Non-Omnipotent Notification System

Hello, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a suggestion topic on the Discourse. So let’s begin!

Currently, we have notifications in Stonehearth for several events: incoming travelers and traders, daily summaries, deaths, and perhaps most curiously, theft notifications.

How exactly do the hearthlings know that a lone goblin took a piece of wood from one of your stockpiles, even if it is huge lengths from any part of your active town? It would seem more likely that if a settler was nearby, the theft would be recognized.

Thus, I bring up my topic:
##A “Non-Omnipotent Notification System” in Stonehearth!##

What I mean by “non-omnipotent” is that in numerous games and game types, the player is made immediately aware of anything that happens, even if it is not technically something that would be immediately aware to them. For example, how does your RPG hero know a healing potion was just swiped off of him by an enemy thief, in the middle of combat? How do you know your old outpost halfway across the map just got attacked by bandits?

Rather, I’d like to present an alternative, "Non-Omnipotent" concept where notifications are tied to actually settler “awareness”, which is then respectively affected by several variables.

What would this affect?

Currently, the only notification type we have that would actually change is the “goblin thief” scenario; all others are tied to neutral or positive social engagements, like traders (I also suggest deaths still be made known to the player). However, there are myriads of future features of gameplay that would be affected by this system:

  • Combat Notification
    Most of the time, if your soldiers see enemies and either party engages, you’ll be told about it. However, there may be cases of extremely dangerous enemies that can put your units to sleep or incapacitate them in some way, essentially preventing singular units from ‘raising the alarm’–an example of this type of enemy is the proposed Ninja group mentioned in the original Kickstarter. This would encourage keeping soldiers in groups, especially when exploring unknown, dangerous areas.

  • Structural Integrity
    Currently, our structures are invincible–this will not always be the case. We will eventually have to maintain our constructions and repair them when attacked, but again, like the “goblin thief” scenario, how do we know any damage occurred? I feel this would be more interesting if it was tied to hearthlings actually noticing the damage to the building, upon which they’d basically ‘report’ the damage. As long as damage persists on the structure, there could be an icon nearby the structure or on a list to remind you (although there could be an option to ignore damage on certain structures, in the case of unusual custom builds or abandoned structures your settlers might still commonly pass–you wouldn’t want the notification to return to the list each time they pass!) I also inquired about showing damage on structures in a previous thread: Building/Wall/Fence Damage: Structural Recognition System? The system is a little different/earlier in concept than the one here.
    (The player will still technically be able to see more serious damage themselves just by looking at the map, but this won’t be the intended means of doing so (too micromanage-y). However, if they do spot damage, perhaps there could be a way to assign settlers (or maybe a specific class, like the proposed Architect) to “Inspect” a building to check its “health”.)

  • Theft
    This brings me to the last initial category for notifications, which again is the only one currently present in the game. Unless there are nearby units, theft from stockpiles or (future) storage devices will go unnoticed; because of this, the player will need to protect his stockpiles better and assign guard patrols to ensure their resources are not swiped. However, it should be remembered that goblins are not the only planned threat in this regards–our planned friends the Pirates, Ninjas, and Politicians will likely be both external and internal foes in the game, and measures must be taken to avoid losing important belongings. Military units, like Footmen, would be more aware of theft due to their training and have a better chance of noticing it.

What variables would affect the notification system?
Numerous statuses and conditions could affect how well or reliable notifications work. Here’s just a few:

  • Physical Presence of Units–As mentioned before. “If a tree falls in a forest…”
  • Morale–Unhappy villagers are less inclined to report damage or thieves. Keep them happy so they keep your city in good shape!
  • Sleep and Nourishment–If your units aren’t getting enough sleep or food, their senses will be dulled. If a soldier is really sleepy, for example, they might not even notice a foe walk right past them!
  • Status Ailments–As mentioned before, sleeping or incapacitated units can’t really respond or warn of a threat, can they? Watch out for foes that can inflict these conditions on your units!
  • Weather and Time of Day–If conditions create poor visibility, it’s naturally harder to see things. A foggy night is the perfect time for a team of rogues to sneak around and look for loot or unsuspecting settlers. Extreme cold and hot could also affect units’ attention, meaning more purpose to climate-appropriate attire.
  • Profession–Different classes can have different advantages towards certain types of notifications. As mentioned before, soldiers could have a higher chance/range of detecting theft. Another possible scenario is the Trapper/Shepherd and noticing enemies; they’re used to tracking and exploring outside the walls, so this experience would give them a higher chance to detect enemies sooner and increase their longevity in the field. This could be realized either as an unseen passive (general unit mechanics) or an acquired skill through leveling up a unit.

So, this concludes my suggestion! Granted, it’ll take MANY more features for it to work in a state that doesn’t just come off as inconvenient of annoying, so this would likely have to wait for numerous Alphas to take form. But I think it would be an interesting twist on the “city-building” mechanics that Radiant is attempting with the game. And of course, this brings me to my most important request in regards to this suggestion:


This would be a deeper mechanic of city management than the more casual gamer might like. I myself would desire different levels of intensity/difficulty on this concept, or give the option to switch back to the more conventional “Omnipotent System”. However, I feel that with the ability to control just how much those aforementioned variables actually affect the system, it could be a neat way to both structure the notification system AND limit the notifications the player may receive (again, no abandoned buildings being attacked and constantly needing repair). Ultimately, the goal shouldn’t be to make the game harder to play, but give more reason to aim for better situations for your settlers, as well as treat situations more carefully (don’t just run a single soldier out to randomly fight enemies for experience).

Hopefully this was an interesting concept for you all! It’s still a bit “pie-in-the-sky” right now, but I can imagine the system being pretty neat in Stonehearth. Please let me know your impressions!


Nice write up :stuck_out_tongue:

Personally don’t mind the idea but at the same time i’d rather know that an event like theft is taking place in a similar style to what’s currently in. Dunno, just strikes me as a better fit for this sort of game.

Still, if there was something like you are suggesting, i’d certainly give it a run for its money XD

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great idea!
you could also unlock some notifications with a dedicated hearthling job
like the record keeper in df
you could have a town crier, record keeper, architect, commander, mayor, etc


I really like this idea. It adds a layer of depth that I think a game like this could really benefit from.

This is a good point, and I’d like to suggest that this could be worked into a preset “difficulty” setting eventually (as well as a custom difficulty mode). A higher difficulty level would turn the omnipotent notification system off, and enable the Hearthling Report mode.


Although the idea is sound in theory, and I think it has potential but you must remember that it could easily become a huge well of frustration which is not something most people want when they play a game. Especially not a RPG cute art-style type-game.

Yep, well aware of that little issue… The game also needs to be in a stable enough state that you know there’s an actual REASON you may or may not be getting notifications!

Honestly though, the goal I have in mind isn’t to make the game harder per se, but rather tie the game’s functions more to your villagers, rather than just your buildings and stockpiles. Many games I’ve seen do it the latter way, and for me it never made too much sense (I certainly don’t mind it, though).

If it’s in an area where there’s common traffic and activity, usually notifications will be fine and show up like the Omnipotent variation. Only in particular, legitimately more threatening situations and scenarios would a casual player ever have to worry about missing notifications regarding their base city. And of course, if the more hardcore gamer wants a lower rate of “perception” or higher penalties from the variables I mentioned, that would also be entirely possible.


This is a really cool idea. But, to avoid it becoming frustrating and annoying, you would have to eventually be notified, or at least have a sign, that something is happening. For example, say that your citizen, Burly Burlyhands, was secretly captured by a goblin party. Following the Non-Omnipotent Notification System, you wouldn’t be notified. But, if they were to have taken him far from the reach of your town, you wouldn’t want to never be notified.

So maybe your citizens could just noticing things that seem off or wrong to them. If Burly Burlyhands has been missing for awhile, one of your citizens could say, “I haven’t seen Burly Burlyhands in awhile. I wonder if he went on a vacation.” Then you would realize that you didn’t send Burly Burlyhands on vacation, and then send a search party to look for him. When you found his tool that he dropped in the forest, then you would get the notification that “Burly Burlyhands has been captured!” Or, maybe the citizens will just realize on their own that Burly is gone, and simply notify you “Burly Burlyhands is… Gone?”

The examples aren’t perfect, but what I’m trying to say is that for this to work, you would have to eventually be notified in some way that something is wrong, or there at least needs to be a sign that something isn’t going as it should. Otherwise, a bunch of bad stuff could happen without you ever knowing.


Exactly, and that’s actually a good example for something that might be added in the next few months. I certainly don’t mean that the player should never receive notices of something happening. Theft is usually realized after the fact, because someone realizes the storage/supply area seems unusual. For (successful)kidnapping scenarios, though, there’s two basic ways I see it playing out at this early stage:

  1. No notice–just as you mentioned. Your villager gets caught out in the field and subdued without calling for help. I see this more as a case of getting caught off guard or inflicted with an ailment: sleep, paralysis, etc. Before a “cry for help” is made by the settler, the foes knock them out. It then could play out like you said, where the other settlers becoming increasingly aware of the absence.
  2. Last-minute call for help–There’s still a chance that the unit could indeed send out a notification of the enemy before they are caught. A general area would show where the cry occurred, allowing the player to try and send out a rescue party before the foes make it back to their camp/village/stronghold.

Part of this might have to do with “perception”, as I sort of introduced before; the higher their stat, the quicker they would notice the enemies and make it known to the player in the form of a notification.


It’s a cool idea, though I would still like the current system to be kept as a mode. (Instead of Normal and Peaceful, we could have All Notifications, Normal, and Peaceful, with each mode having various difficulty settings.)

Building off of the suggestion, I propose another variable to affect the notification system: stuff. For example, an engineer and/or trapper [not sure who would be better suited, actually] could place tripwire. This could trigger notifications - or at least be connected to something that could trigger notifications.


Ah, right–didn’t think about that. Maybe “Mechanics” or “Sensors”? Also, that could also play into magic/arcane functions as well. Personally, I think it’d be cooler if you had to put an “alarm” on your traps, like a flare or sound-making device. Then, you’d have to use different types, depending on your location (flares/visual warnings wouldn’t work underground or beneath overhangs/structures, while sound could end up calling more enemies that would normally be passive or cause avalanches in snowy biomes, just for some examples).


@Atralane to build on your idea, what if you had alarm bells that you could place around your town that a villager or soldier could ring when something like a thief or enemy is spotted, thus warning you and other soldiers to come to the location of the alarm.
EDIT: Since we now have the group function available, maybe you can assign a group/groups to respond to town bells? That way when you have large towns you don’t have your entire army leave their posts because of a small threat.


That’s an interesting idea. While the alarm concept makes sense for the actual city, you wouldn’t have alarms necessarily outside of your towns/city, unless maybe if it was tied into mechanics and traps mentioned above. But for social defense, at least, it’s one potential concept for automating defenses when a settler sees enemies or a crime being committed. I assume that’s the direction you were taking it, at least!

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Yes that was more the direction that I was taking it

Recently, I’ve been having an onslaught of goblin attacks. It appears the current notification is only triggered once goblins actually pick something up. That is slightly useless when I’ve already seen my Hearthlings screaming in the chat and launched a defense. Why not notify me when they see goblins, instead of when goblins pick something up after they’ve been seen?

The current system needs an overhaul.

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Right–I guess part of my assumption with this system is that in the future, “thieves” won’t be all so gung-ho to fight anything that comes near them–rather, they’d be trying to silently sneak away with the loot. In contrast, your units should give a notification when they spot/attack/are being attacked by a foe.

So, I guess this would be the opposite of the current situation…?

EDIT: It seems like the concept has gained some attention on the Discourse! I’m a little curious-- @sdee, @Tom, what are your (and the other team members’) considerations on this concept, if it’s not too imposing? (Granted, this sort of system definitely would take some time and reorganization, so perhaps this would be more of a future feature or implementation.)


Thanks for the write up and the subsequent discussion!

The omnipotent nature of the notification system is, at this point, something of a 20/80 solution to the problem of letting you know about something that’s happened–the 20% of work that gets you 80% of the way to proper function. The game knows when stuff happens, so right now, it’s easy, accurate, and computationally inexpensive to let the player know about it in the course of the event.

We actually DO however, have a component on entities called a sight sensor. We could instead move the notification to an observer activated by the sight sensor. Then you’d get a notification only when someone SAW a goblin stealing the wood. This is however, slightly more complicated to write (side effect: how do you prevent the player from getting spam if 4 people see the goblin at once? Is there a notification coordination service in addition to the sight sensor work? You see how features sprawl and end up pushing out the schedule T__T) and more expensive to compute (as the sight sensor is now tracking for goblins).

Given that we (or you!) could indeed add this feature to the game, the question becomes: when does the benefit of this work become worth the cost of doing it, given that we already have a solution that gets us most of the way there? Answer: probably if/when the mechanic contributes significantly to the gameplay (ie, makes the game significantly more fun/interesting). When will we know this? Probably when we (and by this I mean the whole community here) start playtesting the heck out of scenarios as a whole, and tuning that part of the game for balance.

I honestly think this gets at one of the core design questions of Stonehearth (and the answer is open to debate): when is SH a sim, and when is it a game? I think Team Radiant looks forward to answering the question along with all of you. The moment when we the balance of our work shifts to doing things because they change the amount of fun (or “FUN”) everyone is having, instead of because they’re necessary for the program to function at all, I think, is when we’ll finally be able to say that the engine is done, and we’re actually realizing the game part of our game. :wink: I know we certainly love reading topics like this, because they invite us to look up and think about the big picture, and about everything the game could/should be.


Thank you for the feedback! Obviously, this sort of mechanic would be a pretty big flip from the current system, and considering all the basic functions still needed to be implemented for a functioning and gameplay-diverse Stonehearth, it’s probably not an overhaul the team necessarily wants to dive into quite so soon! Mainly, I figured at least bringing the concept up at this moment since we already have the very beginnings of respective systems and variables involved.

I’m afraid I’m not much of a coder, so I’d probably have to rely on the rest of the community for modding. The issue of actually executing the code was also something that concerned me, as there is still plenty of system streamlining needed elsewhere. And as you said, creating systems to avoid issues like spamming messages would need to be implemented (possibly some sort of point-based system that determines the “severity” of the issue via the number of witnesses, and separate gauges for each enemy group/damage/crime situation notified?).

Regardless, the current development of Stonehearth has been progressing well and the new elements being added are exponentially increasing the average gameplay potential. I think I’m far from the only one to say this, but: Keep up the good work, and thanks for your involvement with the Discourse community!


THISthis is the exact reason I can look folks in the eye and say Heck yea! I paid $30 for a game that doesn’t work! Then I can further explain that a development team that is soooo very open to suggestions, listens to feedback plus truly wants to be a part of the community DESERVES our money! Thank you for being the best of what a game developer should be. Thank you for Stonehearth! Just plain THANK YOU!


and yet another reason, the awesome community :wink: