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Heya Space Cadets,

Okay, note to self, before writing a massively long post and accidentally closing it… save. Let’s try this again, but a bit more condensed.

The idea that territory is something traditionally ignored was the premise of my previous entry, and like any under-utilized bit of creative paydirt you gotta figure out why nobody was messing with it before. I’d say that the reason is just convention, and that most people are concerned with slugging it out near bases rather than near, well, some random piece of nothing. Real wars are often fought over territory that has strategic value but almost nothing visibly defining for it, its just a place on a map that is important in relation to something else. This is also a function of reality’s distinct lack of “bases” or resource harvesting on the battlefield.

So, why aren’t we usually invested in the area between Our First Base and Our Expansion Base? Because there’s literally nothing there that has any value to us, except a path from A to B. Making that valuable to the player means it has to be part of some investment or something they can exploit. The simplest way, before we get into our teaser from last time, would be to make something have to go from Base A to Base B. It could be as simple as a truck convoy that often goes from A to B, dropping off supplies of some sort. You need to protect the supply caravan, so naturally the space around your caravan route is important to you, since you want to protect it. That’s not a bad idea.

Now, I had mentioned pipes last time, so here we go. Pipes could do something of the same thing, and you can run a pipe from A to B without the need to actually have a supply train constantly going along that route. Pipes are also handy because they assume a relatively constant flow of something, like water or steam. Interrupting this flow will mess up whatever was on the other end, which leads to all kinds of fun. Wiring is essentially a pipe for electrons, but we’re keeping that out of The Deepening, so lets use steam and water as our power cables.

Another fun thing about pipes is that it assumes there’s something on the other end shoving stuff into the pipe, like a water pump or a steam boiler. So a steam machine assumes, essentially, three parts. One, a boiler to create the steam. Two, a pipe to channel the steam. Three, a machine part that runs when steam is shot through it. Most steam devices just combined 1 and 3 into a single operating mechanism, but lets have reality sit aside for a moment and just focus on what we have here.

This lets us have a stationary asset on two ends, one in a safe place, The Base, one in a dangerous place, The Machine, and then the power cable that runs to it, the steam pipe. This gives the player two discrete regions of importance, the base and the machine, to be defended… and it also gives them the need to defend the territory between those regions so that the machine can keep running. Stopping the machine can now be accomplished at anywhere between A and B by smashing a pipe, which is a really interesting idea, I think. You’ve created a situation that allows for all kinds of interesting sabotage!

What if that steam pipe was powering an elevator? If I snuck a unit unit into your territory to sabotage some of your steam pipes, and your elevator went dead, would the units down there be stuck or would the elevator be able to run slowly on no power? Maybe I did this to cut your units off from an attack on your main base. Strategy!

What if the pipes were running some kind of device that cannot be turned off safely. I’m not sure what that would be, but just go with it. So now you’ve cut the power, and Device X is running out of control, and after a few turns it’ll explode or burst into flames, setting off other devices and causing the Alchemist’s Shop to catch fire and that’ll lead to a good portion of your base going up in flames.

What if we also have water pipes? So we have steam pipes and water pipes, and sometimes water pipes connect to steam boilers to create steam that goes out in steam pipes. Cutting the water might make the steam boiler overheat and burst into flames. Let’s pretend our Dwarfs are using Uranium instead of Coal to power their steampunk water boilers because, you know, Dwarfs. Having your water cut could be a big deal!

What if, mind you, we decide to include some more puzzley elements. I like the idea of a strategy puzzle thing going on. We could try and do something like having a Compressor object which you can hook a water pipe. Depending what you build next to the Water Compressor you can either make a Water Cannon to blast enemies, or a Hydraulic Elevator for moving your Dwarfs and minerals around, or a Water Drill to mine out gold, or whatever. In this case, smashing the water pipe would either disable your defenses, or mess up your pathing or slow down your mineral extraction.

This would make territory valuable enough to protect, and if we allow you to build bases or improve tunnels, now you’ve made an investment. Bricking up a tunnel to keep monsters from digging through the walls would be great, and if a Paved Tunnel also lets you move faster or fit more Dwarfs onto the hex then that’s another great improvement. Building some infrastructure, if its fast and easy to manage, would allow you to see your territory as a massive asset, not as a frustration to be avoided. An Elevator is better than a Nydus canal because it lets you improve the territory, not remove it.

I would like, over the next few days, to try and think up a small number of functional machine parts… like four to five… which can be used in interesting ways to create a puzzle in your tunnels. I don’t want it to be too complex or too time consuming, but if we can make the idea of Tunnel Improvement more than just Base Construction, and more about adding things and picking territory for improvement and enforcing a feeling of TERRITORY BEING VALUABLE… then that’ll be great.

Spacelab Signing Out

Everything should reinforce the main idea that territory is the key asset in the game. I don’t want people to feel like their tunnels are just there for the sake of being there, I’d like them to think about expanding their territory and exploiting it in a very different way. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, I really think there’s a way to make tunnel improvement easier by thinking about it in terms of puzzle pieces being slapped together.

This is going to evolve over the next few days, to be sure, but that’s where I am right now. I want to have a big map full of of interesting things to capture, exploit, and fight… and some cool things they’ve designed themselves. If you’ve got any ideas, leave a reply!

Neil Wickman reminds you that a Dwarf mine is not just a series of tubes.

He has been working for Lunar Giant studios since its inception as one of the lead designers and the Creative Director. Listen to him @LunarNeil on Twitter.