In your recent Desktop Tuesdays, you called Multiplayer a Feature that doesn’t quite fit in with gameplay development, but I’d like to propose that you might have it wrong. I think Multiplayer is actually an important aspect of many of the gameplay systems, in addition to being a kind of feature unto itself. I spoke with some of you at PAX East, and you said that the game is already able to do some multiplayer functions, which is a huge relief to me, because I know that trying to add that later on can be a huge challenge. Since the groundwork has been done, you can look at the ways multiplayer can be incorporated into different gameplay sections, while leaving a ‘Multiplayer Feature’ to a later build.
We have had some time with Hearthling moods, and it’s a really cool part of the game to see our little villagers having likes and dislikes, but there isn’t a lot of results from these. Our towns track the overall happiness of the residents, but that’s still just a number; maybe some workers walk a little more slowly - that’s not game play! Having an alternate place to live would be an enormous addition to the mood system; there would be consequences for unhappy citizens, since they could wander to a neighboring village and possibly even set up a home there! Enhance the way Hearthlings express the most pressing needs to the player: a ‘house’ thought bubble for the Hearthling that wants to have her own home, or a spinning wheel of food items for the Hearthling that demands variety in his diet. Once the Hearthlings are at the point where they are being ‘vocal’ about a desire, they can check other player’s towns. If the Hearthlings are aware of beauty or wealth, having a town that provides that in amounts that they don’t see at home gives the players a lot of activity to respond to.
On a similar note, right now there is not much reason to build bigger and better housing once you’ve hit your Hearthling limit. Since making construction rewarding is a gameplay goal, getting a limited real estate market going is a tangible benefit to building new houses, dining halls, defensive palisades and gardens. I’m not suggesting this become a realtor simulation, but encouraging better homes (based on comfort for now) with incentives for Hearthlings to upgrade their living conditions is a great way to immediately reward new construction.
For having the world interact with the players, nothing is ever going to be quite as engrossing as having other players in the world. Hopefully it would not be in an antagonistic fashion (save that for the Multiplayer Feature - if at all [I’d prefer not, honestly]). Right now, we have a fairly rote progression where after we’ve made some strides in our game, Goblins come and demand our hard-earned goods. It’s a great first-step in making the world feel more alive, more like we are in this living world than we are making things happen for us in a vacuum. With more than one player, the Goblins would choose to extort from the player with fewer soldiers, adding to the sense of life in the world. Multiple players means that merchants can travel between two towns, selling to Peter what Paul got rid of to fund his carrot obsession. This can (and should) all be possible with AI factions, you’ve got plans for the Rabbit people and the Dwarves, but in the meantime, let your beta users (your biggest fans!) help out with the underlying systems.
I understand that multiplayer, as a feature, doesn’t fit in your road map, and I agree, but I honestly feel that enabling small groups of players to connect their villages and unleash the Hearthlings desires as goals in the connected world will open up dozens of avenues of new and interesting gameplay that fits in with so many of your road map targets that it will prove to be a huge boon to us all. Thanks for reading all of this (assuming you got this far).