In just about every city-building strategy game out there, water is static. It doesn't flow; it doesn't affect much; it doesn't change with seasons; and you can't change it. In 1994, I started the Simblob project to experiment with water flow in games, among other things. You could build canals and dams and dikes, divert waterways, and flood the opponent's cities. Well, you would've been able to if I had ever gotten around to implementing the opponent. The problem was that playing with water was way too much fun! I implemented heavy rains, droughts, floods, sedimentation, and erosion. Playing the game was lots of fun too, even though there was very little “game” actually implemented. In the end all I had done was work on graphics and water simulation, and I decided to stop working on it and start something else.

I still think water simulation has enormous potential for a strategy game. Imagine diverting your opponent's main source of water, so his crops fail and his people revolt. Or an enemy operative damaging your main dam, and you scrambling to repair it before it breaks, destroying your cities. Water is incredibly important in real cities, and it should be important in building-based strategy games.

Battle for Atlantis is a strategy game coming out in 2007 that has water simulation. Here's a quote from their web site:

For the first time in the history of RTS, a full physical model of water space will be created. The water has stopped being a “dead area” – a non-interactive flat mirror good only ship sailing. Real waves and tsunamis, flood and destruction of the landscape by water, river flows and waterfalls, splendid underwater effects – all this gives an enormous scope of creation and makes the game world of Atlantis as real as never before.

It sounds promising! 3dgamers has some screenshots. I just hope the water simulation is used more for gameplay than for graphical effects.



The author wrote at January 03, 2007 8:05 AM

If I remember correctly, water played a role in Populous as well. Reshaping the terrain sometimes brought about some unforeseen consequences involving water. Have a look at the game, it could prove inspiring. Some of the abandonware sites should host this Bullfrog masterpiece.

Amit wrote at January 03, 2007 9:05 AM

Yes, you're right—in Populous, the players could raise or lower water levels, affecting the landscape on both sides. That was a fun game, and may have been my subconscious inspiration for my experiments with environment-altering games. :-)

Anonymous wrote at March 16, 2007 1:41 PM

Years ago (mid-to-late '90s), there was a guy in New Zealand who ran a PBW called Water Wars. It had a hex-based map with terrain heights. At certain locations were high spots which produced water. Every turn (I think it ran about a turn a week) a bunch of water would be produced, moving thru hexes (always in the direction of steepest height change) until it reached a drain, which removed water from the map. You could adjust the terrain height to form channels and lakes. One of the goals was to produce a surplus of food by causing a hex to have water pass over it--the next turn, it would be extremely fertile and produce a lot more food. There were other aspects of it I'm glossing over to mention this. It was a pretty interesting game, but it went dark one day, and I never found out why, but it probably was because he left the college it was hosted at or something. Unfortunately, googling for "Water Wars" brings an entirely irrelevant set of results.

Amit wrote at December 16, 2007 8:56 AM

Battle for Atlantis still isn't out, and there's still very little information, but I found an interview and more screenshots.

Amit wrote at September 04, 2010 8:40 AM

I don't know what happened to Battle for Atlantis, but From Dust is a new game in development that lets you manipulate water.