RimWorld Reddit AMA Talks Prototypes And Future Plans

Scifi colony sim RimWorld arrived on Steam last week and has done quite well for itself, if the Steam Charts are to be believed. And not without cause either, as Brendan’s recent look at the game suggests its producing Dwarf Fortress-style anecdotes. Its creator Tynan Sylvester popped up on Reddit yesterday for an Ask Me Anything post and I’ve been enjoying browsing the answers this morning.

I was particularly interested to read about the decision-making process that happened before work on RimWorld began, in response to a question from user hallajs about the “biggest challenge on the development of Rimworld.”

“Figuring out that I should be making a sci-fi colony sim.

I really think that the fate of games is heavily multiplied by just how effective and how much people want their core mechanic. It just means that which basic notion of what game you make is incredibly important in its success – all the polish and marketing and art and design tuning can be wasted if it’s done on a core concept that’s over-used or just doesn’t work that well.

Before RimWorld was RimWorld, just after I left Irrational and started Ludeon, I knew I had to prototype some games to figure out what my game was going to be. I made a Smash TV-with-warlocks game, a zombie RPG roguelike, a mercenary management game, a mercenary tactics game, a starship building and management game, and then finally put the starship on the ground and that become RimWorld.”

Sylvester touched on the same topic again in a later question from davetheallthing, who asked about how he evaluated those prototypes:

“It was really hard, actually.

Because the games were really junky. All the art was just gray boxes and shapes. No sound. Bad interfaces. Terrible bugs. Poor balance. Very little content.

It’s hard to look at something like that and know if it’s fundamentally awesome or not – whether, if it were polished, it would be really fun.”

Which relates to a thing that Gunpoint developer (and friend) Tom Francis wrote about recently, on what to do if your prototype isn’t fun:

The first thing that really felt ‘fun’ about Gunpoint was that endlessly punching guards thing, which isn’t mechanically interesting at all. There was no advantage to doing it, I just didn’t see a reason to prevent you. I found a sound effect of a belt being whipped, and drew an incredibly crude 2 frame animation, and something about the suddenness of that with the weirdly slap-like noise was funny, and being able to do it as rapidly as you could click was satisfying, and it worked. But the punching is not a good idea, it has no interesting implications or consequences, I just got lucky with the sound effect and some placeholder animation. So don’t expect an idea to feel fun right away if it doesn’t have those trappings yet.

There’s plenty more questions answered in the full thread, about development generally, future updates to the game, and specific features.


  1. Jozef Kundlak says:

    Rimworld is a fantastic game.

    Before I discovered Rimworld (shortly after its first versions started to appear) I admired Dwarf Fortress for its sandboxiness and the story element the game provided through the random events and the life of the dwarves.

    Enter Rimworld – I immediately took to liking the game, even if it did not contain much of the current advanced features. There was no priority planning for the colonists (at the start, later it was added in), there were only a handful of furniture and object types etc. BUT, it was already worth playing. I even started the Slovak translation for Rimworld when the translation community only started to grow – other people carry that torch now as I do not have time for it unfortunately.

    Nowadays? Rimworld is a game full of wonders! Especially with the Scenario creation tool, your options are limitless for making a game suited to your taste – or for a game providing a particular challenge.

    Even if Dwarf Fortress has much more stuff “under the hood”, I do not see myself ever looking its way, unless it gets some decent graphics and a useful interface (which sadly it does not have). Rimworld totally satisfies the Dwarf Fortress itch I felt way back when. Kudos to Tynan and the ever-growing community!

    • frightlever says:

      The “stuff under the hood” is what keeps Tarn developing Dwarf Fortress. I don’t think replacing the piecemeal, meticulous simulation with some RNG would bother 99% of his playerbase, and would improve performance severalfold.

      • LexW1 says:

        I think you’re very wrong there, unless you’re talking about the sort of people who play DF once, say it’s too hard without tutorials (ignoring all the wonderful tutorials on the web of course) and the UI is too bad, then flounce off.

        The little details, the way it holds together, the histories of the dwarves and the world, all this sort of “minor” stuff is what makes people who actually like DF, still play DF. If you just wanted to build ridiculous machines you’d be playing Factorio or some such. If you just wanted to manage some people, you’d be playing the Sims or whatever (indeed, there’s a decent-sized crossover with Sims player), but the depth and complexity of the simulation in DF makes it quite wonderful and unique. If you ditched all that for RNG, it would be as shallow as most of it’s imitators.

        Also it has up and down. Which is kind of thing.

        • makute says:

          As a veteran Dwarf Fortress player, I concur.

          Every DF player worth its salt would see the difference between a RNG and the subtle, enormous, breathtaking beauty of what Tarn has achieved over the years.

        • falconne says:

          There’s a difference macro and micro simulation though. Micro level simulation is expensive and only useful if the player can see it or it affects the macro level. DF is uncompromising in its simulation detail, eschewing abstraction, so a lot of CPU cycles are spent on things the player never sees and have no significant effect on the overall game (e.g extremely detailed combat between vermin far from the fort).

  2. anHorse says:

    Hehe rim

  3. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    It’s funny, I think RimWorld has a lot of potential to cause a great deal of upheaval over at Bay12. Toady has been plugging away -slow and steady- for a decade at Dwarf Fortress, mostly poo-pooing the cries (myself included), who wanted so desperately to get into the game, but found the UI and the graphics so opaque. I’ve since installed and gotten quite obsessed with DF, but the constant fight (and it is a bloody fight) with the menus and controls is difficult, and I find myself looking to RW, especially with the advent of alpha 14 (which I had a bash at yesterday, and wow) and the progress it’s making and asking myself why I should continue to bother battling with DF in the way that I do.

    I’ve been following DF for a lot longer than I’ve been playing it, and honestly I think it’s time for Bay12 to step up their game if they are to compete with newer games that are coming out. Toady has been legendarily steadfast about not working with anyone other than his brother, but his little game can’t get by any more simply on the power of his simulation; he’s a shit, shit designer, and he needs to accept that, especially if he wants his labour of love to persist through another twenty years of development.

    By the way, this is neither a specific testimonial of RW or a admonishment of DF. They are both fabulous games, and I hope to see this underserved genre continue to flourish.

    • Harlander says:

      I’m not sure to what extent Toady actually cares that anyone plays DF. He’d keep plugging away at it even if it were just, like, five people (though he’d probably have to get another job)

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        I get that. He loves what he’s doing, and I’m sure to some extent he’s quite happy making the game that he wants to play. But in my opinion it’s pretty foolish to allow that level of self indulgence to affect what you’re creating. I have a similar paradigm because I’m a musician: there are a lot of songs I’ve written that I personally love, perhaps more than the ones I’ve played live. However I wouldn’t play them to an audience because everyone would find it tedious, and I’d eventually be faced with a bunch of people walking away. And while I’d still have the songs I thought were awesome and loved to play, it would still be shitty playing to an empty crowd.

        • DigitalParadox says:

          The thing is you’ve got to have a treshhold that needs to be crossed before you decide to appeal to those crowds over yourself, right? You’re not going to determine what music you make based 100% on what people want instead of what you want to do. You’re going to push to do what you want to a certain point, and at some threshold of amount of people you’re turning off by doing that you would rein it in and balance what you want with popular appeal.

          Toady’s threshold for how many people he doesn’t mind putting off his game seems to be particularly high. If he wanted to turn away from his own desires of what he wants DF to be and appeal to popularity he could have done that ages ago in a million different ways and would probably have made a ton more cash off the game. But instead he doesn’t seem to care about who plays it at all and is just happy that he can make the game he wants while making enough money to do that full time.

        • LexW1 says:

          Given the amount he’s getting from Patreon and the New York Times articles about him and so on, I think comparing him to a struggling musician is a bit… confused. He’s not a fame-seeker, he’s a visionary, and he’s been able to get enough people to share that vision to be successful. If he decided to stop pursuing the vision try and get the game to be more user-friendly, which would be a pretty huge task, note, he’d probably manage to attract some more people, but he’d lose others (at least temporarily), and he wouldn’t be pleasing himself. Not every designer needs to pursue the biggest possible audience at the cost of making what they care about.

    • Czrly says:

      I also have followed DF for much longer than I have played it and feel much the same. I build a fortress every few months or so, just for kicks, and I only ever use Dwarf Therapist on top of the base game. Personally, the ASCII is truly grand because it forces the game to take place in the imagination which has a much better resolution than any monitor but the problem is always the interface. Not the keys for designating or building, really, because those are eventually learned, but the manual work that has to be done to use the menus and lists – for example, you cannot click on a dwarf, you have to read their name and then scroll through a list of 200 of the buggers to find them and change their professions or army settings or whatever. Trading at the market is abominable, too, as much as it is mandatory for the success of a fort. It makes a large fortress too tedious to play with.

      However, DF still started it all and, after all is said and done, none of the followers (Banished, Prison Architect, RimWorld, …) have even a quarter of DF’s depth and complexity and replayability. They start out grand and, once you’ve “solved” the early game, fall flat instantly.)

      I do hope that the genre moves on from here.

      • Jozef Kundlak says:

        Yes to all that, but – how fun is DF to get into for a new player? The majority of current DF players have been with the game for a long time I reckon, so are more accustomed to the quirks of the (non)-UI, because they want to. For a new player though…

        • Calculon says:

          I was unable to personally. The opportunity cost is too high.

          What I mean by that is the amount of time I need to spend understanding what the ascii text is showing me, and learning the basics of operating the game is so high for so long – that I have to really evaluate whether it’s worth it to spend so much ‘up front’ time on DF as opposed to enjoying another game I can get into quickly. It’s pretty simple for me I guess – do I want to spend 20 hours frustrated by the DF interface or take those 20 hours and enjoy two other games? Or maybe 1 great game with a much lower opportunity cost.

          It’s true that DF is very rich once you get into it – but there are other game types I enjoy too which have far less overhead to get into – and I can enjoy those as well – therefore DF gets left to the side time and again

          • SomeDuder says:

            ^I’m with this guy.

            I gave it a few tries, even got a tileset to replace the standard non-graphics. I love the stories that players experience and write about.

            But for the love of professor Celsius (It’s quite a scorcher today), I just couldn’t get into it. The interface requires some autistic-level of dedication to get to know and love, the explaination is non-existent and if you expect people in today’s VR-world to go from stuff like DOOM to Dwarf Fortress, then lol no.

            I know that Bay12 doesn’t expect that, and that they are fine with the current consumerbase, and I respect that very much, it’s fine that it exists and even better that these games CAN exist.

          • LexW1 says:

            It takes about two hours to get used to DF’s interface and get playing the game at a decent level, if you’re following a tutorial or being helped by another player.

            So your “opportunity cost” metric is way off.

            If you choose to ignore all tutorials, and have never played ASCII-based games before, well, yeah, it’ll be hard. But why would you do that?

            As for the guy below you, claiming it requires “autistic” determination, well, that’s not a cool thing to say, and you should be ashamed, frankly. It’s insulting to just about everyone involved. All it requires is downloading a tile set (like MayDay) and following a tutorial, and being able to deal with controls which are consistent, but in a rather frustrating way. It’s not for everyone, but you don’t remotely have to be “autistic” (I have ADHD, the opposite of autism, focus-wise, more or less, and I was fine) to enjoy it.

          • Llewyn says:

            I think you’re pulling figures out of the air as much as the comment you’re replying to, and not being any more helpful for it.

      • falconne says:

        If you use the Starter Pack then DFHack’s UI plugins fix all the problems you have mentioned and more (e.g. you can click on things, all lists have a Search function, trading is a lot less hassle, etc).

    • SirFinbar says:

      Rimworld’s ‘Great deal of upheaval’ is a 92 page thread on the ‘Other Games’ section of Bay12. Quite modest.

      The two games are simply incomparable, and anyone deterred by DF’s cumbersome interface and ASCII graphics will have been so already.

      I know doomsaying is fun and all, but can’t we keep it to a minimum for such a work of art as DF?

      • Jeremy says:

        That’s sort of the nature of art, science, and creativity in general. His vision and resolve are commendable, but there is no guarantee it will keep him relevant. In fact, given the industry, it will probably do the opposite.

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        Hang on a sec there old chap. I’m not doomsaying Dwarf Fortress now, I love the game and wish it to continue to succeed and flourish.

        But on point, I think the games are very comparable. They aren’t comparable in terms of how much they offer, since Dwarf Fortress is capable of holding the mantle against any game ever created, hands down. What is comparable though is the gameplay – indirectly controlled Urists, assigned works, designated areas, construction, and of course the ever important ‘losing is fun’ attitude. And in that respect RimWorld is rapidly catching up – in the five months since I started playing it Tynan has added a metric arseton of features and “fun”. I’m not saying that DF is somehow less important because of it, but the immediacy of RW makes it a lot more attractive to fire up. There’s a reason I have it paused and not DF while I write this comment.

        I don’t think for a second that DF is suddenly to be left at the wayside just because there is a DF-like in Early Access. What I am saying is that these games are arriving with increasing frequency and increasing quality, and unless Bay12 do something about it then it’s only a matter of time before more and more hardcore fans start to look twice, and become curious as to what other games had to offer. Believe me, if Dwarf Fortress had controls (I tried to think of a similie here, but I think just leaving it at controls is sufficient), and an interface that didn’t make me want to gouge my face off then it would be literally all I ever played. It’s magnificent. But it’s also a great big pain in the arse.

  4. PancakeWizard says:

    I love Rimworld, but it’s just not sci-fi enough in aesthetic, IMO.

    It doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a Western-style frontier sim or a sci-fi sim, and it’s got some serious cognitive dissonance when it comes to tech.

    It’s an alien world, yet nearly all the animals and inhabitants are Earth-born.

    I can’t put in windows, but I can build standing electric lamps.

    Making carpet is a higher technical accomplishment than solar panels.

    I think it would’ve been preferable to just make up materials and animals from the ground up, so you’re starting with ‘mooncrete’, then going on to metals, plastics etc.

    And for animal give them Earth-analogue names as clues but make distinct alien designs: Arcturian Ibex, Space chicken, etc. I mean the Alpha Beavers are on the right track, but why do they have to look like conventional beavers and give conventional beaver hide and meat? Why not make the hide tougher and more useful but the meat poisonous to human consumption? And don’t get me started on the weapons. Why am I buying an uzi of a neolothic tribe? Why does that guy in a fur loincloth carry a ‘steel club’? It’s kind of all over the place.

    As I say, the mechanics are all there and sublime, it just needs to focus on the setting more and get its own unique flavour.

    • Jeremy says:

      While I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I think it’s safe to say that everyone here (with maybe a few exceptions) would not know how to make carpet. It does mention what tech level it requires compared to where your group is at. A lot of the techs are “neolithic” even though the group is at a much higher level. I don’t think of research so much as “technical advancement”, but as “learning how to survive on our own.”

      Also, the windows thing really annoys me. I want windows.

      • Harlander says:

        There’s a mod which lets you place windows – if my search is right, it’s called Glass and Lights

        • Jeremy says:

          Thanks for the info! I don’t know why I didn’t check all the mods in the first place.

    • Jozef Kundlak says:

      Similarly to what Harlander said about the windows and glass mod – I reckon a “quantity of objects” is best left for modders to implement. Tynan has full hands developing the game itself and given the modding possibilities the community will be more than happy to introduce more variety to Rimworld as time goes by. And that in my opinion is the best of both worlds – the developer can focus on the game and the community can focus on the beauty of it.

      • Christo4 says:

        I think pancake wizard has a problem with the consistency of the theme not the variety that is present.

        Though it would amuse me more to see a guy in loincloth and animal skins wielding a lighsaber or a blaster

        • Jozef Kundlak says:

          I don’t think Rimworld makes THAT much claim to be one or the other… It is a lighter-hearted game in my opinion, so your loin-clothed lightsaber-wielding warrior would suit it well.

          • LexW1 says:

            It doesn’t project itself as that, though. It very much describes itself as a sci-fi game of moderately serious kind. The silliness is supposed to come from what happens, not the premise.

            And the criticism that the premise is totally inconsistent with what is actually in the game is very reasonable, frankly. What’s in the game, it seems, is a sort of “20th Century Old West” situation, with very little sci-fi at all, with Earth creatures (not even “Earth like” – just Earth) and Earth-like worlds (making even most fairly Earth-like SF worlds seem adventurous by comparison), and so on. It seems to have a lot more in common with post-apocalypse stuff like Fallout (minus the radiation and mutants) than it does with say, Star Wars or Star Trek or Mass Effect or really any space science fiction you care to name, except, perhaps, Firefly.

            I mean, this is a self-declared sci-fi game, set 3500 years in the future, but where you’re more likely to be using an M-16 (a literal, actual, M-16) than some kind of space-age gun.

            It’s a pretty strange setup. Honestly I would have got it already if it was more… science fiction and less Wild West with AKs.

          • Christo4 says:

            Yeah didn’t play the game but that’s kinda it Lex.
            I think the game needs a lot more sci-fi stuff in it than weapons from 3500 years ago (which probly shouldn’t even exist anymore).
            There are robots that can attack you with weapons and stuff but it looks more like a game in the year 2200 in a parallel universe than something very sci-fi.
            Though i still like it. Just wish there was more sci-fi than old west.

          • Harlander says:

            The lore primer for RimWorld actually goes a fair way to try and explain the weird mishmash* of tech levels in evidence. Basically, there’s no FTL so planets can slip out of tech-level alignment with each other, and calamities that knock societies back are common.

            *I originally typed “midrash”, which is something else entirely

  5. Harlander says:

    It doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a Western-style frontier sim or a sci-fi sim

    It seems pretty clear to me that it wants to be both.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      Indeed, I thought the unknown planet in space and old west music was a dead giveaway.

      • Jozef Kundlak says:

        And seriously, I do not care about the blending of it – I like it as it is! Firefly anyone? :)

    • PancakeWizard says:

      When I posted the comment I had a feeling someone would point that out. Of course you’re right, but I would hope the rest of my comment outlined why I thought it couldn’t make its mind up on a technological and aesthetic level where those themes were appropriate.

      • Christo4 says:

        Didn’t play it yet but i think it would be more fun if it had space guns instead of bullet guns.
        And maybe even events where warmongers just drop random weapons or feral slaves on the planet.
        Would make weapons blowing up in your face also fun.

        • PancakeWizard says:

          You do get slaves. You can buy people from friendly tribes, orbiting trading vessels and even rescue them escaping from raiders. You can also take anyone prisoner and attempt to recruit them, torture, release or execute them.

          • Christo4 says:

            I mostly meant something like dropping 5 feral slaves on you just because they wanted to see you suffer or for some blackmail or something. Just saw gundam 00 and there was a guy who was basically a warmonger and did anything to have war. So perhaps some events could happen from similar people who just want war for the sake of it. But there should also be the opposite of it.
            IK there are slaves and trading with them, but not really what i had in mind.

  6. Christo4 says:

    Does anyone know where i can buy this for cheaper or how often there are sales for it?
    Really interested in buying it but for 30 euros it’s rather steep… I paid just a bit more for DS3.
    For 15 I’d be getting it now.

    I just laughed too much reading some stories i have to get it.

    • Jozef Kundlak says:

      It was just released so I would not hold my breath for a sale so soon… And I do not think there is another place to buy it (maybe except directly from Tynan on his page), but the price should be the same… I think?

      • Christo4 says:

        Wasn’t it still in early access, just that it arrived on steam as well?

        • Nauallis says:

          Kind of the other way around. It was only available from the game website until a couple of weeks ago. After becoming available on Steam, apparently there was a fiasco with scammers buying codes from the game website, reselling those codes (for use on Steam), and then charging back the credit card transactions. Now the game is only available from Steam, because of their marketplace setup. The game has been in development for at least two years because that’s how long I’ve known about it.

          I don’t think the price has ever changed. I don’t really blame the developer for not changing it, either. It’s already a niche genre; you either are willing to take the risk or you aren’t.

  7. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Okay, I just earned myself a great anecdote playing this game and I just had to share.

    The Vales is the first town I’ve had that’s actually making steady progress, mostly by virtue of a solid defensive position. Still, winter and killer space robots take their toll, and I’ve found myself a little short on manpower lately. As you can imagine, this made the six main raiding party equipped with grenades, molotovs, and automatic weapons appear a wee bit intimidating when they popped up on the horizon.

    Intimidating to everyone, that is, but the heroic Tortoise 1.

    As the raiding party approached my gate (it’s really more of a small fortress, but we’ll call it a gate), a tortoise that happened to be underfoot spontaneously tamed itself and joined my faction. Presumably intimidated by its imposing death waddle, the entire hostile force immediately unloaded the full force of their arsenal on it.

    All of them. Including the guys with the molotovs and grenades. At a tortoise four inches away.

    By the time I heard the bangs and scrolled over, one raider was blown to pieces, a second was lying on the ground wounded and on fire, and the rest were beating a hasty retreat back home. Tortoise 1, unfortunately, did not survive the battle, but his charred, legless corpse will be buried with military honours, and parents in the Vales will name their children after him for generations to come.