The problem: how do I know how much stuff to give the player? And by stuff, I mean inventory, specifically food, wood, stone, etc. So far I’ve been using a 0-100 scale, where 10 is a little, and 100 is a ton. But this doesn’t scale. If we want the player to be challenged in year 10 just as they were in year 1, how much do we give them?!
Luckily, I have Balancing Equipment for Math-hating Game Designers bookmarked. The author has an awesome spreadsheet to download, letting you plug your own numbers in and getting the data you want.
First thing I did was decide what the final year’s tribe count should be. I chose 1,000 members. That seems like a lot of people to govern, especially for a primitive caveman. Using a exponential curve (exponential because the more people there are, the more babies they’re gonna have), I fiddled with the spreadsheet until I had an equation that started from ~5 and went to ~1000 in ten steps. Perfect!
Next, I needed to figure out how many days the game would take. I want Winter to be a separate phase. If one phase is, let’s say, 30 days, and Winter is one quarter of the year, the full year would be 120 days. Note: 90 days of playtime seems like a slog to go through, especially when you times it by ten years, but we’ll stick with it for now.
If we assume each tribe member consumes 10 food a day, 7 tribe members consume 8,400 (7 * 10 * 120) food a year. We can use this equation throughout the game, since food scales with population; the more people there are, the more food they’re gonna eat. So in year 10, the tribe will consume 1,200,000 (1,000 * 10 * 120) food for the year. That’s a lot of food!
Unlike food, I didn’t want wood to scale directly with tribe count. There should be some sort of economies of scale. Using the spreadsheet’s logistic function, I capped wood consumption to 50,000 wood per year..
All of this amounts to what the tribe needs for survival. What about when purchasing technologies? They should cost something, right? I figured if it takes 3,000 wood to survive the year, the player should try to save half that for tech, or 1,500. That means the total yearly wood goal is 4,500. I used the same costs for stone, but doubled the food requirements since there are two locales in which to get food (meat and fish).
Assuming the year is 120 days, with 90 days of playable time (reserving 30 for winter), in the first year the player needs to find on average 128 food per day, 52 wood per day, and 17 stone per day.
Assuming the player visits all four locales evenly (meaning each locale should give the player four times the average amount), so 256 meat, 256 fish, 208 wood, and 68 stone per visit. Now assume 12 hours of harvesting, and we get, on average, 21 meat, 21 fish, 17 wood, and 6 stone per hour. In year 10, it would be 2,313 meat, 2,313 fish, 275 wood, and 92 stone per hour. That’s a ton. Hope the caveman is up to the task!
Now that we have target resources per hour, we can start writing in sensible resource rewards! We did it!