The Power of Infrastructure!

One of the things I enjoy most about Valheim is the simple truth that infrastructure is the key to the development of society. It might be a wild thing to say about a video game marketed as a viking-esque survival game with combat and a space program, but it’s a simple truth about any world that has location-specific resources. Infrastructure exists on some level in most survival and collection games, but it is usually fairly basic or a natural part of exploration. For instance, most infrastructure in a game like Minecraft is limited to base building, marking places you’ve explored, and creating access points to resource nodes. While a lot of this changes around in larger scale multiplayer scenarios, valheim is so far the only survival game I’ve ever played where creating infrastructure is not required but is incredibly beneficial.

The main reason things like roads, pathways, bridges, signs, and lights are so important in Valheim is that it is generally time-consuming to collect resources and most resources are consumed quickly. For instance, iron is difficult to collect because it is found in swamps where movement is restricted, where many high-damage enemies lurk, where it rains constantly (making traversal even more difficult because your stamina recharges more slowly), and where many poisonous foes can get the drop on you. Without adequate preparation, any foray into a swamp could be lethal. Even once you have located and collected the iron, getting it back out again and delivering it somewhere you and your allies can use it is a whole endeavor.

Except on the servers I play on. Personally, I enjoy long-term monotounous tasks that require a degree of planning, engineering, and effort. As the child of two civil engineers, I was raised to appreciate a good storm drain (it also helps that my childhood home’s basement flooded frequently due to inadequate drainage and my father engineered the solutions to the drainage issue in cooperation with the city), so I’ve always had infrastructure in mind when I’ve played multiplayer surivival games. As a result, when I look for a project to spend my relaxation hours on, I typically look for unmet needs in my video games.

While many of my companions initially laughed at the absurdity of digging a massive trench though several hills and leveling the ground around them to create a path from our main base to the location we found a huge concentration of mining resources, it stopped the instant they realized this level ground meant they could load up a cart with copper and tin and bring it all back in a single trip. Gone are the days of sprinting around the map to collect resources slowly as the heavy ore weighs down your pockets before the UI is full. Now, there are several minor bases set up around resource nodes, roads connecting all of them, and a series of carts near each base so people can fill a cart with what they need and then easily (and safely) get it back to the main base in less than half the time it used to take when they had to sprint across the map with their pockets full of rocks.

My change from level ground to elevated platforms means that my companions can now sprint through swamps with their resources, jumping on and off the elevated path as their collection demands or the level of danger demands. Fortunately for us all, enemies haven’t quite figured out how to jump and their penchant for attacking the support pillars is countered by a simple system of redundancies. Can’t have a safe bridge that collapses if one support breaks now, can you? And the simple fact that enemies only attack structures when they’re aggro’d onto a player character they can’t reach means that sprinting past them as they slog through the swamp means they only get a swing or two in on whatever support they’re attacking.

Rare is the game that will reward you for this kind of development, but Valheim’s fairly basic underlying physics means that the only limitations on my ability to build amazing infrastruction (like underground bunkers to hide our animals from frost-breathing drakes) is the strength of my support pillars and my imagination. No one laughs at my roads now. Now, they leave me piles of resources wherever I ask so I can focus on building and don’t have to bother with collection all the wood and stone I need to complete my projects.

What a great game Valheim is!

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