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Author Topic: Underworld: $hadow Economics - a squad-based gangster simulation  (Read 6710 times)

wolf.b

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Underworld: $hadow Economics - a squad-based gangster simulation
« on: September 08, 2019, 01:10:03 pm »

Hi folks! My gamedev partner and I have been discussing + laying the groundwork for almost a year now on a game called Cartel, we've recently begun development and we're aiming to have regular releases hopefully along the lines of once a month. Whilst the scope of the game is fairly large, we do aim to keep the feature growth limited in each release as we work on laying the foundations of the game, which will be released for PC, Linux and Mac.

In Cartel you begin as a lowly gang in NYC (currently), where you buy and sell drugs with varying markets in different areas, much like the classic Drug Wars. You must economically and violently take on other gangs to corner your markets, make alliances and partnerships, organize mule-trains and smurf drops, stay ahead of the police and FBI or even try to infiltrate them. You'll also need to set up stash-houses, money laundering businesses and even setup more illicit money sources from human trafficking and prostitution through to gun running and arms deals.

At the moment it's designed as turn-based but we do want to change that to a more realistic design soon, once we've laid out the game's basics. Anyway DF was a really great inspiration for us and I thought I'd mention what we're up to, hopefully with plenty of screenshots to follow in the near future.

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« Last Edit: October 08, 2019, 05:18:30 am by wolf.b »
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2019, 08:21:24 am »

Okay so groundwork was laid on development last week and we got back into game development gear. I've prepped design for the first two versions and I'm breaking ground on v0.00.03's version today. Again we hope to release one version every month or so.

So I'm noticing in design how Cartel feels more like a large urban gang-style game and less of a mafia style scenario (think 'The Wire' vs 'The Sopranos'). Which isn't bad but I do want to make that style of theme/gameplay viable as well. I've been thinking about why it is that way all day and I came to the conclusion that the mafia was actually a fairly small group of gangsters that simply had the power to make big waves a) as middle-men for the drug scene and b) by focusing their business on other ventures. Hopefully as we dig into setting up fronts and illicit businesses that style of gameplay becomes more viable. Selling as middle-men to other gangs will also definitely become possible as well later on.

Right now Cartel works on a turn-based system where you choose the actions for the day and react as required before jumping to the next day. However this will not be the final iteration. I do intend for action to flow with a consistent timer ie. 1 minute = 1 hour or some such. However for the sake of simplicity at this early stage I feel turn based with help us stabilize gameplay first. But we do have concrete ideas on how to implement a more real-time style of gameplay and it will dramatically change how people play I think.

At the moment Cartel centres around drugs being the main source of income and something the whole gang revolves around, especially early game. That's not always going to be the case. I want to give people all sorts of ways to play even early game, from burglary crews and robberies to heists and much much more.

For the short-term future we'll be using a basic occupy corner system where you send foot-soldiers to deal drugs and guns, each neighbourhood having a different number of corners based on neighbourhood size, however this is not where I want the system to remain. I intend to create real-estate density and value markers so that some "corners" are more valuable than others whether they have more foot-traffic or more money in the area or both/neither. Giving the corner occupation system a more strategic style of gameplay and more tactile reasons to go to war over specific spots.

One direction I see Cartel going in down the road is that the more low-end crime and violence there is in a neighbourhood, the more the demographic and thus market tastes will change over time and on the flip side, the more legit business is built and invested into an area, the more gentrified it becomes, again changing the demographics and market tastes. For example coke being a more white collar drug and crack a more blue collar one etc. Though these are fairly basic examples.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 08:23:02 am by wolf.b »
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2019, 06:06:11 am »

Time for the Saturday Roundup. Anon E Moose & I tend to work on our projects together six days a week, with Sundays off, with whatever time we can spare around our jobs and lives. I'll be doing Saturday roundups from here on out along with other updates interspersed through the weeks.

We currently estimate that we're about 30% through v0.00.01's development cycle. We ended up switching programming languages midway through the week, forsaking Batch for C++, so we lost a day transferring everything we had so far over. Anyway this still puts us on track to release our first version within the next two weeks, as things should go a bit faster from here on out.

On the design side, I've been waylaid with building a car list of several thousand vehicles; no that's not a typo. Basically I've taken most cars ever made circa 1950 and beyond and built them into a database with manufacturing release dates and exponential sale numbers based on totals ever produced. Complimented by assembly locations for import vs. domestic markets I was able to devise that there are roughly 2.9 million domestically produced cars in NYC and roughly 1.5 million imports. Extrapolating from these figures, production dates and rarity based on sales I'll be able to put an equation together to determine likelihood of encountering certain cars. Coupled with a valuation system that cross-references numbers of sales, production dates and domestic vs. imports, it will give future mechanics some real sweet juice.

So what sort of mechanics am I talking about? Well chop shops will be introduced eventually, where the more mundane cars can be scrapped for parts, whether you're selling to third-parties or running the chop shop yourself. You'll also be able to resell vehicles through dodgy dealerships, which again you'll be able to set up. Finally, as your reputation grows you'll be able to take custom orders on the black market for more palpable items, along with planning these car jackings which will more often than not require overcoming certain external security measures. After all no sane owner of a 1963 Ferrari in the 90s is going to just leave it out on the street (one just sold at auction for $70 million, FYI).

Furthermore, new cars will be released up to the present day (game starts in 1980) which will make older cars rarer over time as the density equation is maintained. Now why are we doing all this? Because why the hell not? The end result is going to be a lot of fun.
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Lunardog15

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2019, 01:42:31 pm »

would it be possible to base your empire off on legal things?
like milk
cause Al Capone literally sold milk for a while 
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wolf.b

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2019, 02:08:14 pm »

Well I don't know about milk, but strong-arming your way into legal industries, besides merely setting up fronts is definitely a feature I'm eager to explore later on. As I mentioned before, part of what made the old-school mafia so successful with so few a number and no drug trade was this very thing. As to making this legal industry your primary income, that's harder to say without further design in that area and testing. But I think it could be possible given how I'm trying to design the game to be about how you want to play.

Another component of that Capone story is that Al strongarmed Chicago's council into having expiration labels on milk to prevent children becoming sick, only adding to his everyman's hero persona amongst the working-class. This 'altruisim' is also something I want to integrate, giving to the community for popularity and interesting benefits and restrictions (and vice versa).
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Lunardog15

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2019, 02:22:15 pm »

that would be super cool
btw that cool fact has me grinning right now. that's super cool
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wolf.b

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2019, 03:14:16 am »

I think so too.

And yeah Capone was a crazy cat but he knew how to play the PR game. Another interesting fact, Al Capone's secret vault beneath his headquarters (a hotel), was turned into a live TV 2 hour special in the late 70s/early 80s (I forget which), where they literally used dynamite in enclosed spaces digging through cellars searching for it and fired off guns from the era. One of the highest ratings in TV history and it pioneered the phenomena of reality TV. One last fuck you, from Al's grave to the world.

P.S.
There was no vault.

P.S.S.
Happy to answer anymore questions about Cartel from anyone :D
« Last Edit: September 15, 2019, 03:15:52 am by wolf.b »
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2019, 07:14:43 am »

Midweek update: We're keeping time on v0.00.01's development with an aim of releasing it at the end of next week. If I had to describe it in an elevator pitch I'd call it a slightly larger version of the old-school Drug Wars with squad mechanics for distribution, which really isn't bad for our first release. There are so many things I'd love to talk about and promote for what we envision with Cartel but I don't want to overpromise despite being a free game. When we drop v0.00.01 I'll also be uploading a feature development list for the near future on our website (along with switching to an original domain name).

A couple of things I do want to touch on briefly in this report. Bay12's Liberal Crime Squad, is a massive influence for me on the game's design strategy, and if you haven't played it yet you are really missing out on a great game. Whilst I don't want to commit to any ASCII mapping yet which is an important part of LCS' experience (though I do envision this game having two sides management/ascii rpg) the basic premise of running a gang that grows into a cartel takes presidence as a strategy-management game.

The other thing I want to touch on is that I am a huge fan of realism in strategy games, within the confines of still keeping mechanics enjoyable. On that note I do a lot of research for Cartel. I freely admit that sometimes the idea of 'glorifying' violence etc. makes me uncomfortable, but on the other side - this game will examine the connections and functionality inside the underworld of human society and I think it's always better to see how things come to be the way they are.

For example, gang culture has been a massive influence of geopolitical history, perhaps always, but certainly in the last few hundred years. I relish the opportunity to explore and show how this exploitation of the human condition comes about amongst other facets. So in summary, I do have some misgivings about making a 'fun' gangster game, but that I think it can also be another way to show beneath the hood of society, at least this is my hope.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 07:17:41 am by wolf.b »
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Lunardog15

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2019, 10:25:26 am »

sounds good :) I will be sure to give my thoughts on it when it comes out
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2019, 05:41:07 pm »

Saturday Roundup: We're working on the 'corners' mechanic this weekend, which is probably the most challenging part of this version's development cycle, I don't want to say we're behind schedule yet, but it's definitely taking up time I'd hoped we'd have to spare next week. After this part is done we've got the supplier system to implement and the rest should fall into place quite quickly.

Today I'll talk a little bit about what the 'corners' system is. The game is set in NYC for now (it'll almost certainly include other cities later on), with the infamous five boroughs, and hundreds of real-life neighbourhoods spread across these boroughs. Each has a matching population total which determines how many corners are generated by the system ie. a more densely populated neighbourhood is assumed to be a larger surface area and therefore have more street corners. It's a base assumption that will be adjusted in the future with other metrics. As a side note, whilst all the data is ready for these neighbourhoods, for this version we'll only be testing one neighbourhood in each borough.

Anyway, you assign gangsters from your roster to each corner and you can set market rates for different drugs in each neighbourhood in competition with AI gangs.This whole competition part is a bit broken in version 0.00.01, as it is missing certain checks and balances but it serves as a good feature implementation benchmark before we move onto v0.00.02 which will largely fix these issues with the introduction of combat and leadership roles.

As the game develops, the 'corners' system will undergo many changes. I know for certain there will be a geographical asset mechanic, ie. an apartment tower is more important than a suburban street etc. and I want to evolve the corner crew structure, to involve makeshift daily stash-houses, hoppers, lookouts etc. These will hopefully be fairly early introductions and I'm confident there will be much more growth in this system as time goes on. We'll be staying with drugs this early in production as we build much of the basic framework such as police and justice system, combat and internal gang structure, front businesses etc. before we expand to other criminal enterprises.

If you'd like to find more talk about the game's development, I tend to post daily on our small community's discord channel (found via website) with updates and you're more than welcome to join us. Otherwise, feel free to reply here with any comments or questions.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2019, 05:46:53 pm by wolf.b »
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2019, 06:35:08 am »

Midweek Analysis: Things are going well, we just finished implementing buying and selling, which will make a lot of other material easy to implement next. The last two major hurdles for v0.00.01 are the neighbourhood market screens (where you control pricing and compare with competition) and the AI itself which runs a rival gang. Now we're closer to that last part we've revised our timetable to give us a solid week of work to wrap that up. Which does mean we are moving our release back about a week until at least the 6th.

Anyway, all progress is good progress, and this first development cycle is going to be a good benchmark for how well planned out our development schedule is for each build over the next few months at least, which I'm hoping will max out at about a month between builds.

On the design side, I've been busy working on designing ASCII neighborhood maps for NYC which are coming along much better than expected. I'd anticipated it to be much more troublesome than it has been. But it's still a large workload, researching boroughs and then jigsaw sorting dozens of neighbourhoods into viable maps.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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wolf.b

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Cartel - Development Blog
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2019, 02:35:13 pm »

Saturday Roundup: Our intention was to give ourselves a month to build Cartel v0.00.01, but as the Scottish poet Robert Burns once said 'The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry'. However, we have a very clear picture of what's left to finish on the table. We've got the Customer Market to build, which is more complex than a simple random purchase. Each neighborhood has a demographic population, you begin with no customers and randomly build up your customer base over a significant period of time, but you also have to KEEP your existing customers by remaining competitive against competition in the area. Coupled with different areas having different purchasing preferences we're blocking a week of coding next week for this. After which is the AI, which will be a fairly primitive build this early on in development, but it's also Anon's specialty so we're going to make great progress on that front. All in all we're blocking the next two weeks for these remaining tasks.

In design news, we've decided to include a basic burglary system in v0.00.02, which will signpost us in the general direction we want to take the overall system. For now you'll be able to steal better items of value with a larger crew, but you'll also incur a greater risk of being caught, dependent upon the type of property you target. All in all it feels like a really well-balanced inclusion for the build which will also see the introduction of basic combat, leadership caste roles, mule recruitment and a much more dynamic supplier delivery system utilizing mule-trains. Choo-choo!
« Last Edit: September 28, 2019, 02:41:01 pm by wolf.b »
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wolf.b

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Re: Cartel: a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2019, 02:22:54 pm »

I've switched our roundups to Sundays so welcome to the new Sunday Roundup! Progress has been going great, and we down to our customer base mechanics and the AI before completing v0.00.01. With regards to the customer base you have to build up a client base in each neighbourhood and compete economically against local gangs to 'maintain' your client list.

On the design side I've been working on a new neighbourhood map system (the previously shown map system is now called the borough map system). Each neighbourhood will display various corners, local businesses, graffiti spots, fronts, stashhouses and available real-estate; colour-coded dependent on which gang is in control. Graffiti spots will have some very interesting effects on local clusters of locations and you'll be able to visit your own locations as well as those held by other gangs, though you'd better come strapped if you do. How many businesses, real-estate properties and graffiti-spots are available in each neighbourhood will be determined by the number of corners assigned to each. It could be as few as a handful or as many as a hundred or more, representing the various sizes of these locales. Because the game will host roughly 400 neighbourhoods in NYC that's far too many maps to make by hand, so we'll eventually build a generator for these maps based on the formulas we're designing.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

So the above image is a mock-up of the map design we'll be going for which ties in nicely with the borough map system.

Let me know what you think of the design concept in the comments below :)
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wolf.b

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Re: Underworld: $hadow Economics - a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2019, 05:17:08 am »

This is just a small post to let people know that we've changed the name of our game ahead of v0.00.01's release from Cartel to 'Underworld: $hadow Economics'. I'll also be closing this thread next week when we release our first build and opening a new one in the 'Other Games' subforum. But there will still be another post or two regarding development before that happens.
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Lunardog15

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Re: Underworld: $hadow Economics - a squad-based gangster simulation
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2019, 09:27:17 am »

A link to the new one would be appreciated :D
glad to see this is going well
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