Children of the Nile: Resurrection thread

We’re talking a lot about Children of the Nile in the “not Banished” thread and I thought it was maybe worth breaking out into a new thread?

A couple of topics spilling over:

  1. Economy and feedback in CotN

This is totally true. I find CotN to have a very “soft” economy, which feels nice when it’s working–like you’ve got a real populace of people fulfilling their real needs–but is frustrating when it’s not. It’s very hard to puzzle out where a failure might be coming from. I always seem to have a big problem with scribes in particular, maybe that’s a coincidence, but I swear their wives seem to sit at home and brush their hair and never go out for groceries. Last night my scribes were in the orange on satisfaction and I looked at the worst of them. Okay, so I hadn’t built a temple to Thoth yet. But his goods indicator was at 0 and he was right next to clusters of both types of shops that were overflowing with goods!

Many months ago, I was reading a dev diary for Clockwork Empires (can’t seem to find it) and they talked about how the Impressions city-builders had these big open-air warehouses that let you see on some level of granularity all the actual stuff you had made and how much was left.

Like this:

I know exactly how many creepily ambiguous statues I’ve made! And weapons, and wood, etc.

CotN has a way different philosophy than those Impressions games and I don’t think it works terribly well. It’s a bit of a problem in the stores (“Many mats available”) but really quite terrible for bricks, imported goods, and other big items, which sometimes go in these tiny single-square storage spaces and sometimes just lie out in the open, scattered about next to the quarry or whatever. Last night I was importing fine limestone into my town and there were 80 units packed into one limestone object inside a storage yard as well as four or five sitting right next to the storage yard. I think each of those was only one. Representational fail.

  1. The Texture Overhaul Project and ENB project. This got me to play again for the first time in awhile. In a lot of ways, especially when I first started playing, I didn’t notice a huge difference. But when you zoom in close, it’s definitely the case that the old CotN used to get pretty dang blurry. As some have pointed out, who plays at that distance? Nobody, but it’s fun to do periodically. The priest character texture that someone showed in the other thread was pretty terrible. Most of the other characters I looked at were fine, but not a huge improvement either. It’s the buildings that make the biggest difference, and I think the new textures are very similar to the old ones, but crisper. So that’s fine, but doesn’t make for a shockingly new appearance to the game.

The ENB is a little bit of a different story. The effect that makes the biggest difference is the ambient occlusion, which puts shadows in the corners of spaces and should add more depth to the scene. To me, it just made it darker and muddier. If you flip it on and off you’ll really notice that it just makes everything look… browner. It also mucks with the UI so, for instance, you can’t see the characters in their little bubbles when you select a building. The rest of the ENB features (I used the standard ini) didn’t seem to do a whole lot other than slow down rendering. They put some weird transparency on the UI here and there which isn’t a big deal, but seems to discolor things a bit.

Overall, I’ll probably keep playing with the texture pack and leave the ENB off.

I’m glad you made this thread! I was thinking about resurrecting one of the old ones.

I’m seeing more of what you describe above. I have a townhouse right next to every common shop type. Each shop has goods. The townhouse complains about a lack of common goods. They don’t have any. I have servants available. Why the hell don’t they go next door and pick up the goods if they’re so upset about it?

I agree that in concept it seems pretty cool, but in execution it is lacking. I’m not sure if it is due to lack of useful feedback, unintelligent individuals, or some other reason. I can say it isn’t fun trying to determine why they aren’t getting their goods when there are plenty available right next door to where they live. I can’t see myself banging my head against this for too much longer.

Edit: I watched her for a bit and pretty soon she went out and shopped. She went to a distant linen shop even though the one right next door had linen. Then she licked up some other goods and she was no longer discontent with the goods available. I don’t know why she went to the much further linen shop. They had more available, but she only took 1 anyway.

I think part of the problem may be lack of reporting in the UI. It would be nice if there was a log that showed when they made an attempt to fill a need, and whether it succeeded or failed. It would be really nice if it had a link that jumped to the location of where they tried to meet their need.

I’ve also been watching an entertainer who doesn’t have enough common goods. She goes and entertains, then goes back home and does what looks like a kicking animation. Periodically the ‘decide what to do’ icon flashes up, but then she keeps on kicking. I don’t know why she isn’t going out to shop.

So one thing I will say is that it’s probably worth sticking it out through these early moments of confusion or frustration. As your population gets larger, the impact of one grumpy citizen is smaller and there’s less chance of a negative feedback loop that leads you into a death spiral. (I think I’ve hit a death spiral before, but it’s rare.)

I think your entertainer’s kicking animation is her dissatisfaction showing, which is definitely a negative feedback loop when she spends time complaining (if it gets bad enough, protesting) instead of shopping to fulfill her needs.

Every time someone brings up COTN, I feel the desire to install it again. But I think what really hurts it is the feedback: You won’t know if something is not working until it’s too late and the fact that it takes so long for your city to become sustainable. Not having that immediate feedback hurts when it comes to figuring out what exactly your city needs. And it’s very easy to screw up in the early game and lose your educated citizen or keep the elites happy to sustain food production.

Unlike other CBs where you can basically build your city in stages: Start with low class and food, add services, build middle and so on. With COTN, you’re constantly managing lower, administration and upper class all at once

I mostly agree with this, except in my opinion you could catch some problems before they occur with some tedious monitoring of buildings. For example, you can keep checking your shops to see what their inventory levels are. If they are decreasing, then it may be time to build some more. The game could be better if it provided some summary screens to look at some of the information at a glance. It is way too annoying to click on each store to check the levels. Even though it shows satisfaction on an aggregate level for each type of citizen, you really need to then check each one to see what is making them unhappy. How about showing the player somewhere how many people are dissatisfied because there isn’t a temple to Isis so I can easily decide if it is worth it. The game just doesn’t make it convenient to solve many of the problems.

So far the lack of easy info hasn’t made things so hard that I couldn’t win the first 2 easy scenarios in the campaign, but it does get tedious.

Consider the number of common stores you think you need, then double or triple it! That’s generally how I solved the problem. Everyone needs common goods so having a high density of them helps immensely. Common shopkeepers don’t need much to keep them happy so even if they have just a few sales they are okay.

Children of the Nile thrives on its the middle class, doesn’t it? It’s not like building fire stations or health clinics in another city builder. It’s an entire strata of your population, circulating bread through your economy.

-Tom

IANAP (I am not a programmer) but what could be happening is all the linen in that shop was already “claimed” by shopper from other homes heading over there. Meaning, goods in the store are “claimed” by a shopper the moment they decide to leave their home. That’s why the shopper you were watching went to a distant store. I kind of makes sense from a gameflow point of view. If a store is tagged as having goods available and all nearby shoppers just went there, you will get people turned away without getting what they needed, forcing them to look to the next available shop, and so on and so on. You could end up with a shopper traveling from place to place and never being able to get anything because the goods keep selling out before she arrives.

I like to think of COTN as marching to a very different notion of time. You will get dissatisfaction but it wont immediately doom you. Make small course corrections and you’ll eventually fix things.

That could be the way they implemented shopping. It certainly would alleviate some problems.

As I played another scenario in the campaign I gained a bit more appreciation for the game. I didn’t notice any strange behavior this time. I believe in the post above where I talked about the entertainer, I think I overlooked the fact that he might not have had enough food because I had too many entertainers. Not enough work to keep them all fed. I’ve only played the first 3 scenarios in the campaign, choosing the easy city each time but I may have had enough for now unless someone can tell me that the medium or hard campaign cities are more interesting.

Edit: removed part of post because I elaborate it more in the next post.

Does anyone with more time spent on it have any reasons why I should keep playing, or try a harder campaign?

After quitting Banished, I started playing CotN after giving it a brief try a year or so ago. I have grown to appreciate it’s civilian model and how they go about satisfying their own needs. It feels much better than having people walk around trying to satisfy the needs of others, and better than the service radius found in many city builders. CotN still seems to have a big weakness found in most / all city builders - sticking with a pretty consistent build order works tends to work. In the campaign one might need to build more papyrus and in another more bricks, but it sure doesn’t make the game feel any different. The player starts off building up a population and satisfying basic needs. Then once some threshold is met the player starts meeting more advanced needs. Eventually the player reaches a point where they need to offer more basic needs due to the population increase and the cycle continues.

CotN has some other characteristics that I deem a weakness too. While the game presents a lot of detailed information, it doesn’t provide it in a useful way in many cases. It is easy to see when many people aren’t satisfied with the worship opportunities in the city, but to find out which gods are most desired, the player must examine individual people. It just doesn’t show a summary that x number of people want to worship Ra and can’t.

Also, it is hard to determine if shops are running less than optimal. The player knows that it is best to have the raw materials located not too far away, but what is too far? For one of the shops, the help mentions within a half days walk. Well, the only way to know that is to build a shop and watch where they walk to gather raw materials. That is fairly tedious. In many cases the player can observe the raw material is close so it is not a concern, but in others it is less obvious. Also how many shops can 1 instance of a raw material service? Does it get used up? They don’t appear to, but later in the game I saw my shop family walking pretty far away to get some reeds. Why didn’t they sue a closer resource? There are enough of these types of questions to make the game frustrating at times.

If you don’t time things just right, you also find yourself waiting for longer projects to finish, even at full speed. Like Banished, this equates to not doing anything while waiting for some condition to be met. Sure you can keep building, but after a certain point, like Banished I ask myself why? I’ve built enough to support achieving the scenario goals except for waiting for a project to finish, so I just wait.

I wish I could find a city builder that doesn’t play out the same way (at least through the majority of the game) each time, and where the player has to be more reactive to varying situations that require different techniques.

Rob. This isn’t really a comment on COTN, but I honestly appreciate your ongoing search for the ultimate city builder (in this and other threads) that fit your wants and needs. If you ever find it, please share your discovery. I’m a huge fan of city building games, and although COTN is my favorite, you have a point about it’s shortcomings. Banished didn’t do it for me. Clockwork Empires looks promising, but it’s not out yet. Keep at it, my good man, keep at it!!

I would say that there’s more interesting stuff later in the campaign - we tried to keep things interesting even to those who had mastered the basic “build order” - essentially you get to the point where your garden is working and growing and then it’s time to actually do things with it, and there are stories that play out and little things to discover that are pretty cool (or at least seemed so at the time).

It’s definitely a different type of city builder - it is not made to be played with rigid blocks that perfectly optimize everyone’s needs, or to have everyone perfectly happy at all times. It’s a balancing act, which can sometimes be frustrating and sometimes really satisfying. One the things that can be really hard to wrap your head around about it is that all the feedback is about what has been going wrong, as opposed to what will be happening. So a lot of times you find yourself trying to address a problem that is already fixed but the fix hasn’t had time to work itself through the system. That does end up playing a bit like a build order, where getting the right mix is something of an art, but once you have it you pretty much just replicate it. There are some curveballs, here and there. Doing anything that requires a lot of laborers can be tough, for example, because they are a big drain on your economy. Trying to make huge payments of grain or bricks to someone to advance the scenario can also be a challenge that distorts the city a bit. The biggest difference, though, is working with the maps, finding good spots to build and making cool-looking cities within the constraints the map provides.

Thanks for your input. I’ve come to grips with the fact that the satisfaction feedback lags behind the fix in many cases because it takes time. I’ve seen people complain about a lack of goods, then come into some bread, go to the store and fix the situation. Sometimes it takes a little while before they visit a new shrine or temple, or the condition that made them want to go worship no longer applies. Then it just takes time for the dissatisfaction to fade.

Laborers can pose a challenge, especially if the site is far away from the main city. Building a pyramid isn’t too bad when you can build it close to the city. So far the maps haven’t constrained me, because there was plenty of room to build. Again, I’ve only done the first 4 cities in the easy campaign so it could be different on the harder maps.

Part of my problem is that in any city builder I don;t really care about the aesthetics. I’m just going for functionality, so I don’t really have that self-imposed constraint.