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.