by Rocket Jump Technology
I would prefer to see z-levels, but only if it can be done well, which I think is pretty key. If it can't be done well, then it shouldn't be done at all. That being said, I keep going back to Dwarf Fortress year after year because of the sheer scale, while with Rimworld, I've pretty much figured out an "ideal" (it's not perfect and every game is different) strategy and pretty much can do that every time... I only go back now for new mods.
Z-levels are a lot of added complexity, but also encourage creative freedom in designing(multi level traps, pit falls, guard towers, etc even before the massive creations you see in Dwarf Fortress). When playing Rimworld, which I do still love, I very much miss the exploration aspect of digging down, encountering new and weird stuff, finding ore and planning on that level.
Keep in mind, size wise, that a massive complex on 1 level that you need to scroll around is also hard to navigate, arguably just as much as flipping up or down a z-level.
One thought if you did implement z-levels is that you wouldn't really NEED that many. Maybe 20? One thing Dwarf Fortress does is include tons, many of which are basically identical and relatively featureless. The same effect could be had with less but more varied levels.
I've played a few games that had z-levels, and unfortunately all of them have issues with performance because of it. They're a ton of fun, don't get me wrong, but they are as the devs said very taxing and difficult to develop along side. Dwarf Fortress, as others mentioned, had this feature, but it only barely scrapes by with it through arguably the use of extremely minimalistic design. Recently one other sim using the same engine as Rimworld, SimAirport, implemented z-levels, and only time will tell if this decision won't restrict what the devs can do. I'm ecstatic that they put it in, but after a certain amount of people on screen things will inevitably slow down and break, and so far that number isn't too high at all. Which means eventually, like in almost every simulation game, there is a limit for every machine, and it's unavoidable. My last example of a game with z-levels is the Sims 3, with its basements in particular causing massive drops in framers, no matter what machine you used, though the game itself was never optimised very well in the first place, as a playthrough with a town population of over 100 is very difficult to keep going due to memory. Aesthetics over function, one could say was the team behind the Sims' motto.
In the end, as much as z-levels sound fun, they really aren't necessary for a fun game about dwarves. Yes, it'd be more realistic, but honestly I'd rather be able to play KUTM without having to worry about performance and memory and constantly craving up pawns as well as the map to continue playing.
I'm a huge fan of z-levels for a few reasons (several mentioned in the original post)
1) I like hiding things like stockpiles underground.
2) I like the freedom of being able to have separate layers for separate uses. i.e. layers for workshops, sleeping, a dozen for mining, etc.
3) I get analysis paralysis trying to cram everything into a single layer. I really like symmetry and hate running out of space and having to add new stuff in a way that doesn't fit my existing pattern (and sometimes I'll feel like I have to bulldoze EVERYTHING just so I can rebuild it 2 pixels away so my pattern can fit).
4) I love digging way down to just explore and get that feeling of discovering some cool ores or gems (or things like caverns in DF).
so initially, I was kinda bummed hearing that z-levels may not make the feature list for KUTM.
HOWEVER, after talking to Zsinj on discord and reading the comments here, I'm feeling pretty optimistic that there's going to be features that will address many of the concerns I have. The underground layer sounds pretty interesting. I'm hoping there could be some sort of upgrade path to allow selective burying of colony goods/resources/stockpiles. Also I'm excited for the adventuring aspect.
I'm not super thrilled about the design constraint aspect of trying to encourage players to plan out an efficient layout (see point 3) since I'm worried it will feel too much like a puzzle game where you'll feel pressured to always use the most efficient patterns that everyone else uses , in order to maximize efficiency. i.e worried that it will be more difficult to come up with unique layouts since those would be too inefficient to use in a practical colony. But this isn't even close to being a good reason to force in a feature that would significantly derail development. Especially if adding them in would likely make the game less accessible to a sizable part of the target audience. We need MORE accessible DF-like games out there.
super excited to see how this develops :)
As echoed by my fellow backers I would much rather see you fulfill your roadmap goals and explore implementing Z levels later. I think that they could be a fun addition one day, but I would focus on making a game that meets your vision first.
The concepts for dungeons, trading and caravans are more than enough to make the world vast and exciting in my opinion. And fishing, I really like fishing.
Please do not add Z levels. So many promising projects on Kickstarter dye because they add features which sound great but are not worth the work. Z level would be this kind of feature. You could build caves, wholes in the ground you can enter with special loot and stuff - such things can even be added later. But I don't need Z level at all.
Z level is imperative for the creative community. Without z level its *just* story building. With z level all of the sudden you can build projects like statues, castles, towers, etc.
Also voting No for Z levels, love the idea, but really looking forward to the game as pitched, no need for the added complexity.
Just give me plenty of space and I'll be happy without it :)
I´m fine with or without z-levels. That said I´d love to have them but not at any cost. I´d rather keep the game that awsome looking with this style of art than digging down endlessly, even I´d love to because I always tend to play in the same world again and again instead of starting new games over and over and that adds more space. However I´m not familar with all that work that it takes and therefore I love it as it is and as it will be with or without z-levels
I'm completely fine without multiple Z levels.
Would it be nice if there were multiple Z levels?
But, if implementing it will result in major performance hits without massively refactoring the AI...
Then I would suggest heavily against it.
I like the idea of Z levels. I see why it wasn't used in Rimworld and don't think it would have worked there, but I do think it could be a useful addition to King Under the Mountain.
That said, I am a developer myself and I know how difficult it can be to refactor an entire codebase to include a feature you had initially ruled out, and how many bugs and issues it can create. So I totally understand the desire to avoid it.
In the end, its your baby and I think you should make the decision based on how you feel about it. I would MUCH rather have a full, feature rich game with no Z levels in it than a game with Z levels that gets abandoned after a few years because your heart isn't in it as it no longer is the game you dreamed of making.
I’m personally fine without including z-levels. I can see pros and cons on both sides, but the game is plenty appealing to me without implementing them.
I love the idea of multiple Z-levels, but we must also recall that Dwarf Fortress started out with only a single Z layer and added multiples later. Sim Airport also started out with a single layer and just recently successfully added more layers.
I think if you try to build it with a single layer, but an eye towards adding in multiples later, then it would likely be less painful to update the AI and cross tile interactions because you're only adding two more faces to each tile/cube in space.
There's plenty of examples of games out there right now that do both, and do both well, so get the basic systems in place, and then when all that's working, tackle this multiple levels task. If you did indeed build with the idea of extending, it shouldn't be nearly as hard as if you've painted yourself into a rigid 2d corner.
that seems like a no go and way to complex - like someone else said i'd prefer all the other roadmap goodies instead.
I didn't even really consider Z-levels as an option with a game like this. If it were in an isometric view, or attempting a psudo-3D like Gnomoria, I could see it, but as it stands, it seems like it would be unnecessarily complicated. The only example I can think of as far as a similar set up with Z-levels would be The Escapists 2, and while it works, it's kept extremely limited for good reason, and even then, doesn't face even half the issues this game would.
No, I think keeping this game on a single plane is for the best. I'd rather have been mechanics and character interactions than deep tunnels.
Honestly don’t bother with Z levels. Sure they’re cool and add a lot to the game, but if the game has been designed to be one Z level, then leave it as.
It’s better to have a game based around mechanic and designed for it than to have the experience effectively diluted by straying from that.
I agree with those who say that there is no need for z-levels. It would be overly complex and delay this awesome game too long
I'd be absolutely fine with skipping Z-levels in favor of everything else in the roadmap.
Please no Z levels. At least not for the main settlement. Maybe a future expansion possibility where you can create a seperate "mine" zone or something, but the complexity Z levels add are not worth it, and a big detractor from playing, watching, and building.
Adding new levels, as you've said, isn't trivial and it's possible some of the feedback you're receiving are from people who aren't aware of the complexities of adding multiple levels.
There are plenty of excellent games that work perfectly well in 2D, for example; Prision Archetect and Theme Hospital, that could easily lend themselves to having multiple Z-levels but don't feel like they are lacking this when people play them.
You spoke so enthuastically and had an excellent vision of where you wanted to go with this when I met you at the PC Gamer Weekender last year. Stick with your vision.
I'd vote NO to multiples levels in Z.
I see it as a possible future update since adding Z levels seems like a huge task to put on your plate at this time.
First thanks for concisely addressing all the points for and against this feature.
While I would enjoy and want Z levels, I feel like you made a well enough argument for me to go with your current vision. While I will be sad to see z levels not in the game I now understand where you are coming from and why it must be so.
I don't want Dwarf Fortress-style z-levels, especially if they can't be implemented well/greatly extends development time.
The "underground" layer sounds really good and covers a lot of concerns.
It would be nice if hexes could have different z-levels, without having more than one layers. Being able to build walls, and put dwarves atop those walls. Or digging a pit to host gladiator contests in. Being able to dig down, without being able to dig under. Even if you can only dig down once(pit), and build up (once) it would still open a lot of architectonic possibilities. But its just nice to have, Rimworld style works just fine for me.
Being able to dig down into a separate map is an intriguing possibility.Three maps; surface/low depths/deep depths. Only connection between them are natural cave entrances or stairs dug by the dwarves. No light/projectiles/etc pass through the connections, but dwarves can path through them, Some limitations might be needed to avoid the 3d mazes and confusion that you mentioned. Again, intriguing idea, but nothing I require. I would much rather have a well structured game, than one where z-levels have been cobbled awkwardly on the side.
Honestly without Z levels it will feel a bit bland imo. Right now the exploration and risk element is lacking. You don't fear the things you can see and one of the exciting things about Dwarf Fortress / Terraria / Minecraft is the digging down. You know the better resources are down there but you need to go and find them and you know it brings an element of risk.
Honestly one of the reasons I think Rim World does not stand up against Dwarf Fortress is because of the single layer.
You could add so much more to the game with Z levels. A circus isn't going to be anywhere near as fun on a single layer. You get your physics problem that water adds. Yes it's going to add a layer of complexity. But the people attracted to these games are not coming from your mobile market.
The risk vs reward element can really be added with this.
There's also something to be said about having a 'gate' system that transports you to somewhere else to face that challenge. Personally I've always hated that. It cheapens the experience of creating the ultimate fort that you have to defend. It breaks the immersion imo.
I've been following Rimworld since it's very early days, and I've seen a lot of discussions about Z-levels. A lot. I was very happy that Tynan Sylvester focused on making a great product that fit his design vision, rather than following the crowd. I don't miss Z-levels in that game, and I don't know that I need it for this one. My advice is this: don't do it because people want it, or because Dwarf Fortress has it, do it because it fits into your vision. You're the one who has to live with the codebase, after all - not us.
I'm going to echo some other people and say that, while I love z-levels and all that they bring to Dwarf Fortress I do understand that they'd have a *huge* impact on the development of this game and would make things take way longer than currently planned.
I also already have dwarf fortress, so I don't strictly *need* z-levels out of this game.
That said, what about a compromise where we 3 z-levels? The main map, a deep map for mines and cave, and an upper story map (for things like lookout towers or rooftop mounted siege engines)? That way you get some of the play benefits and some of the satisfaction of having multiple levels without needing to worry about all of the complexities that come with actual z-levels.
It's not perfect, of course, but it's something I've long wanted from Rimworld.
As much as I would absolutely love to see Z-levels a la Dwarf Fortress, I don't want it to negatively impact the rest of development. If at all possible, I would happily pay for it as a post-release DLC or something of the sort. For now, I would prefer time was spent on making the game as it stands as amazing as possible. THEN you can set it up so we can go deep and get greedy.
If it was a simple addition to the code-base, I'd say make it an option to turn on or off before generating a new world. But that kind of overhaul sounds better suited for a sequel (or DLC) after you're turning a profit. I look forward to playing someday either way.
There is something nearly all successful game developers agree on: "Adding new complex features to your development roadmap just because they'd be cool is a BAD idea".
In most projects you have to cut features during development, not add new features, because you have limited resources (money, time) to implement the core features of the game. It's better to have a released simpler game than to have an unreleased complex project still in the works for a few extra years.
That said, there is one way to add something akin to Z-levels while avoiding most of the complexity - connected maps. You're already planning to allow players to send expeditions to other maps and remote dungeons. What if there was one or a few dungeon entrances on the main map that lead to new maps? Like, in the middle of a mountain you could have a dungeon entrance leading to an "undermountain" level with more dangers but also ores not available anywhere else, while somewhere else on the map you could have an ancient graveyard with an entrance to a 'crypt' level etc. Then each of those maps could have entrances to even deeper levels.
What this means - no ramps, no open floors, no interaction between levels, no need to change game visually. The only way to interact with a connected map would be through the one entrance that you can't build yourself.
But the benefits: you actually feel like you're digging deeper as you find the gate to the undermountain, then while exploring the undermountain you find gates to hell there, then you explore hell and... and if you play your cards right you can conquer those maps and colonize! Or die horribly :3
Other than that, my main problem with being restricted to a 2D map is that it feels too limiting. As it stands, when I play KutM demo right from the beginning I can see how far my empire can stretch at best, and I know it will never exceed those map bounds. Theoretically I could play on a larger map, but this has a practical limit, as the larger the map, the longer it would take for dwarves to travel between points, at some point making logistics a nightmare.
Now, if instead I knew "there's always the next level below, once I fully exploit this one" I would not feel like there's a limit to how far my empire can grow. The limit would still be there in the form of the levels getting exponentially more dangerous the deeper you go, to a point where you'd need years of real-life to prepare the invasion of the next floor, but that would be a 'soft' limit, not a hard one and that makes a world of a difference in that you don't feel artificially restricted.
I'm in pretty strong agreement with Idara. Adding Z Levels increases the complexity so much that it creates a serious barrier to entry. You go from figuring out 1-2 basic workflows (managing resources, managing dwarves) to dozens (preventing base collapses, efficient pathing, entry/exit management, etc).
I love Dwarf Fortress, don't get me wrong. But the first tens of hours are spent staring at tutorials, installing tools to make the game easier to manage (hello DwarfTherapist), and generally smacking your face into the complexity of the game.
I would rather my difficulty in the game comes from the story the game tells: hungry settlers, angry mobs, rampaging animals; instead of my difficulty coming from mechanical components: base layout, playing "where's that dwarf!", and "where did those enemies get in from?".
To echo the most apropos statement in this whole comment thread: "Rimworld proves you don't need Z levels to make interesting settlements, and your plans for all the extra things you can discover whilst under the mountain should more than make up for the single-plane nature of the game."
I totaly agree with the NO Z-Levels approach. Looking at games like Prison Architect, RimWorlds and Factorio shows that a 'flat' environment does not even stand in the way of massiveness or complexity or good gameplay. At the same time an implemementation like SIM Airport where it makes sense (cargo routes, etc) it still is kind of degrading to always be looking at just a level of your builds, instead of seeing every living and moving thing.
My two pen'orth: whilst I believe Z levels would be a lot of fun, I don't think it's worth the risk to the overall playability and the cost to development time. And once you get beyond 2 or 3 Z levels, the fun factor is seriously diminished in any case as they become too tricky to manage (I'm speaking purely from a player's perspective as the last time I did any coding was 1987....!).
Rimworld proves you don't need Z levels to make interesting settlements, and your plans for all the extra things you can discover whilst under the mountain should more than make up for the single-plane nature of the game.
My vote: No
If it adds 12 months to development - that isn't any good for my pledge or anyone else's.
It almost seems that it's going to take away from the core experience, which people have already pledged for and love. :)
I can't think of ONE Kickstarter game that has been on time yet and frankly it's the reason I stopped pledging. Years late and people say "Ohh I didn't realise" even if they were experienced in the industry. This really gets my goat because a lot of the time they HAVE lied to backers - I know you haven't or won't here yet it's that whole Kickstarter issue that really plagues the platform.
I say this from experience because I've created and delivered projects in, or under, time and to great success.
So if you admit that adding it WILL add 12 months to development = it is almost a confession that you won't be delivering when you say - even if it's not and actually we're only pledging for an Alpha type release! I just don't want to wait longer :D
As a caveat how about this is pitched...you could build structures UP if they are outside. I believe there might be a way to do this - and cap it at something like 4-5 levels. So potentially 10 metres high (2m per block). This then allows future additions like sieges and large creatures = build outside castle structures and battlements.
What you are looking at here is stuff only being built outside, not in the cave. So you don't have to implement actual Z-levels as such - there is nothing else to generate. It's a work around solution for sure - and adds extra gameplay dynamics. Yeah, it's a BIT of a hack, however if you can then add battlements and your guys firing down on enemies then why not. It also means the possibilities of adding giant creatures that require projectiles to hit them + it's easier to do from higher up. Plus Dragons flying around and that (again that's a separate layer that doesn't exist in the game world, it will just appear to - if you've got archers up level 5 = easier to hit the flying enemies).
I have some other thoughts on how to work this and make it visible: Let me know if you're interested I've got an idea for a good system that won't be overly tricky to view for the player.
Having played a lot of Rimworld, and some Dwarf fortress, I vote no. Rimworld proves that you can do just fine in a single plane, and DF shows how massively complicated it becomes.
Z levels could be really cool, but the complexities involved are large, as pointed out in the original post. The time required by this would be enough to implement many other really cool features, so I think there's a clear winner in the trade-off.
I'll vote no on Zs. I'm mostly against Z levels because the cost/benefit ratio is too far off. I think they would add some value to the game, but not at the expense it will take to make it work *well*.
If Z-levels *were* to be added, I would very much prefer a tight restriction to how many one would have to manage.
I would say maybe - but definitely not before launch and rather as an expansion pack (quite literally in that case!) some time after release. Better get the base working correctly before thinking about adding more layers.
How about a really ambitious (!) and adequately caveated stretch goal for Z-levels?
I also cast my vote for NO to Z-levels.
From my pont if view, it's better if you get attached to the vision of the game you had from the beggining, and don't push features not planned or hard to implement. So no, I vote NO to Z-levels.
While Z-levels would be awesome from a gameplay standpoint I can't help but feel that the game is plenty ambitious already. They could certainly enhance the experience and allow for some neat stuff but there's already a lot of potential without adding the massive amount of work needed for Z-levels.
Before saying anything about z Levels I have to admit that I immediately had to think about Dwarf Fortress when I saw your game and that's probably also the reason why I backed you. I do understand that Z Levels make everything more complex on the development side, but it's also so much more fun gameplay wise. you can plan out more complex structures and optimise your Settlement a lot more and there is the huge Bonus of exploring the deeper Levels. So, I would like to see some z Levels in this game, but I will still back you, even if you decide against them.
If Z-levels demands too much work, it may diminish the whole game. I wouldn't risk a great game for a good game with Z-levels. My "vote": Nay
Rimworld and Prison Architect are proof enough that Z-levels aren't really necessary to create an incredibly compelling game experience. Stonehearth is the only settlement builder that really handles Z-levels well, and the gameplay depth suffers for it (but wow, you can make some gorgeous settlements!). On the other end of the spectrum, in Dwarf Fortress literally 90% of my keypresses are cycling through Z-levels, and you can construct some very complicated systems, but especially when it comes to caverns and caves it's almost impossible to visually parse their layout.
If the game isn't designed for z-levels (and I think the Rimworld-style of top-down 2D art makes that *very* difficult) then I can't see them being a positive addition to the game.