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From solar farming to terraforming: Energy management in Chaotic Era

This is an ongoing development series about CHAOTIC ERA, an interstellar strategy game. Join the beta waitlist here or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

Every player starts Chaotic Era as a marooned spacecraft performing an emergency landing on an alien world. The craft’s crew—the only humans left after Earth is destroyed—must immediately get to work securing resources on their new planet. 

In this entry, we’re going to dive deep into the main energy harvesting loop in Chaotic Era—especially some of the new developments we’ve added to the game recently. And we’ll also share a preview of our roadmap for late game metas that we’re very excited about.

 

 

Energy harvesting as a concept has always been central to Chaotic Era for us. It's a classic dynamic of any strategy game from SimCity to Civilization to Factorio, but our interest in it extends even deeper than that.

On Earth, every major city has historically been established near a body of water. Not only is water essential to life, but it has also been essential to travel, trade, and all the other elements that fuel human society.

In a similar way, the energy nodes of Chaotic Era function as an analog to "water" for humanity's future establishments. We've purposefully kept the exact nature of the types of energy you're extracting relatively abstract to streamline gameplay, but in the same way these nodes are essential to your population's life, to travel, to everythiing.

The energy from those nodes sustain your units; it charges your starships to move to new worlds. It only makes sense that humanity's far-flung interstellar cities would follow similar growth patterns to its ancient ones, gathering around the randomized resource distribution of their environment.

Initially, a player has two options for harvesting energy to sustain their population: Solar farming and energy mining.

 

 

Solar farming requires the building of solar panels to collect energy from the system’s star. The efficiency of solar panels are variable, based on a planet’s position and atmosphere, and also at the whim of a planet’s day and night cycle. However, solar farms are a nearly guaranteed way to begin pulling in energy right off the bat.

Less of a sure thing is energy mining. Every planet has a distribution of energy deposits scattered across its surface, although the amount of energy nodes on a given planet varies wildly. Some planets are resource-rich with many high yield nodes within reach of your ship’s landing locations. Others are wastelands with just a handful of nodes available, potentially scattered far away from your planetfall site. 

 

 

 

 

Whether through solar panels or energy deposits, players need to build a circuit to connect energy output nodes (on energy sources) to energy input nodes on their units. These circuits both provide the power required to maintain the population assigned to each unit and your planet at-large as well as allowing the player to begin stockpiling more energy to make unit purchases. 

As a player builds and expands across a planet, their population also rises, leading to higher and higher energy costs and a need to push further out into the darkness and increase the efficiency of existing circuits. 

Each energy node also has a built-in lifetime. They can’t be used forever and will eventually run dry, requiring the player to move onto new sources.

Here, two more types of units begin to enter the main gameplay loop: Relays and drills.

 

Relays are ways of connecting power lines to transfer energy further across a planet than you can by default—each power line has a set amount of “steps”, but by using a relay, you can extend these steps; the same way that an extension cord functions in real life.

Drills are a way to uncover more energy nodes in a given area. These have high energy costs, but can potentially reveal more energy nodes where there weren’t any before. 

While the main gameplay loop of harvesting energy to sustain your growing population and purchase new units will always be central to a player’s thinking, there is also a new endgame meta on our roadmap that we’re very excited about: Terraforming.

As the game progresses and your civilization levels up through different phases of advancement, it’ll become necessary to begin shifting resources towards transforming planets into safe and self-sustaining environments for your population.

The terraforming process will involve a few different paths to success based on the player’s playstyle—involving combinations of different high cost units to change a planet’s atmosphere over the long term. The idea being that as a player increases their energy yield, they’ll have more and more surplus energy to invest in such a lengthy and expensive process so that they can focus their efforts elsewhere.

A terraformed planet will require less overall upkeep, incur fewer disasters, so as players expand through systems, this process will become crucial to avoid overloading their brain with managing too many worlds at once.

We’ll be sharing more details on our roadmap soon as we get closer and closer to our first beta—don’t forget to sign up for our beta waitlist for updates.

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