We Crashed Here: A more interesting approach to Research (with fiction)

Started by Lechai, October 10, 2013, 07:45:35 AM

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A more interesting approach to Research (with Fiction)

The following is an idea about a more interesting approach to Research in Rimworld through the eyes of my four Fictional Colonists.
And here they are:

Tim – Was middle management in a carpet manufacturing company. Colour-blind. Assumes role of leader.
Susan - 19, Pretty, Pregnant. Was a part-time receptionist for a large beauty parlor. Doesn't do labor.
Colin – Plumber from an industrial aged world. Good with metal. Alcoholic
Bob – Retired, Overweight, Jolly.

I like to think about how a research scenario would likely play out in a Rimworld colony that’s trying to survive. Please enjoy my example :)

Colony of ‘We Crashed Here!’ Daily team meeting.

Tim (Colony Leader): “Well guys, we’re holding off the bandits pretty good now that our fourth turret is finally online. But we’re running out of food. We’re eating more than we grow and only have enough for three more weeks, even with last week’s rationing measures that we introduced.”
Susan: “I’m so hungry. Did I mention I’m pregnant?”
Colin: “Only every five minutes, you don’t even do anythi…”
Susan: “I told you! My back is sore.”
Tim: “Enough you two! Listen, Bob. You used to be a plant guy, can you think of something?”
Bob: “I did like two units of marine biology back at university over twenty years ago.”
Tim: “Close enough. Can you start working on it in the morning?”
Bob: “I was supposed to be fixing the solar panels that were damaged in the last attack.”
Tim: “Congrats Colin, you’re on panels. Bob, report to me as soon as you figure something out”
Colin: “but…”
Tim: “Or you can help me mine out the south tunnel.”
Colin: “Panels, got it.”
Tim: “Okay everyone, report in tomorrow morning. Susan, time for you to go have a nice friendly chat with our new guest in Cell Three.”

In-game, this is the player selecting ‘Bob’ and then sending him to the ‘Research Bench’. Now instead of selecting a pre-determined technology with a pre-determined time and outcome, we select a player skill based on our colonies need:
It could be Construction, Mining, even Research itself or Fighting. But in this case ‘Farming’.

What happens next?

Every amount of game-time,  the game will determine if a research event takes place. This could be from a minute to a game day depending on how well its balanced.

Event Outcome = (random number (0-99) + Research Skill + Field Skill - Field Difficulty)

This way the researcher’s skill/knowledge in the field matters equally as much as their actual ability to research.
Field difficulty starts at 0 and increments by 5 (possibly more or less depending on the number of technologies in the field) every time a new tech is unlocked in that field. This means you can potentially have an unlimited amount of research to do, it just gets more and more difficult as the field difficulty rises quicker than the skill gained from researching.


0 or less (Disaster)

Insert random research disaster event here, example:

<There is an almighty explosion>
<Moments later Colin is found dragging a blackened and barely conscious Bob out of the research lab as the other colonists rush over>
Susan (panicking): “OMG OMG is he okay?”
Tim: “Give him some space guys! Bob, Bob, What happened?”
Bob: “Urrnnggh…. I was experimenting with Boomrat blood and fertiliser. And Tim…”
Tim: “Yes Bob?”
Bob: “I think I burnt the carpet.”

In this case, the research bench and bob are both badly damaged. And all progress in the field is lost. Research skill increases.

1-19 (Minor Failure)

Insert random research minor failure event here, example:

<Large amounts of swearing starts coming from the lab>
<Tim pops his head in to investigate to find Bob madly swinging a broom at a rather dexterous squirrel>
Bob: “Out you damn vermin!”
Tim: “Bob, what’s going on?”
<Bob takes another swing and misses>
Bob: “I was grafting that weed that grows real fast with some potatoes. Turns out they don’t grow any faster but the damn squirrels go crazy for them.”
<Squirrel takes the last remaining sample and scoots out the door into the wilderness.>
<Bob sighs>
Bob: “Looks like I’m back to square one.”

In this case, some progress in the field is lost. Research skill increases.

20-79 (No Progress)

No event takes place and the colonist continues to research

Colony of ‘We Crashed Here!’ Daily team meeting.

Tim: So any news people?
Colin: “Panels fixed, paste dispenser needs topping up again though.”
Tim: “Foods getting lower, and progress Bob?”
Bob: “Not yet, fiddling around with some new fertilisers, it takes time to grow stuff to test you know!”
Tim: “Fair enough, Colin I’ll get you to help me placing the new det-chargers today. Other than that, see you all tomorrow.”

80-99 (Minor Breakthrough)

A portion of a technology is unlocked, no in-game event takes place though

Colony of ‘We Crashed Here!’ Daily team meeting.

Tim: “So Susan, how's our new guest?”
Susan: “Hungry like the rest of us, hard to sweet talk someone your also starving. He's cute though with all those tatts.”
Tim: “Keep it up, we need all the help we can get, just remember who's recruiting who... How bout you Bob? Progress?
Bob: “Yeah, kind of getting my head around this blight issue. I’m going to test some new samples tomorrow to see if I can infuse the potatoes with some resistance to it. We might not lose the whole lot every time. I’ll come get you when I’ve got the results.”
Tim: “Excellent work, can’t wait.”
Colin: “And Me?”
Tim: “Those bodies out there are starting to smell. Grab a shovel.”

Progress increased by 1. Research skill increases.

100-110 (Breakthrough or after enough Minor Breakthroughs)

A new random technology in that field is unlocked and the field difficulty is increased by one.

<Tim looks up from the landmine hole he has just dug to see Bob lumber over as fast as the old man can move.>
Bob: “Tim I think I have something, come have a look.”
<The two walk over to the lab where a foul smelling tan liquid cools in a glass jar next to an assortment of half decomposed potatoes, a metal box and a spraying bottle.>
Tim: “Eeeewww, what is that smell…”
Bob: “Our salvation!”
Tim: “Please don’t tell me we have to drink that, I’d rather starve.”
Bob: “Oh heck no, I figured out that the blight isn’t a disease. Its bacteria.
Tim: “Um, and is that what’s in the jar?”
Bob: “No, the planet is laced with a highly aggressive bacteria that targets certain plant strains and basically rots them while they’re still growing. However there must be some sort of exotic particle or radiation emitted by the local star that inhibits this aggressive behaviour for a few hours.
Tim: “Which isn’t around during an eclipse season.”
Bob (beaming with pride): “Exactly!
Tim: “So what’s with the goop?”
Bob: “Oh, Its curdled Muffalo milk blended with local mushrooms and Muffalo droppings, diluted with water so you can spray it on the crops. Basically its blight specific weed-n- feed. Here, watch.
<Bob takes out 2 new potatoes and places them on the lab bench. One he sprays with the tan liquid. He then opens a metal box and pulls out an eye dropper with a pink fluid in it. He points at it>
Bob: “Concentrated Bacteria I kept in a lead box to make them aggravated”
<Bob squeezes a single drop on the unprotected potato and within a minute all that remains is a small brown lump of muck. He then squeezes a second drop onto the sprayed one, a minute later a thumb shaped hole had appeared.>
Bob: “There not immune, but we should at least have some left to eat if we get hit. And we can start using it straight away.”
Tim: “Excellent work Bob, you get a pay rise.”
Bob: “You mean breakfast in bed?”
Tim: “Bed no, breakfast yes.”

In this case, the colony unlocked Blight resistance. Research skill increases. Yay! Now get back to work.

111+ (Major Breakthrough)

A new random technology in that field is unlocked (possibly before its required tech is unlocked) and the field difficulty is increased by one.

<There is an almighty explosion, followed by cackling laughter>
<The colonists run into the lab to see Bob lying on the floor covered from head to toe in a purple and red slimy mess that covers everything. Bits of fur and bone can be seen here and there, he is laughing hysterically.>
Susan: “I think he’s cracked.”
Colin: “Susan, for once, I agree with you.”
Bob: “I’m ok, here, someone help me up.”
<Tim and Colin help Bob up covering their own hands in the purple mess in the process.>
Bob: “Thanks, and now for my next trick…”
<Bob scrapes some slime off his shoulder, puts it in his mouth and starts chewing.>
Bob: “Mmmmmmm”
Tim: “What are you doing? Is that Safe? What even is it?”
Bob: “You know how I bought those raspberries from the last trader. Well I mixed one with some Boomrat blood and got a sweet, high protein, edible, jam like substance. Turns out their blood is so rich with sugar and nitrates which is why its so… energetic when excited. So I captured a whole heap with the idea to harvest the blood. Unfortunately they all broke out of the cage, ate the raspberries and took off.”
<Another explosion can be heard in the distance.>
Bob: “I only managed to re-capture one. Which I’m currently wearing. I like to call it, BoomBerry Jam (Patent Pending).”
<Everyone laughs>
<Another Explosion>
Colin: “You realise that those rats will spread raspberry seeds everywhere in those jam-splosions.”
Tim: “Which will grow and get eaten by more rats...”
Bob: “We're going to drown in jam within the month!”
<Susan's normally straight composure cracks as the starving expectant mother kneels down and starts shovelling BoomBerry Jam into her mouth.
Susan: “Thish ish shoooow mush better than pashte”
<Everyone laughs and starts eating, and for the first time since the crash, everyone is happy AND full.>

BoomBerry technology unlocked.
Research skill increases.

The Math

Lets use our current example of our Retiree Bob, tasked with farming research. He's no scientist, but has learned a thing or two in his time, so we'll give him a research skill of 6. And as mentioned in the intro, he's their farmer and studied marine biology so we'll give him a farming skill of 9.
This gives him a +15 to his roll.

Assuming no other technologies were researched in farming he would have the following chances:
  • Minor Failure – 4%
  • Minor Breakthrough – 19%
  • Breakthrough – 10%
  • Major Breakthrough – 3%

However, With the same skill, if they had already discovered 4 other technologies in that field, it would be:
  • Disaster – 5%
  • Minor Failure – 19%
  • Minor Breakthrough – 14%
Gee I hope I got the math right...

Randomly Selected Technologies
When a new technology is successfully researched in a field, the game will select a tech based on what's available in that skill field. This can be applied to any Technology Tree model:
single – A list of single unlinked technologies (current model)
linear – skill A leads to B leads to C, can be multiple lines.
branching – tree model, lots of different skills with inter-linked dependencies.
Stacking – Each technology can be researched multiple times each one adding to the original effect.
Any combo of above.
It may be wise to add weight to constantly missed available technologies, but I like the idea of the randomness.


  • It adds some randomness but still allows you to specify the area you wish to research.
  • No timers, its either being researched or discovered
  • Can be applied to any technology tree model:
  • Colonist research tag team. Want to research mining, use your miner to research it for best results.
  • More interesting. Will your scientist develop a new long range turret, or shoot himself in the foot?
  • Hidden technology, what will your colonists discover this play through?
  • Modularity, add or remove technologies without affecting the interface. As its hidden until discovered.


  • Possible player frustration at not being able to select a specific technology
  • Players not knowing what's available because its hidden
  • More work to develop.

If nothing else, I hope you have enjoyed the snippets of story to enhance the idea's. Feel free to let me know what you think of the rough concept and how research doesn't have to be a linear means to an end. It can be its own story.

I also would have organised my thoughts a bit better but my three enraged squirrels need to be fed.

Until Next time
Happy barely-surviving all you Rimworld Colonists!

And yes my first Colony will be called “We Crashed Here”


This awesome topic could have its place in the Stories category, I love it ;D


I think it's a good idea; maybe could be added as an option (hidden research) like, if i remember correctly, in the game "Alpha Centauri".


Hmmm, interesting idea indeed. I like it.

The research system's thread has been quiet for a while now and I'd missed the debate.
Tynan's opinion on the feasibility of it would be nice at this point, but from my understanding it should be quite possible.

Love the Boomberry Jam idea and introducing the concept through fiction was very amusing.


Quote from: Lechai on October 10, 2013, 07:45:35 AM
A whole lot of text

you my man should write a book and i'll gladly be a pre-reader and donate to your Kickstarter (-:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke


Great to see people embracing the story aspect of RimWorld! I am looking forward to reading more game stories as more players have access to the game.

As far as research is concerned though, I'd be wary of introducing random elements to research or hiding research from the player. Games that have tried systems like this include Paradox's Victoria II and Sword of the Stars 2. Victoria II's research system is not considered on of its strong points, and the less said about Sword of the Stars 2 the better.

Lechai, you see good at coming up with a lot of in-depth details for your ideas. Do you have any player-friendly ideas for research (i.e, not taking control or information away from the player)?


Thanks for the feedback everyone :) Glad you enjoyed it!

@Semmy - I have a full time job and 3 kids so there probably won't be a book. However, I'll probably write up some more stories just to explore the fictional element.

@SpaceEatingTrex - I was fully aware of the random and hidden research aspect being a potential bugbear with players. Which is why its listed in the 'Cons' category. Turning this off however, is not as difficult as you may think. You would first need some sort of filter to only list the available tech in the UI which the player would then select from. And that's it, the rest of the researching mechanic still works. This could even be a selectable item from the pre-game menu or tied to an AI storyteller type. Randy Random for random and hidden, Phoebe for shown and selectable as an idea.

Anyway, i may get back to writing about the W.C.H. storyline.
Stay tuned.


I don't see random research helping anything: not even realism. Think about it: they'd always be fairly sure of what they were working on. In a highly realistic research system, if you tell your scientists "find me a way to make the place look nicer" they'd go off and think for a bit, decide to research carpets, and then go do that.


It was an enjoyable read, for sure.  But I think I'm with GC13 on this.  There was quite a bit of discussion over in the research thread, and it feels more like that what these guys are doing is about like any of us using Google to figure out how to make something work.  Not really doing the theoretical research in the first place, just digging through the manual to see how to do something we know can be done.


Quote from: GC13 on October 10, 2013, 07:19:38 PM
I don't see random research helping anything: not even realism. Think about it: they'd always be fairly sure of what they were working on. In a highly realistic research system, if you tell your scientists "find me a way to make the place look nicer" they'd go off and think for a bit, decide to research carpets, and then go do that.
I'm not sure what you mean, because the system does EXACTLY what your example entails.
Colony has need -> You start research in a field related to that need -> You get something from that field that helps.
My Example:
Need (Low Food) -> Research (Bob, Farming) -> Random Outcome (BoomBerry Jam)
Your Example:
Need (Ugly) -> Research (Scientist, Construction) -> Random Outcome (Carpet)

I actually agree with you that Rimworld research is more about adaption and reverse engineering than new discovery. Remember this is about a Researching system, not the actual research technologies themselves.
The randomness is the colonists attempting to come up with a solution to the problem. Didn't quite get what you were after? Smack him over the back of the head and send him back to work. Remember that researching is a gamble in Real Life too (Research grants don't always pay off). People have gotten used to static research models for far too long and have become too comfortable with it. At Rimworld's Heart is its AI storyteller, why not extend this into the researching aspect as well instead of trying to turn it into a copy-paste RTS.
Other games do that better.


There are a couple interesting aspects of this:

1. You don't necessarily know what you're going to get.
2. There can be research disasters and research critical hits.

I quite like the second one. I'm a bit wary of the first. But thankfully these two things are quite easily separable.

I wonder if you could get bonus research benefits without necessarily not knowing exactly what you were researching. E.g. Some topics would be off the tree; you'd only get them as a side-bonus if you had a colonist researching something related and got a critical hit. So, while researching turret cooling, you might stumble upon turret accuracy (which cannot be directly researched).

Could be too complex, that part, though. Anyway, thanks for the well-thought-out writeup!
Tynan Sylvester - @TynanSylvester - Tynan's Blog


No worries, thanks for the feedback Ty.
I like the idea of being able to tie the hidden/shown aspect to different AI storytellers too, that way you actually CAN cater to both types of players.

If you ever want me to develop more in this area let me know, otherwise I'll go back to writing some fiction for "We Crashed Here"


Quote from: Tynan on October 11, 2013, 12:00:08 AM
You don't necessarily know what you're going to get. [...] I'm a bit wary of [this]
Well, in a pure strategy game, it would certainly be a bad thing. You have to know what you'll get and when to be able to follow build orders and such. But in RimWorld, if your colony got wiped out because you got carpets instead of improved turret burst fire, it doesn't really matter because it makes for a good story and you can start a fresh one immediately.

I love the uncertainty part, because it's the grain of salt that forces players to react with unexpected ways.


Quote from: Hypolite on October 11, 2013, 11:57:41 AM
But in RimWorld, if your colony got wiped out because you got carpets instead of improved turret burst fire, it doesn't really matter because it makes for a good story and you can start a fresh one immediately.

I love the uncertainty part, because it's the grain of salt that forces players to react with unexpected ways.

Yes and no.  As Lechi proposed it, you wouldn't get carpets instead of improved turret burst fire.  It would be more like, improved turret range instead of improved turret burst fire.  Or potted plants instead of carpets.  At least, that's the way I read it.  You would still be able to pick the general field, but not the specific item.


I over-exaggerated the randomness, I'm also all for research categories that would prevent such scenario, but still, even that far-fetched scenario wouldn't be a bad thing story-wise.