HotM:The Structure Of The Chapters

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This explains the broad outline of how the game flow works, without getting too deep into the structure of chapter two. There is a separate Tree Structure Of Chapter Two page just for that.

How Many Times To Play Chapter One And The Prologue?

You're only really expected to play these once, ever. These are not the start of the game each time you play the game. These are the start of your FIRST game, once.

If you're digging the game and want to play them more, then by all means do so. There are some folks who have dozens of hours in the game, and 4 to 6 playthroughs of just these parts. But these are not really all that replayable, in the grand scheme, at least not compared to chapter two. I kind of figured that people might enjoy playing them twice, maybe, at most. Glad to see there is more replay value than that in these early pieces, but I suppose don't burn yourself out on these alone!

What Happens If I Skip Straight To Chapter Two?

I'm assuming here that you've finished chapter one at least once. If you have done that, then there's no reason to skip to chapter two on your existing profile, because the game will just seamlessly move into chapter two. You can keep your entire city and just keep playing, with whatever you did from the demo, or the full game, or the playtest build. Saves are forward-compatible.

The only real reason to skip straight to chapter two is if you lost your prior savegame, or you just want a fresh start, or something along those lines.

In the event that you skip to chapter two:

  • Your tower is placed in a random-but-reasonable spot for you, but there are no other buildings.
  • You start with all of the techs unlocked from chapter one.
    • EXCEPT anything from a contemplation, or anything from intelligence classes 2 or 3.
  • You start with one each of the three basic androids.
  • A pre-chosen set of all of the upgrades that you could have done during chapter one and the prologue are given to you.
    • These may not be exactly what you would have chosen, but they're my preferred picks in terms of what is most broadly versatile.
  • You'll be intelligence class 1, but you have all of the things that you can use to quickly get to intelligence class 3 within 10 minutes or so of starting, depending on your speed of placing buildings.
    • That in turn will quickly unlock the other things you're missing, aside from the contemplations content. The contemplations content are how you titrate difficulty, so they are not automatically unlocked on any timeline.

During this super-early period of chapter two, if you skipped here, basically not-much will be going on in the city that directly harasses you. So take your time, set yourself up the way you want, and then get off to the races.

What Are Future Cities Like In The Same Profile? (Story-Spoiler Free)

Without getting into spoilers, you only ever need one profile in the game, unless you want more than one for some reason.

After you get to intelligence class 4, you will be able to see the "meta map," which is not called the meta map, but what it's called is a mild spoiler. On the meta map, you will be able to "start new timelines" of this same city, and you can then switch back and forth between timelines at will. This part works slightly like the regions feature in SimCity 4, but with some spoilery differences.

Every city you're in is the same city, but has its own name and arrangement and things going on in it. It's not quite a time loop, because you can hop back and forth between them at-will. Certain things you can do will also benefit one timeline from another, or harm one timeline from another, or you can isolate certain timelines from each other from how you place them in the meta map. Don't sweat the details right now; it's not that confusing when I'm not being all vague.

One big thing that is shared between timelines is your intelligence class. You will need many cities working together to reach the higher intelligence classes. But what this means is that when you dive into your second timeline in a profile, you will by definition be class 4 as an intelligence, at minimum. That means all of the unlocks from reaching class 2, 3, and 4 are there instantly in those timelines.

Aside from that difference, you can also choose some extra info about the seeding logic for the city, and you can choose your "machine origin," which affects loss conditions. Beyond that, a new timeline works like starting from chapter two. All of the other things I said in the section above still apply. Contemplations, upgrades, and unlocks from one timeline do not pass between timelines.

What Will Chapter Two Be Like?

General Loop

  • Chapter two is the "real game," after going through the comparably limited (but with many side jaunts and a few options) chapter one.
  • Chapter two uses the same underlying systems that have been established in chapter one, but then just starts cranking out the content for them.
    • For the most part, playing the game over the long haul, you just play chapter two over and over again (so to speak).
    • Chapter one is meant to have mild replayability because it is the demo, and just also to give a good impression of the game will be. But fundamentally chapter one is something you're usually meant to play once and then never again.
  • A lot of the things that you unlock in chapter one is available immediately in chapter two when you're starting a fresh timeline -- but not the side stuff gotten from contemplations. You have to do those each timeline if you want them, as they tend to have branching consequences.

What Is A Project Chain?

  • Chapter one simulates two intertwined project chains, more or less. Or one complicated project chain.
    • However, it has a predetermined set of things it wants to show you, so it's very tame in terms of keeping you on the rails so that it can teach you all the mechanics.
  • Chapter two is going to be very different. Essentially, it is very wide, and you choose which chains you want to start on your own, and they branch a lot more on their own.
    • One way you can think of a project chain is as a decision tree with gameplay at each node, and consequences from each decision. It's a bit like flamethrower versus housing, but just... all over the place, rather than in one place.
    • Where this game differs from something like Baldur's Gate 3 is that BG3 is one giant tree, but HotM is a forest of smaller trees, with firebreaks in between them.
      • This is hard to explain, but basically the benefit is that it allows for an even more varied experience without requiring six years and a staff of hundreds. It is, after all, just me.
      • This is one of several reasons that there is no direct dialogue in the game (well, with humans anyway). It uses some psychological tricks I learned from making the AI in AI War seem alive, to keep the story feeling contiguous even when it's not entirely.
    • Overall, chapter two will eventually have about 40 starting project chains. You can think of these as being things that will take a few hours to complete at most.
      • At launch, it will be more like 10, at least as my goal.


  • Each of these chains terminates before it has a chance to get too long and with too many cascading consequences. This is very important, and very central to how this all works.
    • The thing that's a pain in the rear about questlines or whatever is all the branches when they get too long. So by keeping these relatively short, but with lots of options and complications, I avoid that.
  • When you have finished 1-3 project chains in chapter two, you're now in a situation where you are at a new tier of project chains. Depending on the current game state, different options will be available. So in other words, just because you did project chain A in tier 1 of chapter 2, does not mean you have to do project chain A2 in tier 2. It may not even be an option, depending on the general context.
    • The city is a giant database, essentially, and so at these firebreaks -- at these shifts to new tiers -- it's able to look at the context and give you appropriate new options based on the actual game state, rather than on which project chains you previously chose.
      • This is very important, because it means that you can get to later-tier chains in a variety of ways. This is where the strategic route-planning comes in, once you know what you're doing a bit more.
  • Overall, you kind of repeat this process a number of times, moving from one tier/firebreak to the next. This is the outer gameplay loop of chapter two, and it's the thing you don't get in chapter one by design.
    • How many tiers this goes deep is dependent on the specific chains you choose. Some go deeper than others. Others don't go very deep, but might take a long time on a specific tier. It's all very freeform.

Getting Your Butt Kicked

I should take a moment to mention the general flow of the project chains is not linear. If you just pick a project chain and try to blaze through it, you're going to hit a brick wall at some point. You see this already in chapter one.

When you hit a brick wall, you can either try to pull off some tactical brilliance with the tools you already have, and thus break the wall. Or you can go looking for effective tools to specifically help you. So this is another point where strategy comes in a lot, and you can see this increasingly in chapter one as it goes along.

For more details on this, there's a whole article: Game Difficulty

Goal States

  • At some point, you reach an option where you can essentially declare a victory for this timeline. This is reaching a specific "goal state" for the game.
    • When there are the full 40 project chains in tier 1 of chapter two, then there should be about 60 goal states.
  • I should clarify that there are levels of goal state. The first focus for me for quite a while is going to be on things leading up to level 1 goal states on.
    • Level one goal states might be something like uplifting an animal to sapience and having it become a stable minority population.
    • Level two and three goal states get more crazy, with things like making that animal become the majority population on earth, or something along those lines.
  • In general, in a given timeline you can leave and come back. If you're building these timelines near each other in the meta map, then they will bleed into each other, and you can give yourself advantages (or disadvantages) on related timelines with careful planning of where you put new timelines and what you do in them).
    • This is the second tier of strategy in the game, and this is for the players who are really playing for the long-haul.

Volume Of Project Chains On Launch?

I mentioned above that the full "40 project chains" are the main set for about a year after launch. At launch, it's expected to be more like 10.

The nomenclature I am using about the number of project chains is inherently misleading, so see below for the real explanation. But it gets the general idea across better, at this level of explanation.

Later Chapters?

  • Chapter two is going to be my exclusive focus for a year after launch, probably.
  • Chapter three will introduce a conflict in the meta map, so you'll be fighting a war out there while you're also doing things within the specific timelines.
    • Everything from chapter two is still available in chapter three, but chapter three introduces this new element.
  • Chapter four is probably going to be the really long-term postgame.
    • One way or another, the conflict in the meta map is resolved, either with victory or armistice.
    • At this point, the meta goal for most players is going to be trying to collect all of the goal states in one timeline or another, and find all of the various secrets hidden about.
  • If there is ever DLC, then most of it will focus on content that is for chapter two, but which of course is still valid in chapters three and four.
    • In general, the assumption is that someone could come in, play a couple of timelines in 40ish hours, and say they're satisfied and move on. So having DLC content available to them all the way through would be important. (DLC is a long way off, but it's important to plan).
    • But for people who really get into the game and spend hundreds of hours, the expanding roster of project chains at each tier, and goal states at each level, will be the main long-term draw.

Where Does The Replayability Come In?


  • This is meant to be just a tutorial.
    • You can already skip it on future profiles if you start a new one. But you should play it your very first time.
    • It has very little replayability beyond one playthrough, and has no serious benefit to doing it more than once.

Chapter One

  • This is STILL an extended tutorial, just one with a lot more freedom.
    • It will give SOME replayability, but it's mostly on par with a tactics game campaign. Ala a single house in Fire Emblem Three Houses, just shorter, for example.
  • In general, the goal of chapter one is to be really enjoyable once, and feel like a campaign rather than a tutorial.
    • Which I gather that it does since people can mistake it for the game itself -- which is great!

Chapter Two

  • Where the insane replayability comes is in chapter two, where you get to pick your own routes, and combine them, and do a lot more things.
    • But to get to that point, all of the underlying mechanics have to be introduced in a semi-ordered manner, first, in chapter one.
    • In other words, any new player at any point should always play the prologue, then chapter one, then chapter two.
  • But once a person has played the prologue and chapter one a single time, there is no real reason to ever go back to those except nostalgia. It's just playing chapter two over and over again, as-desired, on your profile.
    • Assuming you don't lose your profile or something, there's little reason to ever start a second profile for yourself unless you happen to want to replay the prologue or chapter one again.
  • Once chapter two is in place, and also obviously NOT in the demo build of the game, you'll be able to skip straight to chapter two and just start playing there on a fresh profile, as you can skip the prologue.
    • This would be a critically bad idea for a new player, but I'm not going to try to block that, because of situations like lost profiles or moving to a new computer or whatever.