Construction UI Overhaul

The current issue:

The Construction Menu is a big stepping stone for a player to create a stationary base, it hasn’t been adjusted in functionality for a long time though.

The major points in this topic:

-Consolidating Constructions into categories, ‘structuring’ it.
-Allowing to search by needed materials/qualities like other menus.

-A ‘Beyond’ part where I’ll dive into some loose ideas in what it could open up in the future.

The ideas/solutions/suggestions for those:


Currently the whole Construction Menu is a very long list that seems hard to read and needs the player to know exactly what they’re searching for. This is a fairly hard check to get into the whole system in the first place.
To alleviate it I suggest to consolidate each Construction option into a main category and maybe some sub-categories which can be chosen.
As a first idea for those the main categories could be ‘Exterior’, ‘Interior’ and ‘Infrastructure’.

The Infrastructure would contain all walls, roads, roofs and the likes, making it easy to actually build the structures in the first place. This could also have things like pits in it.

Exterior would put emphasis on things one generally would build outside, solar panels, wind turbines, traps like spike-pits and so on.

Interior would be furniture, appliances and the likes.

This alone would already cut down heavily on the hurdle for players to get into the whole system. As a side-effect it would make it visible which aspects of the construction mechanic aren’t well fledged out yet.

Search functions:

The crafting menu allows to search via materials, shows the relations and much more.
I suggest something similar for the construction menu as it starts to direly need it with the additions coming into it over time.

First of all, the search for needed materials. ‘What can I build with concrete?’ for example, as well as ‘Can I even build something with xyz?’
This is a fairly important question to the player and currently It’s (at least to my knowledge) not possible to do that.

Searching by qualities falls into the same category. Obtaining a new tool and wanting to know if it’s used for any sort of construction can help out to put the emphasis on acquiring the means to do so rather then finding out if something even exists in the first place.

Further on I suggest for a search option regarding constructions which still provide skill in some category, as well as showing how far it can cause you to progress (the last would do well in the crafting window as well) and also keeping the current option of currently available buildings obviously existing and best-case interacting with the search to show ‘skilling’ constructions.

What would it provide to the game:

Accessibility, CDDA is massively complex and overwhelming for a new player, every means to reduce the chance of a player simply being visually overwhelmed and feeling ‘lost’ is a good one in my book, and since it doesn’t change anything regarding the actual end-results provided this topic has been focusing solely on how it’s presented to the player.

Which also brings me to the part which would actively affect the game.

Beyond (Or ‘rambling on ideas’):

With a better visual representation of the system it would make it far easier to implement systems that currently would simply overwhelm it utterly. Also through the related search functions implemented other systems can build on top of them.

As a few examples:

A ‘Construct on tile’ ability. This one would let you choose one of the tiles around your character, displaying all possible building options currently available. If relations are put into it then this could even go as far as show a tree-like outline of what this tile could become over time. For example a grass tile. It allows a shallow pit and showcases all constructions in a neat overview on what could be made out of that put. Possible stuff to fill it in or making it into a deep pit for example.

Overhauling the actual way the world interacts with tiles and constructions. Currently each tile is fairly ‘static’. We got a sort of construction on it and it’s basically a fixed tile. Opening that up to say ‘We got this as floor, this as filling and this as a roof’ would allow a big change in how constructions can even be tackled. This can go from having proper foundations for ‘heavy’ buildings in the game, to modular ‘fillings’ like walls (for example with cabling or plumbing) as well as allowing walls and the above floors to be of different materials.

With the above it would also allow to make highly customizable tiles, giving them qualities. Having a list of all things possible to be done if every specific quality is available would simply make the construction menu unable to be read entirely in the current state. With a proper UI though it could allow them to have functions like ‘load bearing’, ‘cabled’ for power supply, ‘plumping’ for fluid transportation and the likes. It would allow to sensibly build over air without giving players the power to make literal air-bridges… but still gap a single open space without workarounds as an example.

One other thing such a UI change would allow is to make constructions a ‘progressive’ step. Similar to the building stages we already have. Pick a tile and say what the outcome is supposed to be. Foundation picked → Good, now pick the filling (if any) → optional things like cabling, plumbing, sockets, indentions for storage and so on → roofing (if applicable). Creating a ‘modular construction’ which shows the materials needed for each stage, overall and the next possible ones in line. Streamlining it heavily and removing chances to mess up heavily and re-doing things.

I hope this one is something to be seen in the future inside the game as I think it would open up loads of possibilities and make the game even more enjoyable as it already is. Also any faults/suggestions/re-writes and the likes will be - obviously - put into the starting post here whenever I can check in.

I wouldn’t mind either a better UI or updated core functionalities, so I’m not opposing any of that.

  • The construction UI allows for searching for matching strings, so you can search for “wall” or “window” and get somewhat closer to a shorter list. You can then look at each of those to find which one fits your needs/resources/tools the least badly. That’s inferior to a better UI, but it exists currently.
  • The internal functionality of the game currently supports exactly one “terrain” and one “furniture” per game tile (where the furniture choice can be “f_null”, i.e. no furniture). The “terrain” is a single value that encompasses both the ground/floor, any terrain feature on top of it (such as a tree, a wall, or open air), as well as any potentially roof. This prevents mixing and matching these three elements freely, as they come in predetermined sets (and they also define what “terrain” turns into when destroyed, so smashing a wall will always result in exactly the same type of ground/floor because the smash transformation is static and predetermined). I suspect this is a remnant from when the game was fully 2D. It IS possible to specify what ground you can construct “terrain” on, so you may require some types of construction preparations (I believe the ramp construction logic is one example of this, and a deep pit requires a shallow pit as an older example). It would make sense to have the ceiling dictated not by what you construct the floor out of, but rather by what you construct the roof/next floor out of. Similarly, it would make sense for the game to keep track of ground/floor and “stuff” on top of the ground separately (and the ceiling based on the next level up). Changing that wouldn’t be trivial, but it would certainly be desirable.
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Yes, we have ‘basic’ search functionality already, or rather we have listings for the diverse types of constructions, namely ‘Furniture’ and ‘Appliances’ for example, albeit especially the ‘Appliances’ part would need extended functionality.

While quite a few of the constructions list what they do it still lacks a comprehensive overview for the player. A simple example can be given with a wall.
What’s the durability of the wall for example?
Currently the player runs utterly blind in that regard. This information is more or less mandatory for some situations but not readily available (Probably somewhere and somehow accessible though, despite playing since years I haven’t found it though).

This would also be especially important for appliances. A prime example is the minifridge. You can craft it but the information provided is very lackluster.
How much power does it need?
How much volume can it hold?

Same goes for appliances providing any sort of quality, a table saw for example.
Power needs?
Qualities provided?
I imagine it does provide a wood sawing one, but is it 2? More?

This should be information available to the player, it’s very important one even.

Also the way the information currently is provided does leave a lot open for improvement.
The same goes for the current layout of constructions like taking off paint from any sort of wall. It provides a whooping 49 variants of the same craft, and while you can swiftly get the gist of what can be adjusted… but 49 variants?
A more proper way to present them would be in nested categories like we currently have in the crafting menu. Hence [‘Remove Paint’ → ‘Wall material’ → ‘Color’] as an example. Readability increases several folds with something like this already.

Hence the change in formatting and provision of information. The construction menu has no need for values like ‘volume’ ‘weight’ or melee stats, it is supposed to provide the description of the respective item constructed, the qualities it provides and best-case any sort of upgrades which can be further made, all of that in a way a player immediately understand ‘Ah, that’s what it’s for’ and can set the respective goal for it.

Some good ideas there. I especially like the, “There’s concrete and a mixer here, is it actually useful in game?” And separating out all the ‘Place furniture’ clutter would be wonderful.

Categorization is good. Just remember it can also cause the same problems you’re trying to correct if you have to know which category something is in before you can find it. Make sure to retain a clear ‘see everything I can build with what’s on hand’ option (I’m pretty sure you would anyway). Late game that will get overcrowded. Early game, and especially for new players, that will get much more use.

The other thing to remember, in the context of managing the expectations of new players, is materials. Organization of materials is a huge problem in the game. Any finished product based organizational scheme will tend to push new players to separate their materials the same way. Anyone who sets up their first base with a kitchen separate from their workshop discovers to their annoyance that, in this game, it doesn’t work. Materials and products from one are needed in the other. Gotta craft and repair by the kitchen stove, or cook in the living room where the wood stove is. Those same materials are needed for construction.

Of course, the single biggest hurdle for new players is not knowing there IS a construction menu. That problem persists. The Main Menu (Esc) doesn’t have a Construction Menu on it. The Action Menu (Return) doesn’t have a Construction Menu on it. Not even the keybindings screen (?) has a Construction Menu.

Yet everybody calls it the Construction Menu. You call it that here as well. Of course you do. Everyone does. Only The Powers That Be call it a “Construct terrain…” menu item, to be found hidden underneath the Action Menu’s “Craft…” menu item.

“Construct terrain” doesn’t tell a new player anything. The word, “terrain” has a very different meaning to the game’s designers than it means to a new player. Only to a game designer is furniture, or a broken window, a terrain. Why would a new player want to construct “terrain”? There are too many things to deal with as a new player, the last thing they’re going to want to do is mess with changing swamps into plains, or plains into woods. Eventually, people will tell them, “look in the Construction Menu”, but no such thing exists.

So, get rid of “Construct terrain” and call it “Construction”. Crafting doesn’t need to be labeled “Craft Items” and nether does Construction need to be called Construct anything.

Add “Construction” to the Action menu underneath “Craft…” Go ahead and leave it within the “Craft…” menu as well if it pleases you, but construction isn’t crafting, and it needs an equal footing on the Action menu to be noticed by a new player. A new player will see “Construction” and “Crafting…” beside each other on the Action Menu and be driven to look into both to discover the difference. A new player seeing “Construct terrain”, if they even notice it, will be driven to ignore it entirely due to their reasonable assumption about what it means, and the already near-overwhelming learning curve.

Make those two changes, and new players will begin to use the Construction Menu much sooner in their game play. Through use most will learn the system quickly, because it’s very useful and simple compared to crafting.

A lot of construction menu stuff is actually superficial and easy to move to crafting menu. Furniture for example should be just crafted and deployed like collapsible things do. You can already do this with some things but not others. Imo everything that’s potentially movable should be just moved to crafting menu and yield a deployable item. What will be left is actual terrain and stuff like walls. Devs already do this though, for example with chairs, just not sure if its part of some big rework or just a nice thing here and there.