Many of you might have already heard bits and pieces about Player-Built Settlements, or PBS in short. As the name suggests, it’s our system which will allow players to create their own settlements, a place that they build with their own hands, shape to their own needs, and where they can really feel at home - basically a system which takes our sandbox to a whole new level. It’s a fairly complex system and we’ve been working on all the details for quite some time now. Today I’m happy to tell you that we have arrived at a point where we are confident enough to share our ideas with you.

Due to its complexity, this will be a series of blogs, likely at least a three-parter. We’ll start with terraforming, an essential feature and a prerequisite to building structures. Later on we’ll also take a closer look at the basic rules to building, and the various types of structures.

Gamma islands

Shaping the ground to your liking should be a fun thing to do, but I’m sure you understand we have to set up some limits. The current alpha (and to some extent, beta) islands have too many interconnected systems which could be easily disrupted if we would allow you to create hills and holes wherever you like. Since the world of Perpetuum feels still rather small, the most efficient and future-proof solution is to create new landmasses with their own set of rules. So before I dig into terraforming, let’s have a look at gamma islands.

When creating the concept of new islands, one of the main conditions we set for ourselves is that their time to completion needs to be improved considerably. Although even our current islands have been all started by procedural heightmap generation (which can be done in a very short time), in order for them to be ready and usable they needed a lot of manual work.

Terraformers, meet your canvas

With gamma islands, in many ways we have it a bit easier: we don’t have to worry about passability, since you are supposed to work on roads and paths with terraforming. We don’t really need to place decorational buildings either, that will be your job too. However, there is still the issue of mineral distribution and NPCs.

Currently all the mineral fields are hand-painted and fixed by location. This wouldn’t really work on a terraformable island, because they could easily get out of reach or be blocked by buildings. I think we have already hinted that random mineral fields are on our todo, and some of you have also suggested it on the forums. We already have a working version of it and it seems to work pretty well.

There was one interesting question regarding random mineral field placement - should it consider unreachable areas, or should we leave it to the players to terraform their way to the new fields? The latter sounds fun at first, but with time as players skim down hills to get to the precious fields, it would likely induce completely flat islands, which is... undesirable. It could also get a little frustrating if you already get the third epriton field in a row on top of Mount Doom. So, the current version of the mineral field generator neatly looks for passable areas and avoids tiles blocked by buildings as well. We think terraforming by strategic, construction or decorational purposes will give you enough work as they are.

An important thing to note here is that we will introduce random mineral fields not only to gamma islands, but to every existing island as well. Of course this will have the unfortunate effect that your current geoscan results will become obsolete, but we feel this will make the miners’ life much more interesting, and give geoscanning a real function. I’ll do a separate blog about this and other impending major industrial changes after the PBS series.

So, that should cover the mineral question, but what about NPCs?

As you can imagine, due to the ever-changing terrain, fixed spawn points would not be feasible. Even our current fixed-path roaming caravans could run into problems. This left us with the solution to have only completely free roaming NPCs on gamma islands, so Agents can experience the real wilderness there. Of course the spawn generator will have to check for passable and large enough areas so they don’t get trapped, but that’s pretty much the only limit for them.

In the end, random mineral fields and completely free NPC spawns should take off a lot of tedious configuration work from our shoulders, since we only have to set the type and amount of minerals on the island, the type and number of NPC spawns, and the island is pretty much a go.

Diggin’ up Nia

Now that we have covered where you can terraform, it’s time to see how you can do that.

The game has supported terraforming from the very beginnings, but so far it has only been a privilege to us devs. One issue that we had up until now was that terrain texture cover had to be regenerated after every modification of the terrain heightmap, in order to have rocky textures on steep walls, grass on plains and so on. This texture mask was then stored in a special bitmap, which had to be patched out to the live client. Even if we only modified one tile, we had to update the whole island’s map, so whenever you saw 100+ MB patches, it usually meant that we updated these maps.

But now that DEV BoyC is working on the complete revamp of our terrain-engine, he could come up with a solution that allows for real time updating of terrain textures based on slope and elevation. This means that when you start to raise a mountain, the ground texture will gradually change from grassy to rocky, all in real time. Not to mention that we can scrap those old island texture masks too, and that means less memory usage, smaller patches, and a smaller datafile.

The terraforming process itself will happen with help of a terraforming module of course, which will use different kinds of charges, depending on what you want to achieve. The basic raise/lower charges are self-explanatory, these will simply pull up or push down the targeted area by a fixed height value. Then there is the leveling charge, which tries to pull the surrounding tiles to the targeted tile’s level, within a small radius. Finally we have the smoothing charge, which can turn sharp edges and spikes into smooth ground, and also works on a small radius.

Terraforming charge types and their effects

The terraforming module will also check for plants in the area, and will first try to kill them before modifying the ground. This however will be a very slow process (and a waste of terraforming charges), so plant bombs or “manual gardening” will still retain their importance.

Due to various position updating issues we had to make a rule which will not allow terraforming if anyone is within a 1-tile border of the terraformed tile or area (“safe area”). Unfortunately this rule (and some other factors) does not really make this kind of terraforming suitable for group efforts, and is only intended for smaller fixes or touch-ups here and there.

However we have plans for another, team terraforming feature. We’re still working out the details of this one, but the basic idea is that a player could use the same terraforming brushes like we devs can to create a kind of holographic terrain blueprint. Then, terraforming beacons need to be deployed inside that area, and a team of terraformers can start charging the beacons using special modules from outside the area. In effect, the terraforming beacons will start to “pull” the affected area towards the form of the blueprint.

There will be a few global limitations to terraforming, even on gamma islands. First and foremost, there will be a few predefined non-terraformable areas, which will generally mean the vicinity of fixed teleports. We don’t want anyone to get trapped on the other side, or allow to shut off complete islands from the rest of the world. Another important rule is that you won’t be able to modify the shoreline of islands. And lastly, there will be limits to how high or low you can dig, and the maximum steepness you can achieve.

In our next episode

Well, that’s pretty much all there is to the basics of terraforming. We’re still working on some of the details, and we’re of course eager to get some feedback from you as well. In the next part we’ll have a look at the basic rules of building structures and how you can connect them to each other.

Comments for this post

1 Egil

Best devblog yet. :D

2 Dan


3 Celebro

Awesome, thanks for sharing.
Will gamma islands come with terraforming together with PBS?

4 DEV Zoom

Celebro: yes

5 Trap Card


6 Taom

for whom this? 70-80 people online ingame and decreases.
too late.

7 Egil

Can we get a hint of the expected size of these islands? Pretty please?

8 Obi Wan Kenobi

Nice blog! will be able to push the terrain low enough to make lakes with in islands ?

9 DEV Zoom

Egil: currently the plan is to have the same size islands like the current ones. We are conducting certain tests to be able to make larger ones eventually, however those are still very early experiments.

10 OnOff

Oh boy oh boy cant wait ! Assomnessism'

11 DEV Zoom

Obi Wan: as far as I know, unfortunately not, since that would conflict with the rule that you can't modify the shoreline. But personally I'd like to see some of the newly generated islands to have inner lakes too :)

12 Ville

We are getting more then the traditional three right?

13 DEV Zoom

Ville: if you mean gamma islands, yes, definitely more.

14 Ville

Awesome thanks Zoom

15 Annihilator

so you will add a "fixed" rock-hightmap layer for each island and everything else is "free to terraform" ?

sound nice. I just miss the part that you cannot dig a hole without placing the dirt somewhere else.

16 Kaldenines

I am really impressed by the ambition of your vision. Love the idea of islands being produced without manual intervention and having lots of modifiable space to play with. Would it be possible to dig holes to try to uncover new resources to mine?
Also is the total volume of island conserved or would we eventually run out of land to dig into?

Now to the other part. We have seen how much walls can restrict movement. With terraforming we would be able to create indestructible(in the short term) mazes and fortresses. I think some kind of device for going over impassible terrain would be in order.
Some ideas (just to get the ball rolling) how about a carrier type floating platform which would move very slowly over any terrain but mechs would be able to dock in it.
For light fast stuff to get around maybe a short range jump/teleport module for getting over cliffs? (restrictions could incldue: limited to a specific bot type, uses lots of reactor, very sensitve to weights of modules etc).

17 DEV Zoom

Anni: there will be a minimum and maximum altitude limit, and areas marked as non-terraformable (eg. around teleports).

The "placing the dirt somewhere else" is an interesting dilemma, and in hindsight maybe I could have included it in the post. We could have gone that way, and introduce a "soil" item that you can dig out and transport it wherever you like. And that sounds quite awesome if you think about the possibilities, terrain would actually become a commodity with value. But then you start to think about how many ways that could get out of hand, and that is frightening.

18 Dan

Remember that if ore spawns in the middle of the npc spawn not many ppl will be mining it, so in the end 99% of the ore may end up "stucked". Unless they will respawn after a certain period of time or after you mined it out to a certain degree. :)

19 Obi Wan Kenobi

It would be cool to have Dirt as a trade-able commodity. but ya i see the "fun" devs & gm's would have with that lol.

At my original question: (ty for reply) Why not just set 3 rules for islands (modify the shoreline rule).
1. a hard min size of an island so people cant shrink the land mass but if they want built it out.
2. A hard rule for max land mass size
3. And to stop people "hollowing out" the inside of an island (aka massive inland lake) set a percentage based value (based on min land mass size) for areas bellow sea level.

The one thing that lacks on islands now is lakes & rivers.

these kinda rule would allow those of us with an artistic flare to make nicer looking islands :)

just a though :D

20 Obi Wan Kenobi

@ Dan: didnt the devs say all spawns will "wild" roaming spawns? to go in kill em & ore fields is free! :)

21 N1nhurs4g

Gamma 1 and gamma 2 islands would be nice, one being with syndicate protection, and the other not. Bonuses for PBS's and ore fields smaller, yes, but then it would include all tastes and preferences :)

Great idea though, will look forward to it!

22 Mark Zima

Dynamic ore spawns is a horrible idea. It's adding a scanning chore on top of the pure grind of the mining process.

23 Baal

A huge step in the right direction :)

24 Inda

I cant believe !

And cant wait ;)
Let s see our plans about new generation of fortress, go to analise the mediaval fortresses :D

25 Dan

@Obi, "introduce random mineral fields not only to gamma islands, but to every existing island as well", I was talking about alpha islands...

26 Jita

Whats to stop you making all external teleports surrounded by impassable terrain?

In my mind I think that your gonna get a lot of entrenched citadels built which will slow down pop and make defending very easy.

I would suggest building something sim city like as a terraforming planner with the maps pre loaded. Allow people to theorise and teat before they so it.

27 Jelan

I love it, my only concern is the potential for the abuse of the terraforming similar to that with walls, how do you propose stopping those sort of 'hilled' off islands happening?

28 Jita

Whats to stop you making all external teleports surrounded by impassable terrain?

In my mind I think that your gonna get a lot of entrenched citadels built which will slow down pop and make defending very easy.

I would suggest building something sim city like as a terraforming planner with the maps pre loaded. Allow people to theorise and teat before they so it.

29 elric

How long before we have terraformed tits and penises. You just know this is going to be abused

30 Siddy

Penises are just fertility rituals to honor the Priapus. Its is not a abuse, it is a feature.

31 Alexadar

We should sign new EULA: "I am agree to accept any harassment in a form of walls, mountains and robot formation"

32 Tux

A few questions:
• Will there be gamma islands that have protection like alpha islands? (please no)
• How many new gamma islands will there be? ( 20+ Please)
• Will gamma islands come with and new minerals? (please yes)
• How many external teleports will gamma islands have on each of them ? (1 please 2 at max please)
• Will gamma islands have internal teleports? (no Please)
• Will PBS have auras like current capture-able outposts? (yes please)

A few suggestions to process before this PBS system gets broken
• Any terraforming should be dependent on have a PBS Outpost deployed on that island. The reasons for this are: I guarantee you players will go terraform enemy Island to grief them. This is not a theory it will happen if we are allowed to terraform freely on any gamma island.
• Terraforming should be a permanent modification to the gamma island it takes place on ideas of erosion and other time sink mechanics should be very carefully considered. Looking at the system so far it will take a very long time to mold an island into a vision suited to your corporation, having this go away over time will in no way benefit players.
• This one may be complicated but all gamma islands should look blank to players until that player has “ explored” that island this would require one to at least set foot on the island.

Ill post the rest of my stuff on one of the forum posts.

33 Jita

Goods coming out of the impregnable island via teleport, goods come in via an impassable terrain drop point for cans that allows someone on the other side to.pick a can up with 100m. All industry chars safe forever inside the citadel, all combat outside.

34 DEV Zoom

* Maybe not at first, but we think it would be nice to have them, with reduced rewards obviously
* Can't tell yet
* Yes
* 1-2 would be good from a terraforming standpoint, but from a gameplay standpoint it sounds like easy mode and camping hell
* No
* Yes

35 DEV Zoom

Oh and:

"Any terraforming should be dependent on have a PBS Outpost deployed on that island."

So how do you terraform in order to place down your PBS if you can only terraform after you placed it? :)

36 Poki

definitely a great idea that will hopefully bump up active accounts a bit, otherwise, i think all the other posts have come up with the appropriate fixes.

PS: please add in new mods & bots that require the new minerals :D

37 Alauris

Make same gama islands pvp and some non pvp all will be happy.

38 Takeo Prime

Just like Zoo Tycoon. That process works very well.

will we have a selection window to look at what we are creating from a passable terrain view from a -
1. Light
2. Assault
3. Mech
4. Heavy
5. Glider

Would be very important to see when we have accomplished impassable terrain for all bot types. As every one thinks "wow that looks cool!" it will quickly turn to just forming ground for desired movements and not do more than what you want to accomplish.

Possible answer to your question Zoom. Have a base module that you deploy that acts like your hub (radius set say 2000) and that allows you to start the terraforming process. Then you can begin deploying the "pods/modules" in another area that has been prepped inside your radius.

39 Eng Daniel

And the NPC start mining? And we can blast they haulers to steal the ore :D

40 Tux

make the PBS outpost self terraform the land it is deployed on. ( make the spot flat automatically when outpost is deployed.)

41 MunchySnacks

I am looking forward to the pbs stuff and terraforming however I don't like the idea of all islands having random mineral spawns. It would be one thing if this were like EVE where you go to an asteroid belt and know you will find something to mine. However if you make all ores random then you have a chance of not finding anything. If you are going to make the ores all random I really think you should increase there spawn rate in game. I am just worried that mining will become way to much of a pain and that is where my ep is sinked for money making right now.

42 Inda

About Changing ore deposits:
Can we use 2 type at the same time?
I mean what is stayed that is has less ore what is changing it has more ore, let the people do both things.

Just mark areas what change and what not.

About non pvp Gamma island:
I am defiantely on it with restrictions, because we need people ingame and we can choose that way who want to "elite pvp game" but this game is good enough to let people just play who rarely play tha last is better for everyone i think.

43 Alauris

nonPvP gamma island
-buildings with decay
-harvesting and mining material same like on alphas
-NPC builders,destructible NPC camps

PvP gamma island
-destructible buildings without decay
-harvesting and mining material same like on betas or better

44 Inspiration

I can't even begin to describe how big and full the can of worms is of all that is written in this blog article.

It is like a form of rape to everything balanced in the game right now!

People are already dreaming of their own island as a safer Beta. As if whole islands aren't empty already!

I better stop here...

45 Takeo Prime

Beta islands are empty now simply because a massive force can get from their home to your door step in less than 30 min. Gamma islands have to not just offer more square footage of land mass but be vast enough that the shear time to reach an enemy derails daily grieving. Or terraforming has to allow the inhabitants the chance of slowing down an enemy to the point of discouraging an attack at their off TZ.

46 bleu

Player build defences would stop lone sap attackers and help the TZ issue

47 Arga

a week later, no part 2 yet :(

48 Takeo Prime

left hanging again.