Echoes of Earth update: Unit Maintenance

A small update for Echoes of Earth was released last week. In this post I am going to go over what was changed, why it was changed and what it means for the future development of Echoes of Earth and Spirit of the Age.

What was changed?

The unit maintenance calculation was completed redone. Instead of using the existing unit maintenance system I re-wrote the system from scratch. You’ll no longer be able to see your unit maintenance in the top bar UI but instead will get a message each turn telling you how much it cost.

In addition some early game units had their maintenance costs reduced. Workers, Explorers and Marines now all have no maintenance cost.

Why were these changes made?

For a long time I have been aware of a bug that caused unit maintenance costs to be higher than intended. This bug was caused by a flaw in the unit maintenance code that I could not directly change. If I wanted to keep the mechanic of having units cost a fixed amount of Energy I needed to make this change.

More generally I wanted to move away from having such a punishing Energy economy. If a player finds themselves with net negative Energy generation and an empty stockpile it is often game over. The shortage penalties will make it to hard to climb out of the hole they are in.  Players may realize the choices they made 10, 20 or 50 turns ago that led them to this point but there is nothing they can do to course correct now.

This kind of design creates a dynamic where players who know what they are doing won’t make this mistake while players with less foresight will only realize their error after sinking dozens more turns into an already lost game.

Echoes of Earth tries to provide players some escape valves with Technician Specialists and Foreign Trade Routes, but while these Energy sources can be accessed quickly, they don’t provide as decisive of a shift in income as Civilization 4’s Science to Gold slider.

If a strategy game is going to ask a player to manage an every growing maintenance need or face significant penalties, it needs to provide them the tools to avoid a death spiral should they run out.

What is in the future for Echoes of Earth?

This update does not mark a return to active development on Echoes of Earth. Spirit of the Age remains my main focus. I committed to this change because it seemed to have a good player-value to development-effort ratio. It does mean that Spirit of the Age will be delayed, but only by a few weeks.

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