Changing Up Supply Lines (From Unit-centric to Region-centric)

We just pushed our first orbital drop patch, v.0.2.0 onto Steam. This build radically changes how supply lines work in Cantata. I spend some time below going into some detail about the what and why of the change.

This first orbital drop introduces a fundamental change to the way Cantata plays. Every orbital drop isn’t going to be like this, as we want the core game design to be mostly stable so we can focus on getting you all exciting tentpole features like skirmish, multiplayer, mod tools, and campaign maps (all in the works!). But as part of the promise of EA, we are making this game not just for ourselves, but for the community of people playing the game. And we’ve really listened to you all over the past two months since our initial release. We’ve heard all your feedback about the game, what’s fun, what isn’t etc. We’ve put a lot of that feedback together and started looking at parts of the game that are maybe weird for what we’re trying to accomplish. We looked at things that didn’t quite work and tried to come up with good solutions for them.

This orbital drop represents the first steps of that — forward into a new version of Cantata that we hope will make the game more fun, tactical, and less fiddly than previous versions. So here’s the big change:

We got rid of unit-to-unit supply lines.


I’m a little emotional about this. These supply lines have been a part of the game since the very beginning. To rip them out felt crazy, it was such a core assumption of the design. But, even at their most mature, there were sort of intractable issues with them:

  • General management. Try as I might, managing individual supply lines was always just too finicky.
  • “Pooling” at end nodes. Without serious turn micro, resources would “pool” at the end of supply lines, and there would be no way to get them from that node elsewhere.
  • Lines were “typed” as a specific type. This led to really weird design things where, for things like the listening post and supply depot, they had to have 8 different supply lines to be able get at their thematic idea of being able to “connect to anything”.

And more. These problems were/are all sort of individually “fixable”, but pushing in one direction would exacerbate problems in other dimensions. What we needed was a holistic solution that allowed us to get what we wanted the player to “feel” with supply lines, but in a way that was represented differently. We still wanted the concept of connections and logistics, but maybe not through specific units. Turns out we already had something right in front of our faces that was perfect for this… Regions.

The locality of the resource didn’t matter so much as the unit itself needing to use it near where it was at.

If the goal is to have supply be able to move across the map, having it move through Regions seemed like a no brainer. But what would that mean for the supply itself? If it’s no longer in the Storage of a unit, where is it? So we added Region Storage.

Instead of connecting directly to another unit via a Supply Line in order to “supply” that connected unit, units now produce their output types directly to region storage. Not only this, but region storage is now effectively a shared inventory for all units in that Region, meaning the Units can now build projects using that storage. So if your Engine Factory builds Engines to Region Storage, a Garage in the same region can directly use those Engines to build Rickshaws.

At a baseline, this is already sort of nice. No more really having to worry about supply ranges for buildings. No more wanting to connect to three things but only having one or two lines. If you’re in the region, you can use it.

You still want resources to move though right? How do they get between regions? Well now you have the ability to connect two regions together with a Region Supply Line. There’s some general limits on connections here:

  • Connected Regions have to be owned by you
  • The two regions have to be adjacent
  • You can’t already be connected to that region.

These aren’t your grandma’s supply lines though, these lines are more streamlined and flexible. Regions have a number of “connection slots” that dictate how many supply lines they can be a part of. This may seem limited, but lines are also now bi-directional. Region supply lines have “slots” that can be assigned any available faction supply type and amount, and set as either an incoming amount or an outgoing amount. This means that if you connect to another region, that region also gets the same supply line connected to it.

At the start of a turn, the resources configured for the supply lines are propagated to the connected regions. Like the old system, the amount of supply transferred is limited to what was in storage at the end of the previous turns, so you don’t get any sort of issues of “infinite loops” of supply production.

Additionally, this is all now managed in a dedicated “Region Management UI”, accessible by clicking on any empty tile in a region. No more trying to stuff all these supply things into the crowded Unit UI.

So that’s the baseline change, which is already pretty big, but what this has also done is given us two important new things to use more holistically for Cantata’s design: Regions + Region UI.

Before, Region “stuff” had to basically fit in the little "nameplate badges’’ for them (accessible with the R key). This meant they were really simple, but also pushed other sorts of weird things that are more “region” concepts into non-Region things, like Roads needing to be associated with (Unit) Supply Lines.

With the ability to have a proper UI for Regions, we can also start adding in things to this panel that make more sense to work with directly in the context of a region “view” instead of needing to rely on toolips. What this means practically is:

  • Easier to understand Region pressure

  • Roads managed at Region level instead of unit supply line level

Both those things are coming and aren’t yet in the current build you’ll play, but the general philosophy is there — give players the ability to control "Region things” with a Region UI. Other things we’re looking to do are add in a more proper region leveling system, making things like Roads, Infrastructure limits, Supply Line slots, and Connection slots, all be able to be opt-in for a region instead of needing to provide a “one size fits all” progression system. More on that later though, as this update post is getting quite long.

We hope people really like this change, and as always give us feedback wherever you like best — Discord, our Forums, Twitter, etc. As I said at the top, this update is largely due to the response of players and the things you’ll say about the game. We really think this will make the game better, and hope to hear from you all about how you think of the change.

It IS worth noting that this is a major breaking change, so your old map saves will work, but your ability to configure supply lines for units will be gone. If you want to finish out a map save file before upgrading, we’ve given you all the ability to toggle the feature on and off in Game Settings in the settings menu (see “Use Region Supply”). This is in here so people have an easy way to play an older version of the game, but it’s our intention to remove the flag in the future and make region supply the default.

This is the first step into a newer, better Cantata, so seriously, let us know what you all think! What should we add or change? What can make it better? Things are definitely going to be rough right now as this first pass, with hard coded numbers of supply lines and slots and no major sense of balance yet, but in general we really hope you like these changes, and thank you to everyone for making Cantata the best game it can be!