What is Uffizi?

Greetings,

I’ve been posting about Uffizi for a while now and the time has come for me to really summarize what the game is about and what you will be doing as the Gonfaloniere of Florence.

As I’m a one-man-army and haven’t had nearly enough time to work on press packages and promotional materials on top of development, this is more of an Official UNOFFICIAL Announcement. I have a time I want and expect the game to be Alpha ready, but beyond that is undetermined so I won’t be starting my official marketing campaign today!

Black Logo

What is Uffizi?

The year is 1434 and you have just been elected as the Gonfaloniere of Florence, the most prestigious post in the city’s administration.

It is the birth of the Renaissance and your job is to build Florence into the world’s greatest cultural and economic powerhouse by managing the creation of Great Works and the operation of Florentine Guilds. However as you achieve prowess and fame around the city, you also gain the attention of the Noble class… who have the power to take it all away if you neglect their needs.

Become the most magnificent ruler in Florentine history and cement your name in the annals of time!

New Game
You begin city life with an empty Uffizi and a single Noble. But it quickly fills with the hustle and bustle of business.

Gameplay

The Uffizi contains the 108 administrative offices of Florence*. These offices can be assigned to Guilds which pay Taxes and produce Resources used around the city. Taxes and Resources are used to build glorious works such as Michelangelo’s David, the Sistine Chapel and Florence Cathedral.

The 14 Guilds in Uffizi
The 14 Guilds in Uffizi

 

They are also used to complete Requests for the Nobili, powerful figures who live in the city and expect you to serve them as well as the general public. If you ignore one of the Nobili for long enough, they will become unhappy and may even revolt against you!

You try finding a live-action picture of Michelangelo...
You try finding a live-action picture of Michelangelo…

Starting your economy and pleasing your single Noble is the first step as Gonfaloniere. Filling offices with guilds is how you’ll start construction of your first Great Work; the Cristo Della Minerva.

Completing Great Works earns you Prowess, which is the score in the game. As you gain Prowess your title is upgraded and new Nobili begin to notice you. There are 20 Nobili in Uffizi and up to 5 per playthrough, so repeat games will play very differently based on the Nobili you receive.

Once you reach the title of “The Magnificent”, achieved upon completing all Great Works, then you have won the game.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for today, once I’ve playtested a bunch and got all the systems working 100% I’ll be ready to share some more.

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*Disclaimer: While Uffizi is based on history, it’s very loosely based! Don’t take anything as fact!

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Baby Killin’ – Trying to keep emotional attachment out of design decisions

Today I’ve been working on a bunch of UI stuff as Uffizi’s core features are more-or-less finished. However, I’m caught in a bit of a dilemma which I thought I’d share. The problem I’m having is a great example of detrimental emotional attachment or, colloquially, Baby Killing. Now, before you call the police and warn them about your neighborhood game designer, let me explain what DEA/baby killing is.

Emotional Attachment

Getting emotionally attached to your product and features is a dangerous habit. This applies to TONS of industries, especially creative ones, and in Game Design it’s no different. You can fall in love with your ideas, but when you implement them or complete other features, you realize that your original idea is no longer as effective as you thought it was. But you love it. You can’t get rid of it, right? All that work for nothing! It’s still an amazing feature, even if it isn’t perfect anymore… right?

This is where you gotta kill dem babies! Becoming emotionally attached to ineffective ideas and solutions (they’re never BAD ideas, they’re just not quite right anymore) is really dangerous because you end up sacrificing other parts of your product to try and get it to fit in. You start trying to fit the square peg in the round hole by shaving off the corners of the peg, important corners that are vital to the game.

Where is this effecting Uffizi?

Here’s the dilemma I’m having now, with Uffizi’s Noble/Quest UI. The game is still in very early stages, so please ignore any weirdness (namely busted timers and the huge empty space below Machiavelli’s name where a beautiful picture would be)…

This UI is where the player will see quests given to them by the Nobles. They can view the noble's happiness and complete quests through this menu
This UI is where the player will see quests given to them by the Nobles. They can view the noble’s happiness and complete quests through this menu

I think this menu isn’t bad. It gets the relevant information across…

  • Quest requirements
  • Quest deadline
  • Noble’s happiness level and the rewards associated with it

The problem is that you’re opening a full screen menu to get this information, which is a click to open and a click to close just to check if they’ve met the quest requirements.

That’s a bad user experience. The more clicks and menus a player has to go through, the more difficult it is to compare information you’re receiving.

To combat this, I added the Noble Preview area (The little info panel next to the Noble Portrait). This displays the request timer and happiness bar. When the player mouses over the panel, it will open this UI…

This menu will popup when the player mouses over the small noble info panel, next to their portrait.
This menu will popup when the player mouses over the noble preview area, next to their portrait.

Just from mocking this up (it’s not implemented yet), I’m seeing a lot of benefits

  • It requires no click to open or close. It’s a superb user experience with zero friction.
  • It fits all the quest description in and technically has even more room for quest requirements than the full-screen UI
  • There’s still empty space in there, which I could probably insert happiness into…

The question I’m posing now is;

Why have the full screen menu at all?

I like the full screen menu a lot because it has space for an image and I can have descriptions for the Noble’s current opinion of you. Both of these add charm and personality to the game (which is pretty important for a low-budget indie game). But is the charm worth the negative user experience?

Right now, I’m going to keep both in. So you can click to open the full screen panel and hover to see this UI. I’m sure this is very inefficient for the size of my code. It’s keeping a redundant feature in the game (and all the data that goes with it) and it could even waste money if I commission panel art for each noble.

Should I kill this baby?

Right now I’m going to see how well it does in playtesting before making the final decision, but this whole experience is definitely teaching me a lot about what’s important in the game. If players are hooked by the charming pictures and noble’s opinion pieces, then it might be worth keeping the full screen… if not, then there’s no reason to have it and I should remove it from the game to avoid confusion.

In other news, tomorrow is my non-coding day so I’ll prepare a bit of an official announcement of the game and explain what exactly I’m working on!

Have a great Monday!

Where it all began… Cloth & Wine Simulator 2013 in Machinations

Machinations is a great tool developed by Joris Dormans (@JorisDormans) which is used to quickly build and test economic models in games. It’s super simple to use and surprisingly powerful, but most of all (personally) it became the impetus for my upcoming game Uffizi.

I attended GDC in San Francisco this year where Dr. Ernest Adams (@ErnestWAdams) & Dr. Dormans (both have PhDs) presented the tool and various ways it can be used. It was extremely interesting and as soon as I got home I started playing around with it.

If you think really abstractly, every strategy game is about economics. Every strategy game is about the transfer of resources from one place to another. Keeping this in mind, I started playing around with it. I built a football game in Machinations… where the ball is transferred between matchups of players, and a random chance determines if the player passes the ball on or loses possession. That was a more abstract model!

The first real GAME I built with it was Cloth & Wine Simulator 2013* and I thought I’d share it here. It’s the basis of what will become Uffizi, the first game out of Virtu.

Cloth&Wine_Infographic

If you want to give the game a spin, grab Machinations for free and the open the Cloth & Wine Simulator 2013 XML file to play!

Link to Machinations – Get the Standalone SWF version for a better experience

XML for Cloth & Wine Simulator 2013

As you’ll see over the next week or so. Many concepts from C&WS are used in Uffizi, so this is a sort of pre-pre-alpha version of the game.

*Joke name, it was around the time that Surgeon Simulator 2013 came out!

Virtù

Virtù is a concept theorized by Niccolò Machiavelli, centered on the martial spirit and ability of a population or leader, but also encompassing a broader collection of traits necessary for maintenance of the state and “the achievement of great things.”

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