Tactical Terraforming: Imagine Earth

By Adam Smith on April 17th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Imagine Earth’s demo reminded me of Project Godus, which is a bit like having a face that reminds me of the kid who used to bully me at school and showed up a decade and a half later in the toilets of a dingy nightclub, horribly drunk and tearfully apologetic. In both situations, the unintended reminder inspires a mixture of anger and pity that I’m choosing to call ‘angety’. Initially, Imagine Earth was a catalyst for ‘angety’. I played on though, clicking and collecting resources through the tutorial, and soon enough I was enjoying myself. The playfields are smaller than those in Godus and rather than expanding simply for the sake of it, Imagine Earth’s colonies must be balanced and controlled. Take a look, or try the demo now.

The common feature between this and Godus is the clicking (not yet dragging). Resources can only be spent or exploited when a timer has counted down to zero, which means that during the initial establishment of a colony, a lot of time is spent sweeping around the planet and checking them, one by one. As the planets are quite small, scouring the surface isn’t overly time-consuming and once the resources are in the bank, there are actual decisions to make. You’re not collecting resources to fill a meter that’ll push you farther down a conveyor belt – instead, to colonise the planets you’ll be balancing the need for expansion and the need to avoid over-exploitation and pollution.

The demo is quite charming and an update allows for tutorial skipping, which is a good thing. The crowdfunding is taking place over at Indiegogo and is flexible, which means any pledges will go to the developers even if they don’t reach their total. Flexible funding requires flexible plans:

We are perfectionists and have been improving the game concept, interface and design since 2008. Now we are satisfied with the gameplay system and basic simulation. It’s time to focus on the content and we are crowdfunding for two reasons:

First, the crowdfunding money is an important part of our development budget and will allow is to finish the development until the end of this year. We need it so we can hire specialists to do music, sound and translations and to pay for publishing and legal costs.

There’s already evidence of a decent game but even if they reach the $10,000 target, there’s a good chunk of 2014 left and, in my (non-development) experience, money never lasts as long as expected.

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16 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Jooki says:

    Hey guys, with a quick look at the video it’s not getting obvious but the taxes in our game come in automatically. Those money bags popping up over cities are just a bonus visualising the outstanding life quality in a certain city district. And this way some additional clicks are just planned to feel rewarding by design. Later in the game you’ll get bank districts and upgraded city centers to collect bonus taxes and development tokens automatically. You can level up your mining tools to collect gold directly and will have forestry and other buildings that turns the crops into goods by themself. We do not yet have that research menu integrated in the demo showing these opportunities. But they will be needed as the next planet is allready 4 bigger than the last…

  1. Gap Gen says:

    “Resources pop out of buildings and terrain features when a timer has counted down to zero, and must be collected by sweeping around the planet and clicking on them, one by one.”

    Oh, good. Is there a reason for this beyond making busywork?

    • J Arcane says:

      That’s the part that jumped out at me too. It’s standard Facebook game design, and I sorta cringe when I see it outside it’s easily avoided element. I tolerated it in Plague Inc. only because without the popup bubbles there’d be little to do for much of the game.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I mean, this is why I ask. In a lot of games it’s a mechanic to simply up the click rate to give the illusion that you’re doing stuff and making decisions. If it’s just one screen you see all the time, it’s not a huge deal, but it is frustrating to have to deal with. I’d rather a game throw more genuine choices at me rather than say “OK, you’re a space emperor responsible for the fate of hundreds of planets, now oversee the construction of every tiny asteroid mine in your dominion and oh, while you’re at it, empty the bins and make sure the soap dispensers are topped up.”

        • Adam Smith says:

          Hugely embarrassing this – I saw these comments and thought they sounded far more negative than I’d expected. And then I realised I’d explained the resource collection badly. In fact, I got it completely wrong. The timer is for construction rather than collection, and the busywork is in clearing land rather than gathering resources. Once a building is in place it adds to the resource pile indefinitely, which is how utilisation of space becomes a decision-making process rather than a case of simply filling an empty vessel.

          Essentially, I wrote the opposite of what I meant because I was still thinking about Godus and I was writing late yesterday evening. Idiot. Now edited.

        • phelix says:

          That reminded me of the Spore Space Stage.

          Oh, so you’re an omnipotent ufo-toting creature who’s flown through Borg Grox territory into the black hole at the centre of the galaxy and emerged unscathed? Well, we need you to fight all our wars and save ecosystems by zapping creatures and collect some artefact from planet Z and build a trade route with race Y so you can finally have those arbitrary battery upgrades you’ve craved. What’s that you say? ‘Surely an empire our size should have more than one spaceship at the ready?’ ? Nonsense!

          *catches breath*

          • Gap Gen says:

            Oh yeah, that was awful. I like the idea of a focused RTS so that you have limited agency, but being forced to go back to your planet because filling the surface with surface-to-space cannons apparently doesn’t stop pirates stealing your stuff. Eventually I just stopped caring.

            Spore was a shame; there was a lot of talent and some good ideas, but it was too fragmented and a lot of the design ideas didn’t really pan out.

    • Roxton says:

      Having actually played the game, I can tell you that this ‘busywork’ is virtually non-existent, at least in the demo. It’s limited to collecting I think 6-10 tokens in the tutorial and then tax revenue (which only seems to appear every five minutes or so) later in the game. In the former case it’s no different to having a dialogue appear saying ‘click to continue’ (as seen in so, so many tutorials); in the latter it’s a nice way of seeing where the tax is actually coming from as it appears over the producing district. While I understand your concerns about Facebook style gameplay, this isn’t it and isn’t anywhere near as obnoxious as this article makes it sound.

    • Jooki says:

      Hey guys, with a quick look at the video it’s not getting obvious but the taxes in our game come in automatically. Those money bags popping up over cities are just a bonus visualising the outstanding life quality in a certain city district. And this way some additional clicks are just planned to feel rewarding by design. Later in the game you’ll get bank districts and upgraded city centers to collect bonus taxes and development tokens automatically. You can level up your mining tools to collect gold directly and will have forestry and other buildings that turns the crops into goods by themself. We do not yet have that research menu integrated in the demo showing these opportunities. But they will be needed as the next planet is allready 4 bigger than the last…

      • Gap Gen says:

        Thanks, I was just confused by an error in the article (I read it on my phone on the bus so didn’t get a chance to watch the video).

  2. Alas Away says:

    There was a game with a very similar design. Maybe not gameplay, but the same round planet “company profits” build-it-up strategy; Light of Altair. Here’s the link; http://www.saintxi.com/

  3. SeriousMartin says:

    Update #2 explains why we are doing flexible funding:

    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/imagine-earth-planetary-colonization/x/6725413?c=activity#

    In fact the crowdfunding is only a part of our development budget. I will update the crowdfunding description to state this out more clearly.

  4. Kizor says:

    Thanks for a demo with enough to play. I’ve gone through it a few times, including as a Captain Planet supervillain.

    As I clear-cut my way through a pristine planet, I started seeing the occasional twister and new desert. The game gave me an expensive option to replant forests. Then as the damage kicked into high gear my coastal power plants and factories were suddenly being flooded, one exploded with a message that it’d damaged nearby buildings and spread toxins willy-nilly, and my flood production collapsed as farmlands fell to desertification. My cities began to flood. Faced with famine and the destruction of their livelihoods, the colonists started escaping en masse. Shortly afterward the city centers that had originally been colony ships blasted back into space, and I was faced with a game over screen where the world and all I’d built continued to fall apart.

    4/5, would plug in comment sections.

  5. racccoon says:

    Planets are to bloody small :( colonization of what?!! its too friggin smal! lolz

  6. Thrippy says:

    I was wondering why there were updates. I first installed the demo in June 2012. Heeding some odd whim, I stubbornly refused to remove it from my Steam library, hoping against hope there was a bigger, better game on the way some day. Oh, look, there it is. Best of luck moving forward.

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