Mulling Mode 7 Man’s Management-Centric Maia

Simon Roth is best known as the newest recruit to Frozen Synapse creators Mode 7, but he’s also one of the most veteran developers in the entire history of the world, if my research is correct. And he’s moonlighting on a side-project all of his own, the Bullfrog/early Maxis-inspired sci-fi management game Maia. This isn’t a matter of keeping colonists happy with space ice cream and zero-grav toilets – we’re promised the likes of ‘up to 2KM X 2KM X 2KM of procedural world’, water and lava simulation, defensive structures to fend off hostile wildlife, bipolar robots and a first-person mode.

Oh, dare I dream ‘sci-fi Dungeon Keeper’?

It’s all about building an underground colony to protect intergalactic settlers from the dangers of the surface, with mining, construction and entertainment component parts of your base-building.

It uses its own render, which Simon Reckons means AAA-level visual quality is possible, plus this is no throwaway project for him. “The plan is to keep it as a on-going piece and to let it grow organically, over a long period, in the same way Dwarf Fortress did.” Imagine if Dungeon Keeper or Startopia had benefited from similar; imagine what they’d be by now.

I’ve roped Simon into joining the on-stage Gamejam at Rezzed tomorrow, so I shall do my best to collar him about plans for Maia at some time. This looks/sounds very promising indeed – revisiting the spirit of those inventive management games, before they collapsed into chintzy Theme x or x Tycoon, but without being a slavish recreation of something existent. More details on the site, but here’s some screenies. Click for embiggenation:

And here’s a never-before-seen third screenshot, just for you and your mum:

You’ll be able to pre-order it soon, for a variety of different pricing tiers and associated bonuses. You can check out what those will be here.


  1. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Oh my goodness yes.

    • AngoraFish says:

      Take my money now!

    • Geen says:

      Holy shit. Dwarf Fortress, plus dungeon keeper, with graphics, IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!
      Thank you oh holy ones for answering my prayers.

      • Shralla says:

        And lava and water physics! It’s like the Dungeon Keeper/Dwarf Fortress baby I always wanted, with a sci-fi coating to boot!

  2. MOKKA says:

    Great Idea, will keep my eye on this.

  3. Keith Nemitz says:

    Interesting. I wonder if the old game, Outpost, might be an influence.

  4. vodka and cookies says:

    Yes at long last I’ve always wanted something like this. Startopia was one of my favourite games.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Those screenshots definitely make me want to build a Sick bay.

    • Wololo says:

      Exactly what crossed my mind!

    • Dilapinated says:

      Yess, Startopia! <3 The combat/invasions/etc was rubbish in my view, but the rest was perfect. <3 Especially the garden level. Oh, the garden level.

      And who could forget the alien angel prostitutes? That was.. Odd.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The combat was absolutely dire, yeah. Protect the one security scuzzer that’s bothering to hack, you useless gimboids. /o\

      • Belsameth says:

        Don’t remind me of the combat! :(

        But besides that, YES! \o/

        Gonna install it tonight, I think.
        And preorder this ASAP, obviously…

  5. Iskariot says:

    Excellent concept.
    I will definitely buy this.
    But I never pre-order.

  6. wodin says:

    Scrap the first person mode for starters, waste of coding time. Also make sure it doesn’t play like a more complicated tower defense. never liked them and there are to many of them already.

    • tangoliber says:

      I really hope FPV mode won’t be scrapped. It does a lot to make an environment more personal.

      • Phantoon says:

        Indeed. Possession in DK2 was one of the coolest things they put in since it meant you could scout around yourself, or see thing from a minion’s eye view.

    • Shralla says:

      Clearly never played Dungeon Keeper.

  7. mckertis says:

    “It uses its own render”

    Once again i question the, franky, completely silly by this point in time, tradition of inventing the bicycle all the bloody time. Use the stuff that already exists and works ! There’s more than enough today ! People dont care if it processes normal maps .2 seconds faster or slower !

    • Gnoupi says:

      Not that many engines which are quite up to date with the latest technologies, and not requiring you to pay a share of your profits to the engine makers.

    • Salt says:

      Making your own rendering engine is fun, and where would we be without fun?
      Basingstoke maybe?
      I’m not sure. But probably not digging underground tunnels in space.

    • Mo says:

      You’d be surprised at just how limited most modern engines are. They’re geared toward the static game worlds you find in modern AAA games. The scope of engines designed for dynamic worlds is rather limited.

      • Lacero says:

        Extremely limited. The Sims is about the best standard engine for doing it, including path finding etc, but modding it requires disassembling C#. So I didn’t bother :(

    • iainl says:

      Simon’s specialist subject is Render engines; I get the impression rolling his own for this is part of the point.

  8. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    SOLD. Just tell me where to send the money.

    • Om says:

      You have too much money. Send it to me. Or give it to a charity

    • Phantoon says:

      I tried throwing it at the screen, but just like A Game of Dwarves and Gunpoint, nothing is happening.

      Do you think I need to throw more money?

      • Belsameth says:

        Have you tried wrapping it around a brick and throwing harder? That usually works for me!

  9. Lambchops says:

    Definitely keeping my eye on this one.

  10. Kein says:

    Clickable screenshots in the article? What nonsense is this?

  11. Pantzed says:

    No matter how hard I throw it at my monitor, they won’t take my money.

  12. cummerbund jackson says:

    Looks great but there’s already been a sci-fi Dungeon Keeper. Did you forget about Startopia? (which was really brilliant)

    • Gnoupi says:

      So brilliant that it makes me want to track the former devs, stalk them, and run after them with money, each time I launch it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        One of them is over here. I’m quite glad that’s still up, because at some point hateful SafeDisc appears to have become broken in a “ha ha launching the executable does NUZZINK” fashion, and his 1.02 patch accidentally leaves this vital functionality out, meaning I can actually run the game again.

  13. Vexing Vision says:

    Simon tried to use an exclusive screenshot to scare me. But he did it publically, so here it is.
    link to

    Still loving the looks of it very much.

    • Mistabashi says:

      It does indeed look rather pretty. Kind of Startopia-esque in a way, which can only be a good thing. I’m trying really hard not to get excited about this game but I don’t think it’s going to work…

  14. Yargh says:

    interest levels spiking… One to monitor.

  15. RyuRanX says:

    Approved! I can’t wait to see the game in action.

  16. RobF says:

    This is looking so great already.

  17. squareking says:

    Oh. Ohhh. OH MY.

  18. Brosepholis says:

    C’mon Simon, you’re not above commenting on your own article… Cliffski does it on his!

    • simoroth says:

      Noooo that’s such a faux pas! ;)

      Funnily enough I had a good chat with Cliffski today. I didn’t think it was possible, but he’s even grumpier than me! Great guy.

  19. HexagonalBolts says:

    Holy mother of… This sounds incredible.

    I don’t get why really exciting looking new games like this aren’t the ones with 10 pages of comments.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Because the ones with ten pages of comments are the ones with huge, stupid arguments in, usually consisting mostly of one set of people calling another “haters” and “fanboys” respectively, with the peripheral cries of “troll” and “shill”.

      Usually that kind of thing needs some kind of big entity for people to have Opinions about, like Bethesda, or Blizzard. Or, god forbid, gender politics.

  20. zeroskill says:

    “Oh, dare I dream ‘sci-fi Dungeon Keeper’?”

    Well please lets not get expectations up that can hardly be met. Otherwise everybody will be dissapointed.

  21. D3xter says:

    This looks damn cool.

  22. tangoliber says:

    Wow. I will pre-order as soon as available.

  23. Geen says:


  24. BurningPet says:

    Oh my, Oh my! this is already looking superb!

    One thing i question though: Dwarf fortress relies on donations which is not viable for a project with more than one person working on it.
    a AAA project like this will need concept artists, 3d artists, animators, sound engineers, musicians, voice talents and so on and so on, so how do you plan on financing/building such a beast? will it be open code at some point, have extensive modding possibilities or are you relying on self funding it?

    Fun “unrevealed until now” fact – towns was considered very early at its development stage to be called “Colonies” and it was supposed to be a simulation of a crashed alien crew on an hostile planet who need to dig and mine out precious minerals so they could rebuild a spaceship and return home. we ruled it out because the concept of majesty-like heroes sounded better. however, a total conversion mod is in the works by some key community members which aims to create Colonies in the Towns engine.

    • Torgen says:

      Wow! That’s a pretty big switch, though I think it was the right choice.

  25. Ghoulie says:


  26. BathroomCitizen says:

    I feel excited.

    Can I get the permission to be excited, my dark master?

  27. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Yay! Someone remembers StarTopia!

    Yay! Someone’s making something like it!


  28. Phasma Felis says:

    “The plan is to keep it as a on-going piece and to let it grow organically, over a long period, in the same way Dwarf Fortress did.”

    Oh God, Dwarf Fortress-style development done by someone actually competent? Yes please right away now

  29. TechnicalBen says:

    Hugs Startopia copy. Hmmmm. Plus dwarf fortress style gameplay? Great! :D

  30. slerbal says:

    Very interested in this!

  31. LionsPhil says:

    So, Startopia. Rummaging through RTSC’s excellent resource site to bring myself back up to speed (finally beat mission 7, the squatter eviction, huzzah).

    Anyone ever seen the next stage after Skrashers? I don’t think I’ve ever had one run out of things to smash without that meaning I’ve lost.

    (Dang, this game still looks great, considering it’s eleven years old.)

  32. Shralla says:

    I assume that this will be on Kickstarter, given the tier system of pre-orders. If so, it will be the first Kickstarter I’ve opted to give money to. I’ve spread the word about many others though. I’ve been wanting a new Dungeon Keeper game for so long. The workers in this are even called IMPs!

  33. roselynne says:

    this is great.