Welcome to [Kick It], where we chat with developers and creators about their Kickstarter projects.
RimWorld is a sci-fi colonization sim derived through strong influences from FTL, Dwarf Fortress, Prison Architect, Warhammer 40k, and Firefly. If that sentence hasn’t sold you on this game already, you should know that this game also comes from the mind of one of the developers of the 2013 blockbuster Bioshock Infinite. Excited yet?
Today we’re talking with Bioshock developer Tynan Slyvester about his Kickstarter for RimWorld.
Tynan Sylvester spent 4 years working for Irrational Games, more specifically on Bioshock Infinite, up until 2012. He then departed from Irrational to write the book Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences and entered the indie scene.
RimWorld seeks to take the storytelling prowess of Dwarf Fortress and smash it into an accessible, space-western format. The semi-random story events will be dictated by one of three AI Storytellers (think Left 4 Dead AI Director), each with their own styles.
Sylvester had made RimWorld as a one-man effort for most of 2013, before finally turning to Kickstarter for funding to complete the game with audio and visual talent. Right now, the game looks like a Prison Architect rip-off–Sylvester wants to change that by hiring specialists to give the impressive mechanics a unique body to live in.
There is a ton of information out there about RimWorld already, but this is our opportunity to talk to Sylvester and hear what he has to say. If you want broader information about the game, check out the Kickstarter page (and FAQ), visit the RimWorld subreddit, or check out some YouTube gameplay/LP footage from backers who have gained pre-alpha access..
So, who are you? What is your background in gaming?
TS: “I started making Unreal Tournament mods back in 2000. Eventually that turned into contract level design work, and then a job at Irrational Games working on BioShock Infinite. In early 2012 I quit that to write my book Designing Games, and then become an indie developer. I’m now working on my indie game, RimWorld, with my shiny new corporation, Ludeon Studios.”
Anything else interesting about your life?
TS: “I was in the Canadian army reserve and I used to dabble in modeling.”
Can you explain some of the inspiration behind the game and its design? Did you play a lot of Dwarf Fortress, or are you just a fan of the style?
TS: “I’ve played about 12 hours of Dwarf Fortress. The interface is too brutally difficult for me to really get into it. What really inspired RimWorld was actually the stories that other people have written about what happened in Dwarf Fortress. I read stories like Boatmurdered and Gemclod, and thought that I’d really like to make a game that can create stories like that.”
“What really inspired RimWorld was actually the stories that other people have written down about what happened in Dwarf Fortress.”
What do you think is the most exciting thing/what are you most proud of about RimWorld?
TS: “I’m really stoked that it actually seems to work as a story generator. During the first 10 months of development, there was a real question as to whether it would ever be more than little images bumping around a screen. But after it hit a certain point of complexity, people started having and telling real stories from it. That’s incredibly exciting to me. What’s more exciting is realizing that it’s only a year in – what will be happening in the game in a year’s time?”
How much more do you think the game will change before release?
TS: “It’ll keep changing for years. What’s there is the minimum to make the game function as a basic story engine. There’s a huge amount of stuff to be added to make those stories deeper and more diverse. We’ll look back on RimWorld as it is today and laugh at how limited it is.”
How has your work on Bioshock Infinite influenced this project?
TS: “The designers at Irrational are really good at finding unique angles in fiction. Just consider how strange a story BioShock tells – it’s about an underwater, Objectivist, failed utopia. That’s a bold direction to take in a market full of marines shooting aliens or terrorists. But it worked really well! This is why I’m pushing on some of the more exotic space western fiction concepts in RimWorld, and am preparing an even deeper universe backstory to slowly slip into the game.”
What advice would you give developers and creators aspiring to use Kickstarter?
TS: “Well, the bulk of my advice would be in my game design book, Designing Games. So I guess my first and most massively self-interested recommendation would be to buy my book. 🙂 Beyond that, I think it’s most critical to test your game on real people, in realistic conditions, and be ready to continuously change it, even at a fundamental level. RimWorld did not start as a space-western colony game; it started as a starship design sim. It only became what it is by a long process of evidence-driven iteration.”
“I think it’s most critical to test your game on real people and in realistic conditions and be ready to continuously change it, even at a fundamental level.”
What do you think was the key to this highly successful Kickstarter campaign?
TS: “Having a game that really works. Most of my referrals come from YouTube videos of people showing off the pre-alpha; people are interested in the game because they can see it works well. Traditional “marketing” actions have taken a secondary role. Although I will say, I did design the game specifically to be explainable to people; RimWorld uses concepts that are interesting and different, but still relate to what people know.”
You’ve gotten a TON of funding already, way past your original goal, without even proposing any stretch goals. What kind of plans do you have for this money?
TS: “I talk about the stretch goal question in Update #1 of the Kickstarter.”
If you were to redo the Kickstarter, what would you change?
TS: “Nothing. It’s been a good experience overall, I’d say!”
I want to extend a warm thanks to Tynan Sylvester for taking the time to answer my questions! If you are looking for more details about the project you can visit the RimWorld Kickstarter page, Sylvester’s website, or visit the game’s forums to chat with others. You can also keep track of development and updates on Twitter @TynanSylvester.
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