An argument for weather and seasonal effects.

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SonofSuperJoe
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An argument for weather and seasonal effects.

Postby SonofSuperJoe » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:57 am

I know there have been a couple of threads mentioning weather effects in the past that I've seen, so obviously the idea's already been suggested. What I want to do here instead of just saying "add weather please" is propose a system of how they can be done, why they should be done in such a way (or something similar) and most importantly, WHY the game needs them.

The Argument for a Weather & Seasonal system in Prison Architect -

Weather is the thing that most affects how large groups of humans move and interact in the real world. People stay inside when cold, don't like getting wet, try to stay outside when it's blazing hot, and trudging through snow is a hassle. Weather is one of the most fundamental aspects of how we interact with the world. It's even more fundamental in places where you're stuck . . . like a prison.

So I'm proposing that the next major feature that should be worked on is implementing a full weather system. The following is a speculative outline of how it would work, which should explain how such a system would add a whole new layer of complexity, challenge and variation to the game, and really throw even hardcore players for a real loop.

There should be five possible types of weather patterns the player can experience in any given day - Sunny (the current normal), Rain, Heatwave, Coldsnap, and Snow (which is just Rain and Coldsnap triggering at the same time).

To give this randomness, each day has a chance of rolling for one of these forecasts, and then at the top of every hour, another roll is made to determine whether the effect triggers for an hour (at a base 50/50 hourly chance to keep things really random). The effects (other than sunny, which would see no change from the current norm) would do the following:

Rain - Global rain falling visual effect layer over the whole map (with accompanying sound effect). Movement halved over current tile speeds when an AI is moving outside, and exhaustion doubles when working outside. Chance of water buildup at open windows and cell doors to exterior locations (large and small). Rain raises convicts Recreation, Bladder, and Comfort need growth rates, and lowers the growth of their Exercise and Hygiene rates, so they'll effectively want to congregate inside and not go out. It also makes Yard time act as free time, so they'll especially congregate indoors more, and you can end up having more problems that way. On top of this, any exterior Power stations and power switches (or those exposed to puddles from open cell windows) have a 50% chance of shutting down and needing repairs if they get wet when the hour of rain is up, before they work again, potentially causing nasty power outages.

Heatwave - Global shimmering heat visual effect, higher bloom lighting. Exhaustion rates double when working outside. All interior walls that aren't properly ventilated by an open window create a debuff zone that creates this effect for one tile next to the wall (so cramped cells suffer this debuff a lot). The debuff effect raises convicts' Hygiene, Exercise, Freedom, Sleep and Environment growth rates, and lowers their Drugs, Alchohol, and Bladder growth rates (since their sweating and anxious in the heat, and want to get outside). Free time effectively acts as Yard time, and they'll congregate in larger groups outside. On top of this, each INTERIOR capacitator has a 5% chance of shorting out at the end of every hour of Heatwave, potentially causing brown outs 'til they are repaired and the power is reset.

Coldsnap - Blowing wind audio effect, lower bloom lighting and muted colors. All not properly heated interiors and all exterior locations trigger debuff effect that increases work speed (people work faster to stay warm) but lowers health slowly as they freeze if they're stuck in the cold for too long. For convicts, this raises their Recreation, Food, Drugs, Family, and Alchohol needs growth rates, while lowering their Privacy, Freedom, Exercise, and Hygiene growth rates, effectively making them want to stay inside and congregate in common rooms and canteens. Yard time is effectively free time again, as with Rain, further keeping convicts more likely inside. On top of this, The water pressure rate on all small pipes is cut to 1/3 normal, and at the end of every hour of Coldsnap pipes without flowing water have a 35% chance of freezing and needing replacement. Pipe valves also have a 25% chance of freezing shut at the end of every hour if not properly heated, and if they cut off big pipes, they have a 10% chance of freezing and needing replacement.

Snow - Global falling snow effect layer, gets heavier with each consecutive hour of snowfall. All of the effects of coldsnap apply, as this effect occurs when both Rain and Coldsnap trigger at the same time. On top of this, all exterior tiles have a random chance of accumulating a layer of snow at the end of each hour. Each snow layer takes two hours of no snow falling (at all) to melt away. Snow covered tiles slow movement by 75% of characters moving over them, so if a character makes large treks across snowy expanses, they have a chance of freezing to death without proper clothing. On top of snow can blow in through windows and cell doors to exterior locations, where it melts and becomes puddles that need cleaning (and/or can cause power outages if the puddles get to electrical supplies).

The Worst - Super Rare effect that occurs when Rain and Heatwave trigger at the same time. You get the effects of BOTH Rain AND Heatwave all at the same time! It just sucks! (unless you have the AC on high blast). Expect a Riot!

As you can see, what I'm proposing mostly uses features and concepts already in the game. For the most part, these are just global value shifts in the forms of buffs and debuffs to needs rates, movement speeds, and weariness and health stats that would effectively create global status effects that could really throw even an experienced player for a loop, creating new challenges at any given turn, and adding another layer of realistic (but fun) simulation to deal with. The only real hurdle to implementing such as system (aside from, the standard testing and bugginess of all feature implementations) is the art asset stuff, which is why I feel something like a weather system is best suited by being implemented by Introversion themselves, rather than this being a mod by the community - we're simply not going to nail this aspect as well as they (and obviously, they're going to know best how much of such a thing is really feasible and/or challenging, and where I'm simply wrong with the system I'm talking about above).

That said, naturally, if you have weather you're going to want seasons, since otherwise you just end up with wacky weather patterns that make no real sense. With the system I'm proposing (or something similar) I envision seasons mostly effect the trigger chance per day of what the weather pattern of the day will be, something like the following:

Spring - High % chance of Sunny, Moderate % Rain, Very Low % Heatwave, Low % Coldsnap.
Summer - Mod % Sunny, Low % Rain, High % Heatwave, Zero % Coldsnap.
Fall - Mod % Sunny, High % Rain, Low % Heatwave, Mod % Coldsnap.
Winter - Low % Sunny, High % Rain, No % Heatwave, High % Coldsnap.

(On top of this, if you go the extra logical step, there are naturally possible Biome options where a player with a desert Biome map has a different set of values for the seasons than a Temperate Biome map or a Tundra Biome map. Theoretically these biomes would also relate to tree density and general map generation initial tile sets).

For me it's the seasons that REALLY matter. Every great prison story I've read or watched is often about the passage of time. Seasons come and go, but folks stuck in jail are trapped in a hell that leaves them outside of normal life. They're trapped creatures as the years keep on passing, and it's the loss of all that time that they can never get back.

Currently, without different seasons in the game, there's no obvious way to get the player to experience this grand passage of time in the game the way an actual prison (and its inhabitants, whether con or guard) would. What's needed is an obvious visual tell to show the passage of time, and that - ultimately - is all about weather and its effects. I'm just proposing a system where such a shift wouldn't just be visual, and it wouldn't just be about "Lol! I got a tornado randomly. What is this, SimCity 2000?", but actual concrete gameplay shifts that the player has to deal with.

Such a system would have huge meta game changing potential too. Right now, after spending a lot of hours with the game, I'm seeing a massive advantage to building compact, almost entirely interior prisons. The tightly packed spaces and keeping your main services on the outer perimeter while the cons in the center in a mostly interior prison make it WAY harder for them to escape by either tunneling or through navigating through your corridors. It's frankly, a dominant meta-game strat.

However, with weather effects, such a long ranging strategy would have an obvious downside - Summers. A tightly packed mostly interior prison is going to suffer a LOT when the heat hits. You're going to get riots all the time when your cons can't get outside. The alternative wide open prison then becomes much more appealing, though this now has an obvious downside in the winter months, especially for guards out on perimeter patrols.

Weather and Seasons thus become a great meta-game balancer, that ensure no one strategy is ultimately dominant, and truly create more gameplay verisimilitude. They'd make for a better game overall.

Anyway, sorry for writing a dang novel there. But I just needed to get that argument off my chest, because I'm playing this game right now and completely loving it, and then I came onto these forums and found very few threads about weather, and even fewer that seem to understand just how potentially amazing such a system could be. I'm hoping you fine folks read this and agree, because man oh man, this game is already awesome as it is. Just adding this one extra step would catapult it to beyond legendary (although I'm no fool, this would be quite a lot of work to implement).

Again thanks, and I hope all of you all reconsider weather systems for Prison Architect!
SonofSuperJoe
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Re: An argument for weather and seasonal effects.

Postby SonofSuperJoe » Tue Jan 20, 2015 1:16 am

And of course I just need to add that if such a system ever got implemented, there would naturally have to be some counters for the player to use to combat them (all at increasing their costs and stretching their budgets and time even further of course).

- Rain Slicker Lockers - Put in Security and Storerooms, these allow up to ten your employees to don a waterproof coat and boots, in order to move around the rain without suffering from status effects.

- Air Conditioner Units & Ventilation shafts - A new Utility line that radiates cool air throughout interior locations, diminishing the effects of heat in summer months. Has a spread similar to how electrical wiring spreads from power cables. However AC units cost a lot, and have limited cooling capacity, and eat up a lot of power, requiring a lot of units for larger interior prisons. On top of this, they can only be attached to the walls (either inside or outside) so you have to hug the perimeters of your layout, and use up a lot of shaft space to be truly effective with them. Also, if a prisoner "digs" into a ventilation shaft, they can quickly "dig" through others by crawling through them.

- Boilers - Another large "generator/water pump" sized piece of equipment, a boiler provides heat to pipes, preventing the potential freezing effects, but has its own form of "pressure" over a limited (but long) pipe range. Boilers generate a lot of heat on their own however, and create a heatwave debuff effect on anyone within a tile distance of them. They build up so much heat that if they take just enough damage, they tend to explode in a grand fashion.

- Cold Weather Gear - Research through security line that adds thick thermal coats to all security units during the Winter season, but costs about $50 per staff member upon research completion, and adds $50 to all new hires.

- Table Fan - Standard small fan that can be added to any room. Creates a cooling radius that prevents heat effects within the 3x3 tile radius. A cheap solution at $25 per, but not terribly effective over long haul, and they plug into electrical systems, consuming as much power as any light.

- Road Salt - Pretty cheap at $1 per tile, but salting the ground prevents snow buildup over the tile for a 24 hour period.
kalkkuna
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Re: An argument for weather and seasonal effects.

Postby kalkkuna » Tue Jan 20, 2015 1:56 pm

Heavy + to this one ideas.

Now prisoners are outside / inside without notice behavior and effect.

At buildings cold vs heat should implemented.Wrong temp -> troubles.
SonofSuperJoe
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Re: An argument for weather and seasonal effects.

Postby SonofSuperJoe » Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:59 am

I just wanted to add (from a quick thanks from the bit of support already) that I never really concluded my "argument".

I mentioned that there are gameplay reasons for weather, both from a general prisoner needs management perspective and from the subsequent meta-game balancing factor, that there are reasons it should be done by Introversion rather than the mod community, and I mentioned there's a thematic need for seasons in order to really sell the transition of time occurring at your prison, but there's one more reason I failed to really stress.

I've now gone back and watched all the alpha video updates in reverse chronology (I'm a bit of a newer player obviously). They're all entertaining as hell and feature excellent gameplay tips that I'm glad to have learned (good job Chris and Mark!). But as I watched them, I noticed that there was a trend in my experience of them, with each progressive video talking about features that seemed more and more essential as I went back. Having started on Alpha 28, it's obvious now that how much what I've perceived as what's truly essential and critical to this game and how fun it is was only added piece by piece over time, and that looking back, it seems impossible that so many of these critical features (like guard deployment, escape tunnels, or sniffer dogs) were missing from the first Alpha. It seems impossible that this game could have ever done without these features, but at one point, it did.

The sensation of "how did the game ever NOT have this?" features is, to me, is a good way to value how important a feature is or isn't to add. When you have that sensation, you know that a feature is more than just a nice addition, it's the type of improvement that's almost necessary to a game for it to feel "complete".

I have confidence that weather and seasonal variation would create just this kind of sensation looking back, and I'm hoping everyone at Introversion and the community feels the same.

There. I'm done boosting this now. Argument finished.

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