I've had a lovely afternoon building quaint island towns in Townscaper, launched into early access yesterday. It's a town-building toy where the outcome is a surprise, really. All you do is place coloured blocks, then Townscaper translates them into apartments, steps, terraces, gardens, towers, and so on based on the shapes they form with other nearby blocks, then fill the whole place with lovely little decorative details. Every town cannot help but look lovely. Its creator, Oskar Stålberg previously made several procedural landscape toys I've enjoyed before, and was the artist for Bad North too.
I'm not bothered about the distinction between "game" and "toy" but Stålberg calls this a toy so sure, let's go with that. Townscaper is lovely to play with, to figure out how its rules work, see how you can make it create what you want, and be delighted when it creates things you didn't expect. I was very surprised to see cranes grow in niche situations.
There's something magic about how much changes with the addition or removal of one block, both big functional changes and small details. Rooftops sprout a terrace. A paved courtyard becomes a verdant garden. Beehives appear. A catwalk suddenly has coin-operator binoculars looking out to sea. Metal posts to support overhanging buildings. Ladders and steps pop out of walls. Washing lines strung between buildings. Post boxes and pot plants. Boots on doorsteps. Spires atop towers. Ah, it's adorable.
The small touches are delightful too. The smacking lip noises for building. Birds settle on rooftops and flap away in a panic if you build near them. Debris rains down when you remove a block, landing in water with a pleasing splooshing and ripples. Lovely. I also really like that the grid we build on is irregular, always creating interesting shapes.
Townscaper is available now on Steam Early Access for £4.79/€4.99/$5.99. Stålberg expects to launch the full version in about four months.
"I want to see how people interact with Townscaper to help me figure out what direction to take it and what features to add," he says about early acess. He might add features like a GIF recorder, technical view modes, an exporter to turn your town into a 3D model... he's not sure. One thing he is sure of is that he wants to see what people build. He's been retweeting loads on his Twitter, such as:
I too am keen to see nice little towns people make.
Quite the contrast to NewCity, which Nate has been playing.