Hello everyone, we’re back with the second part of the Player-Built Settlements show, please take your seats. In the first part we have taken a look at how you can terraform a suitable place for your buildings. This time we’ll see how the building process itself looks like and how you will be able to plan a network of interconnected structures. Please note that some of the details discussed here can still change as we are closing to completion and start the testing process.

Acquiring buildings

The basic line of standard Syndicate-issued buildings will be available directly from the market. However, the Syndicate will also provide the option to relieve itself from the tedious task of manufacturing these buildings, so every corporation will be able to acquire the knowledge to manufacture them on their own as well. This will be achievable via new special kernels, available from Syndicate Supplies for either assignment tokens, or special artifact items. (These artifacts will be available throughout all islands.)

Later on we’ll also introduce higher tier buildings, but manufacturing those will need a new type of mineral, available only on gamma islands - more on this in an upcoming industry-themed blog.

Starting a settlement

Large player-buildable main terminal

PBS will work in a network system, and every one of them will have to start with a central control node, the main terminal. All other buildings will have to be connected to the main terminal via an energy link or a control (~ownership) link - more on this a bit later.

So let’s say you have the building blueprint item for your first gamma terminal in your cargo. You pick a nice spot on one of the gamma islands, and start to terraform the area to be suitable for building (if necessary). To save you from insanity, buildings won’t require perfectly even areas for building; small slopes below a certain threshold will work too.

There will be a few no-build areas, e.g. around teleports, but currently we have no other limits planned for placing main terminals. The only limit regarding them is that one corporation can only have one active main terminal per island. The activation/deactivation and unattended defense mechanisms (the usual timezone issues) are still being worked out, but our aim is to prevent multi-headed dragons, i.e. redundant networks that are very hard to destroy, while still allowing relatively easy upgrading of your central terminal.

The building process

Once you’ve found the right place for your main terminal, you simply deploy the blueprint item from your cargo. This will place a kind of holographic version of the building onto the tile you’re standing on, and at the same time, push you and everyone else out of its construction radius. (Construction radius is an outline area around all buildings, and no two can overlap each other. This prevents building very dense and impenetrable settlements.)

After the blueprint is out anyone can start building it, this is not limited to the owner corporation’s members. Construction is done with building modules equipped on their robots, which use building charges available from the market, but they are also manufacturable (this part is still heavily under discussion). Any number of Agents can help in the completion, the goal is to reach a certain number of building cycles until it’s finished.

When the building is complete, it’s still offline and it has to be brought online to be operational, and this is something only the owners can do. The main terminal is a special building in this regard, because it can be activated on its own. However all other buildings will need to be connected to the main terminal before they can be brought online.

The main terminal

In case it’s not evident for everyone, I must stress that you can enter a player-built main terminal just like any other NPC terminal. So once your terminal is finished and online, you can hop in, store your stuff, or equip your robot. The available base facilities include private and corporation storages with all their features, robot equipment, the market, and robot insurance. All other facilities like the factory or the repairshop need to be built as separate structures and connected to the main terminal.

The reactor

However, nothing works without energy (the only exception being the main terminal), so the next thing you want to build will be a reactor. This is a separate building, but you can’t just place it anywhere. Apart from the terraforming requirements, all your buildings need to be in the control range of another owned building, and for your second building this means the main terminal. (Well, that’s only half true: you can place your buildings anywhere, but you won’t be able to connect and activate them if they are not in range.)

The control links will generally also mean an energy link at the same time, but since the reactor is the building which is generating the energy in the first place, it will only need a simple control link.

Planning your empire

So now you have a main terminal, and a connected reactor, generating energy (not for free, mind you). This is when things will start to become complicated and the need emerges for some delicate planning.

Mockup of PBS planner and maintenance window

Granted, planning and maintaining an extensive network of buildings just by walking around it on the terrain would be a tad difficult, so we’ll introduce a new schematic map into the world map window, intended specifically for this task. The picture you see on the right is a crude mock-up of how the layout will look like, the final design will be of course much prettier.

The left main area is where the planning will happen. Not only that, but here you will be able to connect your buildings and watch over their health and energy levels as well.

The planning process itself will be somewhat like a puzzle (in the better sense of the word). You grab a building plan on the right, and drag it onto the grid. The grid represents ground tiles, so when you place a building plan, it will snap to this grid. When you’re satisfied with its position, you will need to finalize the plan, which will check whether it’s a suitable location regarding terrain, construction radius and all that stuff. At the same time it also places a marker onto the terrain, so you will know where to deploy what building blueprint. This way you will be able to make plans for an extensive network of structures before even laying a brick, and your crew can work towards your goals using the terrain markers.

Advanced networking

Example of a PBS network

The picture on the right is something DEV Alf has thrown together for your amusement. To be able to understand it, you have to know that every type of building will have a fixed number of inward and outgoing connection slots. A connection can be anything: a simple control or energy link, but it can also mean a functional link, like in the case of facilities connected to the main terminal. The important thing here is that all types of connections are using the same limits, and it will be up to you how you play them in order to have a logical and working network.

Since every building has limited connection slots, and because the area around the main terminal will soon become crammed, you will eventually need to use energy transmitter nodes. These buildings function like hubs: they broadcast both control and energy, but they too have limited connection slots. You'll even be able to set the energy priority for each node, so in case there is an energy shortage (because, say, someone destroyed one of your reactors), your critical buildings can remain operational. Our aim here is to provide you with basic building blocks and use your imagination and creativity to create extensive and efficient connection networks.

The picture also shows various other types of buildings, which I’m sure you’re eager to hear about, but unfortunately you’ll need to stick it out until the next part :) In that one we’ll have a look at all the building types you can create (even some never before heard facilities), and I’ll also try to explain why it will be good for you to own a gamma base in the first place.

Until then, let your anger or approving thoughts roam free in the comments or the forums.

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.