Avoid Dysentery And Acquire Wealth In Pioneers

Such vistas

Ye olde gaming about ye olde times. Pioneers is a 16th century four-colour turn-based exploration survival RPG. It has more genres than colours. I’ll bet you couldn’t make an Unreal 4 game with four colours. The fonts alone in that engine alone need a GeForce Titan to be rendered. But I digress, which is appropriate because Pioneers is a (currently) free indie game about exploration. Which, when you think about it, are nothing but well-funded digressions.

You’ll be part of an adventuresome crew, heading off into the ocean to see what sort of challenges the game will throw up at you. The early version here only has a couple of islands, but the promise is that of a world to explore. You’ll build a crew, buy what you need, grab a ship and then work on some quests. You could be heading out to uncover the mystery or missing explorers, or on a mapping mission. Whatever it is, it’ll lead you to islands fraught with danger. It’s not a nice place, and wolves, bears, even tribesmen will be out to get you. And those tribes don’t speak your language, so you might not know about it until you’re gutted.

I’ve only spent a few minutes to verify it’s not a secret virus that’ll replace Chrome with Internet Explorer – though that would be an apposite swap – and to have a small wander through the tutorial and opening sections. It’s all neat and charming, and would definitely make Adam rub his thighs. It’s early alpha, so there’s a fair number of things that will puzzle you if you don’t pay attention to the tutorial, and then there are a number of explanatory mis-steps. A lot of times it asks you to do something without telling you how to, which is a huge failing of a section that’s main purpose is tells you how to do things. But I muddled through, and I’m pretty stupid. Beyond that there’s definitely a nasty little adventure wrapped up in cute pixels. Observe this video through a telescope for maximum effect.

The alpha is a test-bed, and the developer will eventually ask for doubloons. Until then, it’s yours for free.


  1. tobecooper says:

    I’ll bet you couldn’t make an Unreal 4 game with four colours.

    It is immensely difficult, but I believe it’s still within realm of possibility. There is black and brown. There is red for blodo. And the fourth color is the problem all the developers struggle with. But it is possible to add it too. Just look to Deus Ex 3 with its oranges, or Fallout 3 with its greens!

    • Jackie-Rojas says:

      like Billy implied I’m amazed that a stay at home mom can make $6905 in one month on the computer. have you read this website…

    • Ich Will says:

      Blue, obviously

      link to tvtropes.org

    • Luaan says:

      I’m still fascinated with how amazing Doom looked with just 256 colours… A lot of awe was taken out of gaming technology with ever increasing hardware capabilities…

      • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

        A lot of old graphics styles capture things I don’t think photorealism ever will. System Shock 1, a lot of the early 3d ps1 games etc. They’re all more terrifying or mysterious or whatever than any modern games have ever been.

        The control schemes on the other hand…

        • phlebas says:

          …are also more terrifying or mysterious or whatever than any modern games have ever been.

      • Arkh says:

        I think Cart Life proved to me you don’t need a lot of colors to make an awesome game in this day and age. Or was it Dwarf Fortress? Never mind, this was proved to me a long time ago…

        • Geen says:

          DF is actually quite colorful, the plants and stone are already varied, and then there’s blood, water, and magma. And on the note of blood, some creatures have different colored blood! With the help of a wounded troll you can paint the floors blue, or with the Hidden Fun Stuff it could be anything, but usually ends up red with your own dwarf blood.

    • Baines says:

      But then the lighting and other effects kick in, and suddenly you’ve got around 256 shades of brown and red each.

    • marcelocollar says:

      Epic made Gears of War with Unreal Engine 3 and only 4 colors.

  2. 1Life0Continues says:

    Four colours? Too high tech for me.
    Green and black are all that is needed. :)

  3. connorcarpenter says:

    Looks awesome! Why am such a sucker for these nostalgic retro games when I grew up in the decade of Halo? Confusing.

    • tanith says:

      Because Microsoft doesn’t like the PC and releases new Halo titles for Windows only when there is a blue moon.

      And I mean like really dark blue. With a tinge of orange and pink. :)

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      The visuals “lack information” required to make them realistic. It could be claimed that the mind takes in those visuals, if one has an imagination, and “fills in the blanks”. It cannot merely be nostalgia because this is a new game. It certainly helps that the pixel art in Pioneers is superb, making use of very few colours (FOUR!? That’s almost CGA!) to approximate a lot of images.

      I’d argue that the only people that need (photo)-realism in their games are those that have no imagination. Sure, Far Cry 3 looks brilliant, but I haven’t had any fun playing it, even though the core shooting and stealth mechanics are both pretty good. Sapience by comparison sucked me in immediately and I’m absolutely desperate for more.

  4. Adriaan says:

    The music strongly reminds me of Age of Empires 1. Which is lovely. As is the rest of this game, by the looks of it!

  5. CuriousExpedition says:

    Awesome coverage! Eigen is doing a great job with this game and he deserves all the attention he can get.

  6. All is Well says:

    I originally misread the title as “Acquire Dysentery And Avoid Wealth In Pioneers”.
    Needless to say I was greatly disappointed when I learned I was mistaken.

  7. Berzee says:

    The graffix! They are lovely. =) Downloading now. I will put it in the giant folder of things to install when/if I contrive to go home after work and have time to play alphas.

  8. DMStern says:

    Takes me back to playing Seven Cities of Gold on the C64, but it looks like there’s a bit too much micro-management for my taste.

  9. Eigen Lenk says:

    Thanks for the article and the comments, guys. This means a lot to me. I like how you are discussing the colors, it’s clearly the defining line for the look of the game and I’m glad I went with this style. It was a bit of a gamble (and a challenge) but I think it’s paid off. Having something to distinguish your game from numerous other games is important I think.

    Back to the dev-cave!

    P.S. Seven Cities of Gold is definitely very similar in theme, but I only found out about it afterwards. I’m more inspired by games like Colonization, Colorado and “Livingstone, I Presume” but also by books (both fictional and real) on explorers and that adventurous part history. Does anyone have any good book suggestions?

    • Arkh says:

      Oh god, your game remembers me so much of Seven Cities of Gold and especially Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. You didn’t need the four colors to distinguish your game, there is so few of these types of games ( a la Star Control 2, Starflight or Uncharted Waters). And better yet, it adds things (like seasons) to this rare genre. Thanks a lot for this game!

      Any plans for the future? Planned features? (Also, sorry, I don’t have any good book recommendations. I can recommend games, though. Or archaeology books.)

    • megazver says:

      The game desperately needs a fast forward button. You’re forced to either spend an eternity watching words slowly, ever so slowly appear on the letter one by one or to skip it and its contents in their entirety.

      Likewise, with the dialogue bubbles. They persist for about 6x the time any able-minded man would require to read it and you can’t move to the next one, only skip the entire sequence. EDIT: No, can’t even skip them. Yeesh.

      This is excruciating.

      • Eigen Lenk says:

        Agreed, I’m definitely going to change that in the future. Thankfully this is not an issue during the actual gameplay.

    • cptgone says:

      “Heart of Darkness” (ok, you can call me cptobvious now)

  10. ninjapirate says:

    Sounds like a mix between “Pirates!” and “Heart of Africa”, two of my favorite childhood games!

  11. SabreWolf says:

    Looks like Warcraft 1 mixed with Oregon Trail and Final Fantasy 1.
    If this game is anything like them, then i’m sold.


  12. The Random One says:

    I find it lovely that the hard difficulty setting is called “I used to be Vasco da Gama”, but find it troubling because, how did you stop being him?

  13. JackMultiple says:

    This game looks gorgeous. It’s like playing with an intricate needlepoint canvas hanging on my living room wall. There are so many little artistic touches every where you look. Colonization if they’d had 4x the pixels and 1/4 the colors.