African UX Suggestion: reducing the player's Field clicks

The African farming mechanics have been criticized for its excessively APM-intensive design. It is also clear that it won’t be changed in foreseeable time.

In this post, I will propose an improvement that does not impact the farming system’s intended game design, but may still potentially make its user experience less painful.

First, a review of how Fields currently work:

1.) The player places a Granary, and puts down 8 Fields around it, which together take a long time to build.
2.) Unlike Asian Rice Paddies, where the food :cut_of_meat: or coin :coin: production mode is a global switch, each Field has its own individual work mode.
3.) Since each Field starts in food :cut_of_meat: mode, a player setting up a coin :coin: farm always needs to do the following: place Field → select Field → switch to coin.
4.) Additionally, an unfinished Field doesn’t display the mode buttons on its UI panel. It can only switch modes via hotkeys.

(It goes without saying that the last point is a UI inconsistency that ought to be fixed by showing the buttons during construction.)

And below is the proposal:

  • Let the Villager’s build panel have TWO Field buttons: a Grain Field and an Economic Field.
  • The only difference between the two Fields, is their initial modes after being placed. Place a Grain Field, and get a Field in food :cut_of_meat: mode; place an Economic Field, and get a Field in coin :coin: mode.
  • The actual functioning of Fields is the same as now - you can still switch their modes during construction.
  • To make the experience smoother, their tooltips should clearly inform the player. E.g.:

Slow, infinite source of Food for up to three gatherers. Can switch to produce Coin at any time. Inexpensive, but builds slowly.
Slow, infinite source of Coin for up to three gatherers. Can switch to produce Food at any time. Inexpensive, but builds slowly.

What this proposal means, is to allow the player to determine what a Field does at the moment they place it, thus removing the select Field → switch to coin steps - saving the player a number of drag-and-clicks + a key press.

On a technical level, there are probably two ways to implement this change:

Approach A.
Grain Field and Economic Field are two separate buildings, and each mode switch transforms one into another.

Approach B.
Grain Field and Economic Field are temporary buildings. The moment they are placed, they immediately replace themselves with (foundations of) “real” Fields set to their respective modes.

The first approach is more complex, requires changing existing code, and likely buggy, so realistically I can see the devs using Approach B.


The Villager panel’s Grain Field and Economic Field buttons will have new icons that are created by removing layers from the full Field icon:

  • The Grain Field icon will have the millets in the center.
  • The Economic Field icon will have the coffee beans and indigo flowers.
  • The farm tools stay in both icons, giving them visual consistency.

This suggestion was inspired by Command & Conquer series.

In Red Alert 2, the Yuri miner unit can be built both as a structure by Construction Yard, and as a vehicle by War Factory.

In Red Alert 3, many units are amphibious, and a good number of them can be built in both land factories and docks, saving the player the trouble of making them on land then driving them to the sea.

In other words: the same unit can be produced from two “entry points” in different modes from the start.

An RA3 Mecha Bay panel:

An RA3 Imperial Docks panel:

You can see they share 3 units: Ore Collector, an amphibious tank, and Mobile Construction Vehicle.

1 Like

Good proposal, but currently how the game is done, it’s not possible. Otherwise you’d need 2 different buildings , and replace it everytime you switch the resource.
Replacing an entire unit, by pressing an action, will bring a few gameplay issues. As for example, vills will simply Stop gathing, making the effort bigger, than switching the resource from 1 building.

I’ve accounted for that, which is why if you read my post, you can see there’s an Approach B - the Food Field & Economic Field would be temporary “containers” for the real, current Field. :slight_smile:

I’d say there’s also another approach.

Approach C
Grain Field and Economic Field are two separate buildings, each able to switch between food and coin.

This would avoid the technical issues with option A while making them functionally the same. The only difference is that the two field types would be separately selectable when double clicking which would be beneficial in my opinion.

The African build menu definitely has enough space for two slots so this would help. As for the names, I’d go with this:

Cash Crops (or Cash Crop Field) - produces coin
Cereal Crops (or Cereal Crop Field) - produces food

But this only deals with one of the issues that makes Fields so annoying. Even after they are built, selecting, switching and assigning villagers is a pain. They should also double the size and capacity of Fields. This could be as simple as sticking two Fields together into a rectangle. With two different Field types, each could come in a different orientation by default so you could neatly fit them around a Granary without needing to rotate. For example, Cash Crops could have a default horizontal orientation and Cereal Crops could have a default vertical orientation. With the recently expanded Granary radius, these double fields would still fit perfectly even when adding an additional layer of fields.

The differentiation between Field types could be further enhanced by locking the ability to switch behind the Crop Rotation tech. The upgrades might need to be switched up anyways because one is named Cash Crops.

I want to have like aoe4 like farms. Click the middle and all the surrounding fields are automatically placed. Currently they are like aoe2.