(This post was written mainly in April, then extended in July, but it wasn’t possible to post it until today because it was written in Markdown I’d have to reformat it to work on old WordPress)
The announcement about introduction of universal taint was already a few weeks ago and I feel like the initiative has lost its momentum.
How is that possible, that for many years I was consistently against the idea of universal indoor rot and then, in february, I’ve changed my mind to decide to both support the idea and help in designing it?
If you were following my posts from the time when I was more active, e.g. when I was chair of RD, I was emphasizing the fact that the problem of overproduction should be reduced mostly by increasing consumption. In short, consumption means using goods owned by the characters on a daily basis (or at least frequently).
But let’s start with the first question: does the overproduction exist?
I’ll list here all the types of continuous consumption present in the game and relate it to the global production.
Each of these will be presented as a number – how many Days of Work (DoWs) worth are/need to be spent every day for the specific kind of consumption. For example, if all domesticated animals eat 1000 grams of hay every day, then, assuming 1 DoW of hay is 500 grams, it’s 2 DoWs per day.
The brief list of items, which will be explained in more detail below.
DoWs Thing 266 Food for humans 168 Feed for animals 147 Repairs 24.5 Fireworks 10 Sunk Ships 3.5 Vehicle fuel
Summarizing, 619 DoWs are consumed every day
Food for humans – 266 DoWs per day
97048 DoWs were eaten in last 365 days (it is including some arbitrary value of meat jerky and honey), both for nutrition and healing, as it’s impossible to differentiate these because of existence of dual-action foods.
The types eaten most in terms of volume:
amount subtype 14739501 potatoes 5772910 carrots 5360893 rice 2833622 spinach 2780033 bread 2098813 potato chips 1757915 cooked meat
The types eaten most in terms of value:
DoWs subtype 7469.3717 meat jerky 6052.6727 honey 3661.4770 smoked meat 3580.2746 cooked meat 3392.3558 grilled meat 3259.8920 salted meat 3006.8956 potato chips 2706.9455 bread
Feed for animals – 168 DoWs per day
168 DoWs per day (calculated as hay made from grass, as it’s the most effective and the most common way)
What kinds of domesticated animals are used?
- 40372 grams of feed eaten in packs (for animal products?)
- 34508 grams of feed eaten by animals as objects (pets? farm animals that shouldn’t reproduce? transported steeds?)
- 21675 grams of feed eaten by animals as steeds (vehicles)
I didn’t expect that the volume of feed eaten by pets is so big. That suggests developing the new types of pets may stimulate the consumption.
Time-based deterioration and repairs – 147 DoWs per day
In order to repair all the deterioration that is happening every day 147 DoWs per day are needed. It doesn’t mean that much effort is really put on repairs every day, because there are some unattended items, which just crumble. There’s a statistic about how many items crumble every day, but I’ve intentionally ignored it, as it would mean counting work/wealth twice – once for repairs which are not done and then for disappearance of the item.
The items which are most costly in repair:
repair_per_day number name 19.96093750 1825 steel_battle_axe 11.06473214 4957 iron_shield 8.18812500 2382 bone_knife 6.31200000 3156 stone_hammer 6.08093750 1769 bone_needle
It’s counted like: if each item requires 1 DoW of repair every 10 days, then each item requires 0.1 DoW daily, so 300 items existing globally require 30 DoWs per day.
Firework – 24.5 DoWs per day
4403 DoWs were burned in last 180 days (older statistics were affected by a bug). This value was pretty surprising for me, as I’ve expected the ‘show off’ effect will not be enough to be incentive for consumption that is noticeable globally. And it proves that even with a lot of experience with game mechanics and balance, I need to first look on the hard data to validate my opinions.
Abandoned ships sunk – 10 DoWs per day
We have a system that abandoned ships (the ones nobody was on deck for a few dozen of years) can randomly sink.
28 ships have sunk in the last 365 days. It resulted in destruction of 1637.0083 DoWs of raws and 2002 DoWs of objects, not including value of ships.
The most valuable items that have sunk are masts and sails, as you can see here:
sum_value SUM(number) subtype 198.25434784900003 10 gaff_mainsail 171.74287028799998 10 staysail 171.74287028799998 10 jib 162.43866780789998 11 mainmast 88.31782199399998 5 foremast 54.74999999997 9 iron_shield
Is that much? Surely not, considering there are 1546 sloops, 1316 longboats and 959 rakers built, not even counting the other types. There’s enough ships to give a few to every living character. It suggests that something needs to be done about docker but unattended ships, but that’s a different matter.
Vehicle fuel – 3.5 DoWs per day
744771 grams were used. It was mostly petrol, which gives 1291 DoWs used in 365 Days. It’s much less than I’ve expected and it means that fuel as a way of consuming wealth is simply not working. Also, compared to currently living steeds, which consume about 37 DoWs per day, it shows the huge difference between a constant and on-use consumption.
1205 of about 2500 characters in the game are working right now, which results in 1205 DoWs produced every day. Many of these are sleepers, but I suspect, if it becomes necessary, the number of characters working could increase quickly. It’s also not taking into account that skills affect productivity, which is controlled by players, so it could give even +40% productivity if needed.
The worst thing for the game (even though profitable for each town individually) are the sleepers who never speak, never eat anything than cheapest food and never consume anything else, but keep producing goods. In short, it’s almost impossible to balance the economy without doing something with characters like that.
We have the problem
I hope these statistics are enough to prove that we have a problem of overproduction. 1205 DoWs are produced and 619 DoWs are consumed, which results in about 586 DoWs of overproduction every day, which may either be used for permanent structures (but it’s less and less important when so much is already built) or stored in form of resources.
Why there will be no easy solution
Ok, but let’s assume we found a way for characters to be able to consume much more without breaking the game balance. For example, something that makes an average person consume in total two times more than he/she produces, which is 2410 DoWs of consumption for 1205 DoWs of production. It means the global amount of stored resources decreases every day by at least 1205 DoWs (or even a bit more, considering some production is always spent on permanent structures/RP items/decorations). Over one thousand DoWs decrease is much, but not if it’s compared to the global amount of already stockpiled resources.
What is the global state of stockpiles? Let’s see the list of resources in largest quantity globally (in terms of DoWs, which equals to the cost of production by an average worker using the most effective method):
DoWs raw 128535.6590 iron 107064.5231 wood 80744.5640 salt 70572.2667 propane 65198.9500 gold 45137.2125 water 44517.2900 rubber 42415.3140 steel
That’s huge. And even though no single resource type became dominant in terms of hoarding, all the resources combined can be added up to about 3 000 000 (three million) DoWs of hoarded resources*, which usually lie in stockpiles of wealthy towns and are ready to be used in case a new mean of consumption is introduced.
Comparing it with our newly introduced 1205 DoWs of daily decrease, it means we’d need 2490 days to eat it up. And it’s all in a very optimistic situation that we are able to create a new mean of active consumption, something that hardly happened in Cantr history.
Another thing is that tying the consumption to the number of characters makes the process slower in case the population gets smaller. The same hoarded piles meant much less in terms of wealth per character, but this value has increased gradually with the population’s decline.
* 3000000 is ignoring the value of unprocessed animal raws and honey (as the DoW value of already existing stocks has increased drastically after changing the way of production)
The problems and observations
So even if increasing consumption doesn’t solve all the Cantr’s problems, it’s a thing in which we need to succeed. But to achieve that, there are numerous problems to even come closer to the correct solution:
It’s very hard to introduce new ways to spend wealth without affecting production
Currently I see three main incentives for continuous spending of the resources:
- to further increase production (fuel for drills and harvesters)
- to get advantage in combat (healing food, in the past also energy food)
- to show off – without any profit given by game mechanics, affects role-playing (fireworks)
There are also others, represented e.g. by using fueled vehicles or steeds for travel, but in my opinion they are minor compared to these three. For the first one, it’s not really increasing consumption, because if you spend 1 DoW of fuel to produce 5 DoWs of coal more, then it means in net gain of +4 DoWs. Of course, it’s ignoring the fact that character probably needs to trade/transport this fuel (which is good in terms of interactions), but in the long term it leads to further overabundance of everything. The second was traditionally vetoed in RD, even though I think it may be a good direction, especially if it’s something that you need spend continuously to be prepared for a fight, not only when the combat has already started. Imagine requiring to eat more valuable food to be better prepared for a fight.
Piles created by previous generations
For most of the towns the main way of getting rich was to get resources produced by the townsmen, which were usually producing more than they were consuming (for the common good). It’s not that bad if these were active characters, because they might sometimes need some of these goods to get better clothes or build a vehicle.
But probably every city in the game had/has a group of voiceless golems, which never said or wanted anything, but cease their sleep only to join another project set up by somebody else. It’s also often the case that a lonely but wealthy traveller dies and the town takes over their belongings. The more extreme situation happens when the last citizen of the neighbouring town dies and then all the stockpiles (including goods produced by their golems and confiscated from their dead travellers) are put into one huge stockpile. It’s almost impossible to create a system of consumption that tackles these stockpiles but doesn’t touch small/young towns which didn’t yet benefit from any of these.
I find it impossible to start the work on means of consumption without reducing these huge piles
I own the largest pile in the game and I still think it needs to happen, even though it will mean adjusting the life goals (or death) of some of my characters.
People already leaving the game because of boredom
Exit survey results for the last 180 days:
5 I don’t have enough time for my characters
9 The situation in real-life has changed, I can’t spend time for the game
5 I’ve lost interest for various reasons
Three of six custom answers have directly specified “boredom” and one mentioned that ‘Cantr has lost its magic’
State of the game is the result of actions of all players, whether they are active in the community or not
After the survey about universal taint was published, in which majority (however slight) has supported the idea of universal rot, I’ve heard some voices that lower the importance of the survey, specifically the votes which were supportive to the idea. One of the accusations was that these people who were voting “yes” are new players or don’t care about the game.
There are two problems with that reasoning. The first one: the results are anonymous, so it’s impossible to tell how they voted, but I doubt it would radically deviate from the average. The second: there are not enough new players to significantly affect the survey results. Out of 222 votes, only about 20 were submitted by the people who played for less than a real year. And this observation leads to another problem.
It’s very hard to attract new players…
It’s hard to say definite statements, but one of the important things discouraging new players is for sure the material state of the game. Towns, where the new people land, often already have everything, but usually they see they have to work a lot to get anything from it. Or other, a less common situation I’ve seen, is when they just get everything they want after a few days (as a gift from the uncle townsleader) and then they stop playing, because all their material goals are fulfilled and they didn’t have enough time to become immersed and learn about other types of goals. This point is based, though, on many ‘ifs’ and assumptions, so it’s not a hard opinion.
…especially when old players don’t help
At least a few times I’ve noticed the attitude like: “Do something that will help attracting new players, but don’t touch my pile of potatoes”. It’s not common, though. The most common attitude I observe among old players (which are almost 100% of the playerbase) is apathy and lack of motivation to engage the newspawns.
So why I decided so support the idea?
So, as I’ve said, I’ve noticed that even a big increase in consumption will require many RL years to eat up excessive piles, which would make all the efforts futile. Considering the slow but steady decrease of the playerbase there will be just a few players to see the results. Introducing some way of decreasing the hoarded wealth must be a function of amount of wealth, not the function of the number of active characters. Even a negligible 0.1% of universal taint would mean 1/1000 of existing 3000000 of DoWs, so a disappearance of 3000 DoWs every day. Please compare it to about 619 DoWs got from all existing ways of consumption we currently have in the game. With the decrease of the global storages this amount would decrease as well, reaching some reasonable level, where the newly created ways of consumption can become balanced.
What was changed in the idea to make is as good as possible
I’ve engaged into the discussion when it was close to the end. The main idea about taint was to get both short- and long-term effect. As a result, the plan was to target huge piles with a significant multiplier, which would make the biggest piles lose half of its weight in a few Cantr years. I’ve strongly opposed that, because that won’t work anyway. It’s pretty easy in terms of game capabilities, but annoying in terms of clicking, to split one big pile into 20 smaller ones. The only piles that would be affected are the ones in the abandoned towns, which are pretty uncommon. Usually such piles are quickly transported to the neighbouring towns. In my opinion, RD should always think only about long term, to make the solutions that can potentially operate forever. The problems with reforming combat show how hard it is to perform any changes in already existing system.
My suggestion was to flatten this effect drastically, so very big piles are not hit more than twice of very small ones. In the process of discussion we invented a pretty simple formula that makes the processing by the server relatively fast and easy (but it may still take a few minutes, especially for storages).
My other important opinion was to avoid any risk of giving a chance to prevent taint completely by having a one-time spending (no matter how big), like building a special expensive container. But my input wasn’t that important, as everyone engaged was already aware of that risk. Just for the record, in the past it was possible to build saltwater purifiers on docked ships, so they produced free water, then use this water to grow herbs without anybody’s intervention and then automatically produce honey. People (including me 😉 ) were collecting abandoned ships to produce large amounts of free water and then free honey. It was guaranteed to be beneficial in the long term. That said, the only way to avoid taint of a specific resource should be spending another resource or work (but that would have the same disadvantages as the repair system has).
With some of my input, we were able to agree upon a solution that is a pretty good compromise, in my opinion. There’s hope that having resources not lasting forever will shift people’s perception of society’s wealth from “how much is stockpiled” to “how much a community can produce”. It’s hard to make hard opinions about that, though.
I’m aware there are risks regarding the idea, as it’d be the most disruptive implementation of all time (or at least since introducing tool repairs) and I’m open for any other proposals and possibilities. I hope I’ve managed to explain the problems it tries to solve and why I see no better alternatives. For example, I’m not touching the main counter-arguments like discouraging people from taking any action or travelling with continuously decreasing stockpiles. These are the ones I’ve raised when I was advocating against this idea, but they belong to the other area of discussion and it’s very hard to foresee such impact, as it’s based mostly on players’ beliefs and not hard data. I would really like to read a constructive counter-proposal to solve the problems we have, that doesn’t bear the negative consequences of this idea. If there are some, I’d like to support and take part in designing them.
The whole idea is obviously not a new thing. I’ve written a bit about my idea for decay a few years ago for Exeris – https://tree.taiga.io/project/greekpl-exeris/wiki/destruction-and-decay (a society simulator I’m slowly developing in my free time). Briefly speaking, regarding resource taint, I wanted to have universal taint only for foods. The other resources would be consumed by item/machine repairs, a thing that doesn’t exist in Cantr.
Introducing universal taint won’t help, though, if it won’t be followed by implementation of new interesting mechanics that will allow people to actively consume the raws before they disappear. I hope that this discussion is a step on the path to make simulational aspect of Cantr interesting again.