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This is for the video game I'm developing called Skullborn. In this game there are large crystals that have energy that the player can harness. Claiming a crystal is essentially how the player claims territory (of the area surrounding the crystal). The energy of the crystal protects the players land as well as powers furnaces for smelting ores and more. However the player must add energy to the crystal in order to keep it claimed as theirs. (If you have ever played Rust it's similar to a Tool Cupboard)

Players can get energy by defeating elemental creatures but I want to add a farming mechanic that also allows players to give their crystal energy. So that the player can log in every day and farm a bit to keep their crystal claimed. I'm not sure how this should work though. The only thing I can think of is that there is something like the Bio Mass burner from Satisfactory but I don't love that solution because it seems kinda dumb/wasteful/and doesn't fit the theme of the game.

Here is the rough idea I have for the lore/story if you are curious:

There were magical goblins with elemental powers. Then aliens invaded with technology and weapons powered by crystals. There was a huge war in between them. Then the aliens dropped a nuclear crystal on the goblins elder tree (the source of their powers). Which caused a huge explosion. The explosion scattered crystal shards all over the world that were imbued with the chaotic elemental energy of the elder tree. The explosion also disintegrated the flesh off of everyone's bodies, leaving nothing but the skeletons and their souls were left to wander the earth searching for a body to call home again.

One major thing to note is that there is "technology" but it's very mystical/magical and all powered by the crystals. So visually think of the technology from Breath of the Wild or the Dranei from World of Warcraft or the Protoss from Star Craft

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    $\begingroup$ What's wrong with just saying "Farms provide x energy / hour to a max of Y. Click/tap on it to add to your energy pool." That is a very standard mechanic. Technobabble rational is optional. If you are asking what technobabble to use? That's brainstorming and not really a good fit for this forum. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should replace the crystal with something either more thematic to the world in your game, or something that already exists in the real world. A crystal is just a magic black box. Anything that powers it will be equally arbitrary. How exactly does this crystal claim territory. Does it create a magical zone that keeps other stuff out? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 13 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Snubber I have figured it out. See my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 14 at 17:32

8 Answers 8

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Offerings:

Your energy is derived from chaos beings, so it's a hair's breath from magic. So how about agricultural products being an offering to elemental beings?

All entropy leads to greater powers of chaos beings. The dissolution or burning of offerings fuels a chaos being that then returns part of the derived power to the crystal. Or the beings that created the crystals feed off of life energy (elemental chaos life being the best), and by offering freshly picked plants (life), the crystals are powered.

Elder Tree Saplings:

As for a crop to plant, how about elder tree saplings? The goblins got their power from there, and perhaps obtaining the elder tree energy was the point of the invasion. This does, admittedly, have a sort of "Invid Flower of Life" feel, but that isn't entirely a bad thing.

Since the crystal is feeding off of the trees, they will wither and die if not regularly watered, fertilized, and kept free of weeds.

The saplings could even be compelled to intertwine their roots to the crystal. This also provides a connection to the crystal "claiming" the land. Perhaps this is what the invading aliens intended to do to the planet all along, gradually creating a network of crystals controlling more and more of the land...

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    $\begingroup$ My idea is to similar so I made it into a comment instead: Maybe the crystals are seeds from the elder sapling... Maybe you can upgrade the crystal into a hungry elder skeleton tree/sapling. It lost it leaves so it has to be fed with food (and possibly other resources) to gain crystal energy instead. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 16:37
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Dairy Farming

enter image description here

Your game has the players be skeletons. Skeletons are made of bones. Bones need calcium. Calcium comes from milk which comes from cows.

I want to add a farming mechanic

You want farms in your game. Dairy Farms are the way to go. In fact don't bother with the crystals. Just have a dairy farm.

Claiming a crystal Dairy Farm is essentially how the player claims territory (of the area surrounding the crystal Dairy Farm). The energy of the crystal Dairy Farm protects the players land.

The cows are well trained and weigh nearly a tonne each. They have a bajillion hitpoints and chase off any intruders. This is meant to be silly. Similar to the cucoos in Zelda:

enter image description here

The cows are not supposed to be killed. So expect this to become a Skullborn speedrun category.

If you don't like the idea of aggressive cows, or think it will confuse the players, then instead use an aggressive bull.

. . . as well as powers furnaces for smelting ores and more. . . . The only thing I can think of is that there is something like the Bio Mass burner. . .

Have you ever seen a cow? They are known for their ability to produce copious amounts of faeces fuel. Look here.

enter image description here

Leave these bad boys in the sun for a few days and they dry into a hard pellet to power the furnace. Stack them up to dry faster:

enter image description here

player can log in every day and farm a bit to keep their crystal Dairy Farm claimed.

The basic daily quest is to collect new cow pats from the ground and arrange them in a heap. You could have a stacking minigame. Kids still like to stack things, right? I know I sure do.

Expect a thriving metagame about the optimal way to collect and stack poo. Pick up the pat too soon and it breaks in half and you need to make two trips to the pile. Pats on the outside dry faster. Should the pile be arranged to rotate them? One big pile or several small ones?

From there you can make the management as deep as you want. Do you have to milk your own cows? Maybe you can hire someone to do it for you? How much do you pay them? What about cheese making? What about the weather, seasons, breeding, eating all the grass, different types of animals. The list is endless.

That sounds amazing. . . . When did you say the game is coming out?

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    $\begingroup$ @SeanOConnor Nope, this is an original idea. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    May 15 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ Deleted then :) $\endgroup$ May 15 at 19:39
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Propolis. (AKA. Bee glue.)

You say the crystals shattered, and were imbued with the essence of Elder, the element of chaos. They need to be re-balanced.

Bees collect nectar and pollen from all the flowering plants, much of agriculture relies on the action of bees to perpetuate crops from season to season through fertilisation. The bigger the farm, the more variety of flowering plants, the greater the number of bees, the more bee-glue.

One nifty thing that propolis does, is it dampens harmful vibrations within the hive, preventing structural failure. The greater the variety of plants that contribute their essence to the creation of the bee-glue, the more the elements come back into balance and the chaotic effect of Elder is dampened down.

There's a free-version of Culpepper's Herbal, with much folk-lore about all plant types, magical significance etc..

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Windmill

enter image description here

The farmer could put a windmill and yield electricity, or heat, or mechanical energy, to power up the crystals.

Biofuels

enter image description here

Level 1: sugar and starch

To power these crystals, you put the energy in. Your farmer would consider planting starch for biodiesel, or sugar.. when the harvest season comes, the crystals can be powered up.

Level 2: algal fuels

A farmer could also put tanks on his land to breed algae for algal fuels. These have high yields and can be grown with minimal impact on fresh water resources. But these tanks require extra investment and experience to maintain.

Level 3: genetically engineered

(best yield, cost max, etc)

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Tiberium crystals

In the CnC Tiberium universe we can see a crystal that has some similarities. A quick talk about Tiberium crystals and what parts you can take from it.

A Tiberium crystal is green. It grows quickly by itself, but upon contact with living organisms it tries to mutate them to spread itself further. To grow it pulls resources from it's environment. From organic material to trace metals and other useful stuff. This process has a nuclear effect, making them dangerous over a distance. It is poorly understood why they are nuclear or how they pull materials towards and into themselves. They are a valuable yet dangerous resource, as they can be used for incredible power as well as usable materials.

Your crystals are still nuclear, but don't need to be dangerous anymore. It can be powered for long times by sucking materials from the environment, using nuclear energy for efficient energy production. This can be done by offerings to add abundant energy. This energy can be harvested. The crystal might also grow, storing energy in the crystal lattice. That means you can harvest some of this young, newly formed crystal full with energy. To prevent too much power you can have the newer crystal that is harvested not fully realised, making it useful as a battery, but not an infinite resource (yet).

This sets up a lot of flexibility for your game. The nuclear power is easily accepted as a long term, powerful energy source. You can add many types and colours to differentiate them. As they pull energy from it's surroundings you can give it energy by just placing stuff near or against it. This can be specific offerings like elemental remains. If you want some crystals can grow. These new crystal parts can still have wildly varying properties, allowing the inhabitants of your world to take parts of the crystals into your world and use them for different effects.

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Earth spirit

The planet is a magical entity, and its hackles are up because some damn fool detonated a kind of nuclear crystal bomb recently. For its own safety, the Earth spirit has made the natural environment become hostile to the activity of intelligent creatures -- all intelligent creatures. The hostility will continue until the Earth spirit is confident that the troublemakers -- whoever they may be -- are gone.

These crystals render a zone safe for intelligent creatures by emitting magical energy with the same flavor/signature as the planet's own natural energy, effectively disguising everyone inside the zone such that the Earth spirit thinks the area is inhabited only by the planet's own flora.

The obvious, best, and indeed only practically accessible source of such energy is the planet's own flora. Of course, no individual plant emits/leaks enough energy to be useful at the scale that's needed, so it must be collected from many plants, and then released in a controlled fashion to provide steady, even coverage.

The crystal that secures the zone is both the container and the emitter. Because it is man-made by belligerents in an active conflict, it has been designed to only protect one faction, by blending the flavor/signature of that species' energy with that of the planet's energy.

When a different faction seizes a zone, they reconfigure the crystal emitter to match their energy.

Sources

Different plants can have different energy yields. My suggestion would be that plants which evolved earlier in the planet's history should provide more energy per unit time, because the Earth spirit is most familiar with those. This would also dovetail with the extremely common gaming trope that "ancient" stuff is epic while contemporary stuff is low-value.

Along the same thinking, any individual plant which is itself very old (e.g. Methuselah) could also provide more energy, because the Earth spirit has been friends with that individual for a long time.

You might do something similar for extremely old intelligent creatures, particularly mystics, shamans, and other practitioners of earth magic or worship, because they have effectively been actively cultivating the trust of the Earth spirit. If they don't produce energy, they might at least have special personal immunity from the otherwise hostile natural environment.

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Biomass burner or bioconverter to energy is not a bad idea. Plants do not only have desired parts, depending on the plant, they also have leaves, roots, stems, etc... which can be used to convert to life energy to harness the power of the crystals. Thus the harvest will not be used for energy, but the byproduct. It could also be the act of harvesting (killing) the plants that releases the energy. You could simply state crystals require life energy to release their power to justify the need to collect life energy, either through elementals or through (lots of) plants.

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Mycorrhizal networks: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhizal_network

A feature from real life that has seen more use in sci-fi in recent years such as the electrical network in Avatar and the mycelial network in "Star Trek: Discover how to write please".

Mycorrhizal networks let plants and trees give nutrients to their surroundings, which probably helps young plants get nutrients and grow in the early stages. The fungus involved can take some of the nutrients for itself, rewarding all participants. Some trees have abused this network to pump toxins for other plants into the ground, clearing a space for itself.

The network would be used to feed and power the crystal. The player would farm plants that give specifics to the crystal while trying to keep the farmland clear of plants that either produce little or actively kill off nearby plants.

You could perhaps even expand this with some meat-eating plants like oversized pitcher plants and add farm animals/traps to the mix, each contributing their own unique nutrients and energy.

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