First Off, What's Gone If You Played Older Versions
Feel free to skip this section if you weren't already familiar with older versions of the game; it's only relevant if you're trying to reconcile the older model with the new.
All of the 7 basic buildings (6 for the professions, and then what was the "residential and storage tower") are no longer built in the settlement. Instead, there are now 7 profession buildings (including the new "adventurer barracks") that you build directly on the world map like wind shelters or buoys. The residential and storage tower is no more.
Additionally, NPCs are no longer involved in any way with the use of guardian power scrolls, which previously was their sole function. They have a new function now: dispatch missions. That means that the 51 guardian powers that were previously for "continent wide buffs" are now all removed from the game -- they were hugely unpopular, and the new procedural spells that are also part of the latest versions of the game fills that gap a lot better anyhow.
The "personality structures" are still in the game and are still built the same way, but they are now called "bonus structures." More on that below. And with the rest of the guardian powers, NPCs aren't involved with them but you instead just use them directly yourself. No material costs, and professions don't matter. Professions and NPC types are still in the game, but are once again related to dispatch missions rather than guardian powers.
In short, NPCs previously equaled access to guardian powers; but now NPCs equal access to dispatch missions, and the remaining guardian powers are the province of your direct character alone.
Secondly: This Is So Optional
We think that citybuilding is really fun, and it's something that has been part of the design goals for the game (indeed, it was only cut during late beta, right before 1.0, because our model at the time wasn't working). That said, we understand that you might not agree -- and despite the examples of classic games like Actraiser, you might just want a sidescrolling adventure game.
If that's the case, no problem! There's a Citybuilding Difficulty Level that you can set to Village, which pretty much alleviates the need to pay attention to any of this except for your wind shelter network (which has always been a core part of the game). If you play on the Village difficulty level, you can still take advantage of some of the extras, like bonus structures and so forth, but there's no pressure involved.
On the other hand, if you're ultra-hardcore into this sort of thing, way more than average, there are five difficulty levels going all the way up to Empire, which really tests your ability to efficiently manage a pool of NPCs and to run a successful campaign of dispatch missions against the overlord before sending your lone hero in to finish the job.
As with the Combat and Platforming difficulties, the idea is to let you tailor the experience to your own preferences. The Citybuilding difficulty dropdown has all the details about specifically what changes with each of the 5 difficulty levels.
Starting Simple: Bonus Structures
There are over 30 different bonus structures that you can build in the background of your settlement. As you explore around the world, you'll find secret missions that sometimes reward you with a given bonus structure. A watchtower, for instance, or a capitol building, or various other things. A number of these get unlocked via unlockables as you get further into the game, such as the difficult-to-acquire Castles and Floating Citadels.
The purpose of these structures is simple: they give various continent-wide bonuses. It says on each structure what they will do. One might give all your allies a bonus in health or attack (helpful for battlefield missions or rescue missions or summoned monsters). One might give you a bonus in white light elemental attacks. And so forth.
Hence the term bonus structures. These also serve to beautify your settlement's background a bit, making it visually look more built-up. Note that you can only build one of each bonus structure per settlement.
And that's literally it for these kinds of structures, but they're one of only two kinds of structures now.
The Importance Of Wind Shelters And Buoys
The wind is one of the most hostile forces working against you in the game. Hence part of the meaning behind the name of the game: "A Valley Without Wind" would be a pretty happy and safe place to be. Too bad that's not where you and your settlement are.
The wind howls around the periphery of your settlement at the start of each new continent. You can go out into the windy parts of the map, but your health will drain down to 1 the longer you stay in a windstorm-afflicted area. The wind won't outright kill a glyphbearer (aka main character), but it will push you right to the brink of death until even the weakest monster might tip you over the edge.
The wind serves three other nefarious purposes, too:
1. It prevents you from getting into seafaring ships at any ports that are in a windstorm. You can get out of a ship at any port, but you may then find yourself marooned -- use the Warp To Settlement button on the world map if you're stranded on an island on a new continent, for instance.
2. The wind also prevents you from building structures on the world map, and it prevents world map missions from being able to spawn where the wind is. In other words, the wind is a very sharply defined boundary to your civilization.
3. The wind stirs up ocean areas into being turbulent water -- into which your canoe cannot travel. This can create literal barriers to travel, so that you can't reach an overlord's keep or a lieutenant's outpost even if you are otherwise ready to tackle them.
For these reasons, pushing back the wind is a good priority to keep in mind as you're expanding your civilization. The primary way that you do this is by building wind shelters on land, and building buoys on the ocean tiles. These two types of world map structure form your "wind shelter network" and are the key to expanding your civilization -- as well as your opportunities for exploration and conquest,
How To Get Wind Shelters, Buoys, And Any Other World Map Building
To build any structure, you need the Guardian Power Scroll by the same name. As you explore around the world, you'll come across secret missions that will sometimes have these as a reward. If you're low on such scrolls, don't pass these missions up!
Alternatively, if you're not getting lucky and finding these sorts of secret missions, you can visit the Opal Guardian Store in your settlement and cash in some of your consciousness shards for the scrolls. Consciousness shards are collected via exploration, killing monsters, and incinerating old spellgems that you no longer need using the settlement's incinerator.
That's basically it:
1. All buildings are constructed via guardian powers.
2. All guardian powers can be found via completing secret missions, but you have to get lucky to find the ones you specifically want.
3. If "the random number generator hates you," you can always purchase the key buildings from the Opal Guardian in the settlement using consciousness shards.
And ergo, by extension the following tips:
1. If you see a guardian power as a secret mission reward that gives you a building, that's a high-value reward and you should carefully consider whether you want to pass it up when you see it.
2. As you collect consciousness shards through normal exploration and incineration activities, it can be tempting to then spend those on enchants and so forth at the store. But be careful with that! Always keep a shard reserve if you think you might need to buy some buildings to further your citybuilding goals.
How To Build Your Wind Shelter Network (Wind Shelters And Buoys)
A wind shelter can only be built on a land tile that is either in a windstorm or directly adjacent to a windstorm. If you build it outside the windstorm, the wind will actively expand onto that tile to try to thwart you.
To build a wind shelter, first you need the guardian power scroll, as described above. Then walk to the tile on the world map where you wish to place the wind shelter, and click the Guardian Powers button at the bottom of your screen.
When you then use the Place Wind Shelter Mission button, a mission will be spawned and you'll have to complete that mission (which involves dodging past a bunch of monsters through a raging windstorm to reach the incomplete shelter at the end). When the mission is complete, your wind shelter will spring up and you'll have a lot more land that is happily wind-free.
However, wind shelters won't project very far out into the water -- only one tile from the coast. To get further out into the water, you need to take your canoe (simply by walking into the non-turbulent waters) into a non-turbulent square of water and put down a buoy.
Placing a buoy will immediately make all of the adjacent water tiles non-turbulent. So to get across a channel of water, you'll need to plan a path of buoys rather carefully to make do with as few buoys as you can get away with. On some continents you won't even need any buoys at all, if there's nothing important on any islands you can't get to. It will really just vary from continent to continent.
Once you've made a path of buoys across a water channel, you can resume building wind shelters as part of your network on the other side.
Getting More NPCs
Let's take a break from talking about the world map for a minute. Traversing the world map and getting past the wind and the turbulent water is important, but all that involves is you and your own guardian powers. What about those NPCs in your settlement?
To start off with, each settlement contains three NPCs each with a random profession and temperament and mood. More on those things later. However, three is a very small number -- if you intend to send NPCs out on dispatch missions, which is vital even at the default citybuilding difficulty, you're going to need more than three NPCs to do so.
There are two ways to get more NPCs in your settlement:
1. Rescue them via special missions that you can find in large buildings and in caverns. Don't bother looking in tiny little huts and houses for these sorts of buildings -- go for the large pyramids, the big military-industrial complexes, the multi-floor apartment buildings, etc. Or just go for the caves. If you complete a rescue mission, then you'll have a new NPC that will show up at your settlement.
2. As you explore throughout the world, you'll naturally be pilfering through a lot of "stash rooms." These can appear in buildings of any shape or size, and of course are important for crafting ingredients and various other goodies that you Really Want To Have. But one of the rarer things that you can find in any stash room is a Glyph Retirement Scroll. These can only be used in a settlement, but when you do so your current character will "retire" and take up a new profession in the settlement. Meanwhile, you get to choose a new character for yourself.
Side Note: Glyph Transplant Scrolls can be found a lot more commonly and allow you to switch between your character and any of the NPCs in any settlement. However, this doesn't add to your total pool of NPCs, it just changes who your active character is at the time. Which is very useful in and of itself, but mainly for when you are adventuring, not building up your city.
How To Use Your NPCs (Dispatch Missions)
So you have some NPCs -- what to do with them? Well, send them out on Dispatch Missions, of course! Normally you're all on your own carrying the load of the whole civilization as you face the evils of the world and try to set things to rights.
Asking the NPCs to pitch in a little bit is only fair... even if there is a pretty good chance of their death. After all, there's a pretty good chance of your own character's death, too (to put it mildly).
To send NPCs on a dispatch mission, it's really very straightforward. Go to the big green jade guardian stone floating in your settlement, and talk to it. It offers you a selection of missions that are available, and notes both their difficulty and their danger level. It also shows you what profession gets a particular skill bonus at this type of mission.
At the moment, you can mainly use your NPCs for two things: attacking the enemy, or capturing arcane crafting ingredients that you're having trouble finding on your own expeditions. Attacking the enemy consists of either attacking the ice pirate patrols that appear starting on continent 2 (to destroy them) or of attacking the overlord to knock him down a level (thus making it more feasible that you can go in on foot and finish the job).
Now, depending on the difficulty and danger levels of the mission in question, each of your NPCs is going to have a different chance of success and chance of survival if you were to send them on a given mission.
1. Their chance of success depends entirely on their skill at their profession (plus how compatible their profession is with the dispatch mission in question).
2. Their chance of survival depends entirely on their current mood.
More on both skill and mood below. But basically, at any time you can click a dispatch mission and see the success and survival chance of each of your NPCs. This is helpful for long-term planning, because you can then focus on improving the skill and/or mood of the NPC that has the best chance of completing the dispatch that interests you.
And as an added note: any NPC that has a lower than 20 percent chance of survival won't even agree to attempt a mission, regardless of their chance of success. Mood matters!
Building Farms To Combat Hunger
The single factor that will affect the mood of your non-robotic NPCs the most is being hungry. Fortunately, it's a conceptually straightforward thing to take care of: build a covered farm on the world map to support 6 more NPCs. Or better, if you build the farm on a compatible terrain type, get enough food to support 8 NPCs.
There isn't any other complexity to the farms: they don't fallow, you don't have to periodically maintain them or any of that sort of un-fun stuff. As long as you have enough farms to support your population, everything is happy. If you don't have enough farms to support your population, then people get hungry, which lowers their mood quite a bit depending on just how hungry they are. That's it!
Building Professional Structures To Improve Profession Skill
When you first encounter a new NPC, they have a profession skill usually ranging between 1 and 20 or so. This is directly inverse to how happy/sad they are, which affects their overall mood. Either way, these are very low profession skills, and are not going to give you much success at any missions.
The best way to quickly improve the skill of all NPCs that share a profession is to construct the last type of buildings on the world map: the 7 kinds of profession buildings, each corresponding to one of the 7 professions that NPCs can have.
The first such building generally gives a whopping 100 skill points -- or 150 if you build it on a compatible type of terrain. The second gives half that amount, and the third gives half of that, and so forth.
One key point: the order of construction doesn't matter. So if you build your first lumbermancy focal station outside of a forest and thus only get 100 skill points for your lumbermancers, you haven't lost anything permanent. If your second focal station goes up in a forest, you'll get a total of 200 skill points for your lumbermancers (150 for the "second" focal station, and 50 for the "first" one). If you then build a third focal station, also in a forest, you'd be up to 250 skill points for lumbermancers (150 for the "second" one still, now 75 for the "third" one, and down to 25 for that first one). So all that makes things easier on you.
Once again, the higher an NPC's profession skill is, the better their chance of success when going on missions. The nice thing about profession buildings is that they are global to all NPCs of a profession, rather than being specific to one NPC -- so if a given NPC dies, you haven't lost anything when it comes to that profession in general.
Profession Books To Further Improve Profession Skill
The downside of profession buildings, obviously, is that they give diminishing returns. So past a certain point, it simply isn't cost-effective to try and drive up your NPC's skills via buildings. That's where book-learning comes in!
Profession Books come in 7 flavors, once again corresponding to each of the profession types, and are another of the goodies that you can find in stashes through your normal free-roaming exploration of the world around you. Or if you're just not finding what you need via exploration, you can buy these at the store in the settlement, too.
Each profession book can be given as a gift to only a single NPC, and will raise their profession skill by a flat 50 points. You can give as many books as you want to a specific NPC without any diminishing returns, but there are two main factors that argue against doing this indiscriminately:
1. If that NPC should perish while on a dispatch mission, there goes the investment of all your books.
2. If that NPC is substantially more skilled than others in profession, that will negatively impact their mood on their return from each dispatch mission; they'll complain that others aren't pulling their own weight in their profession. This is why the average skill is shown in the stats before you embark on missions; if their personal skill is too high, they'll be griping on their return!
Skill, as previously mentioned, directly correlates to the chance of success on missions. As skill gets closer to the difficulty of a mission, there is literally an exponential increase in in the chance of success until it hits the maximum possible chance for that mission type (for instance 95% for capture-the-ingredient missions, or as low as 75% for attack-the-overlord missions).
Oh -- to gift a profession book to an NPC, simply go into your planning menu, open your list of NPCs, click on the NPC in question to see their details, and there's a "Give Gift To This Character" button.
The other kind of gift that you can give to NPCs are Mood Gifts that improve a characters' mood by 100. These kinds of gifts also are found via exploring stash rooms out in the world, just like the profession books are.
Or, once again, if you're just not finding what you need via exploration, you can buy these at the store in the settlement. There's a lot competing for your consciousness shards!
Give a mood gift to an NPC just like you would a profession book, and that NPC gets happier, calmer, or whatever -- their mood improves, and thus their chances of survival on missions goes up.
About NPC Temperaments
Each NPC has a specific temperament -- grumpy, overly optimistic, etc. Depending on their temperament, their starting mood will be better or worse. Depending on what citybuilding difficulty level you select, NPCs that you find will have easier or more difficult temperaments to deal with.
About Time Period Bonuses For NPCs
Depending on the time period that your NPC is from, they will have one of the following built-in bonuses:
- Medieval characters get a 10% bonus to chance of survival on Attack dispatch missions. (Lots of armor, plus being used to having big unpleasant things around, having survived in their harsh time period.)
- Time of Magic characters get a 10% bonus to chance of success on Attack dispatch missions. (High magic means they have the heavy spells that can destroy important defenses easily.)
- Bronze Age characters get a 10% bonus to chance of survival on Capture Arcane Ingredient dispatch missions. (Fast in, fast out.)
- Pre-Industrial characters get 25% bonus mood from Mood Gifts (this is the most cushy and refined period, after all, and they like luxuries).
- Industrial Revolution characters get a 10% bonus to chance of success on Capture Arcane Ingredient dispatch missions. (Ties into the scouting nature of the character.)
- Contemporary characters get 25% bonus skill from Profession Books (this ties into the information-age ideals of eduction and learning).
- Ice Age characters get 10% bonus skill from profession buildings (Ice Age characters are comfortable with large structures.)
- Time After People characters don't consume food (robots don't eat).
- Wild Garden Age characters are only 80% as affected in their mood by mission results (Draconites tend to be more interested in immediate concerns than past issues.)
When you send an NPC on a dispatch mission, the results of that mission immediately pop up -- no waiting. There are two separate chances: the chance of success/failure, and the chance of survival/death. The former is solely related to profession skill, while the latter is solely related to mood.
It's possible, therefore, to win a dispatch but die. Or fail but live, and so on. Presuming that your NPC dies, that's just the end of that NPC.
If they live, on the other hand, there are consequences to their mood. They don't get any more or less skilled, but their mood will either go up or down depending on the circumstances of the mission. The major situations are as follows:
1. If the NPC is lower-skilled than the average for his/her profession in the settlement, but succeeds anyhow, then that NPC's mood will go up. Yay underdogs, and all that. All the other mood consequences are negative, however.
2. In the most common case, their mood just goes down a moderate amount -- this is if their skill is about on par with the other NPCs in their profession in their settlement, and their number of dispatch missions is about on par or lower than other NPCs in their settlement in general.
3. If their skill is substantially higher than the average of the NPCs in the settlement that share their profession, then the returning NPC's mood will go down even further due to the fact that they feel like the others aren't taking their profession seriously enough.
4. If their number of successful dispatch missions is substantially higher than the average of the other NPCs in the settlement (regardless of profession), then the returning NPC's mood will go down even further due to the fact that they feel like the other NPCs aren't chipping in enough with the dangerous work of dispatch missions.
The above provides a full picture of the citybuilding elements as of version 1.2 of the game. Balancing out the moods and skill levels of your NPCs is the main challenge of the dispatch mission system, and assuming that your citybuilding difficulty level is set high enough, you'll need to run some successful dispatch missions against the overlord in order for your own character to stand a chance when facing the overlord in person.
In future versions of the game you'll be building graveyards to honor the dead, as well as having new opportunities for different kinds of dispatch missions, as well as whatever we and the playerbase think up that fits with the new system and adds to the fun.
As it stands, you now get a much more personal relationship with NPCs (for however long they survive), and NPCs are a lot more unique as individuals compared to past versions of the game. Additionally, you really make a much more visible mark on the continent as you bring civilization to the hostile wilds.
And lastly, the new system really ties in well with the adventuring components of the game at every level: your free-exploration of stashes and secret missions yields rewards that help your citybuilding efforts; and your citybuilding efforts can help with both your crafting work (finding rare ingredients) as well as directly with your most important task -- taking down the overlord.
This level of integration is something that was sorely lacking from the citybuilding model that we used during the alpha and beta of the game, and ultimately why that system was scrapped prior to 1.0. The old system was also a lot more complex to use. As long as this explanation of the new system is, it's the sort of system that you can largely just intuitively figure out as you play and explore and find new items (each with helpful tooltips). You had to go out of your way to learn about the old system.
Despite all that, the old system was a lot of fun for a lot of players, and there was a definite sense of disappointment when we had to cut it -- both for us and for players, honestly. Citybuilding was always something I considered central to the idea behind this game, and I'm really happy to see it return in such a fun and integrated form. We look forward to doing more with it in 1.3 and beyond!