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Learning Factory Dev Diaries, Dec 2021: What A Wild Year!
Hey everyone and welcome!
There's been a lot of new subscribers to this humble news list lately, so let's start off with a little introduction, shall we? If you want to get straight to what's new in Learning Factory, don't hesitate to scroll down a bit. We won't judge!
In The Beginning, There Were Cats
Luden.io's mission is to spark curiosity and help people find their passion in life through video games. Maybe that's why cats are featured in our games: the curiosity of these elegant beasts has become proverbial. Despite what the proverb says, no cats will be harmed in our games. Instead, they code, research stuff and go places. Places like Mars!
But let's get back to Earth for a bit. while True: learn() turned out to be a cute and surprisingly popular puzzle game about machine learning, but there was not much place for growth. It was either to keep adding new levels or significantly redesign the game to meet our further goals.
And we had so many things that we wanted to try: for one, while True: learn() included only bits of real machine learning models, effectively being a puzzle game revolving around the topic of machine learning. So we've started thinking about a gameplay in which a player would be able to apply real machine learning to quests and tasks. After many hours of brainstorming, we've decided that shop-management would be the perfect rabbit hole for going deeper into machine learning (pun totally intended).
And where there is machine learning, there is big data, and big data calls for a bigger game. This, in a nutshell, was our mental journey towards creating a game about building a giant hi-tech factory for cats. On Mars.
Global Progression: Next Stop - Catopia!
Having released a couple of major updates and closed Stage 1 of Early Access, we've decided to take some time and get into philosophic mood, trying to understand: what's our game is all about, to us and to our players?
Ok, we know that Learning Factory is about building an industrial cluster. But most importantly, it's about making cats happy. We have been studying feedback from our players in an effort to find the essence of what our players value most in the game.
Apparently, the top features are: relaxing gameplay (no carnivorous insects!), endless optimization and, by all means, cats! Hence our new story-driven trailer:
How do you see the game though? You can help us a great deal by recording a 1-2 minute video of your top-of-mind impressions from our Steam Page! Doesn't matter if you already own the game or not, your feedback is vital for us to understand what our players want from a game like Learning Factory, so we could make it more awesome!
Anyway, back to those formerly unhappy cats. We noticed that the players were genuinely enjoying the process of catering to our feline overlords, but two questions were looming. First: how do we connect the Factory-building routines to the global story? And second: how do we make the players more interested and engaged by it?
To answer the first question, we have introduced the almighty Global Progression Scale, which is visible on the Research Tree. It is a set of milestones that unlock next story chapters (previously they were unlocked upon researching certain technologies), but it's not just that. Milestones result in your Monument (the hi-tech brain hub of KOTOVOD Learning Factory) undergoing visual changes and upgrades. Additionally, they provide performance boosts, so you get to feel more powerful and important.
But these are just the first steps. We will continue aligning the story with the gameplay, so you, the players, never hesitate about your final goal in the game: that is, establishing Catopia on Mars, a perfect feline society, where cats will live in abundance. The way this goal will be reached is one of the big things on our developer plates for the upcoming year, and the future is definitely bright! You can see that by the looks of our new key art:
One of the other important insights that we've carried out within the past months: some of our players don't even know that Learning Factory is happening on Mars! Although those who have seen the golden medal ending of while True: learn() could have guessed where things were going… Anyway, we thought this is the perfect time to shed some light over the game's premise!
In the first half of XXI century humans have found out that cats are actually sentient (although extremely lazy) beings, who came to Earth from outer space. After establishing contact via cat-human translation devices (developed with the power of machine learning), the two species teamed up to terraform Mars, effectively making the Red planet look green and lively. During the process, they were helped and guided by the mysterious cats from the I.L.L.U.M.I.N.A.T.I. (Interstellar Lazy Labor Union for Mars Integration and Never-ending Aspiration for Technological Innovations), a mysterious organization and keepers of ancient feline knowledge.
But someone has apparently made it to Mars years ago. Having finished the terraforming process, interstellar colonists have been contacted by a Dr. Katz, who turned out to be a feline scientist and a participant of an experimental project, contemplated by one of the Earth's governments back in the XX century. The project was called KOTOVOD and it was, in essence, a factory for studying cats and making them happy.
The whole KOTOVOD project, in turn, was revolving around the ancient cat-shaped structure, now known as The Monument. Dr. Katz would never be able to rebuild and research it by himself, because, you know, he has paws instead of hands. That's why he teams up with a humble genius engineer from Earth in an effort to restore the Monument, discover the secrets of the feline race and establish Catopia on one planet (for starters).
What Else Is New
(Yet Another) Advertising Cat Gate
We were not planning any major content additions to the game, since the past couple of months was incrediblry rich with new mechanics, new buildings and nodes on the research tree. That doesn't mean, however, that we've got nothing to show! For one, here's our brand new Advertising Cat Gate:
The building, formerly known under that name, is now called Target Advertising Cat Gate. This fella here, is a little more humble: it doesn't allow you summon selected types of cats, but it does let you select a kind of goods (1 per a Gate!) and allocate promotional budget: if it's sufficient, a cat looking for that item of your choosing will be summoned to the Factory. Keep in mind that they might have other items on their shopping lists, too!
Some of it is already in the game, other pieces are expected to appear shortly, but in general: the great and dreadful Holiday Season is upon us, meaning that Learning Factory is getting festive, just look at those cats:
2021 In Screenshots
It’s been a wild year: Learning Factory got released in Early Access on Steam and has grown times as bigger since February… There was also this epic story with Learning Factory EDU which resulted in a dedicated version of the game for middle school students, which is available for free to everyone, along with teacher guides and examplary lesson plans…
It's been a lot!
The time to properly reflect upon all of it will come a bit later: when we'll be celebrating our 1st year in Early Access next February. Until then, we've got a couple of other aces up our sleeves, but most importantly: we've got Holidays to kick back for a couple of days, before we rock on!
So for now, let's enjoy these last days of the year and spend a minute to scroll through this humble screenshot gallery, demonstrating how Learning Factory has been changing throughout this year: