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[Dev] WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get

After summarizing gamescom 2018 in Cologne and answering some of your most pressing questions, it is time to dive deeper. Let us jump into The Settlers universe, talk about various features or what makes a The Settlers game unique.

The Settlers have a unique DNA, which defines our game and how it plays and feels. Today we want to talk about one of the key elements of this DNA, the “WYSIWYG”-approach and how this translates into our game.

What does this actually means?

WYSIWYG stands for “What you see is what you get”.

Everything that happens in the game systems is visualized. Lets take a look at the life cycle of a tree. As a player, you see a tree grow and the tree is an object in the world. If you build a woodcutter to chop down this particular tree you can follow him. The woodcutter will go to the tree, cut it down and transport the log back to his building. The tree is gone and you have a log instead. This log will then be transported to a sawmill to produce wooden planks, or to other buildings as construction material.

You can just watch and see what happens. With this knowledge, you as a player, are able to learn and to understand the game system directly. You technically do not need any statistics and graphics to visualize anything. You could zoom in and count the logs in front of a woodcutter building. You will know, if you just have one woodcutter and no one transporting any logs, how many logs your whole settlement has.

Talking about wood all the time, does it work for other things as well? Yes. It works for everything in game. It does not matter if it is fish, grain, stone, swords or even your settlers. Every good or person is there where you currently see it, him or her.

We sat down with Lead Game Designer Christian Hagedorn. He told us, he brings WYSIWYG to the next level, but sometimes it gets hard!

Christian “Bakyra” Hagedorn: “WYSIWYG brings a very interesting challenge to the table. In modern games we have grown accustomed to the game telling us what do to. That’s why we challenge ourselves to let you play without telling you how to do it.

Christian continues: “The goal of WYSIWYG is for players to be able to understand, without indicators, what the game is about. The premise is simple, but to bring it to the game, we have to do various checks. You cannot allow interactions without explanation. For example: When the enemy army attacks, for civilians to flee, they must see the army. There is no magic happening here. They are not afraid because the keep is under attack; they are afraid and flee because they see the enemy.

This translates to everything in-game. If coal is available, you will see it in the landscape. You will see the processes of producing different goods and this presents a great challenge. How far do we go?

“You will need to find a balance between what is entertaining gameplay and what is strictly simulation.”

WYSISWYG makes it easier for a player to understand the world and everything in it. For a designer or for the art team it will increase the complexity of every design to fit this rule.

It is important to remember that we do not replicate reality. If there is no need to show the transformation, we will not show it. For example: The sawmill cutting the log into two board sets with one process. There is no need to show the removal of excess wood nor the sanding process.

This  would just grow in complexity without any real value for the player.

“We aim for the player to be able to understand everything about the game by just watching it.”

We define the information the player can access as information layers. On the first layer, you have the world you play in – WYSIWYG. You see where you can place what building, farm resources, fish, hunt, gather etc. In the other layers you find everything else, you might want to know. The second layer is the building information. You see what goods can be produced, how many of those goods are waiting to be used / transported or how many workers are working. Again: You can simply zoom in and see if the workers are waiting around or maybe in the forest cutting down wood. You can even count the logs if you want, but this second layer will give you the information as well. The third layer is a filter in a menu. Statistics how many goods you have overall, how many workers of this type etc.

There are other great things about it too. Because of WYSIWYG every resource has to be moved; because you see it in the world. This leads to lots of people living and going somewhere. This sometimes can lead to traffic jams. Organic gameplay and city livelihood are the result of our efforts, and it’s very rewarding!

Thank you very much Christian for your time and insights about “What you see is what you get”.

As Christian already teased, next week we will talk about traffics jams, road systems and vehicles, but before we do that. We want to know what you think about WYSIWYG. Do you like the level of detail? Which statistics would you like to have about your economy? Let us know in the comments down below.

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