Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 3 – Results

Dynamic Pollution
Dynamic Pollution

So, it's been a little while since my last post, but I've been hard at work on both the analysis of Prototype 3 as well as the upcoming Prototype 4 code, which I'll post in a little bit.

So, with Prototype 3 we added dynamic pollution - ie, pollution that would stack over time and be emitted in proportion to human activity, rather than just magically appear around roads and buildings. What were the results?

Well, I'm pleased to say this simulation is starting to look a little bit like the actual situation we face:
  • There's actually an incentive to use roads now. The cars system works pretty well.
  • Factories and roads are not dangerous just by themselves.
  • The pollution builds up nicely over time and then dissipates
  • Congested roads build up smog quickly, but if they're nice and spread out, pollution doesn't stack up too badly.

The dominant strategy is no longer "pack 'em in like chickens." Let's take a look at a couple of scenarios I set up:

Suburbs & long highways
Suburbs & long highways

In the above scenario, we've cloistered off our houses at the top of the screen to keep them as far away from pollution as possible. Then we've connected a highway down to our factories at the bottom. People zip to work, plug in their hours, and then zip back home. There's a bug or two with the way pollution displays, but we don't care too much because this is a prototype and we're just trying to get a feel for how it works.

In general, this is pretty cool. We can notice some problems already: that super-thin road is creating some serious smog pollution. Now, the cars spend so little time in that pollution that they only get affected by it a little bit. This makes me think of some things:
  • We need to model traffic. A clogged highway has this exponential effect when it gets clogged: more cars make them all slow down, which makes them stay on the road and produce even more pollution. I think I can throw in a little modifier that makes it so that congested roads slow down cars. Might be good to research some actual traffic simulations for this.
  • Local air quality and health is not quite enough of an incentive for the player to reduce all pollution. You see, as long as the player can just drive his/her cars through the pollution, it doesn't matter how smoggy the roads are if it doesn't directly affect the health of the city's people, sine the game doesn't model any other ill effects. What we'll probably do, is make the pollution disappear from the local system and enter "global" (as in "global scope") system.

This smog system is interesting so I'll touch on it separately real quick. Instead of like in Energy Apocalypse, where smog was only an overall problem, this model takes into account the local, air-quality issues of smog as well. You see, transportation isn't nearly as large a contributor to global emissions as say, Coal power plants, but most of us live a lot closer to highways than power plants, and we have to breathe that air.

What we'll do then is use both systems - local and global, for this game. Smog comes out of your little factories and cars, and produces health problems, then dissipates. But when it dissipates, what that means is it's going out of your city and into the surrounding atmosphere - specifically, into the land the zombies inhabit.

This is an interesting opportunity to model something my boss, Robert Harriss, has been talking about - stocks and flows.

Okay, next example:

The world is my parking lot
The world is my parking lot

Here was another situation that resulted in high health for people and a fast rate of production. Basically, you put your houes on one side of the map, and produce roads to get them to work. Now, if you only have one way to get to a factory, that road gets really smoggy, so instead you just build roads all around. People spend very little time on a given road and have multiple routes to get to work, overall smog is low and health (and production) are high.

The problem with this model is that there is no dis-incentive for "paving the earth." There is no incentive to NOT develop roads, because unpaved dirt gives you no reward. At this point, we might have to consider adding features outside of our "roads, houses, and factories" prototype toolset and start adding other features we'll eventually see in the full game.

Also, this model still produces about as much smog as the previous one - it just spreads it out so it dissipates faster and doesn't make people sick. That's good locally, but those emissions have to go somewhere, they don't just go "away," so again, another strong reason to start modelling what happens to pollution when it leaves the immediate local system.

Finally, I decided to test out the classic "suburbs / inner city" model to see what would happen:

Suburbs + Inner City
Suburbs + Inner City

Here, people live in the suburbs and commute downtown to work, with a big beltway/loop all around the city. (Kind of like modern-day Houston).  So, the industrial core gets polluted pretty fast, and you can tell that overall health is a bit lower than some of the other models. People aren't stabilizing at gold levels of health, but tending towards blue and even dipping into grey now and then. They heal up pretty well at their very clean homes, but the center gets polluted and STAYS polluted. It stabilizes and then doesn't get much worse, but obviously this is not an ideal way to run a city - it moves your problem "somewhere else", away from where you live,  but the smog still accumulates and it does make people sick while they're working.

People have been commenting that the sizes of buildings are a bit of an oversimplification - and in game design terms, I have to agree. Equivalent graphical size implies some sort of physical equivalence - and in real life, factories can house much more than a single household of people. Also, roads are absolutely enormous, and you run out of map really quick.

So, in the next version what we'll do is start playing a bit with scale: we'll scale up factories, scale down houses a bit, and scale down roads even more. Once it all works we'll see what implications that has on the strategies that work best,a nd even the effects on pollution. Then, we'll start talking about adding other features, notably : bringing energy into the equation. This is Super Energy Metropolis, after all!

Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 3

So, I'm proud to show off Prototype #3!

Prototype 3 : Dynamic Pollution
Prototype 3 : Dynamic Pollution

So, after prototype 2, we learned that we were going to have to deal with pollution in a more dynamic way, not only for accuracy's sake but also because there still was no incentive to build roads.

As you can see, people will now turn into little cars whenever they touch a highway square. They will then move significantly faster than a person moving on dirt, but the downside is they will start leaving little trails of pollution down behind them. This pollution is a very small amount, but if a lot of cars travel over the same area, it will quickly build up.

More details and the playable prototype link after the jump :)

Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 2 – results

Okay, so here are the results of Super Energy Metropolis 2. First, let's look at what happens when we try the dominant strategy from Prototype 1:

This does not look healthy
This does not look healthy
So, what's clearly going on here is that pollution is DEFINITELY having an effect on our population. Also, it's easier to tell what's going on with the little dots in the buildings.  Now, you can't see it because this is just a screenshot, but our product output has slowed to a crawl. All those green workers (deathly ill) will still work like normal, they just won't get anything done. This is because they are dragging themselves in to work, coughing up their own lungs as they struggle to stand, and then dragging themselves home.

So, this prototype is mostly successful, in that it solves most of our old problems, but there's still some issues here, and some brand new problems as well.

More analysis after the break :)

Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 2

Sneak peak of Prototype 2:

Prototype 2 : pollution & health
Prototype 2: Pollution & Health

So, we learned some things from Prototype 1. We'll reiterate quickly the things we planned to do for this prototype after the jump, followed by a link to the playable Prototype 2.

Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 1 – Results

So, we just finished Prototype 1 of Super Energy Metropolis. What were the results?

Well, my first instinct on playing the game was that the ideal solution would be something like this:

My original strategy
My original strategy

...but, that's not quite how things turned out :) Read on to find out more!

Super Energy Metropolis Prototype 1

And thus starts the development blog for Super Energy Apocalypse's sequel.  After some talks with my boss, we finally decided to go with a game idea called "Super Energy Metropolis" as our new game project. The basic idea is this:

Similar to Super Energy Apocalypse, but on a city-wide scale. Now instead of trying to carve out an individual little survivalist base, you're trying to rebuild civilization proper.

Sneak peek of where this is going:

Read this post to learn more and play this prototype!
Read this post to learn more and play this prototype!

Design 101 : First Principles

Le Steve Jobs
Le Steve Jobs
Design. Talk about a mystifying word. I don't know about you, but for years, when someone said "Design" I always thought of an elite group of intellectuals in black turtlenecks, berets, and fake French accents going, "No, I theenk eet needz more red!"

Then, I went to Architecture school and learned how to make video games. I know what you guys are thinking - "What in tarnation could Architecture school possibly have to do with video games?" Well, in detail, not a lot at all. In principle, quite a bit.

Super Energy Apocalypse Post-Mortem

Night-time in New Texas : Zombies abound!
Night time in New Texas: Zombies abound!

Some of you might know a bit about the Super Energy Apocalypse story. If not, you can read about it here at Jay Is Games.

My boss, Robert Harriss of the Houston Advanced Research Center, was really happy with SEA and has decided to keep me on for at least one more of these projects. If HARC rides out the economic crisis, I might even have a full-time job. So, Bob (as he insists on being called :) ), has been talking to me about what our next project will be. This is the first in a series of posts on that train of thought.