Looking into the Nature Simulation
Today the focus lies on the nature simulation in Behind the Horizon. In the beginning programming the simulation was my only goal and it is now the base of all other systems in my game. At first I tried a very complicated approach with many parameters, but I soon realized that this would become much too complicated for the player. So I created the simulation based on 4 essential factors. These are: ...temperature, light, humidity and nutrients. All plants have a "feel-good" area for each value in which they grow and a duration of days they can endure extreme conditions. If there is no improvement afterwards, they die.
Nutrients are in a constant cycle and are absorbed and released back into the soil after death. A lack of nutrients is the quickest way to kill a plant. Animals also belong to this cycle by eating plants and excreting them again. Some farm animals can even be used selectively to fertilize the soil.
Water enters the soil through rain or snow, but also through fog and through adjacent water or swamp fields. Many desert plants can survive almost indefinitely without water, but then they also stop growing. Depending on the type of soil, part of the water gained seeps away again and is not usable for the plants. In sunny weather a lot of water evaporates. Ground cover and trees help to minimise evaporation.
The temperature depends on the weather and the season and peaks in midsummer. Plants that prefer a cooler climate usually grow only in the north. At temperatures below zero degrees, rain falls as snow and gradually forms a solid snow cover, which also thaws only slowly. Ponds also freeze at low temperatures and can then be entered.
The light intensity changes according to the season and is of course lower under trees. Some plants do not tolerate direct sunlight in summer.
To adjust these four natural values and to grow all plants successfully on the farm there are many possibilities of influence from fertilizer and water buckets to magic crystals and spells. However, you can also make a lot of things possible by observing nature and finding combination of plants which can grow in symbiosis. For example, the temperature under trees is always a bit higher than on the bare earth.
The quality of the soil is slowly evolving because of the plants that grow on it. The quickest way to do this is for the player to plant a field himself, because the crops give the soil the most experience. If the soil quality increases by one level, its ability to store water and nutrients usually increases, and often it is possible to plant certain more demanding crops on it.
However, as a result of certain events or natural disasters, the soil can also degenerate and thus loose quality again.
There are the following soil types in my game which are important for farming: rock, loose stones, gravel, sand, sandy soil, clay, hard clay , red earth and black earth. Beyond that there are the swamp and the waters and a few more, but they do not play a big role.
There are three different plants that can grow on a field at the same time and therefore there are many more or less successful combinations. The lowest level is formed by the ground cover, followed by the cultivated plants and above that by bushes and trees. Each plant has its individual characteristics and also produces something. These can be fruits and vegetables or flowers and alchemical substances. Everything can be used in any recipe, or sold for coins.
All plants sow themselves according to the direction of the wind and reproduce themselves. If a plant is harvested, it will not multiply. The life span of a plant varies from 1 year to 10 years in the game. After that the plant dies and returns its nutrients to the earth.
This was a small insight into the mechanics underlying the simulation of nature. I can guarantee that every world will look different. Depending on what the player does (and there are many possibilities) and which way the plants themselves choose, the landscape changes constantly. I had already had one year where a mass death of pine trees started and large areas emptied. This area was then gradually conquered by other plants.