Unearthed #4: Towns

In each post of Unearthed we expose and closely examine a single aspect of Project Automata. Not everything mentioned in this series will necessarily show up in the final game, but we wanted to share our development process with you as we ramp up to Alpha and the eventual release of Project Automata. Feel free to share any of your ideas or concerns with us in the comments!

Last time we started talking about how trade affects towns. Let’s continue that by explaining what towns are.


Urban areas will come in three sizes: town, city and metropolis; each one much larger than the last. Towns will start at about 3 thousand people, a city around 150 thousand, and a metro area could have millions of people! Other than one or two cities, most maps will start with just towns. Trading with towns boosts their economy and increases their productivity level, thus also increasing their population. Once an urban area’s population is maxed out for that tier, it will level up. Levelling up a town to a city will take trading plenty of lower-end products like furniture, food or clothing. Levelling up a city to a metropolis is an end-game goal that will consume a great sum of high-tier products, like vehicles or gadgets that use advanced technologies.

Usually, growing a town is a useful, but remember that as the houses encroach on new land, you will have few options to construct your own buildings.


Towns will come in a variety of types, each with their own economy and preferences for trade. You may spot a small fishing village near a lake that’s looking for wood to build boats, or maybe a tourist town which asks for food to fill their buffet tables, or maybe a larger industrial community that can help you turn raw resources into end products. Each type will have their own tolerance towards pollution. Industrial populations are used to a bit of smog, but the fishermen are not going to be happy if you start dumping chemicals onto their beaches.

Trade Centres

Every urban area will have at least one trade centre. In the current version of the game, it’s a large mall in the middle of town. It will work similarly to your own logistic centres, but will only accept the items that are currently in demand by the town. Trade centres have their own storage areas and you’ll need to be careful if it fills to capacity. A town will continue accepting items from you even if there’s nowhere to put the return trade items. Other than making particular town like you a bit more, you’ll get nothing back for that trade. Although, a better reputation with a town means better trading conditions, along with the occasional good will gift!

A small pristine town. Is collecting the nearby resources worth upsetting the NIMBY residents ?

A small pristine town. Is collecting the nearby resources worth upsetting the NIMBY residents ?

Painting the Town Red

Towns will become an essential part of your industrial empire as they will often be the best means to obtain certain products. At the same time, they’ll be the most difficult part of your network to tame. While you can fully automate the production of, say, toothpaste, you’ll need to keep an eye on towns.

Their demand for certain products will change over time depending a few factors within their own economy, particularly the supply and demand of the productions you’re trading. Outside events, like pollution induced diseases could dramatically lower the population and even change a city back in to a town. You can directly effect your reputation with an urban areas be running a targeting marketing campaign giving a big advantage when trading a specific good.

This was a bit of a shorter Unearthed post, but as towns play such an important role in the game, it’s worth giving them their own write-up. The mechanics of urban areas will likely become more far more complex as we develop the game, so we expect we’ll be revisiting the topic again soon.

Next week we’ll do a tear-down on factories and see what goes on inside.

Till next time!

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