Getting Mineral Cities
If you missed the Kickstarter campaign, you will be able to pre-order/get the game at mineralcities.36peas.com. If you're reading this far enough in the future you'll be able to buy the game. Before then, options will include alpha/beta access, game pre-order and more. Some of the stuff here is specific to the Kickstarter campaign, but if there's something you really can't do without, let me know and I'll see what I can do.
What is Mineral Cities?
Mineral Cities is hybrid city planner and RTS. The origami love child of Dune II and Sim City 2000. It's all about placing buildings, planning where to place buildings and dealing with the consequences (good and bad, known and unknown) of your decisions.
You'll quickly find yourself analysing the simplest of decisions. Anticipation, remorse, regret and reflection. It's like playing Go with yourself while watching Solaris.
All you do is move the planet around and choose between the placement of 3 different building types. Ostensibly simple, deceptively complex. Beautifully emergent.
(there's a gameplay video further down this page if you want to see this in action)
What will the game include?
The game contains a set of planets, each of which have slightly different characteristics dictating key gameplay parameters (e.g. the way in which minerals are created, the restrictions of building placement and harvesting).
Each planet will have a selection of scenarios to choose from, all of which can be played endlessly (e.g. past hitting their objectives). Some will better suit free-play and score chasing.
Some of the things I intend to explore in the development of the different planets include:
- reduced visibility (fog of war) -- see Update #1
- fixed resources (e.g. no spawning of new minerals) -- see Update #2
- decay (of minerals)
- different mineral types
- existing infrastructure
- specific mineral-spawning features (e.g. volcanoes)
Planets will have their own distinct visuals and musical ambience. See "Planet Types" below for more information.
There are also a variety of other features to be finalised, which I'll share more information about during the course of this Kickstart project, as well as during the alpha stage (there's a reward tier for that). They include:
- A fourth building type ("tech")
- Scenario and progress-specific beacons
- Different mineral types
- Support roles for existing buildings (e.g. processing<>processing links)
- Beacon connectivity (beacons replenishing eachother as well as harvesting buildings)
Apologies about the audio here -- my laptop was on fire whilst recording and I was just using the built-in mic. Anyway, for a more detailed (~22 minutes in length) description of gameplay using a test scenario on the current pre-alpha version of the game... hit the play button right here:
Where it all began
Mineral Cities started life as simple prototype, built during a 48-hour Ludum Dare game jam. The theme was "Tiny World" and I was thinking about zone play in early SimCity games at the time. Thus was born Mineral Cities (which it was already called back then).
You can go play now if you like -- head over to my Ludum Dare #23 page and follow the links. You'll also find a bunch of lovely quotes there, including:
- "This is the kind of game that you can't simply stop playing."
- "gives me the feeling of early sim games before all the complicated spreadsheet stuff came in"
- "this seems like a great strategic game in the vein of Slay"
- "I really got into exploring the rules. The overlapping objects gave it a great feeling of 'building up'."
- "I could play this kind of game for hours, literaly. :D"
- "Neat combination of puzzle game and simulation"
- (following a several-hundred-word analysis of the game): "But again I want to say: EXCELLENT GAME!"
- "An interesting and effective mechanic, which leads into a chilled and enjoyable game"
Level structure, scoring and the Planetary Quotient
One of the early goals for Mineral Cities was to provide a rewarding experience in both objective accomplishment and endless, explorative/exploitative play. This goes right back to the game's roots in SimCity and it's own explicit/implicit objectives and player-led free play.
There is A LOT more information about scoring and progress and the difference between objectives and endless play in Update #3: Level structure, scoring and the Planetary Quotient. For more information go read it now. Or carry on here for a summary of campaign stuff and check it out later.
Each Planet has its own set of mechanics around mineral replenishment, visibility and existing infrastructure. Within each planet there are a set of levels, each of which has a primary objective and is available for endless play. Planets are visibly different -- those visual differences relate to the mechanical differences in the way the planet plays.
Because at the core of Mineral Cities is a set of mechanics that allow for endless exploration, exploitation and player progress it includes the Planetary Quotient system for tracking your progress against the player population. This is visible as a per-level PQ rank and a per-planet PQ banding from Extremely Low through Borderline, Average and ultimately right up to Gifted. Go check out Update #3 for more details.
Planet type previews
"Dark Planets" -- for loads more information about how Dark Planets (planets that use a Fog of War-like mechanism) will work, see Update #1: Fog of War / Dark Planets.
Dark Planets: players have to make risky building placement decisions in order to light up the planet and find minerals and gems. Beacons provide plenty of light but are expensive, individual buildings provide little light but can be placed freely. More info in Update #1: Fog of War / Dark Planets.
Fixed mineral/resource planets: very similar to normal play, but uses "yellow" minerals. Yellow minerals don't reproduce so planning and resource gathering get more complex, especially given that gems are still only normally produced near gathered minerals. Much more information (including a bit about how pink minerals regenerate) in Update #2: Fixed mineral resource planets.
I've chosen to keep rewards digital, at least initially. It makes things easier and costs predictable. If you're really desperate for something physical, let me know. 3D-printed buildings anyone?
Anyone pledging at the ALPHA level or above will get access to the alpha as soon as the Kickstarter project concludes successfully, other rewards (the finished game, soundtrack and artbook) will be delivered (digitally) upon the game's completion -- as per the August estimate on the GAME tier.
Should the project hit its stretch goals, I'll ensure that either those additional features are inline with the main game's launch or that they are delivered separately (e.g. for multiplayer, this would likely launch after the main game).
Kickstarter only lists reward tier amounts (and funding goal) in the campaign's local currency, not your (the viewer's) local currency. So as there are a good number of folk in the US looking at this, here's a handy reference list of approximate $/£ equivalents.
Campaign target: $9,125 / £6,000
- $8 / £5 -- GAME: A DRM-free copy of Mineral Cities for PC, Mac, Linux* and iOS + backer-only updates with insight into the game's development and a first-look at new features.
- $23 / £15 -- ALPHA: Immediate access to the Mineral Cities alpha on successful conclusion of the Kickstarter campaign, as well a beta nearer release (alpha and beta will be PC/Mac/Linux only). Includes all of the above.
- $61 / £40 -- CREATIVE: A copy of the game's soundtrack, and a high resolution PDF art book. Includes all of the above (GAME and ALPHA).
- $138 / £90 -- DEVELOPER: Raw, unfettered access to my design documents for the game. These will be messy. And juicy. I ask that you keep these to yourself as they'll offer significant insight into the game's systems. Includes all of the above (CREATIVE, GAME and ALPHA).
- $269 / £175 -- FOUNDER: Your initials (or other short acronym of your choice) will appear in game. Likely on the side of a building (e.g. harvesting building 4 in level P2:L9). Includes all the goodies in the previous tiers.
- $1,152 / £750 -- PLANETARY: Name a planet after yourself. You can choose which (based on order or backers at this level). Name to be appropriate for the game, agreed with Gareth. Includes all the goodies in the previous tiers.
- $7,680 / £5,000 -- MENTAT: Every game needs a Mentat, right? Why not it make you? Your name and image (if you choose) will be used as the basis for the in-game Mentat (tutor and advisor). Includes all the goodies in the previous tiers (though as Mentat, naming a mere building is likely a little beneath you).
* see Update #4 for details on Linux support
Mineral Cities will be a downloadable, DRM-free title for PC, Mac and Linux (see Update #4 for Linux support details) as well as an iOS title for iPad (2 and up) and iPhone (4 and up).
I'd love to support Android, and if there's interest and the resource to cover it I'll certainly do it -- but it does take a significant amount of extra testing and performance optimisation. I don't want to tie Android support to a stretch goal, because because doesn't necessarily make it easier to accomplish, but if there's surplus funding available I will channel that into making an Android version a reality as soon as possible.
What else -- stretch goals
First priority is to get this thing made and people playing it -- hence me setting up this Kickstarter project, and keeping it as lean as possible. However, I have got greater ambitions for the game, and hopefully you can help me realise them.
£25,000 ($39,000) -- AI/Skirmish play -- play against AI opponent(s) in land-grab scenarios. Utilising the core mechanics of of the game, but with the competition for space and resource making it all the more interesting.
£60,000 ($92,000) -- Multiplayer -- as above, but against other space-fearing humans, over the internets.
* why are the stretch goals so much greater than the project goal? ... I can support the majority of the main game's development myself, so the project goal isn't really the whole cost of developing the game -- just what I need to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. The stretch goals introduce a significant amount more complexity in the core mechanics of the game, as well as completely new systems, testing, infrastructure and content development.
Supporting other projects
This product is participating in Brian Fargo’s Kicking It Forward initiative, promising to pledge 5% of its post-release profit to other Kickstarter projects. We are proud to join the over 200 successfully funded Kickstarter projects whose founders share Brian’s vision of supporting the independent efforts of others.
Risks and challenges
I'm able to keep this pretty simple -- it's a small game, and I'm deliberately splitting out the untested and unknown elements (e.g. AI skirmish and multiplayer) into separate stretch goals that provide sufficient resource to get them done.
I'm experienced in delivering software (particularly game dev) projects on a variety of platforms -- working with a very small team (initially just myself unless the above stretch goals are hit) makes this even simpler.
I've more than happy to share status, challenges and further information with backers and anyone else who's interested -- just get in touch.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)