SimSettlement: Banished Is About Survival And Life

By Nathan Grayson on March 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

I'm going to name my settlement 'Arsonist's Paradise'.

I love being alive right now. Admittedly, there are many reasons for that – getting to see humanity clumsily barge its way into a new stage of evolution, being able to have pancakes pretty much whenever I want them, etc – but mostly because I get blindsided by amazing-looking new games on a nigh-daily basis. Banished, like so many others, has crept seemingly out of nowhere, set up a nice little settlement on the crisp loam of YourTubules, and proceeded to look utterly brilliant. In short, it’s a small scale city builder, but that doesn’t really do it justice. Money, you see, has no sway when starvation, disease, and the elements are the ones you’re bargaining with. People are precious, and Banished is a game about cherishing every last one you’ve got.

For something that only recently emerged from the Internet’s unending woods, Banished is looking excellently polished, which is a good sign indeed. Here, for those playing along on an Etch-A-Sketch, graphing calculator, ancient sacred time scroll, or some similarly non-video-equipped technology, is the basic setup:

“In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture.”

“The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow.”

It is, then, a game of smart resource management and growth over time – neither of which involves money at all. Instead, bartering and trading are your best bets, with professions like farming, hunting, blacksmithing, mining, teaching, and healing providing your fledgling settlement’s strained yet resilient backbone.

Adaptability, however, may end up being the most important tool of all. “No single strategy will succeed for every town,” explains Banished’s website. “Some resources may be more scarce from one map to the next. The player can choose to replant forests, mine for iron, and quarry for rock, but all these choices require setting aside space into which you cannot expand.”

Yep, good, OK. I am ready to own this now. Sadly, all we have to work with at the moment is a vague “mid-to-late 2013″ release date. But, given that it’s all coming from one guy, I think that’s a more than acceptable wait. I mean, I can hardly even tie my shoes without a 350-person development team and years of beta testing, so more power to Shining Rock.

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90 Comments »

  1. Artificial says:

    Looks absolutely brilliant. I’d love to play a game with a similar style and setting to age of empires, but focused solely on the city building aspect. I’ll keep my eye on this now.

    • Fanbuoy says:

      This! I’ve been waiting for a game along these lines for a while now.

    • Quatlo says:

      I used to home-make our own “game mode” where me and my friends played AoE2 on a map with very little resources and struggled to build the most beautiful town. Good old times.

  2. GeminiathXL says:

    Good times, good times.

    I was wondering when city builders would start to come back again :). Well…..village builders? Whatever!

    • LordMidas says:

      And without perma-online shenanigans this could easily be teh best Sim game of the year

  3. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Sim Motte and Bailey.

  4. Johnetc says:

    For some reason I’m reminded of Lords of The Realm. Loved that game.

    • Premium User Badge DeVadder says:

      And off i go hunting down a copy of Lord of the Realms II.
      Thank you for making sure i will do nothing around the house for the weekend. I was already scared i had to fill my time with usefull stuff.

    • sinister agent says:

      You should look up King of Dragon Pass. It’s on gog and I got it last year – it reminds me very much of Lords of the Realm, crossed with several other games.

      • strangeloup says:

        KoDP was what came to mind on seeing this. I’d been vaguely aware of it for ages but hadn’t actually played until it showed up on GOG. It’s all kinds of wonderful.

  5. Disrespecting says:

    Just when i thought I’d have something to keep my mind off of wanting to get simcity with all It’s flaws, turns out that somethings not released yet x3 darn. Really don’t want to pay for simcity (well.. EA) til It’s in a bargain bin.

    • codename_bloodfist says:

      Surely there are better city builders or games with a large building element to them that you haven’t played in a long time than Sim City? I recently reinstalled SC4 and it was great. Thinking about playing Stronghold next.

  6. mrmalodor says:

    Finally, a worthy sequel to Sim City 4!

  7. AzzerUK says:

    Looks just like the sort of sim game I like. Made me think of the old Settlers game in some ways – even though it looks vastly different :P

    • Vorphalack says:

      I think it’s the art style and sound design. Something quite charming about both that reminded me of Settlers as well.

    • The First Door says:

      I was thinking that too! I think it might be the cute little way they all work at their jobs too, like the buildings in Settlers 2.

  8. Premium User Badge basilisk says:

    One guy? Just one guy did that?

    Damn, that makes me feel all unproductive and stupid.

    • mrmalodor says:

      This just proves that one developer with a vision and some skills can accomplish more than 100 Sim City developers ever can.

      • Lemming says:

        One developer doing nothing at all would be a net gain over 100 SimCity developers working, tbh.

    • Chandos says:

      I wonder if he used Unity and assets from the asset store. If he created his own 3d models and animations, then I’ll be seriously impressed.

      Edit: I checked out his devlog. Yup, he’s done everything. The engine seems to be his own creation too. Now we can properly get depressed about our lack of productivity.

  9. rei says:

    Ohh, looks wonderful, definitely want this.

  10. popabawa says:

    Whoah! A real-time Agricola! I’m in!

    • Pobblepop says:

      Exactly what I was thinking! Love the board game, this looks right up my dirt track.

      • Premium User Badge basilisk says:

        Well, it doesn’t look like it will play a whole lot like Agricola, to be honest. But if that’s an itch you want to scratch, do check out King of Dragon Pass – it’s a peculiar little game that’s definitely got an Agricola feel to it.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        You…umm…may wish to rephrase that….

  11. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    One man development team, this shows that games development does’t scale very well.

    The end game credits for this will be amusing. One person listed for development then about 25 for the publisher.

  12. Superghost6nkers says:

    Hey, just want to let you know the link on the main page that’s supposed to take you to an Elder Scrolls Online article links to a SimCity article. Maybe you can report this to someone that can change it? Thanks!

  13. Premium User Badge Klingsor says:

    Wow that looks utterly amazing and reminds me strongly of Settlers. Count me in!

    Somehow it feels like the golden age of gaming is starting to celebrate it’s return. After all these years with more or less boring AAA games we may finally get a much broader variance of worthy games.

  14. FloorBelow says:

    Now this does look great.

  15. Yargh says:

    This is looking very nice indeed.

  16. AngoraFish says:

    Must. Have.

    Needs an email list I can sign up for.

    Also, totally ripe for kickstarting…

    • Berzee says:

      “ripe for kickstarting”

      But if we have no indication that a game is in need of extra money for development to continue, why encourage developers to distract themselves with unnecessary fundraising? All other things being equal, I prefer this novel approach of just working on a game until it reaches the part where it looks cool, and then announcing, “Soon I will complete a video game. At such a time, you can buy it and play it.”

      (It does look like a potentially excellent game, yes ^_^).

      • AngoraFish says:

        Yeah, I’ve posted equally skeptical comments on other Kickstarter-related threads before, but mostly with respect to big budget developers with large teams and clear existing financial backing.

        In this case, I’d be happy for an indie game with a one-man development team to genuinely benefit from the financial and publicity boost Kickstarter potentially offers without needing to be a particularly significant distraction. The developer is already posting blogs on their own website, so why not the same content on Kickstarter to backers and potential backers?

        Personally, I would recommend a low pledge goal, no stretch goals (like Castle Story) and all-digital rewards (no limited tiers please). Use the Kickstarter front-end to drive your customer email distribution list, give your income a bit of a boost prior to release and generate some early publicity, all of which will help drum up support for the inevitable Greenlight submission.

        Kickstarter doesn’t have to be a resource drain unless one makes it so. If utilised intelligently it has the potential to take some of the load off an indie developer. I can’t imagine a good argument for why Kickstarter shouldn’t be used for such a purpose.

        Regardless, I have money right now and wouldn’t mind throwing some of it at this…

        • Berzee says:

          Ok, that sounds more reasonable. =) I still think you could take preorders without getting a third party involved, but taking out nonsense like stretch goals and physical rewards (which means someone has to spend several days shipping parcels) makes it a lot better.

          I think it’s just my curmudgeonly insistence on literal interpretation that makes me think Kickstarter doesn’t need to be used except for things that need a kickstart (i.e. “I can’t make this without funding”). But I suppose it has grown to have other meanings.

          • darkath says:

            Kickstarter for video games has grown to become a marketing platform for indie developpers. Basically putting up a well made video and an interesting pitch will get you acknowledged in no time.

            The only tricky thing is to carefully plan the campaign and set realistic expectation. A game like this isn’t shattering earth, and would never go in the millions like the supermega kickstartosaurs of obsidian and double fine.
            This would be more like FTL’s model of “hey guys we need some more funds to get polish onto this nice little game that is close to being finished so we aim to raise 10k$”. No fuss needed, the game just has to look good.

  17. savagenick says:

    This looks amazing – just what we need after the SimCity debacle. Keep us up to date!

  18. bitbot says:

    Perfect time to announce this now when people are getting tired of SimCity. I must admit it looks pretty great.

  19. Premium User Badge golem09 says:

    The game looks lovely, and I absolutely prefer building games instead of conquer games.

    But after seeing this, I do wonder what happens next. There is a field, people get food from and firewood from the forest, aaaaaand… what else is there? They have food, they are warm. And it sounds to me like anything happenng after that is more people, which means a tiny bit more firewood and food. I can’t really see where this game is going, though I doubt that this is the end of the line.

    • Artificial says:

      Hopefully you can build castles and churches, stables etc…But there’s stuff about disease and famine mentioned right there in the article.

    • Ultramegazord says:

      With some creativity he can easily add a lot of challenges, stuff like diseases, animal attacks, famine, social instability, criminality, thefts, food rotting, plagues and so on.

      • darkath says:

        From what i gather, there is no indication of a specific time-era or universe, it’s just “traverllers” who decided to settle down with nothing but clothes on their back and timeless survival knowledge.
        I don’t expect to see castles or modern things like electricity in that game, this seems to be about Dwarf Fortress-style survival more than actually building sprawling cities of anno, sim city or strongholds.

  20. Ultramegazord says:

    This is brilliant, it’s a shame there’s so few games like this, can’t wait to buy it and I’m even more impressed considering it’s a one man job, wow!

  21. BobbyDylan says:

    Im keen on this. I’ll take 2 please.

  22. Ergates_Antius says:

    Hubba Hubba.

    That is all.

  23. Niko says:

    MY COW IS READY.

  24. skalpadda says:

    Looks absolutely splendid and if the video is a good indication of how the full game will turn out I fear it will eat my life.

  25. serioussgtstu says:

    I didn’t buy SimCity because I have no interest in building a big city. I don’t want to house 100,000 workers efficiently so that I can maximize resource output or whatever, I want to build a small hamlet with 50 residents.

    I was reading Adam’s review of SC yesterday, and all I could think of was how hard the game pushes you to build big as the only way of achieving a satisfying experience. Banished looks like it’s just the thing to suit my play style. I hope they release a paid alpha.

  26. Dammster says:

    This looks absolutely amazing! Thanks for the heads up. I added developer’s rss channel.

  27. sinister agent says:

    This looks like it could be lovely. A challenging-yet-relaxing settlers-ish game, hurrah!

    I do hope there’s room for them to make it a pleasant thing to just sit and watch for a while. Even today, I still get a little kick out of watching the people in The Settlers wander about doing their thing, those animations and sounds did so much for the game.

  28. -Spooky- says:

    *Instant Steam Greenlight*

  29. Berzee says:

    After reading too many hackneyed fantasy young adult novels, seeing this game makes me hope that when kids in your village reach 12 or 13 years old, they are forced to go through that stupid ceremony where they get a new True Name and/or are assigned an occupation for the rest of their lives (either by a master picking them, or even worse/better, through a random drawing).

    Call it The Choosing Ceremony. I will get a headache from all the facepalming, but simultaneously feel comforted and at-home. This is what I expect from a rustic village.

  30. BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

    This is more like updated Knight & Merchants which is awesome.

  31. Strabo says:

    Looks nice, but far more like an Anno (you assign jobs, housing, build housing, build production sites )game than what Sim City (you build the infrastructure for the Sims do build the rest) does.

    • DellyWelly says:

      Yeah, i agree, Anno 1404 is just the most lovely game. Lots of people were recommending the latest Anno to play but I enjoy the medieval feel of buildy games like this one, it makes me want to create serene worlds of beautifully balanced mechanics. Just get a me a lute playing in the background and I’ll build in to the early hours of the morning!

  32. Count_Cipher says:

    For some reason I got this flashback of a game I used to play, where you would build a village, farms and chicken might have been involved, but most importantly, the villagers would breed by going in a house and making red hearts float or something. Cartoonish graphics. Does anyone know what it might have been?

  33. Saarlaender39 says:

    Ooh,…what a pretty…me wants.
    Just look at that steam…look at that steam…

  34. Samwise Gamgee says:

    ‘I love being alive right now. Admittedly, there are many reasons for that – getting to see humanity clumsily barge its way into a new stage of evolution, being able to have pancakes pretty much whenever I want them, etc’

    Wow, Nathan Grayson, I am impressed and very pleased. I concur, and no I am not referring the bit about the pancakes, although that is good too. RPS was already my favourite games website but I never expected too see such enlightenment here :)

    • Berzee says:

      Wait, we’re evolving somewhere?
      (That email must have gone to my spam folder, I didn’t hear anything about it).

  35. stoner says:

    Oh, hell.

    Once this comes out, thre goes 100s of hours of my life I’ll never get back.

    Where can I pre-order?…

  36. Vercinger says:

    NICE!

  37. oyog says:

    There’s something about that UI I find comforting.

    • darkath says:

      At first it looks like those sad programmer-made GUI plaguing indie games in their infancy, but looking at it closely it’s actually smooth and functional (both of which developer GUI are usually not)

  38. Neo_Bahamut_19 says:

    I’m genuinely interested in just how big the areas you can work with will be. Not only that, but just how densely populated you can start to get. I know it won’t get to be like a modern city, but they did have highly populated areas in the time period the game is set in.

    Other than that, I cannot wait. Even in its current state I’d gladly buy it.

  39. Premium User Badge Martel says:

    This looks awesome. I almost wish I hadn’t heard about it until it was released though, as I now wish I was playing it and can’t :(

  40. pilouuuu says:

    It looks great! I’m just worried that it’s not a sequel and that it doesn’t need a for ever and for always on-line connection. How am I supposed to multi-play my single- player game that way?

    Besides the always off-line restriction and no possibility to have my friends messing with my surroundings in the game it seems fantastic. Hopefully someone will mod this later to make it only function if you have an always on-line internet connection as it seems the developer is not incorporating it just because he feels like it.

  41. cpy says:

    Shut up and take my money!

  42. Strangerator says:

    Looks quite slick! The thing that gives me confidence is that, this has been one man’s passion and life for I’d imagine quite some time since he built it from scratch. It’s bound to be good, and likely different from anything we’ve seen. No chance of it succumbing to “group think” either.

  43. Calabi says:

    Looks interesting only one problem, no society ever survived without money, just through bartering.

    • pilouuuu says:

      Really? How did humanity manage to survive until before the invention of money? Probably we would live even better nowadays if money didn’t exist. Well, except for the fact that we would have to send cattle and ceramic vases to support Kickstarters.

      • Calabi says:

        Debt and social contracts.

        http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/debt-first-five-thousand-years

        Its a common misconception that barter was so common. It could never be viable in an economy, because of the constant unequal trades. Anyone other than a food creation person would die, because you would not constantly be able to trade for things like pottery, or metal work, or wood all of the time.

        Communities were largely cooperative and communistic in nature as that was the only way they could survive and innovate.

        This belief in barter and other neoclassical myths may kill alot people soon.

    • AngoraFish says:

      The community largely provides for its own basic needs through farming, hunting & gathering, lumber-milling, etc. Bartering just provides the ability to access goods not available locally, more or less like the vast majority of human history. Did you read the article and watch the video, or just skim until you found something to arbitrarily disagree with?

  44. Lev Astov says:

    I love how the shadows rotate when he spins the camera. It’s like you’re rotating the planet to get a better view.

    I am pretty intrigued by this game, though. People tell me it looks like Settlers, which I always wanted to, but never tried, so I’ll keep an eye on this.

  45. Arkh says:

    It’s looking lovely. Loved the seasons stuff. It looks like a cross of Knights and Merchants with Tropico.

    Good luck to the developer, I hope to see it released soon!

  46. Premium User Badge slerbal says:

    What a gem of a find. Sounds really interesting. Will definitely check it out!

  47. Frostiken says:

    I’m with Golem on the previous page. It looks pretty, but like most games these days, it looks to me like it’s entirely built around one ‘gimmick’, without much thought put into the rest of it. Okay, survival, sure. But what is there beyond that? Anything? I don’t really see the point of this game, and I would say that people getting excited for a single feature without regard for what else the game offers is why there’s so many crappy games these days.

    Are you supposed to just sit there and micromanage your town while the dice roll and randomly kill your peoples, until… what?

    I like the concept but it sounds like it’s one feature torn out of a larger game and made to stand on its own. I fail to see what else there really is to this beyond just micromanagement for the sake of micromanagement.

    I’m kind of reminded of Dead Space. At the beginning of the first one, I was freaked out. You’re underarmed, underarmored, not sure what to expect. But it was only a few hours in when you figure out how everything works and it went from a horror game to just a corridor-crawling zombie-blaster as I decimated them with a massive arsenal of incredibly overpowered weapons. Maybe that was the point, but I hated the franchise because it elected for LOL ACTION over the survival horror it advertised itself as. Much the same way that Dead Space starts you off small and weak and scared, I can’t imagine the ‘survival’ difficulty curve in this city-builder is really so insurmountable that a player wouldn’t eventually just be able to handle anything the game throws at them, at which point it seems like the game has completely run out of its concept.

    PS: And seriously people? Comparing this to Simcity is perhaps one of the stupidest things I’ve heard.