Ludum Dare 31
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April 20th-23rd 2012 :: 10 Year Anniversary! :: Theme: Tiny World

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Mineral Cities

by Gareth Jenkins - 48 Hour Compo Entry

Mineral Cities is a city-building, resource-management optimisation game inspired by my fond memories of SimCity sprawl, the LD48-23 theme and a game of 7 Wonders on Friday night.

Primary control is of the tiny world itself (cursors or WASD), with the number keys 1 to 4 building either grass, water, hills or cities.

When built close to each other, those features produce resource based on their dependencies (e.g. grass needs water, water hills, cities both water and grass). Each feature costs a different amount to produce.

Production slows to a total of 5 iterations, but can be restarted by building something new nearby.


Cities get more expensive each time you build one...

...but cities are the only way of obtaining minerals (just build a city on top of some minerals).

Over-arching progress is in accumulation of minerals. There are 50 mineral spots each time you play -- and they can be harvested by as many cities as you can get close enough (3 in most cases, 4 if you're very careful).

Because the cities get more expensive, your play tactics and overall strategy have to adapt during the course of play.


I'm enjoying the play curve, though looking forward to getting some feedback from others -- I've generally been using the following tactics:

- leave gaps (go in and build hills there later to restart production)
- cluster around dependencies (e.g. grass around water)
- be patient (don't restart production until it's over, as you'll waste valuable cycles)
- cities themselves can earn a lot of money, use them wisely (don't build just because you can)

Would love to hear someone prove out the math at the top end -- I've played this through on the final build to just over 20 minerals.


Some background on what was used:

- Unity (first project in Unity -- generally pretty happy with it)
- Propellerhead's Figure (iOS synth) + Audacity for the background music
- Cfxr + Audactiy for the sound fx
- "Cheri" font, Illustrator for instructions page
- Lots of lemsips


Easter egg: if you're using WASD, you can also use Q and E to "roll" the tiny world.

Downloads and Links




bcjordan says ...
Apr 23, 2012 @ 7:47pm

Nice game!

stromchin says ...
Apr 23, 2012 @ 9:00pm

This is the kind of game that you can't simply stop playing.

Apr 24, 2012 @ 9:14am

Thanks guys -- @stromchin, yea -- that was kind of the intention, and super happy I managed to get that feel in there.

Primary inspiration for that was older sim city games (original & 2000, though I suppose the others too -- it was just that I played them more). I.e., the simple balance of creating zones that compliment each other properly. I always got of on zoning that didn't make you want to demolish/rebuild.

On that, I did think about adding a "demolish" ability in this thing -- with a very high cost (possibly increasing like cities do -- or even tied to their cost). Though as the game kind of encourages replay / replan I think it works okay without in this form.


DoktorAce says ...
Apr 24, 2012 @ 10:56am

Tricky! But in my opinion the steering is inverted and upside-down! :D

SusanTheCat says ...
Apr 24, 2012 @ 11:46pm

I liked the controls. I'm glad they were keyboard based. I got quite into the game. I would like to see a more polished version of this. It would be so sweet.

MTO says ...
Apr 24, 2012 @ 11:49pm

Interesting concept, it gives me the feeling of early sim games before all the complicated spreadsheet stuff came in. It's also quite polished, good work!

wgemigh says ...
Apr 24, 2012 @ 11:51pm

I love this concept and the art style! The controls felt backward to me and it took a while to figure out that you place items in the center (not where the mouse cursor is).

Once I understood the controls, I really got into exploring the rules. The overlapping objects gave it a great feeling of 'building up'.

By the time I had 14 minerals, I felt like I understood the rules enough that I would benefit from starting again. I didn't, only because the game takes a while. I think I'd be much more likely to play if I could finish the level faster. Perhaps you could have resources produce instantly upon placement of a new item?

Apart from that minor quibble, this seems like a great strategic game in the vein of Slay. I find myself wondering how it would play on a touch screen...

deejorg says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 12:14am

Nice concept!

LeReveur says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 1:24am

Absolutely amazing.
I can't finish my first test because of the time, but I reached 51 minerals and I've not cover the half of the planet, so I think the final goal of 100 is not just a player's dream ;)
I could play this kind of game for hours, literaly. :D

LeReveur says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 1:30am

However, I must say that I experienced a little problem while installing, the archive can't expands by itself, I had to take data files (thoose in the folder) one by one and copy on my hard drive. The problems seem's to come from the name of this folder...

hazzen says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 3:36am

Nice game, good rules, a bit long.

Vic says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 9:17am

Interesting concept! It is fun to play and worth developing :).

tequibo says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 11:30am

Interesting mechanics, but game is too slow, and I thought that controls was inverted. Like you rotating a planet but not flying around it.

ratboy2713 says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:17pm

The controls were a little counter intuitive. When I press right I expect the cursor to move right, not the planet to rotate right. Also I would have liked a way to remove grass/water/hill, since I screwed up a couple of times and that really messes with the rest of the layout. Even an undo button with a resource cost would have been nice.

Other than than a nice little building sim.

Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:24pm

All -- thank for the awesome feedback :)

Based on the feedback already I'm considering developing this further -- here's some thoughts on the stuff raised so far.

Re control inversion -- totally accept that this a personal preference thing. My preference is for moving the object, not indicating view preference -- it also fit better with the theme (i.e. the controls move the tiny world). This would obviously be a user option to invert one, 2 or 3 axes.

Re sim_ references -- yea. Absolutely intended :)

Re: overlapping objects -- this was one of the first parts of the art style, and to some extent dictated the rest. Developed further, I'd add an element of randomness to this, and also subtle compound features for larger groups of objects.

Re: pacing / length of game -- this was intended as a play-for-as-long-as-you-want-with-some-upper-bound type decision (very much in the vein of early sim city games). I'd want to keep that as a play option, but introduce new players with a series of challenges/levels. Would likely do subtlety different planets with different mineral requirements, blocked areas, starting resources etc. Would also consider allowing some object types (maybe cities) to produce infinite resources, but on a very slow timer. Loads of ideas here -- looking forward to more comments and feedback here and will use that as an input to writing some of them up.

Re: touch screen -- yea, agreed. Would work especially well on an iPad. Probably phone too. iOS dev is my day job, so have been thinking about this in that context throughout.

Re: LeReveur -- fuck, 51!? That's impressive, and a massive compliment ;) Thanks for the feedback on the zip archive thing too, will check it out -- haven't been able to reproduce myself yet. Was it x64 or x86?

strega says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:25pm

Neat combination of puzzle game and simulation. The visual style is nice and minimal, also. The inverted rotation was a little hard to get used to, but that's not really a big deal. It was a bit hard placing things exactly where I wanted. Would have preferred a mouse placement system and maybe some way of deleting pieces.

Mesene says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:25pm

Good job, pretty sure many people will try to get the 100 minerals!

Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:26pm

@ratboy2713 -- I've a bit of an internal debate re undo & destroy. I think they might even be separate features in a future version. I.e. undo takes you back in time, but destroy would allow you to reclaim space but with a significant cost to doing so.

Re the cursor movement -- see comment above, totally understand how people have opposite views on this. I'm an invert-y-axis kind of guy. Have also considered allowing mouse movement of the cursor -- gets a bit odd given the projection though.

Apr 25, 2012 @ 4:28pm

@strega -- lol, see previous comment, was obviously typing it at the same time as you ;)

@Mesene -- there's no absolute way for me to prove the 100 mineral thing b/c of the random distribution of minerals, but I'm pretty sure in most cases it should possible to get up to 120-150. It just takes a little time ;)

LeReveur says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 11:32pm

First, the archive bug : it's the win32 one. While I can't know if the exe can work w/o the data files (if they was just sources, for exemple) I managed it like I say, by opening the archive and copying files directly in the directory.

For my test, I said that I would play hours... In fact I've played at least a couple. And by the way, I haven't played like you explained in the presentation, I stuck to my starting place, expanding step by step and sometimes searching for empty places between features (I had some kind surprises just by flying over apparently full places, allowing me to restart production where it's huge).

I've not think about it before, but an interesting point would be to allow earning production when you reach 0 by mistake. It would prevent noobs losing too fast.

LeReveur says ...
Apr 25, 2012 @ 11:35pm

(and sorry for my english, I'm french)

Tinco says ...
Apr 26, 2012 @ 3:26pm

Very nice game, played for quite a while :) I played until I had 15 minerals, but the resource mechanic was still not clear to me, should I hold out on building resources to get most out of the reset mechanic? Also the inverted control was really annoying ;) Good job!

daandruff says ...
Apr 26, 2012 @ 5:33pm

Really nice game! It got a bit repetitive and the controls (turning the planet) felt a bit awkward. But awesome graphics, really nice sound och cool idea!

namuol says ...
Apr 27, 2012 @ 2:06am

Fairly good balance, although I found that there were lots of moments of getting stuck waiting for my cities to turn out enough points. Maybe I just suck :P

Nice use of minimal visuals and realistic lighting. Very pleasing to look at. The soundtrack and sfx were fitting, also.

BlueDragon says ...
Apr 28, 2012 @ 9:34am

Excellent game!
I've played it to the "end" and reached 100 minerals.
Too bad it didn't say anything when I reached that final goal, the game simplty kept running as usual.
Is there an end when you run out of space?
Maybe I'll have to try, I've still got the game running.

Graphics are excellent, while they are simple, they are perfect for the game - i.e. it doesn't seem they could be better.

Some feedback on gameplay:
- Pace:
the game seems very slow at first because you have to wait it finishes to gather resources before placing a new tile or you might lose valuable cycles. However, there is a simple trick: while you wait, you can simply build something else far from there which doesn't interfere with the tile you have just placed!
So I found myself constantly rotating the planet and placing tiles in different zones instead of focusing in a small area and building slowly tile after tile in there.
By using this strategy, the pace is ok as you are constantly busy. The game is still long, I think it took me about 2 hours from my first restart to the 100th city.

- You can lose!
On my first attempt I lost because...I had 92 cities and no mineral patches left!! At first I was placing cities directly on top of minerals, so 1 mineral = 1 cities. After 10-20 cities I realized that there were not 100 mineral on the planet, so I had to place cities so that they covered only a part of the mineral patch (e.g. getting 4 cities per mineral patch). It was too late and the even after careful placement, I was left with 92 cities and no mineral patch available -> so I had to restart.

- My city strategy:
On the second attempt, my strategy was then focused to avoid that mistake. I only built cities when I had to (that is: when I was closing to mineral patches) and placed 4 cities one after the other on the mineral patch I was approching. This isn't the most efficient approach as 1) lost some cycles 2) some of the cities where often +0 when I placed them.
However, this was the safest approach as I could exactly place the cities in a square format by little movements of the keyboard. I do not reccomend to place 1 city first and cover the rest of the patch later: I noticed infact that when you return again on that patch you might find that the planet has rotated and you can't align yourself to the first city anymore, potentially losing minerals.

- Overall goal of the game
The apparent overall goal of the game (even if the game doesn't end there) is to place 100 cities.
Provided that you are careful in using mineral patches, getting 100 cities is just a matter of having the money to build them. You need about 53k minerals to build all cities!
Tiles gives you a finite number of resources when you place them, but if you build near them, they give you resources again. Eventually however you'll have to build too far from a certain tile and then it will just lay there, without giving you anything and occupying planet space.
The more closely spaced you build, the more resources you get and the less likely you are to run out of space before getting 53k to spend on cities (remember to use well your mineral patches when you place them!).

- My Best strategy - Grass and Water rocks, Hills are useless, Cities have to be built
As I said the more packed you build, the more profits you get.
My strategy is build water and grass only if possible.
Hills are useless, as they never give resources on their own. They can rise your water to +1 (or more) but you'd need a lot of hills to get high value water (e.g. +10). This would mean 10 near hills which occupy a LOT of space without giving resources. So no hills.
If you don't build hills, water has 0 value in itself. HOWEVER, water can be VERY DENSELY packed: you can build a LOT of water tiles almost on top of each, so you can have an area with like 16 water tiles all near the same grass!
This means that you can get a +16 grass.
Imagine what happens if you put a single water, then a single grass (+1) and then again 14 waters: everytime you put a water the grass "grows" and you profit from a grass which is +2,+3,+4,+5,+6,+7...up to +16!
Imagine the same thing with multiple grass near..!
So "DENSE" WATER + GRASS = LOT of money...they money you need to build those cities and win!
I do not reccomend to build more cities than you need (the ones on mineral patches): cities occupy quite some space as you can't densely pack water/grass on them. While they can reach nice numbers (e.g. +12), I don't think they are effective in boosting your economy.

Like other people, I too found the controls "wrong" at first but got used to it.
One thing about controls that often lead me to make mistake:
Grass = 1, Water = 2
At first I was building with the idea that you need to have an hill first, then water (which needs hills), then grass (which needs water), then cities.
I think this idea lead me often to press 1 for water and 2 for grass as this is their "natural order".
Of course, following the natural order would mean that 1 is actually Hills, 2 is water, 3 is grass, 4 is cities.
Or maybe I just had to pay more attention as this game is very unforgiving on tile placement.

A note on this "unforgiveness": I think it's the correct choice for the game (I would not advocate undo or destroy).

Final thing on gameplay: current re-playability is probably low since once you have reached 100 cities playing again doesn't make much sense: even if the patches are random each time, the game would probably look the same as the first time.

But again I want to say: EXCELLENT GAME!

I can't vote for it as I didn't partecipate in the Ludum Dare, but I hope you get high ratings, you deserve them!

PS:I'll try to upload a video of the 100th city placement later.

BlueDragon says ...
Apr 28, 2012 @ 11:56am

Video here: :)

caranha says ...
May 7, 2012 @ 2:50pm

I really, really liked the audio. I think it went very well with the game, the graphic, and its mood. The idea of "renewing cycles" also gives an interesting dynamic to the game.

It was not very clear to me if each mineral patch could be collected many times, or only one.

Valeour says ...
May 7, 2012 @ 4:12pm

Very interesting and confusing at the same time, well done.

castor says ...
May 7, 2012 @ 4:47pm

Once I got used to the controls I enjoyed the game. Nice graphics and fits to the theme just right.

smvilar says ...
May 8, 2012 @ 2:53am

Nice completed game! Runs a little bit slow on my pc.

tcstyle says ...
May 8, 2012 @ 7:07pm

Very good idea. Even if the graphics are simple they work quite good.
The mechanics need some adjustment. To me it felt a little pointless as it is.

May 9, 2012 @ 8:24am

@LaReveur, @BlueDragon -- love how you've both proven out different strategies to the one I'd been toying with. Tried both myself now and having loads of fun with it.

To whomever managed to collect 25k in spare resource -- nice one, what point had you gotten to in city building and such at that point?

All -- thanks for the great feedback, this has give me some specific insight into how to structure this into a full game. Primarily thinking at the moment about how to structure introduction to concepts and add variety in city types and other extended mechanics. Core thinking revolves around having different planets with different attributes, mineral types and available features. Potentially would allow for smooth-ish curve of introduction to this point (i.e. the point of optimised builds).

@BlueDragon -- special thanks to your wonderful review/guide/analysis etc. Also thanks for the video -- it's awesome seeing that strategy (which seems to be the most effective especially insofar as geting to 100 minerals is concerned) play out to the 100 mineral level.

@caranha -- minerals can be collected many times, it's just a matter of how many cities you can get proximate to them. See @BlueDragon's post above where he explains it in the context of the strategy he used.

I'm going to be developing this further -- if any of you want in on testing and updates, hit me up on email [email protected] or twitter @36peas

TyrusPeace says ...
May 10, 2012 @ 7:48pm

I remember being intrigued by your dev posts. This is really good! The simple, clean graphics work very well with the fancy DOF/shadows, and the music works great with the gameplay. It gradually dawned on me that I was playing something pretty mindless, but I was VERY into it any way!

I have a suspicion the game balance won't hold up to scrutiny, and accidentally putting down hills instead of cities was enough of a tragedy that I realized I was really enjoying the game. It'd be nice to have less touchy/reversible controls + an easier way to tell where you can plant things.

Nice work!

schnerble says ...
May 11, 2012 @ 12:48pm

An interesting and effective mechanic, which leads into a chilled and enjoyable game. Nice work!

johanp says ...
May 13, 2012 @ 10:06am

Had quite a hard time to get a grasp of any rewarding strategy. Nice setting though.

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