Snowtopia is a ski resort tycoon available in early access since 2021 and came out in 2022. The game allows players to shape their ski resort with a lot of freedom. It also has a singular twist in its in-game economy system: it does not include any money.
I had the opportunity to join the Snowtopia team in 2021 as a system game designer. I was in charge of adding depth to the management system of the game within its constraints by identifying points to improve, then finding solutions to do so.
I therefore worked on 4 main aspects :
- Adding depth to the visitors’ needs system
- Rework the visitors’ AI and pathfinding system
- Clarifying and improving signs and feedbacks as well as UI
Visitors’ needs rework
The visitors used to have only criterias (slopes, food, aesthetics…) for the resort to meet for them to be satisfied. In order to give them a clearer goal and personalities (favorite places, foods etc), I designed a « list of activities » system for all the skiers’ profile. It was a simple solution to reinforce the reward of unlocking different profiles and to adjust difficulty easily by modifying how much they wanted to do in their stay and how hard it was for the player to get the facilities they liked. The list would be added to another, more passive systems of needs.
I created and balanced the list for all profiles, regarding their unlocking, targeted difficulty and in order to make the player discover several aspects of the game:
I also simulated the overall satisfaction, testing different formulas taking all aspects into account to balance the game closely to what it would be in-game.
Pathfinding & AI rework
In order to create a clearer behavior of the skiers, who were previously able to find « second best » solutions and therefore not send a clear sign to the player of why they were unsatisfied, I worked on their AI and their pathfinding.
I started by reworking what parts of the station they could see, regarding their ski level and the slopes at their disposal, taking all possibles situations into accounts.
Then I wanted to give them clear priorities on what they do, in order for the visitors to maximize their chances to be happy while being understood by the players. First with a simple flowchart, then a more detailled one, to help with programming integration.
In order to adjust the game difficulty dynamically, without overwhelming the players, 2 aspects needed to be tackled: each visitors end of stay and the spawn system of each type of visitors.
So I designed a flow for the end stay of visitors that felt fair for the players as well as a formula to ease each visitor type spawnrate, to avoid to overwhelm the players with too much skiers.
Signs, Feedbacks & UI design
To conclude the clarification of the skiers’ needs and behaviors, I also worked on clarifying signs, feedbacks and the UI inherent to the skiers’ systems.
To achieve it, I started by rationalizing the different states the skiers could be in, and creating hierarchy between them in case they go off at the same time.
I also designed the UI to underpin the new designs for the skiers:
And suggested improvement for other UIs in the game, taking the large 3D map aspect of the game into account.