RimWorld [official site] continues its march through early access, adding drugs and enticing modders, almost as if it wasn’t already wonderful. We sent Brendan back to the planet’s surface, where he decided to set up a hotel in the middle of the desert. In part one of this three-part diary, the colonists struggle to establish themselves.
Shinichi needs a new kidney. He has been walking around in the blazing desert sun for days, dismantling any ruin he can find and leaving the bricks for someone else to carry back to the hotel. And now he has a cancerous growth in his kidney. He needs a new one but the chances of a group of crooked merchants passing by with organs on sale is slim. He goes home and lies down in his bedroom, which is actually a cave. His bed - made from granite - offers little comfort. This was supposed to be a hotel.
I started this game of RimWorld with one aim in mind – to create an rest stop for travellers using this hospitality mod. It allows you to house and talk to passing visitors, sometimes recruiting them into your own colony, sometimes chatting with them to increase your reputation with their off-screen faction, and sometimes just leaving them alone like a decent hotelier. Essentially, I wanted to become an inn-keeper. I didn’t realise that this would just add another layer of problems on top of the game’s already panicked colony management.
The hotel began with three characters – heavily sculpted using another mod. Bogdan is the optimistic founder of the colony. He is a middle-aged, mouth-breathing entrepreneur with a dodgy background. But he’s also great at convincing people to help him (a blistering social skill of 13) and he’s not a bad cook either.
Wide-eyes Pete is his friend. 'Wide-eyes' because of his crippling addiction to ‘wake-up’, one of the game’s new drugs. Pete is the youngest of the group - a good-looking party animal with a fascination for chemical substances – a hobby he probably developed during his job as a paramedic.
And then there’s Julie - Julie Savage - a military brat turned architect who wears a cowboy hat and says insulting things to everyone on account of her bloodthirsty and abrasive nature. She is a hard worker, older than the others and is twice as likely to get into a fight with her fellow colonists. I don't know why she agreed to this.
The three business partners arrived in the desert on foot, ready to build the space equivalent of Las Vegas. After three weeks they had only just managed to hollow out enough room in the rocks for separate bedrooms.
Part of the problem is their management, ie. me. I’ve never played in a desert environment before, despite dumping around 50 hours into the game. I always assumed it would be too harsh. I wasn’t wrong. The first few days were a panic. My usual tactic is to build all the basic amenities from wood, harvested from the abundant trees scattered around. This time, there are no forests. Just a few cacti lightly sprinkled in the arid landscape. I resort to growing potatoes and rice on what fertile soil I can find, and begin to mine out a system of rooms and caverns in the most central 'mountain'.
The walls of the “hotel” are a mismatch of materials – limestone bricks, rough sandstone, steel plate, cactus wood. All the furniture likewise is built from whatever material we had at the time of construction. If one of our guests were to leave a review on Trip Advisor, they would probably describe it as “idiosyncratic” or possibly “disgusting”. It's a good thing we don't have any guests.
One day, a Boomalope comes toward the hotel and becomes friendly with us. These creatures are large grazers with huge yellow blisters on their body which explode with the force of a small bomb when the creature is killed. The Boomalope makes itself at home and sleeps in our bedrooms, or the dining area, or the freezer, according to its whims. This worries me. Any day now we might be attacked and a single stray bullet from a raider’s rifle could destroy anything or anyone unlucky enough to be standing near this creature when it gets hit.
I select Bogdan, the boss, and hover over the option to slaughter the animal. From what I remember doing this does not cause it to blow up, it just harvests the meat. But I'm not sure. I experience a moment of doubt and I dismiss the option without clicking on it. Maybe the Boomalope will come in useful some other way. In the meantime, we’ll have to be careful. Not that anyone but Bogdan is worried. Julie is out there digging, building and doing her damn job. While Pete… well, we should probably talk about Pete.
On the fourth day, Wide-eyes Pete went on one of his binges, launching himself into an overdose with a glee normally reserved for rock stars and lab rats. He vomited all over the dining room entrance and quickly got back to work, cutting down what few cacti remained and harvesting the material. In the between-the-lines fiction I like to cultivate in these diaries, I like to imagine that either Bogdan or Julie sent out a message about their young friend’s behaviour, because the next day a woman comes over the horizon. It is Pete's fiancée.
She's called Miesha. She wandered in from the top of the screen with a ferocity I swear I only half imagined. She was, after all, a trained ninja assassin, according to the game. She is a picky eater with a pampered childhood, but someone who strikes me as a person who won't take the antics of her fiancée in forgiving spirits. As overseer, I’m happy with her arrival - more hands is always good. I immediately built a double bed for the couple and put it in a particularly nice bit of the cave.
Days went by and we cracked on with the farm and the hotel, hollowing out more rooms in the stone. On a clear winter morning (23 degrees Celsius) Julie and Pete crossed paths in the guest dormitory (still unvisited) and Julie said something rude to him, which is what she loves to do between shifts of stonecutting and constructing. A huge fight broke out between them and they started beating each other up, getting blood all over the guest beds.
Somehow, Julie came off worse than Pete, whose youth and scrappy childhood as a street urchin must have given him the edge in a fist fight. He knocked Julie unconscious and was suffering pain from bruises all over his body. Then he picked up his defeated workmate, carried her to her bed and treated her wounds.
They haven't argued since.
One afternoon, as Bogdan cooked rice and Pete planted corn, a solar flare, an eclipse and a heat wave struck all at once. Why these three simultaneous solar phenomenon were not taken as an omen I do not know, because the same day a man called Kenneth Riddle came running toward the hotel, shouting and begging for sanctuary, pursued by a pair of pirates from a gang called the Wasps of Cruelty.
"Excellent," I thought. "Our first customer."
We accepted his request for safety and prepared to fight the pair of pirates off. They came toward us, lobbing grenades, guns blasting. Bogdan shot one in the chest with his shotgun and beat him to death when the pirate collapsed.
The other assailant was battered around the head by Miesha, until he was dragged, unconscious, into a chamber with a prisoner’s bed. Our new guest, Monseuir Kenneth Riddle, was safe. Welcome to Bogdan’s Rest.
Then he collapsed and died from heatstroke.
We stripped his corpse of useful clothing and buried him out in the burning sands, along with the bodies of the pirate and a couple of other lone raiders who had been foolish enough to take on Julie and her rifle in past weeks and had been rotting in the sun on the outskirts of the hotel.
Miesha went to see the pirate we had imprisoned. Along with Bogdan, she’s also a smooth talker. Did he know that this was actually a hotel? The old Wasp turned out to be pretty friendly. A former child star in his homeworld, he became a pirate and was now a heat tolerant giant of a man, happy to work the desert sands. His name was Shinichi.
Miesha recruited him to the hotel’s staff and he worked like a monster without complaint until the day he developed cancer in his left kidney and his health and mental state began to decline. Shinichi didn’t know it yet but he would eventually resume the mission his old clan had tasked him with.
In the fields, Wide-eyes Pete was suffering. He was undergoing withdrawl from ‘wake-up’, having run out of the stimulant days ago. He soon began wandering around in a sad, dazed comedown. But from the side of the screen comes hope for a poor addict - pirate merchants. They are sure to have drugs.
Wide-eyes runs to them to trade but they haven’t got any of the Wake-up he so sorely wants. But they do have some Yayo, a white powder that might take the edge off. He also picks up some beers for good measure. I say 'he' but obviously I am doing all the bartering here. I look at the price. Hundreds of silver. I can’t afford to just blow all that on drugs. There must be something I can trade, I think, but the pirates won’t accept potatoes and rice – the only things we have in abundance. Then, I spot the price they are willing to pay for a healthy Boomalope. 110 space dollars. Finally, that walking health and safety hazard has come in useful. It’s a deal. Pete walks away from the transaction with a handful of drugs and alcohol. He has entirely forgotten to buy a new kidney for Shinichi.
A few days later, Miesha and Pete get married. Pete is probably high at his wedding, but I forget to check. There’s no marriage spot allocated in the hotel (you have to place one yourself) so the pair are wedded in the dining room, in front of Bogdan and Julie and the hotel’s pet cat Conga, who was lying asleep in its basket during the whole thing. I don't like Conga, because he regularly crawls into the freezer and eats our ready-made meals. Some day I hope to sell him for drugs as well.
A bunk in the corner of the dining/wedding room is still littered with the discarded clothes of the fugitive Riddle, who died in the same room. In fact, there are clothes scattered all around the hotel premises. Some we brought with us and simply haven’t tidied into stockpiles. Others are the remnants of desperate raiders who have come to take what little we had. Julie takes some of the clothes and hauls them to the storage pile. She is responsible for acquiring many of the t-shirts.
Over the next few days, Pete is so happy about his marriage that he even forgets about his Wake-up withdrawl, and walks around in a blissful state, ignoring the stash of Yayo powder he bought from the pirate merchants and subsequently dropped in the corridor. He and Miesha are in the honeymoon period. They are happy. In the next room, Shinichi is spluttering and coughing from a bad flu. He is dying.
Finally, the raiders attack in earnest, choosing to launch their assault at dusk. But it's still three against five. I scramble the hotel staff. Julie takes pot shots from the cover of a doorway as the raiders approach, hitting her target with every second bullet. Bogdan and Miesha fire shotguns when they get closer, and Wide-eyes unloads a pistol clip at them before ducking into the guest rooms. Eventually, I drag Shinichi out of bed. I don't want to, but I must. He is the one with the grenades.
He limps out into the desert sun, walks slowly toward the firefight and lobs a grenade at one of the raiders, who in perfect unison throws one of his own. The explosives pass each other in mid-air.
They explode at the same time. The raider dies. Shinichi, the gaint with flu and cancer, is somehow still alive.
We drag him to a medical bed, his neck and arms shredded by the blast. He wakes up, the only casualty of the raid. Julie had finished off another of the raiders and the last one fled in terror. We bandage and treat Shinichi's wounds, but the influenza has tightened its grip.
In severe pain from both his kidney cancer and the grenade, he stumbles out of bed, strips off his clothes item by item and wanders out into the desert. By the time he comes to his senses, sickness and cancer has weakened him immensely. He crawls back to the medical ward, puts on a button-up shirt and lies down in the medical bed.
Wide-eyes Pete was the first to get up that next morning. For him, life is brilliant. He is married and he has some Yayo for the afternoon and the raiders are all gone and oh no Shinichi is dead.
I want to bury the body before anyone else sees it and gets upset. So I order Pete to haul the cadaver out to the sands and bury him next to Riddle, the panicked escapee who died not by the hand of pirates sent to kill him but simply because the sun was having some kind of psychological breakdown. The Wasps of Cruelty had once tasked Shinichi and his pirate mate with chasing down this fugitive, Kenneth Riddle, wherever he went. Now, they were buried on either side of him, as if their pursuit hadn't even stopped at death.
The thought is lost on Pete, who buries the corpse like a good little computer pawn. I click on him anyway, to see how he is feeling. He is sad that his friend the ex-pirate has died. If only there had been some way to avoid this horrible tragedy. All he needed was a kidney, right? Where could he have gotten a kidney?
Oh well. Pete sits down next to the grave and stuffs his face with a ready-made meal.
Then he returns to the hotel and immediately snorts a line of Yayo.
Next week, the hotel gets some visitors and Bogdan buys some cows - but Pete has other plans for the hotel’s farmland