Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Tynan Sylvester Tells us About RimWorld

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Ludeon Studios’ RimWorld is a fresh, new indie title currently in pre-alpha. It revolves around a colony on a distant planet that must be managed effectively to keep your colonists alive and safe from raiders and starvation. I contacted Tynan Sylvester, head writer and designer for Ludeon Studios, and we got together an interview about the title.

What is RimWorld all about?

RimWorld has you managing a small colony on a distant planet. You start with three shipwrecked survivors and try to build up a community while facing starvation, pirate raids, inclement weather, and insane animals. These events aren’t random, though. They’re driven by an intelligent AI Storyteller who watches what’s happening in the game and invokes events to keep things interesting.

You’ve previously stated that the game will have a level of psychological prowess, and that you will be able to see how your colonists are thinking. To what extent will this be in effect?

Psychology is a big part of the game. Since RimWorld is really about story generation, we wanted to emphasize the characters. So each character has a list of thoughts about their situation and things that have happened to them. They can be unhappy about sharing a bedroom, or afraid from being shot, or pissed off that a dead friend didn’t get a good burial. A big part of RimWorld is managing the psychology of your colonists, and watching them interact with each other.

Some might say that a 2D, bird’s-eye view is a difficult medium for deep combat. What exactly will the combat be about, and how will you manage to make (the combat system) work?

I don’t think the 2D top-down view is a difficult medium for deep combat. This is the view of StarCraft, Jagged Alliance, XCOM, and countless other excellent strategic games. Because it works really well. It’s clean, clear, simple, and has enough room for variation and depth to keep things interesting indefinitely. In RimWorld, combat is a lot more developed than you might expect from this kind of game. That’s because I actually started developing the game as a tactical sim like Jagged Alliance. I created a really complex cover system, weapon stats, shooting skills, and an enemy AI to use it all tactically. It was only later that the game became about building a colony, but the tactical elements stayed.

Will the player focus on one, large colony, or will you be able to expand and make multiple bases?

There will only be on one colony, and it might not even be that large. But it will be interesting.

What sort of challenges will the player face in keeping his colonists alive?

Currently you’ll face pirate raids, of which there are a large variety. There are also mad animals who attack, starvation caused by crop blights, fires started by bad weather or electrical faults, and colonists going on insane rampages due to too much stress (dwarf-style). That’s all in the pre-alpha; the game will have many more challenges as time goes on.

We couldn’t help but notice that some of the screenshot’s captions have revealed underground and above-ground bases. How will this work?

There is only one layer to build on; the underground parts are from digging horizontally into a mountain.

Will the intelligent AI storytellers act like difficulty settings, or will they change the way the game is paced?

The AI Storyteller is a lot more than a difficulty setting. It also determines the flavor of the game you’ll play. For example, one of our AI Storytellers is Cassandra Classic. Cassie tends to be very consistent; she ramps up difficulty in a really traditional way. Another is Randy Random, who isn’t systematically harder, but who uses events with a lot less structure and a lot more variability. They feel like different games.

How long will each playthrough be?

Depending on the AI Storyteller and your luck, you could die in an hour, or last for tens of hours. We’re always adding more content to keep the game interesting as playtimes increase.

You told us that you drew inspiration from games like Dwarf Fortress and FTL, among others. How are you combining these drastically different games into something which is cohesive and coherent?

It’s about drawing pieces of these games and fitting them together in a way that makes sense. Dwarf Fortress is our foundational influence; it defined the core of building a colony on a tile map with a small number of complex characters. FTL contributed the idea of random events affecting the game and keeping it interesting. Left 4 Dead contributed the idea of these random events being driven by an intelligence who thinks about what’s happening in the game and works to keep it interesting.

Will the title have any mod support?

It doesn’t now, but this is an in-demand feature and will be in one of the earlier public alpha builds.

What do you think of single-player games, and how is that affecting the game and its development?

I think there are still huge areas of unexplored territory in what’s possible with single-player games. RimWorld attempts to explore some of that.

Ty with his book, 'Engineering Experiences'.

Ty with his book, ‘Designing games: A guide to engineering experiences’.

Thanks to Tynan for conducting the interview. The kickstarter for the game is available here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tynansylvester/rimworld. You can expect to see a preview article on RimWorld coming your way in the next few days. Until then, I’ll see you next time.

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2 Comments

  1. I backed this project a couple weeks ago, and I am REALLY excited for it!!

    1. From what I’ve played of it so far, it was worth backing.

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