I don't like to guess delivery dates, since the next update is very complex. What I can say is that I finished designing the rules and systems for the next update, and I'm writing the code now. The update will be all about towns and NPCs, and it should help the game to begin to seem like a game. At first, it will be limited to primitive technologies and basic jobs. Future updates will move gradually up the tech tree, towards modern times.
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I'm working on this now. You can't currently get seeds from wheat. In the next update, you will get new seeds directly by harvesting wheat, and the wheat will go to the nearest town's food supply, instead of to your inventory.
I've settled on a design for the town system, which I'll outline briefly here:
Towns appear and grow based on local food production. There are rules for how neighboring towns interact, for example smaller towns become suburbs of larger hubs, and can be annexed if the hub overtakes them. Suburbs trade with their own hub city, and hubs trade with nearby hubs.
NPCs are assigned primary jobs based on the town's needs. Players can always do whatever they want. NPCs work in shifts: day job, home improvement, socializing, and sleeping. Jobs are assigned based on the town's needs, and generally focus on a specific type of gathering and/or crafting. For example a woodcutter finds trees, harvests wood, and brings it to a depot. A builder can take materials from a depot and construct someone else's blueprint.
I'm strongly leaning towards more free-form block-based building, instead of the current pre-defined structures. The idea is that structures are mainly decorative, not functional. People are functional. So a shop is a shop because there is a shopkeeper in it, not because it's a pre-defined building type.
Land is parceled out by the town on request, for various purposes. This allows the town to grow organically, but somewhat orderly. I've considered systems for discouraging players from being too greedy with land, but I'm not convinced it's necessary just yet. The game is still single player for the time being, so if you want to grief yourself and the town, why not :)
I think that's enough to get started on coding.
When I first started this project, the focus was on exploration and crafting. The current version of the game already does a pretty good job of showing how those aspects work. Shortly before the first EA release, I became very interested in ways to simulate a global civilization in detail.
In the description, I wrote that the next update would include "improvements to the AI and town system." It turns out that this meant designing and coding a huge part of what the 'real game' will be. Rather than being a minor update, it was more like designing a whole game from scratch. So that's what I've been doing. I've made a lot of progress on designing the systems for towns/cities, jobs, and the economy.
I plan to resume coding in a week or two. I will prefer to release small updates whenever possible, rather than try to set a date for the whole thing.
Thanks! I agree a lot of updates are necessary, and they're on the way. My plan for buildings is that you'll eventually be able to go inside them, furnish and decorate them with a lot of details. I also have some ideas about eventually giving the player more control over the details of building. Not necessarily block building, but similar as far as fitting individual pieces together.