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€2,584 pledged of €30,000 goal
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By Nathan Irondot
€2,584 pledged of €30,000 goal
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About this project

Remember the urban landscape in The Fifth Element? Coruscant in Star Wars? Chicago in I, Robot? I've always been fascinated by futuristic cities. Their size, their madness, how beautiful they often look and how terrifying they can be. What is DotCity? It's a game devoted to these cities, promising a unique gaming experience.

In DotCity, megalomania will be rewarded. There will be no limits. Millions of inhabitants, ready to live for centuries. Kilometers high skyscrapers defying the laws of gravity. Demographic booms. Cars traveling at supersonic speeds.

 As a city builder, your goal in DotCity will be simple: help your city thrive across centuries, starting at the beginning of the industrial age. While this sounds straightforward, the game is not going to be easy. As the life expectancy of your dots will keep on increasing, so will the total population of your city, no matter what you do. Failing to develop the right technologies ahead of time will lead your city to crash and burn. Your dots will always want more, literally pressuring your city, forcing you to expand it in every direction faster and faster to avoid collapse. 

DotCity will not be like any existing city building game. While traffic management, education, health or taxes will be part of the gameplay, the main focus of the game will be on technological development and demography. Randomly generated and user-made skyscrapers with unique features will make every game different. If you get lucky, expanding your city will be easy. Most of the time, though, you won't, and even small mistakes will doom your metropolis. How many city ruins will you leave behind before getting it right? Welcome in the ruthless world of DotCity!

Gameplay

In DotCity, you will start from a blank page in 1900, with a rather small starting population and the ability to build rather small buildings. But beware! It's 1900, you're in the middle of the demographic transition (see below), meaning your population will grow fast, whether you like or not.

Resources. There will be three main resources in DotCity: dotcoins, construction materials and power. Dotcoins are produced by financial centers in your city. Construction materials by industrial centers. These two resources will be liquid resources, in the same spirit energy and mass are in Supreme Commander. Every time you build something new, dotcoins and construction materials will be sucked from the flow until the building is finished. The same holds true every time you develop a new technology, upgrade a road, etc.

Dots are the citizens of your city, and there will be more and more of them with time! They travel from home to work in the morning, allowing for the production of dotcoins in financial centers and of construction materials in industrial centers. Every second of their time is valuable. Indeed, financial and industrial centers cannot function without them. The longer they need to reach their destination, the more your economy will suffer: avoid traffic jam at all costs!

Pressure. The more dots you have in your city, the more pressure your city will endure according to the gas law. Each building in your city will have many features, two of which are the volume and the maximal pressure the building can take. Each time you erect a new building, you add volume to your city, thus decreasing the global pressure. Should the global pressure increase above the limit some buildings are able to take, expect things to go bad. The player will be offered various strategies to help relieve his city from the ever increasing pressure caused by dots: expanding the city fast with cheap buildings in order to keep the pressure low, improving the maximal pressure all buildings can take or unlock special buildings able to create large volumes at the cost of power and dotcoins whenever a peak of pressure occurs.

Aging. Dots will age with time. When they are young, they don't go to work and cost dotcoins. Once they are old enough, they will add up to the global work force, helping improve your economy. Once they go above a certain age, they start to cost dotcoins again before they die. The faith of each dot will be random: some will die young, some will die very old. While it will up to you to develop some technologies to help avoid death before a dot grows too old to work, you will have very few control on the age limit at which a dot stops working or on the increasing life expectancy of your dots.

Roads. The road network in your city will only be made of straight roads, always stretching to the horizon. This was at first an artistic choice only, but I now believe it's also a good choice in order to help the player focus on more important aspects of the game. As the game progresses, the player will be required to unlock new technologies to make larger and less expensive to maintain roads, but also to allow dots to move faster and faster and to fly higher and higher on them. Roads are also what defines areas where offices, homes or industries will automatically pop: once a part of the map is fully enclosed by roads, it can be defined as an industrial, financial or habitation area. Since larger areas can host more buildings than smaller ones, they will be more expensive to develop. The player should also be aware that narrow areas are better: the faster a dot can reach the nearest road, the better. Indeed, moving from home to the nearest road in the morning commute for instance can be surprisingly long if the distance between home and the nearest road is too high.

Demography. The population of dots will increase as the game progresses. This growth will be driven by two demographic concepts well known by demographers: the birth rate and the death rate. The birth rate is the number of babies per 1,000 of a population in a year. The death rate is the number of deaths per 1,000 of a population in a year. A population where the birth rate is equal to the death rate does not increase. When the death rate is below the birth rate, the population expands.

 For centuries, the world population on Earth was relatively stable. Both the birth and the death rates were high, the later being slightly below the former, leading to a very slow but steady expansion of the world population with time. And then, the industrial revolution started: the death rate in Europe suddenly dropped. Very fast. Tap water, better food, medicine and many other great things happened, quickly improving the life of people across the continent. But the birth rate did not decrease at first. This created a huge gap between the two rates, leading European populations to expand at an alarming pace. It's only later that the birth rate finally started to drop as well, thanks to contraceptive technology, increasing female literacy, urbanization and others. Most of Europe now live in the last stage of what is called the demographic transition, where both the birth and death rates are low.

In DotCity, the population of dots will be subjected to successive demographic transitions, driven by new biomedical technologies unlocked as by-products of other technologies. This means your city will be home to successive demographic booms, to which it will become more and more difficult to survive. The price to pay to live for centuries while having one or two children is astonishing.

Technology. Last but not least, technology. In DotCity, there will be a huge technological tree to climb. Making your financial centers more effective, helping your buildings to resist increasing pressure, unlocking new roads, unlocking special buildings with area effects are a few ideas for this tree. Part of the tree however will not be in your hands. Each time you unlock a new technology, expect some other to be unlocked, too, possibly leading to an unwanted demographic boom in your city.

Aesthetics

I've put a lot of thought in the artistic direction of the game. My biggest source of inspiration was the city from Mirror's Edge. By default, cities in DotCity will be mostly white and will always be heavily baked in the sun. The only harsh color will be red, used to highlight buildings that are in the way (like in the first seconds of the video on top), buildings you are about to bulldoze or buildings in bad shape. The sky in DotCity will always appear creamy and peaceful. Buildings will always be perfectly clean, featuring one color. The player will however be allowed to paint the buildings of its city in any color he wishes.

The minimalist design of DotCity will probably be one of the most discussed aspects of the game. Some will love it. Some will hate it, finding it silly. It is however important to acknowledge that building massive futuristic cities while trying to make the game look as realistic as possible is impossible for performance reasons. Could I at least add textures to the buildings? I sure could, but it would require a lot of work for a not so great result and the game would lose its peculiar aesthetics. DotCity cannot try to beat other city building games like Cities: Skylines or SimCity. It must be completely different to succeed, not only in its gameplay, but also in its aesthetics.

Risks and challenges

While this is the first game I've ever started, people should be aware that I went from knowing nothing about video game development to the prototype showed in the video in less than 6 months by working one day each week only. If I was able to achieve so much in such a limited amount of time, just imagine where DotCity will be if I'm able to work on it fulltime during 6 months for instance?

While I'm maybe new in the indie game scene, programming, demography or even chemistry is nothing new for me. I'm a mathematician from Brussels nearing the end of my PhD. I spent the last 10 years of my life programming in various languages (if you think mathematics are done on paper in this day and age, think again!), studying on the side various concepts from demography, computer science and even chemistry. I'm also specialized in probability models, which comes very handy for a game such as DotCity. How many city building games saw their gameplay designed by a mathematician? I expect DotCity will be the first :-) Give me a chance to complete this project, I promise you won't regret it!

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