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Crops and Seasons and more


redram
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With the seasons update being the next update, I wanted to discuss a bit about how crops work, and could potentially be re-thought a bit.   Currently, all crops behave the same.  You plant, they grow, you harvest at the end.   Presumably in seasons, there will be a 'die' stage added at the end, where if you don't harvest the crop, it dies and leaves seeds, but no produce.    Right now VS crops vary a bit in maturity length, but i game terms all are relatively short.  Anywhere from 3-6 game days.  By my estimate, if we try to have them scale with a RL year, but with regard to VS's 144 day year, crops will need to generally take 5x as many VS days to mature as they do now.  They also vary a bit in nutrients taken, and of course the major difference is the nutrient used.   These characteristics do suffice to make each crop different in some way, but nutrients used comes across as kind of minor difference in my experience, so for instance spelt and rye are nearly exactly the same, differing only by .6 days in maturity.  Onions, parsnips, and pumpkins all read as the same on the wiki, though I'm not sure how yields compare (and pumpkins obviously have a very different growth habit).  But they use the same nutrients, and all mature in 7-8 days.  I think the game would benefit if there were more differences in crops, so that each crop had at least one characteristic that made it noticeably different from any other in it's class (by class I mean vegetables vs grains).  As such, I wanted to toss out some ideas of ways to add more character to crops.

PERENNIALS - I think it would be good for there to be some perennial crops.  Asparagus, Rhubarb, and Artichoke as examples.  Perennial crops could stil need fertilizing, but would not be replanted every year.  This would require the ability to fertilize soil blocks with a crop on top - currently not possible, as the crop blocks access to the soil from top.  Asparagus and Rhubarb would specifically fill a niche of being early yielders, giving food in the spring, when the player is just planting their normal crops.   How to accomplish this harvesting in a perennial context is a question.  Perennials could effectively be a sort of bush 'flowering' and presenting a crop at a very early time of year.   So asparagus would 'flower' with tiny new shoots, and then 'fruit' with taller shoots.  The plant itself could either just remain always in the same form, like a bush, but just change color in winter (simple way) or could go through stages of 'growth'.  Sort of creating a hybrid crop-bush, that fruits like a bush but shows growth stages like a crop, but never dies.   Personally I'd like to see bushes have stages of growth too, so you can't transplant them so easily.  So if all bushes became like this, that would make it easier to integrate vegetable perennials in that scheme.   Since perennials are only planted once, they should have very long maturity dates.  a year or more.  Maybe 2 or even 3 years for asparagus.  I would also suggest bushes take such a long time when replanted.  Such a change would present a serious choice for the player in the earlier game - leave the perennials in their wild spot to get fruits soon, or transplant them to more convenient spot, but then have to wait a long time to get food?

TEMPERATURE - Plants would - as part of the seasons update - presumably die if the temperature gets too cold.  However, what if there was more detail there?   Plants could die both at too-hot and too-cold temps, and could even have temperatures where they 'pause' their growth, but don't die.  So for instance rye or spinach - in the right climate - could be planted in the fall, pause growth during the winter but not die, and then mature quickly in the spring, for early food.    Brussel sprouts could be forced to pause during hot spells and die if too hot, making them work better in cool climates.  Root vegetables could even have their own mechanic where the plant part 'dies' at a given temperature and won't grow any further - going dormant - but the player can still harvest the root.   However if things get a lot colder, then the root is ruined as well.  So there could be 'pause', 'dormant', and 'dead' temperatures.  It allows more variety of behavior, and more nuance of climate, in terms of heat being able to make some crops not well suited for a climate band.

NUTRIENT MODIFIER - Right now all foods give their nutrient - as I understand it - as a straight scaling of the satiety of the food.  I think it would be good if a given food could have a nutrient modifier.  So you could do something like have potatoes for instance have a 0% nutrient modifier, and so give full satiety, and not take much nutrients to grow, rot slowly, but give no nutrition.   So the player could have a choice for a very filling, very long lasting, not too nutrient intensive, but non-nutritious food.   As opposed to other vegetables that would mostly give full nutrient compliments.  Potatoes could additionally have a longer harvest window due to going dormant but not freezing to death until rather low temperatures.  They could also be less targeted by rabbits, perhaps.  And something like a tomato could have a 130% nutrient modifier, but they have a long growing seasons, don't keep well, and are very temperature sensitive.   It'd generally put more potential wrinkles in the different crops.

SEEDS - TFC handled winter-killed crops by simply dropping a seed packet as a placed item, so it would persist.  That's a way to do it, but even better would be a 'dead' version of the plant, that drops seeds when broken.  Presumably root vegetables will just drop seeds, to simplify things.  Though one could of course do something like make potatoes (presuming they can be stored in a vessel through winter) be able to be replanted in the spring.  They could perhaps still have a seed version, but the seeds take 2 years to yield.  I think seed yield chance should be increased for instance by having bees nearby, while being decreased by things like being subject to disease or drought.  Perhaps if traders sold seeds, we could be more strict with the stages at which plants will yield seeds.

SUPPORTS - This is getting into stuff I've suggested before, but I think it'd be great if some crops yielded more when properly supported.  Tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers come to mind.  Trellises could be made of sticks, but only last one season, or made of metal and be reusable (bronze last forever, iron/steel have limited uses due to rusting).  The bad part of implementing this of course is having to have 2 entirely separate sets of growth stages.  But it's yet another thing to set some vegetables apart.

DISEASES - Another previously suggested thing, but wanted to suggest the added bit that plants which are 'temperature stressed' (paused but not dead) could have increased chance to fall victim to pests or diseases.  Depending on how detailed we wanted to get, some varieties could have their own pests/diseases.  You could even have pest/disease maps similar to ore maps, so pressure could be more or less in some locations.  though the game probably has plenty of maps I suppose.  And players might not like discovering they invested all their time building a base in an area that has a lot of pest/disease pressure.

WEEDS & MULCH - Also has been suggested before.  But to tie in here again, plants that have been overwhelmed by weeds could have their growth significantly slowed, or even stopped.  Mulch prevents or at least severely discourages weeds.   Temperature stress could enhance weed growth.

I think that covers a good bit for now, and hopefully gives some food for thought.  One thing I'd really like to get other players' input on is crops grown in more tropical areas.  I'm only really familiar with temperate crops, and that seems like the easiest thing to get english language google results on.  

 

 

 

 

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A lot of good ideas here, but I see one problem with some of them: Their focus on time as a balance factor. I don't think any crop should take one year or more to yield, that would be ludicrous imo. Neither should the year be 144 days long, that's 96 real world hours with the current day length. These things may work in multiplayer but for singleplayer they are simply not feasible. Crop growth times should remain to be only be a few ingame days, as even that is a relatively long time. It's not even that servers would greatly benefit from longer growth times, it would just make replanting rarer and put less focus on the nutrient system.

I would like to perennials implemented similar to how Stardew Valley did it, with them being harvestable multiple times a year. There are a lot of ways to balance them other than massively longer growth times (although their initial growth time should be a bit longer but the regrowth times a lot shorter), like greater nutrient consumption, smaller temperature tolerance, less seeds, less nutrients or faster decay for the food, etc. These things pose actual gameplay challanges for balance and help to differentiate the crops further instead of just adding larger wait times.

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1 hour ago, Erik said:

Crop growth times should remain to be only be a few in game days, as even that is a relatively long time.

Depends on what the intended play arc is.  As long as more natural sources of forageable food were available, the player could survive for some time just hunting and foraging.  I think the early game having a large foraging component could be acceptable, possibly. 

As for year length, I'm just going off of what I seem to remember being the loose plan.  12 days per month.  I'm assuming the year length will be configurable in the end, so the player should have control over that.  Remember that I'm only suggesting a few plants take a year or more - perennials and fruit trees only, really.   My table of real-world to game equivalency right now suggests anything from 13 game days for radishes to 47 game days for parsnips and flax, with tons of 20-30 day things in between.  Remember that garden crops irl don't grow all year.  In my middle-of-the-USA climate, they have to do their entire thing in 3-4 months.  20-30 game days is 8-12 hours irl.   You spend the early game foraging, and growing crops.  If you plant perennials as well, they're ready in the next year or two.  The perennials are just a small minority of food crops.  Sort of an emergency supply, at the end of winter, really.  They allow the player to feel more secure, their base more mature.   They are a tangible indicator or progression.

As for other features, it just depends on how close the devs want to be to rl (and how much work Tyron wants to do).  I think it'd be great if the plants had as many of the characteristics of their rl counterparts as possible.  Asparagus is definitely a once-a-year harvest thing.   If it had 10 stages of growth, you'd harvest it in stages 1 and 2 maybe, but no other.    Rhubarb could theoretically be several times a year (but it also needs to be cooked to be edible, like how cattail roots are now).  Some plants actually would make a lot of sense as multiple-harvesters.   Beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.  In those cases they could yield relatively small amounts every so often, rather than a large amount all at once.  So potatoes might have 9 stages of growth, and be add 1 to the yield in each of the last 6 stages, with each unit of yield giving potatoes in decent amounts.  So you can harvest as you go, or all at the end (but they give no nutrition, as their downside).  Tomatoes might only yield in the last 4 stages, and relatively small amounts, and also if you don't harvest a given stage, it does not accumulate - the fruit rots, but they do give a lot of nutrition.  Beans might be somewhere in between. 

Some plants may give annoyingly high yields of small satiety items.    So beans can be harvested for 6 stages maybe, and each time you get like, a stack of 16 units of beans.  But each unit only fills 5 or 10 satiety.  So you have to sit there chomping on them for a long time to eat them uncooked (maybe this makes vegetable soup a useful thing, to combine those items easily to one meal?  Maybe a given pot slot holds 2-3 times as many bean units as it does 'normal' food?).  As opposed to Tomatoes which may yield 1 unit each time, but that 1 unit fills 100 satiety or whatever.  So more convenient to eat. 

Some vegetables like carrots might have a trait that you actually have to let a plant mature and die, to get seeds.  So you don't get any food at all from that mature plant, but one plant gives you 2 seeds perhaps, baseline.  So you grow 2 plants to eat 1 of them (you have to harvest them BEFORE they mature to eat them), and let one mature fully for seeds.  This means that they're far easier to multiply as long as you don't eat either plant, but you're using two fields worth of nutrients to get one edible crop and still replant. An interesting choice perhaps (fast multiplying might be too powerful given nutrient replenishment)?  Onions could work the same way, possibly. 

It'd be possibly a lot of extra work for Tyron to create a system where these things are possible.  But Tyron & Saraty are avid gardeners too, so maybe they'd like it.  Idk.  But I wanted to bring it all up, because it's going to be relevant very soon.   If fully done, I think it might be the most true to life system in any game.  I'm working on a table right now, to try to figure out just what sort of array we could have, attempting to imitate reality where feasible.   I'm only familiar personally with temperate zone crops though.  And the tropics are kind of a big hole in the game right now for livability.

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I can't wait to see such interesting things implemented into the game.

About the topic, I can say that a more realistic seed system should be advisable. In particular, for grains seeds and products are actually the same thing. Maybe it should be possible to obtain - for example - 8 grain seeds by placing a unit of grain in the crafting grid and vice versa (8 seeds should give a unit of grain). 

Pumpkin's seeds are actually edible. It would be good to be able to eat them in game. 

Other vegetables need to let them stay beyond the harvesting stage in order to produce seeds. It shouldn't be possible to obtain seeds at the harvesting stage. I suppose that RedRam has something similar in mind. 

About real time growing, I agree about it but what about trees? It would be unfair if trees had instant growing while crops didn't have... On the other hand, I don't feel like waiting 50 years in game to grow an oak. 

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Well, I think you still need to keep game balance in mind.  It's currently very hard to multiply your plants - just a 5% chance to get an extra seed at harvest.  If 1 portion of grain can be turned into 8 seeds, they you could extremely rapidly multiply your grain crops, and grains also have the advantage of being by far the longest-lasting food.   I think that would be extremely unbalanced from a gameplay perspective. 

Seeds being edible could have some utility.  I could see all seeds being edible, mainly to get rid of them, but they should not give much satiation, but maybe more nutrition that you'd expect for their satiation. If they don't spoil, that would make them a possible addition to a kit of 'backup' food.  I could also see them being usable in place of grain as a portion in troughs.  I think that might be a fair trade at current rates.

Correct on the harvest vs seed thing.  Some plants would give double seed, but only after you could no longer harvest the food.  This would require a bit of planning and thought on the player's part.

For general tree growth rate, if it were me I'd have trees take a year or two to grow (in single player.  In multiplayer I'd probably go the full 30+), so that planks and wood in general might have some actual value, but I'm pretty sure that's not the devs' preference.   But I'm fine with food-producing plants having long growth times, while trees that are only good for planks have short times.  I realize it's inconsistent, but I think it's fine for balance and variety.

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Honestly I think the "right" answer to little fiddly bits like questions of season length, year length, crop growth rates, etc. are that these values should simply be modifiable prior to creating a new world. Games like Minecraft really throw away a lot of potential customization by not letting players dial in parameters without full-blown modding the game. Think of a game like ARK, or Project Zomboid, where you have tons of variables you can edit to tweak the survival experience exactly the way you feel it's balanced, with the defaults just being the "suggested" way to play.

For instance, right now I feel like getting and storing a lot of food is still a little too easy, even after the spoilage update (though the spoilage update is, on the whole, awesome). But rather than have the defaults changed for everyone, I'd like to just have control over the values.

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