Reviews - Updated on April 15, 2022

Home Sweet Home. It carries a sense of security, or at least something familiar, stable, located in the zone of our control. And this is exactly what we sometimes lack. Therefore, it is logical that in many games, against the backdrop of difficult conditions, trials and restrictions, the player is often offered a safe haven in which to save, relax, replenish strength and supplies.

More often than not, we don’t even notice that the bases in video games play a big role, especially if they hurt our personal psychological characteristics. And in this regard, someone is more touched by the aesthetics of the place, while someone is involved in the numerous challenges and mechanics associated with filling / developing their place.

Why bases are needed in video games

Brief history of the idea

Bases in video games did not appear immediately. For a long time, technical capabilities did not allow creating something like this, and the game designers themselves focused on models of one screen or movement along the “pipe”, which does not imply any returns. However, the idea of ​​the base was a logical development of the fundamental idea that there are sides to the game (one’s own and one’s opponent). The side gradually turned into a gate or camp with a flag that could be hit or captured. In addition, in D&D, which inspired many developers, in between dungeon exploration, the rest / recovery mechanics in the camp were often discussed.

Why bases are needed in video games

Pong was the game that set the visual-meaning decisions for decades to come.

As a result, the evolution of video games brought us two fundamental solutions. The first is from RPG and adventure games, where the base acts as a checkpoint. A campfire halt, a hero’s secret place, a tavern, or even a whole city – there is only one meaning: a break between sorties, in which you can gradually add classic D&D mechanics. The most obvious ones are replenishment of strength and potions, training and trade, craft and communication, sometimes mini-games (gambling, tournaments, etc.).

The second solution crystallized out of early strategies, where the base is the direct object of control. Already text-based games have tried to simulate military and economic campaigns, explicitly using the idea of ​​creating and developing a military base, settlement or enterprise. Over time, some strategies have lost their economic component (wargames in which there is no base as such, but there may be a camp or side), others, on the contrary, have focused on management and resources (tycoons, which also do not have a base, because there are no sorties) . However, the gold standard for good strategy ended up being the idea of ​​a balance between building/managing a base and combat.

Why bases are needed in video games

Dune II laid the foundation for RTS in many ways.

Basic base models

What do bases give us in the game? And what mechanics (or even meanings) allow you to fit into the player’s experience? Despite the triviality of such a classification, it is not useful for both players and developers. Understanding what exactly you do in the game and how it presents it is a good material for understanding yourself, your interests and tastes. As for developers (including future ones), they should clearly distinguish between functions and meanings in the game. This will allow you to see what is worth borrowing from predecessors, and what is better to rethink, do it your own way. Or even remove it so as not to create ludonarrative dissonance.

So, in general, everything that is served inside the game or can be perceived as a “player’s place” between the main game actions can be considered a base. In most cases, such a place is specially marked both aesthetically and gameplay-wise (there may be other mechanics here, but there may also be non-game screens or cut-scenes). From here, the following models can be distinguished.

Why bases are needed in video games

This is a house. I sleep here

Base as a place to sleep or save. This is especially true where the mechanics of the game limit the possibilities of sleep / rest or closely associate healing / recovery with a sleeping place. Many clearly distinguish between locations where hostilities are possible (conditionally – “dungeon”), and areas where they are impossible or undesirable (“base”). In cases where there are no such conventions, the player himself can allocate relatively peaceful places where there are no enemies or simply a sleeping place.

For example, The Long Dark in survival mode saves the game when entering buildings, and in other cases, automatic saving occurs just at the moment when something unpleasant happened (dislocation, bleeding, poisoning, etc.). You can also improve your health here mainly in a dream.

However, with the use of sleep as a treatment, balance is always important. For example, in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a good sleep that adds extra hearts is only valuable at the beginning of the game, but the innkeepers will have to pay for it. When you have your own house (quest “Hailian homeowner”), it will not be needed at all, since Link has long had enough potions, food and money to stay in hotels. It also significantly upsets the balance, and the sense of realism, too fast recovery with the help of sleep.

Why bases are needed in video games

swag in the stash

Base as a storage place for game items. Moreover, it can be either just a warehouse or a showcase of achievements. Well, an infrequent, but important subspecies – a garage with your favorite vehicles. Many games, especially open world games, are built around various kinds of loot, trophies, or just unusual junk (what if you need it later, for a quest?), so the logical question arises: where to store everything? This was especially true for early RPGs, which clearly distinguished between the “Drop item” and “Put item for storage” functions – in them only a special storage (chest) guaranteed that the item would lie exactly where you left it (thrown in other locations disappeared without a trace).

In some cases, storage may be limited: food spoilage, battery drain, or simply loss of the value of the item (if the game has a balancing of the character level and the weapons/armor found). For example, in CryoFall, in order to save organic resources, you need to build a refrigerator and power supply for it, which works even when you are out of the game.

Another rather interesting challenge is the creation of caches in single and multiplayer games. A cache with stew, cartridges and a spare shotgun is also a subspecies of the base, since to create it you have to solve the classic tasks of arranging your place (invisibility and remoteness, but accessibility). However, usually single survivors do not particularly please us with quick-witted NPCs, so you can store it anywhere, as long as it is not right next to the road. For example, in the games of the STALKER series, bots are programmed to only pick up weapons (if they are better) and extract artifacts from anomalies.

Why bases are needed in video games

We build, we develop, we develop

Base development is sometimes central or even the only gameplay. And it is offered because it is popular – for example, the Base Building category has long existed on Steam, which is represented by more than 500 games. Many players like to feel progress, and this can be achieved not only by leveling up their character, but also by turning a dull shack or hole into a first-class fort or a multi-level underground headquarters with arsenals and productions. Well, or visit many regions / planets to leave their outposts.

Using such a model, some designers closely associate base development with survival (or an adequate response to challenges), while others simply rely on the curiosity of a gamer who wants to see all the possibilities (premises, technologies) in the game. For example, in XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2, the base will have to be developed, otherwise your soldiers will complete missions with increasing difficulty and losses. Yes, and in an unfriendly environment (Breathedge, Subnautica and others) without a base and uncomfortable, and you won’t be able to live long. In Fallout Shelter, on the contrary, you can survive with a small team with a dozen buildings, but it is much more interesting to reach the maximum development.

Why bases are needed in video games

Dragon Age: Inquisition.

However, when building a base is too closely tied to the main quest (such as in Spiritfarer), the base doesn’t really feel like a place of its own. More like a porter simulator. Meanwhile, a sense of personal belonging is very important, even if it is not only a base, but also the main means of transportation (like the Normandy in Mass Effect, the walker in Last Oasis, or the land vessel in FAR: Lone Sails). And even the crooked buildings in Medieval Dynasty, Valheim and The Forest can be dear to the player simply because he remembers how hard they were built.

A special case of base development is the creation of conditions for crafting resources. Often, in order to get a special resource (from food and alcohol to complex potions, ammunition and weapons), you will first have to explore half the world, and then build your own collective farm / manufactory to provide for yourself. Moreover, if the plot and gameplay are related to survival in crisis or even post-apocalyptic conditions, the DIY principle is quite logical.

But this can be supported by another logic: the store has it, but it is more expensive. For example, This War of Mine severely limits the ability to build and upgrade all workbenches, so you have to choose what you want to be – a gardener at home, a weapons or alcohol baron, or a manufacturer of cigarettes and medicines. Crafting and buildings can also be done as a team effort, like in Valheim.

Why bases are needed in video games

There are not many units

Of course, in classic strategies (especially in RTS), the extraction of resources, buildings, the development of technologies are only conditions that affect the production of an army. In such conditions, the base is the key to victory or defeat. The one with the best supply chain will almost always win, even if they have only Zerg Rush in their arsenal.

Such games are in dire need of balance, which is usually achieved by limited resources and unit limits. However, in the tactics of in-game actions in games like Age of Empires, Starcraft and Civilization, you will have to look for a good combination of defense and attack, and also take into account the mobility of troops. Otherwise, the next raid on a neighbor will lead to completely bare rear areas and the loss of a base built with such difficulty.

Why bases are needed in video games

director himself

Ironically, many researchers and designers underestimate the power of metagaming. In my opinion, bases just provoke gamers to invent their own goals within the game structure. Metagaming can happen completely by accident, but more often it’s just an attempt to come up with something else when you don’t want to part with your favorite game (even though you’ve completed all the quests and discovered all the secrets). For example, it is not uncommon for a person to set the task of building the base of his dreams (in fact, it is better than just collecting all the heads of cheese that are in the game).

In a sense, this is turning the game into a kind of The Sims or even Minecraft. For example, this is possible in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, especially if you bother with mods. But, of course, sandboxes with extensive building options (Terraria, RimWorld, Oxygen Not included) are much more successful in this. Or Kenshi, a game where the lack of goals usually leads to two opposite decisions: either endlessly rebuilding and improving your corner, or wandering aimlessly, training your killing skills on passers-by.

Why bases are needed in video games

Domestication of space

Of course, it does not matter what acts as a base – a personally built outpost, a temporary shelter with a stove bench and a fire, or a virtual headquarters from which we control resources, buildings and units. The important thing is that such a fragment of the virtual world brings order and clarity to our experience, sometimes even more than can be found in reality. The base is, first of all, your own, close, understandable, something that you want to develop and protect, although we are talking about a set of bits.

Surprisingly, even a small hint of something like this works well for the involvement of the player, which means that the game experience will be more vivid, lively. Obviously, the theme of home remains very important to most people. And even if the house is unattainable, we continue to dream about it. But video games are action-oriented, which is why we are like those who are actively exploring the world. Like Robinson, who enjoys learning new crafts to feel at home on a desert island. Or like great leaders wisely managing cities to increase prosperity.

It is foolish to see only escapism in this – few things are as real to us as dreams and desires. And any experience acquired by a person teaches something. Learning the base can fill in the gaps in logic, because it teaches you to calculate, save and optimize, think through risks, understand connections. Moreover, many people know very well that by putting things in order on the desktop or in the in-game lair, we also put our thoughts in order. So after a couple of hours of worrying about your base in the game, everyone has a chance to at least get a little better.

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