Exploration Design

It’s nice to be back on the game design side of things after a lot of UI work lately! This week I’ve been thinking mainly about exploration.


Exploration will be a way to unlock various types of resources. Thematically, as you explore the forest around your cottage, you will find things like herb patches or spiders nests. These areas will allow you to target your resource gathering by going on an expedition to gather resources. Gathering a single resource will take more time than foraging, but you will get a significantly better return, albeit only for one specific resource.

This gives the player some real choices – do I want to gather herbs, mushrooms, or forage for general resources, or explore more to locate better or new resource gathering options?

New resources and forage changes

In order to do this I’ve needed to make some changes to how forage works.

  • It will take a lot less time
  • The returns will be much smaller per forage
  • You will do some exploration while foraging

This is all down to trying to make forage the only action available initially. When you start a game, too many choices are overwhelming. However, forage will give you a few resources to play with and start you on the exploring side. Once you’ve done a bit of foraging (possibly as soon as you’ve found a herb patch) exploration as a specific action will unlock and you can choose what to do.

While I was doing this I wanted to make foraging a bit more diverse and more thematic, so I added in wood and rocks. Wood is a very common find when foraging in the forest (which makes sense), rocks are uncommon but nowhere near as rare as pumpkins.

Adding some direction

I initially thought to have exploration points as a resource and that unlocks everything in a linear fashion – you get 100 points, you unlock herb gathering, 500 points for flower gathering etc. But I think that loses some of the story and makes for a very linear game. Instead I’ve opted for a four direction system.

When you start exploration, you pick a direction and gain exploration points in that direction only. Each direction has a linear progression, but that will be different for different games – there will be world generation at the start of the game. This means that you might travel a long way north and find mountains before you ever went a short way west to find a herb patch.

This gives the player a feeling of choice, even if fundamentally they’ll need to explore in all the directions anyway. It also gives a definite interaction – you can’t just idle forever and explore as you might not find what you’re looking for; you will have to periodically change direction. I’m quite aware of the fact that it is very easy to make an idle game play itself entirely, and while the interactions should be small and simple, they should still exist.

This has several useful features I can add in the future of the game.

  • Part of my reset mechanism I’m thinking about is to transfer you to a new world. Because we’ll generate a new set of exploration parameters, the new world will feel different from the previous one.
  • The world generation gives a reason to create rituals of discovery – for example I might use a ritual that tells me that I will find spider silk to the south, so I can focus my exploration in the right place.
  • If I have world generation, I can tweak it for various challenge modes. For example, I could make a world where there are no mountains, and you have to source rocks only from foraging.

Conclusion and Next Steps

I’ve implemented the beginnings of this, and I’m feeling quite good about it. Although the UI isn’t present yet, I can see how we would introduce an initial progression into the game for a tutorial style section initially. After that stage, exploration is another option of something to focus on, and I like how it fits into the theme. There is a lot of potential to use this for other features, and if needed I could use the same system for other types of exploration, for example we could have a cave system or a dimensional portal.

The next steps here are UI and world generation. At the moment we can unlock gather actions in code, but it never actually happens as there’s no world. Also there’s no feedback to say what actions are available. Other than that I still have to think about the UI for the building page and rituals page.

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