Preview of Javelin’s 1.7 districts

 

Javelin 1.7 is getting very close to launching! I’ll talk for a while here about the city-building mini game, which has been almost completely rewritten in favor of what is (internally) a deck-building mini game.  Some of the locations you can build will be familiar to returning players (for example: you can build minor versions of the Summoning Circle in your own towns) but most of them are completely new, including several types of guilds and less standard projects like building Sewers and Highways! There are around 30 district projects coming out with Javelin 1.7 and dozens more already planned for further releases! Several buildings can also be upgraded one or more times to make themselves even more useful during the game – and some other labors are not buildings at all but events you can choose to activate at the right moment, like producing a Settler to establish a whole new city somewhere else in the wilderness!

So how does this new design work? Basically, all functions that were performed inside a Town now have been delegated to external buildings: the Inn will let you heal your troops; Transport Hubs allow you to buy and rent vehicles (from a lowly stable to high-flying vessels); Dwellings allow you either permanently recruit creatures or hire mercenaries into your army and Shops and Academies let you craft items and train your units. Most of the buildings coming out with 1.7 fall under these categories in one form or another, while other non-standard projects are planned for future releases – however, many of the initial set found on this release have their own twists as well, which you can learn by playing!

I mentioned a “deck building” city management game but what does that even mean? First the basics: your town has a certain population, which you control by playing the game (but usually reaches 20 at the end of the first game year). The higher the population, the more labor it produces per day. Each project has a certain labor cost, ranging from 5 for building a simple Inn to 20 for the largest projects – and, as said before, many of the locations can be upgraded too, meaning they can be built first at low cost but further enhanced later on!

The difference between the innovative system in Javelin and those of classic games like Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic (or even Warcraft/Starcraft) is that you can’t choose any project at any point in time – rather, you are given a handful of choices (more, as your city grows in size) and you can unlock city traits by working on special projects. Each city trait added opens up more new projects and in the future will affect your city in several other ways as well, including random events and establishing forms of government in each city. The result of this system, true to Javelin’s roots in roguelkes, is that you can’t have a strategy defined from the get-go but, just like in real life, “have to deal with the cards you’re given” – making the game more dynamic and increasing its replayability.

Unlike in those games mentioned above, you cannot read a guide (or create one in your head) and know, even before you start, what path you’re going to take. You may want to have a certain type of building available for use but depending on how the cards are dealt, it may be impossible at first – or even possible, but hard to achieve. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own playing style and plans – but you’ll need to develop the strategy skills to react not only to the possibility your main plan won’t work or, even if it will, it won’t be the best choice every game – you can still go for it but the new system rewards you for exploring new possibilities, rather than sticking to what you know every single game.

As mentioned above, each city has traits that allows them to build a certain range of structures and projects in general. These are the ones coming out with Javelin 1.7:

  • Criminal: your city has been overtaken by corruption and violence – so much that assassins felt comfortable enough to establish their own guild here! Dark? Yes – but there’s a lot of profit to be gained in a place without rules, if you can compromise. Future plans for this district type include black markets and sacrificial shrines.
  • Cultural: the district has become a bastion of the arts – mundane and arcane alike! Several mage guilds can be found in its neighborhoods. In the future, several types of novelty shops will be added, theaters, bard guilds selling magical instruments, etc.
  • Ecological: while most urban centers grow to overtake the nature around them, some communities find harmony with their environments. Rangers, druids and barbarians tend to prefer such places to settle in and can make for very powerful villages right from the start, while other district types generally have to grow in size before power.
  • Expansive: such cities are never satisfied with themselves – they want to build bridges between different nations, explore the four corners of the world and spread to encompass a larger territory.
  • Military: focused on sheet might, this is the type of district that will drawn mercenary guilds, martial arts training halls and the like. In the future it will allow for the building of barracks, fortifications, watch towers, etc.
  • Productive: focused on economical gain and sheer throughput, these district are willing to squeeze the environment around them for every bit of possible gain. In the future, these will feature marketplaces, farms, fisheries and all sorts of honest labor a working man can sink his teeth into! Right now it allows for building magic shops, mining and foresting operations.
  • Religious: just as with magic, the worshiping of several Gods has always been a staple of fantasy settings. Build shrines to gain the favor of the deities themselves, train clerics and paladins or hire them when you need some healing power for your armies!

As you can imagine, some trait combinations work very well together but that doesn’t mean you can’t try out your own combinations too and make them work! A Criminal and Religious district may sound bizarre at first – but only until you consider thieves and thugs have their own sinister gods to pray to…

Hopefully, this entire district system has a lot to add to the game in terms of emergent gameplay. Instead of static towns, districts are now living and breathing, changing as the game goes on. If you don’t want to handle your city management yourself and focus on adventuring instead, automatic Governors will be handling all of the work for you – not only for your own but enemy cities as well. Now, when your city is attacked, the invaders may choose to destroy specific buildings of yours (maybe that one guild you’ve spent months upgrading?) and force you to adapt to the new scenario.  Likewise, you may find out, well into the game, that a distant city-nation is building a road towards your territory – how will this change your short, mid and long term plans? When you reach an enemy city, will you be satisfied to use the buildings it has produced for your own gain or will you attempt to conquer it for your own?

Each district now also secures a certain region of the world map around a town, giving you more freedom to explore the dangerous game world. Your hometown was already your base of operations since Javelin 1.0 but now it is also your harbor, your headquarters and your own to control and watch grow into a bustling capital! Much more than a place to rest, it is a whole new extra layer of gameplay, adding even more strategy and options to your game!

Even though the work on the new district is almost done, a lot of content is already planned for future releases. However, such a big change in the game also needs a lot of testing and feedback – I believe its design is solid – but is it actually fun to play with? What parts of it work and which ones do not? I hope to start putting everything to test soon with the first 1.7 release candidate build. If you’re interested in helping to try all of this out, make sure you’re following this blog (by hitting the Follow button or via RSS), subscribe to Javelin’s subreddit or send me a hello at javelinrl@gmail.com and I’ll let you know when it’s ready for testing!

One thing that has been difficult but manageable during development of the first batch of district rules – but is going to become harder as it goes on – is finding decent art assets for use in the game. If you’re an artist, take a look at some of the future district ideas and feel free to send in your own art assets if any of those catches your eye! I’ll also update the guidelines for artists in the wiki before the final Javelin 1.7 release, with a list of specific locations that need art assets before they can be included in the game. Any contribution are welcome!

The city management redesign is a big part of Javelin 1.7 but not all there is to it! Here’s a few things that are already in the latest development branch as well:

  • Mouse support!
  • 4 mini-games: Arena, Battlefield, Dungeon Rush and Ziggurat!
  • Natural resources
  • Infiltrate hostile locations
  • World map fog-of-war
  • Multi-threaded world generation
  • More responsive user-interface during battles
  • 15 new upgrades/spells/skills

What’s still to go for 1.7 yet: more UI and AI improvements, a new unique location (the Deep Dungeon) and our first martial discipline! Along with your usual bugfixes and minor features here and there 🙂 Just a little further now before the testing can begin!

Preview of Javelin’s 1.7 districts