Dev Update #76: Mining: Active, Passive or Both?

By March 7, 2018Dev Updates

In a lot of games, the set of tools you have at your disposal shrinks and grows. You start an FPS with a baseball bat, and a few levels later you are mowing enemies down with a rocket launcher! This isn’t because those first levels aren’t cool enough to deserve a rocket launcher, but rather that as your understanding of the game expands, the variety of situations they can stick you into, and the variety of tools your capable of applying in those situations, is also expanding. It’s a two-sided relationship, and one we want to make use of in Gears of Eden.

But how do we pull that off? This is a narrative-driven adventure game! It isn’t designed with rocket launchers and laser cannons in mind! I know, it’s a tragedy. Still, we want to reflect your growth (and therefore your character’s growth) in the way you solve problems and accomplish goals. This means that is entirely possible that, while you’re going to spend the early portion of the game drilling for resources, you very well might be doing a little less of it by the end! (No spoilers.) If a mechanic will be less used eventually, how much engagement should it require when it is used?

Right now, the drilling mechanic works for our level of development. It gets us through the cycle of gameplay and lets us test everything we need to. We’re using a very passive system (seen above). You just drive up to a node, switch on the ole drill, watch the particle effects for a bit, and wait for the game to give your resources. We understand some players enjoy passive systems. This frees you up to do other things… craft an item, plan your next move, take a quick bio break… but, for other players, we can also understand how this might make them feel disengaged or… bored! Even if, after five hours of regular gameplay, those players never need to mine again and it turns into the most fun game of all time… they’re still possibly left with five hours of a game that is defined in a major way by that mining experience. We don’t want you to “trust” that Gears of Eden will be fun, we just want it to be fun.

We are currently having talks to see if we need to design a more active system of drilling and mining. We are just at the early stages of this, but we wanted to get your feedback and input on this internal discussion. We’re going to share a very crude mock-up here that demonstrates in very broad brushstrokes what an active system could look like. If we implement an active system, it won’t necessarily look like this, but it’s a representation of a broader idea.

What do you think? In this scenario, a special camera view opens up featuring a top-down view of the ground at the located mining node. A laser system paints a grid on the ground, dividing it into sections. You actively mine these sections using your mouse cursor to collect resources and bust through to the layers below. And yes, we’ve used a well known mining/crafting game to cobble together a crude proof of concept animation. This system would act as a sort of mining mini-game, not unlike the fishing mechanic in Stardew Valley and might provide the opportunity to include hidden rewards and rare, undetected, items.

As we’ve considered active versus passive mining systems, a third options has come up in discussion on our Twitch streams: a hybrid system. In this approach, we’d also have the DrillCam view from the active system, but there would be an “auto” mode which would collect the resources for you. This would not be 100% accurate, so it would take longer to collect resources, use more energy, and add more wear and tear to your bit. But, it would provide convenience. Using the manual mode, you could dig yourself and save on energy and wear and tear. You could then level up the system you prefer with crafted upgrades that provide either better a functioning auto mode, or increase your proficiency with a manual/active approach!

So, what do you prefer? Active? Passive? Or a hybrid solution? Seriously, we want to know! You can vote in our Twitter Poll to let us know how you feel, and leave a comment to let us know why (or if you have ideas for other solutions).

Please keep in mind, especially those that do enjoy a more passive approach, whichever system we implement, there will be methods to reduce the amount of time you personally spend mining as you progress in a location!

And that is it for this week’s Dev Update. It was a bit of a change of pace, switching from hard “this is what’s happening” to “here’s some game design philosophy to consider!” I hope you enjoyed it! We’ll be back next week, but until then, check out our latest Reaching Eden Podcast! Or consider following us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest and greatest Gears of Eden news! Thank you so much for reading, thank you so much for supporting us, and I hope you have a great rest of your week.

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