For some time now my friends and I have been agonizing over the question of how to bring a simple yet fun way to farm to the game - simple in terms of development effort. Here's a hopefully near-complete proposal to bring chicken and egg farming that shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to implement, and blends well with current game mechanics.
Here's a simple way to add egg- and chicken farming. The proposal is split into a "Stage One" proof of concept and "Stage Two" to be implemented only once we know it works and adds fun to the game.
For simple egg farming [stage one], the following are added to the game: one new resource ('live Hen' - yes, a silly name. It was chosen deliberately because strangely, it works) and one new production object ('Chicken Coop'). This is enough to allow egg farming.
Once the concept is proven, a later release [stage two] implements another new item ('fertilized egg') and another production object ('incubator') to additionally allow (chicken) meat farming, and a more finely tunable player proficiency gate.
Big Picture: How chicken / meat farming works:
[At stage one] Player purchases a live Hen from Trader or finds one as a drop. Once a 'live hen' has been aquired, you can
Convert it into raw meat, bones and feathers Put it into a chicken coop. The coop will then start producing eggs [Optionally, at stage two] a "fertilized egg" can be found (as a drop), received from an active coop, or purchased from trader [Optionally, at stage two] Put the fertilized egg into an incubator. Some time later, the egg is consumed, and the incubator produces a 'live hen'. Stage one allows egg farming with the chicken coop. Stage two's 'fertilized egg' mechanics also allow meat farming.
Live Hen description
Live hens are inventory-only items similar to other resources (e.g. engine). They can be scrapped into food or placed into a chicken coop to start/increase egg production.
Live Hen Game Mechanics
[stage one] Can't be crafted, only found or purchased [stage two] Can be crafted via fertilized egg and incubator. [stage one] Can be purchased from Trader [recommend: disallow when fertilized eggs are implemented] Stack size is 1 (similar to engines) Can be placed in a coop's production slot to serve as a source for eggs. Can be scrapped (butchered) for 3 raw meat, 10 feathers and 3 Bones When dropped by player, they appear inside a container bag. This means that there is no in-scene representation of live hens; they are distinct from any current in-game chicken. Can be sold to a trader The chicken coop: Description
A chicken coop produces eggs [optionally, stage two: also "fertilized eggs"] using live hens as 'generators' and ears of corn as fuel. In-game a coop is visually represented by a production block similar to a workbench or chem station; it's 3x4x1 in size, fully enclosed by wire fence (with optionally animated chicken running around inside; however, these chicken are eye-candy-only and can never get out; players can't step inside).
Can be crafted by player. Crafting requires 100 wood, 20 steel, 12 farm plot, 100 barbed wired posts, Crafting requires level 1 'living off the land' perk to unlock the coop blueprint. Destroyed chicken coops can be found across the map in gardens/farms and can contain eggs, [stage two: fertilized eggs,] feathers, and ears of corn. Harvesting a chicken coop may return some farm plots, wood, and steel. A chicken coop's game mechanics are as follows:
It has a grid of 3 x 3 = 9 production slots for live hens. These provide the production capacity for eggs (similar to engines in a generator bank that provide the wattage). When the player opens a coop, they can place or retrieve live hens from the 3x3 grid by dragging them to/from their inventory. A chicken coop produces eggs [and, in when stage two is implemented, fertilized eggs]. An egg is always automatically queued for production (the production queue itself should be invisible so players can't see if a fertile egg is queued). All the player sees is a countdown timer for the next egg to be completed. To produce eggs, a hen-filled coop requires ears of corn as 'fuel' (similar to a forge). Corn is steadily consumed at the rate of 1 ear of corn per chicken in the grid, per day. Therefore, corn 'burn rate' depends on the number of hens in the coop. Should the coop run out of corn, egg production pauses, but the hens and the egg currently being produced survive. Once ears of corns are added, production simply resumes without penalties. Egg production time depends on the number of hens in the coop. A single hen produces 1 egg every 3 days, so 9 hens (maximum coop capacity) produce 9 eggs every 3 days, or 3 eggs a day, or 1 egg every 8 hours game time. Therefore egg production time is a function of the number of hens in the coop, Produced eggs are dropped into an 4x4 output grid. To retrieve eggs, the player clicks on the coop and drags the eggs from the output grid to their inventory. [stage two: There is a chance that the egg produced is a fertilized egg.] A crafted coop stacks 1 in inventory prior to placing it. It can't be picked up after successfully being placed.
Note for stage one (proof of concept):
Since fertilized eggs are not yet available, chicken coops must be made to work without them. Therefore players must be able to acquire live hens: from traders and through drops. This should be removed once fertilized eggs are implemented.
Stage Two: Incubator and Fertilized egg mechanics (for meat farming and an immensely better game experience):
Fertilized eggs can be found as drops and are produced by coops; fertilized eggs can be used to craft live Hens using an "Incubator". Traders should no longer sell live hens.
Fertilized egg description:
The fertilized egg game mechanics builds upon chicken coop gameplay: it can gate player progression and allows meat farming. Game-wise, a fertilized egg is simply a new resource item. A fertilized egg can be turned into a live hen to be used in a coop. The important difference here is that since the player has a way to craft live hens, they now also have the ability to farm them for meat (chicken farming).
Fertilized Egg game mechanics
A resource inventory items that can be found as a drop in nests, destroyed coops, destroyed incubators, or purchased from traders. Stack size 5 Can be scrapped for 1 nitrate and 1 rotting flesh. When eaten causes Dysentery Can be sold to traders for a low price. Recipe: Live Hen, which requires a fertilized egg as ingredient and an Incubator as tool. Using an Incubator (see below), a fertilized egg is used to create a live hen. The fertilized egg is consumed in the process. Appears as as an item in a container when dropped by player Incubator
An incubator is used to turn a fertilized egg into a live hen. Functionally it is similar to how a camp fire works: it requires ingredients and fuel to produce output; currently, the only recipe is 'live hen' and the only ingredient is a fertilized egg. Instead of wood, incubators require electricity (15W) to run. In-game it is represented by a 1x1x2 sized block.
To build an incubator, a workbench is required, and building an incubator requires 20 electrical switches, 20 steel, 20 polyplastic, 4 car air filters. Destroyed incubators may be found, sometimes containing fertilized eggs (1/10 chance). Harvesting a fertilizer returns some steel, electrical parts, and plastics. Stack size 1 in inventory after build and prior to placement. Can't be picked up once it has been placed. Incubator game mechanics:
An incubator has a 2x4 output grid where live hens are stored after incubation (production) is complete. Live Hens have a stack size of 1, so a maximum of 8 live hens can be stored before production queue is halted. In order to start new production, the incubator must have a free production queue slot, be wired up to an active power source and be able to draw 15W. Incubating a single fertilized egg requires 1 day of uninterrupted power consumption. If power is interrupted, production countdown is halted; the egg being incubated is not destroyed. Incubation commences as soon as sufficient power is restored to the incubator. If production is complete and no free output storage available, production pauses until space becomes available in the output grid. Since live Hen have a stack size of 1, a maximum of 8 live Hens can be stored in the output grid. To start incubating an egg, the player opens the incubator, and clicks on a fertilized egg in their inventory, then clicks on recipe. The only recipe available is 'live hen', with an incubator as requirement. Clicking on 'produce' removes the incubated egg from the player's inventory and adds a live hen to the production queue. The queue is limited to 4 slots, making it possible to queue at most 4 (q-slots) x 5 (stack size fertilized eggs) = 20 live hens. To retrieve live hens from the incubator, player clicks on the incubator and drags the live hens from the output grid to their inventory.
Possible further (stage three) ideas:
Add a single 'rooster' slot (similar to the 'grill' slot in a campfire) to a chicken coop. When filled with a (new) 'rooster' item it dramatically increases the fertilized egg probability (to 100%). A chicken coop with an occupied rooster slot would then be used for chicken meat farming (all eggs will be incubated), a coop with an empty rooster slot farms eggs. Harvesting a chicken returns raw poultry meat instead of raw meat for new recipes (chicken soup, chicken salad, chicken sandwich, ♥ au vin) Allow incubator to be used for other animals, e.g. geese Alternative self-powered incubator with built-in engine that consumes gas instead of electricity
Whew! So... Any comments?