’m sure there’s plenty of other behind-the-scenes ideas going into this, meaning, essentially, I have no idea what I’m talking… : D

But, I’d still favor having a discussion. Might even get some spoilers from you if we carry on long enough… : D

Either way though, thanks Richard. And I look forward regardless, to what you guys have in store for Stonehearth.


I’d fully support this idea, BUT, with one change. This worked great for SC4, but it always bothered me that it made the grids to the size it wanted to be. Say I had a massive island that I wanted to be one large city…too bad, it’s been divided into 3 or more. If Stonehearth is going to do this, I think they should instead take from RimWorld or Aven Colony in regards to setting out expeditions and finding new areas.

I’m going to argue against this. My reasoning in this is going to be the usage of resources as well as the manipulation of the game. Here are a few examples even with your idea:

  • Say you find a tile full of minerals, but Ogo’s camp is sitting right on top of it. If non-used tiles “pause”, then what’s to keep me from going back to the capital, building up an army, and steamrolling Ogo? It takes the challenge out of it, and the strategy of expanding out of it.

  • Food distribution would be a joke. I could have one tile that’s filled to the brim with a farming village, exporting waves of excess food. If all other tiles are “paused”, then I could export to all those other tiles, filling their stores, then go to those tiles, play a little, and only come back when more food was needed. With this, you’d only ever need one farm village for your whole map. Hell, play AFK long enough and you’d never even need a farm village as you could export from the capital.

You wouldn’t need the entire map running, just an RNG running. If the tile is an Ogo camp, the RNG could make a random number of troops leave from said camp heading to your camps at a random time. You wouldn’t need to know what’s going on on Ogo’s tile to have armies coming from it.

With your own tiles, everything would be set. The number of 'lings x number of days since last active = amount of food consumption. If Ogo attacks one of your tiles and you don’t do anything about it, then it’d be up to how many soldiers you have there vs the RNGod. But the Hearhtling’s AI wouldn’t have to be active, pathfinding wouldn’t have to be active, etc. Building progress would be timers so what’s needed on that too?

On a performance note only though, from my personal experience, the game is more or less optimized to run on a Moto Razr if they wanted to. Even with my current run that’s unable to be played, it doesn’t use more than 40% of a quad core 3.4ghz CPU; which by today’s standard is pretty average.

This is where I’m going to say multiplayer needs to be mixed in. Say you’ve reached that massive empire that the goblins can’t fight. Now’s the time to take on other player’s empires, and raid their resources. After all, if you’re that large, you’ve probably used most of the resources on your world map.

And say your friend (that’s now your enemy) came in and knocked over half your tiles, this opens for the goblins to move in as well, and thus you have your replayability of rebuilding your empire.

I completely endorse this.

Each player would have their own world map, which then they could either find others at random or have an in-game friend’s list they attack regularly. ANY mobile game (Clash of Clans as an example) basically has this.

I’m going to say town levels as well as the wealth system the way it is now still would allow for this. If you made it that players had to reach a certain prestige, or build a certain trader’s object that they couldn’t right from the start, before they could set out expeditions or interact with other players, this would allow them to control when they want to deal with all the extra, and thus allow them to reset as often as they want. This would also allow them to decide whether they even wanted to deal with other tiles or when they wanted to start dealing with all that.

Hopefully, you get what I’m trying to say by this…

This is a double edged sword and depends on whether you go with the pause method or not.

  • With the stated pause method, your concern could happen. But I don’t feel it would be as confusing as you worry. Even if a player forgot about what they were doing on a different tile, and they come back, it’d give them the opportunity to meet new “people” and relearn of their past adventures, like finding an old toy they’d forgotten about.

  • Honestly, this is where my proposed method would really shine. If all tiles are actively using resources, then it’d remind the player that they have other tiles they should return to. On top of that, it’d give them more reason to expand rather than just a map of multiple saves (for all intent and purporses).

I don’t feel this way. I’ve been using the same save for a good while now (almost a year I think), and lately am even having better results with older saves than new games.


Oh. Are personalities/traits working on old saves? Because I got used to “start anew with a new Alpha, just to be sure”.

Now that you mention it, traits was the last time I started a new game. So I apologize for that. That being said, I just went back and looked at my backups, and booted my oldest one. File date is 6/25/2016. Still runs and everything, the Hearthlings just don’t have traits. Here’s a copy of it for anyone that wants a little laugh:

Year Old Save (3.4 MB)

That being said, “Start a new game to be sure” isn’t a bad policy. Of course my 22.0 save is having far fewer bugs than my 22.5.

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With this kind of game, I don’t see how co-op would be achieved, at least not in a way that would be fun. Working off the idea of each person having their own “Kingdom Map”, allowing someone to gift a tile to a “friend” to allow them to build an outpost (of sorts) would, in my opinion, be the only way to prevent people’s builds from conflicting with one another. Otherwise, the two people would have to always be playing at the same time, or it’d create an imbalance in the mechanics.

For PVP, I’m going to reference my reply above:

Refer to my RNG thoughts above.

This could be heavily exploited and create a major imbalance. Say I’m not the player to keep restarting and instead build my capital from what I’ve got. I hit the world stage and go against someone who’s restarted so many times, they basically started building a city with more than I have now. To me that would feel like a cheat that’d be providing a bit of a decent advantage.

I’d love to see a game with that many Hearthlings, hell I’d just love to see pathfinding try to keep up with that. But at that point, you’d have to have some filler population, and I doubt they want to do that.

Even at 20 'lings, people don’t remember all their names. They may remember one or two, but beyond Old Man Jenkins the Farmer, or Leeroy Jenkins the knight, people aren’t that attached to them now. So even if we had 200 in one city, or 2,000 across our empire, it’d be the same IMO as to whom we remember.

While there are some features which don’t get retroactively implemented, the devs do push to make new alphas backwards-compatible with old saves quite often. Of course, it’s a question of practicality, but I believe that some of our builders extraordinaire would know more about how well the saves translate. I would think @Psyduck might be able to answer how well carry-over works?

Personally, I also start a new save any time I come back after a new alpha, mostly just to be sure to get any new content but also to see how the early-game experience has been changed by that content. I’m currently holding off while I wait for work to calm down, but I’m really excited to see how hearthling interaction and conversations will effect the early part of the game (what I call the “campsite” stage where everyone is living close together.)

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Not sure i have any particular advice on the subject. Not really done anything particular to secure my saves for new builds.
Also lots of updates broken in my save i might just have been lucky. but it seems to me all the new hearthling functionalities are indeed active.

I think the only real advice that might have some legality is try to load your save on every new build, So you wont skip a version of the game… and well…doh…avoid mods

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I just remember you have some awesome, massive towns which I figure must have taken multiple alphas to build – but I may well be completely off base there hahaha.

They did! :stuck_out_tongue: But I dont play the game much just build stuff >.< so as long as i can build stuff i did not care about my heartling bugs.

Just real quick!

School’s back in session, and being a second year grad student I barely have enough time to sleep! With that, just wanted to say sorry to everyone who commented but I didn’t have a chance to get back to.

To @SirAstrix, absolutely love the discussion! Soon, I look forward to carrying on this conversation!





Nothing was more truerer…