Dyson (Nothing To Do With Vacuum Cleaners)

Dyson, by Alex May, Rudolf Kremers, and Brian Grainger, seems to have rounded off an oddly vacuum-cleaner themed evening that I’ve had, here at RPS Country Retreat (as my new abode will henceforth be known). It’s nothing to do with vacuum cleaners, of course, it just happens to share its name with a popular brand of sucking appliance.

In fact Dyson is a wonderful ambient strategy in which you conquer an abstract asteroid belt with the seed-ships which emerge from the trees that you grow on the surface of the asteroids you conquer… still with me? Okay then. It’s beautiful: soft yet strategic, fierce yet calm. Sending out swarms of seeds to battle with AI-controlled asteroid populations is weird enough to stimulate the tired old skull-glands, and simplistic enough be completely engrossing. It seems like a bit of a work in progress, but if you don’t play anything else in the next week, you should probably play this.

I found Dyson, of course, via the incomparably excellent Indiegames.com.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    RPS Country Retreat sounds like the sort of place where one expects depraved swinging parties to occur.


    Is there to be a first RPS IS ONE YEAR OLD party?

  2. Lorc says:

    I’m downloading it now – but from the description, shouldn’t it be named after Von Neuman rather than Dyson?

    In any case, it sounds fun.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    That’s an odd coincidence. Because I’m a popular brand of sucking appliance too.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    Meat, are you drunk?

  5. Meat Circus says:

    You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

  6. Heliocentricity says:

    another indie game RPS might want to pimp is Bontago.

    link to bontago.com

    essntially, multiplayer tower building meets jenga.

    For best results play a 3 player game with 3 flags and the standard weapon setup.
    The game:
    The taller your tower the further your influence, you can only lay blocks within your influence and you want your influence to cover the flags. Also, your influence will om nom nom enemy blocks.

  7. Down Rodeo says:

    I can’t get the RAR to un, well, unrar (it’s ok though I’m on Ubuntu and 7zip is playing up). Is the name a reference to the Dyson Sphere?

    It’s a shame. I kinda want to play this. Doubly disappointing as the Archery game works… A friend sent me a screenshot with ’74’ as the number of hits.

    GNU/Linux – the new casual gaming platform. :p

  8. Heliocentricity says:

    I need to add this, play it with voice chat over teamspeak.

    Chatting shit and making fragile alliances with the other underdogs against the current leader while you stockpile weapons.

    Good stuff.

  9. Heliocentricity says:

    huh…. i cant edit my comments and my browser displays an error when i post… pasting it below in a following post (as i doubt i can edit here)

  10. Heliocentricity says:

    Regex ID: 15471 (qqqqqxxxx@hotmail.com) appears to be an invalid regex string! Please fix it in the Blacklist control panel.

    Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/shotgun/public_html/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_util_class.php:208) in /home/shotgun/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wp-ajax-edit-comments/wp-ajax-edit-comments.php on line 757

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  11. Lunaran says:

    I thought you people called it “hoovering.”

  12. Down Rodeo says:

    Also, whenever I post now I’m getting a funny error screen and I cannot edit my comments. I have a screenshot should you wish it sent somewhere…

    Also for the record I am on Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 5, as I mentioned Ubuntu 8.04.

  13. KindredPhantom says:

    Sounds like meat is either trying to be humours or he is in a bad mood.

    The title makes you deliberately think of the brand of vacuums..

  14. Heliocentricity says:

    windows and opera here, looks like its not at the user end eh?

  15. KindredPhantom says:

    It seems to me a little bug has cropped up in the rps comment system. I hope your web designer does maintenance as well as design.

  16. Lunaran says:

    Been getting that same error. Obviously we should all email qqqqqxxxx@hotmail.com and tell him he’s a jerk.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Dyson in the name refers to Dyson Trees, not Spheres, Vacuums or Von Neumann machines.

    Well, kinda the last one.

  18. Jim says:

    It’s quite a sweet little game, needs more depth to it though like being able to upgrade your asteroids or mine them for metals to make weapons etc [Across map mega death cannon required]. Maybe i’ve just been playing too much Settlers lately. It’s very relaxing, then when the red things start attacking it’s quite tense.

  19. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    @ Heliocentricity: I love you and I want to have your babies, I’ve been looking for that (Bontago) for bloody ages now. Had some fun times with it after it was on the PCG discs.

  20. Matu says:

    It’s really fun, but it begs for a multiplayer patch.

  21. Meat Circus says:


    Me too.

  22. Meat Circus says:


    Me? I’ve had enough vodka that all of mankind is my speciali friend.

  23. Aubrey says:

    They (Alex and Rudolf) came to my birthday party!!! WOW THEY ARE FAMOUS ON RPS NOW!


    Also, Jim was in my building last week, but I didn’t get to say hi.

  24. Meat Circus says:


    I’ve been in the same building as Gillen and Walker.

    I may never wash my trousers again.

  25. Seniath says:

    Just finished it. Very cute.

  26. Aubrey says:

    Alex May is also responsible for the previous TIGSource B-Game winning entry:

    link to rockpapershotgun.com

  27. Garreett says:

    By the way, I doubt this would work in Mac or Linux, as one of the file names is SdlDotNet.dll – and .net is Windows-only.

  28. Kevlmess says:

    I demand multiplayer.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Hm. I’ve more or less finished it – I’ve hit the cap of 4000 units, all clustered around 8 rocks for neatness. The problem is that one of those rocks isn’t mine. It just seems impossible to capture.

    I have no idea if this is a bug or not, but it certainly seems to be – one of the AIs had three hundred seeds bouncing off it over and over again, failing to capture it, and now I have five hundred doing the same – I tried with smaller forces originally, but threw everything at it when it wouldn’t budge. One tree, no defenders, but nothing has any effect on it.

  30. haowan says:

    Hi guys, wow. Thanks for the article! It’s so gratifying to find people like the game, even in this slightly broken and unfinished state.

    Just so you know, the game requires .NET 2.0 framework to be installed. We’re updating the build now and again, so do check back to the official thread or my blog for information on updates.

  31. haowan says:

    Anonymous: Huh, sounds like the eternal root digger bug is still around :( I’ll try to fix that soon hopefully. Really thought I’d nixed it. In the meantime all I can do is apologise and suggest that you start a new game.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Ack. I’ve just realised I may be using an old version, so I’ll update and do it all over again. It is a fun game, once you get the basics down.

  33. PleasingFungus says:

    Found this a few days ago, thanks to Ascii Dreams. Quite neat. Recommended it to all my friends. It’s definitely not all that polished, but very nifty and worth a spin or two.

  34. Gap Gen says:

    This is pretty sweet. It’s fairly easy to mob everyone fairly soon, but it’s the most relaxing game in the Imperialist Bastard genre that I’ve played in a long time.

  35. Lunaran says:

    Great little game. I beat it, confirmed that I wanted to continue playing, and now that I’ve maxed out the trees on every rock in the ‘verse I’ve left the window open as a tiny teeming aquarium. I was hoping to come back in the morning and find every planet with 500 seedlings but what’s this about an 8000 unit limit? sappin’ mah fun. :(

    Very similar to Galcon, only with a much more subtle pace (which I appreciate) and a lot less magenta (which I also appreciate). The kind of quiet driftiness is what attracted me to Eve originally – I have to admit that while I like this the way it is, if there were a space-economy simulator that worked along the same lines, I’d nerd out all over it.

    haowan: say hi to borsato for me!

  36. Gap Gen says:

    One comment: could you not make purple an AI colour too? It’s annoying trying to work out which planet’s yours and which is your enemy’s.

  37. Heliocentricity says:

    i noticed i never really commented on the game.

    Its odd… A game that to a degree supports exponential growth, like all rts’s, but then support nothing else you must out expand your opponents while hoping they dont capitalise on your expansion to hurt you. Strictly in this game a units which isnt either fighting or being planted isnt helping you win. But they throw a curve ball in that (it seems) a planet can be claimed without investing as much as the initial colonist. I didnt like the lack of relitive territory (you cant intercept invasions) as a multiplayer game it could devolve into a game of tag, and without enough depth the game while pretty shows why the tropes like rock paper si-shotgun units are used. Without counters exponential growth is win. While playing a few rts’ that allow for “infinite “free” units (SOASE + Rise & Fall) i came to realise that once you are out producing your enemy to the state no tactics matter, game over you win.

    As vasari you can tech rush to an infinite unit production portal structure, get a few of them, knock up your popcap and preto, you win. Every battle you lose is replaced near instantly and asside from the logistical movement of your units you are not all that busy (you could tech for things that help mind you).

    In Rise and Fall you get buildings that infinitely produce units too, same net effect (notably the sides with those structures are not used in campaign as a playable race).

    Fundementally, this game represents the same system, and as pretty as thegame is, its not really replayable as a result of the system.

  38. bowl of snakes says:

    another good game from that contest:
    mmorpg tycoon

  39. Ci2e says:

    I just got the enemy down to one asteroid and it seems I can’t win…

  40. Stromko says:

    I played for awhile, got pretty much trounced/marginalized a few times, eventually started to expand fast enough to hold my own, but I lost interest and enthusiasm and started slipping back anyway.

    The lack of ‘territory’ (no interceptions, as Helio pointed out) keeps the game moving I suppose, it stops a stronger opponent from just stacking up in border territories and effortlessly winning, but, combine this with the fact that an inferior force can actually take over an asteroid, and it just starts feeling chaotic. It’s like you’re trying to stop a leak on a garden hose with 25 holes in it, using just your fingers.

    Send a string of 15 seedlings to every asteroid you don’t own and you would probably win. A few get through, the enemy loses every tree and probably the asteroid too. It does require a balancing act, you’d need a large force, but it does make investing in particular planets a bit unwise. They may cost 5 to capture (and give a free tree) but it’s ten for every tree right? A six tree asteroid hardly churns them out either.

  41. Ben Abraham says:


    I had that bug too, sadly. I think it came from having a number of seedlings stuck on top of each other, all trying to get in to the one planet. Otherwise it was a fantastic little game.

    If you’re listening Mr Dev, you should scale the trees up a bit bigger so you can see them while zoomed out at the whole asteroid belt. I didn’t enjoy having to zoom in on every asteroid to see how many it had left after a killer attack.

  42. Cpy says:

    This game is awesome but lacks any options to customize gameplay like difficulty, map size, environment, galaxy shape etc etc you get the point, but the game itself have big potential.

  43. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I don’t think it’s meant to rival SOASE or whatever. It reminds me a bit of Flow, that game where you swim around eating other things.

  44. Ci2e says:


    I don’t think it’s a bug I think it’s just unfinished, and how do you make the trees visible from afar ?

    It’s a really cool game I liked accumulating a swarm of 500 and just slaughtering enemy asteroids, constantly relocating smaller units to help fend off attacks that seemed to originate from the opposite side of the solar system…

  45. Jonathan says:

    I guess boredom is a form of relaxation.

  46. phuzz says:

    Once I worked out you needed 10 to colonise an asteroid it got a lot easier. A full screen mode would be nice too :)

  47. Borsato (Rudolf Kremers) says:

    Sorry about not getting on here sooner guys/gals.
    Lunaran Hi!!!

    Great feedback everyone :-)
    I justed wanted to let you know that most of the points made were already coverred in our original design, and we had to drop some things to make the competition deadline. It is easy to forget but this is the competition version of the game made in 1 month in our spare time. We will address many of the outstanding features and bugs but we want to let the competition finish first. So yeah, this is definitely a work in progress.

    Please check for updates on Haowan’s site or on mine here: http://www.omni-labs.com

  48. Hypocee says:

    Bontago’s years and years old, though. A good game, yes, but has anyone not played Bontago?

    Thanks for what you’ve done so far, guys. Further requests for any future version:

    Yeah, distance and position just barely sometimes exist right now. Either an interdiction model as mentioned uppage and in your design doc, or alternatively some low chance of death per unit time moving, to tone down the eternally moving unkillable swarms. Meteoroids? Fun-to-animate solar flares? Seedlings use energy moving and recharge faster at friendly asteroids?
    Why not put the number of live trees as a numeral in the centre of each asteroid when you scale out the roots? Currently a lot of my mouse mileage is consumed sweeping my domain to update tree situations and correlating number of enemies (in the info box) with number of trees (only available from mouseover)
    Relatedly, put number of trees in the infobox?

    That said, I can’t see this game structure ever becoming more than a relaxing concept piece, so on my behalf at least please don’t put yourselves out. I’ll be keeping an eye on Deadrock now, though..

  49. GothikX says:

    Can’t believe it took me that long to try this. I should trust the RPS recommendations on the spot. This is more like a work of art than a game prototype. It can still get frantic though. Must remember to check on the progress of Dyson.