Foundry Dev Blog #22 - Blast Furnaces
Update 0.4 on Experimental Branch
Today ten months of hard work finally concluded in a new version on our experimental branch on itch.io. There will be a couple of usability-improvements which are not complete yet and will arrive during the experimental phase, mostly related to the comfort of building large structures (modular buildings).
Update 0.4 launches with placeholder art for some machines but the good news is that we now have a new artist full time on our project, which should speed up art development considerably and will give us a lot more room for adding decorative objects in future.
Please note that our experimental branch is mostly intended for testing, the game may be unstable. If you play on experimental you should often check for new versions as they most likely are more crucial (fixing critical bugs) than regular updates on stable branch which are mostly polishing.
Get the build here: https://meder-dynamics.itch.io/foundry
Modular Buildings & Blast Furnaces
Let's finally take a look at our new main content feature: Modular Buildings.
Blast Furnace with Hot Air Stoves
Factory games are about scale. You need to build thousands of machines, manage the logistics between them and take care of many other tasks like energy production and distribution. There are few other genres where you spend as much time taking care of such a large amount of individual objects, it's like building a large and complex machine piece by piece.
While I love the massive amounts of machines you need to build, it always bothered me that some aspects feel limited by game design instead of aiming for realism or immersion. For me this is most visible in the metallurgy production lines of factory games. Building thousands of small furnaces or smelters is just not what anybody would do in reality because it doesn't make any sense. Now compare this to assemblers: While it might not be hyper-realistic, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to have thousands of assemblers creating intermediate products. So I wanted to have special buildings that are capable of producing extreme amounts of items, basically buildings you only need once or twice. Therefore we're trying something new: Large modular buildings that you can put together piece by piece. And we will use them to satisfy our needs of metallurgic goods.
The way it works is that you start with a base object (placed like a regular building), and from there on you can add (automatically snaps to possible attachment points) more and more modules according to the available attachment points. Some of those modular buildings are variable so that you can decide their speed and size by choosing how many of a certain module you attach. However there are limits, you cannot make them infinitely large.
It is going to be an experiment and we will see how well it'll work, but it already looks very promising - especially in terms of game feel, as those massive entities break up visuals and make for a more interesting base. For me it was important to add this during early development to have enough time to potentially refine the system if it feels necessary. The comfort of placing those large objects will be our main challenge and is something we will focus on over the next weeks, we are aware that it is not perfect yet.
Usage in FOUNDRY
We have many ideas where this system could be used, but the first use-case will be Blast Furnaces and their auxiliary buildings Hot Air Stoves and Air Intakes - all of them will be modular buildings. The general concept goes as follows: Air Intakes draw in air, which is then heated within the Hot Air Stoves and eventually used in the Blast Furnace to produce molten metal. Casting machines will create the final metallurgic product.
Those buildings are very costly to build, making it a bit of a challenge to construct them. With Update 0.4 they will be unlocked near the end of the game's content, but eventually they will be available from the mid-game on.
Thoughts about "Simplification"
One of the questions I had to deal with was if the feature is a simplification of gameplay because it's reducing the amount of objects (smelters) people need to build (and the logistics to make them work), factory games are about scaling after all. In my opinion this is not a concern, I doubt many people enjoyed blueprint-copying the 200th smelter row. The modular buildings are not cheap and construction + setup is a bit of a challenge on its own, mostly due to their size. The game will not be shorter because of this, we will have more content in terms of intermediate products. On top there is room for redesign (changing module count/size) and optimization after they have been built. In conclusion I see it as an additional feature providing gameplay diversity and fantastic visuals (once our final art arrives).
I'm looking forward to hear your feedback on this,