Last November, I published an article analyzing gender, romance and sexuality in the indie game RimWorld. In it, I decompiled the game, following instructions in the game’s readme and fan-maintained Wiki page in order to look at how the code of the game defined in-game behaviours relating to romance. Hopefully, this postmortem will go over some of the guiding questions that I had, patterns of responses, the current state of RimWorld with respect to the issues I raised, and possible alternatives for the game and for this method. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest that you do, since this will not make much sense without that context.
Spoilers for Sethian are many and unmarked. There’s one in the second sentence.
Imagine talking to a chatbot, with a writing system you barely recognise, and with all the linguistic capability of a three-year-old. Now imagine that the conversation is on religion and philosophy, and you’ve got the central conceit of Sethian. A wildly ambitious game, made by developer Grant Kuning after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sethian revolves around trying to learn an alien language, Sethian, in order to find out what happened to a colony, Sethian, and its people, the Sethians.
Happy to announce that this piece has been expanded, and is currently hosted over on Rock Paper Shotgun!
Tynan’s Rimworld has drawn a lot of comparisons to Tarn Adams’ Dwarf Fortress, and it’s not hard to see why. Both games adopt a similar premise: you are in charge of a small band of randomly-generated characters. From that humble beginning, you can create large, sprawling fortresses (Dwarf Fortress) or colonies (Rimworld), keeping your merry band of dwarves or colonists safe from whatever harm the world throws your way. Both adopt a similar top-down perspective, and both seem set on simulating ever more complex interactions between various in-game objects, delighting in tangled webs of resource management and simulating the health, thoughts, emotions, relationships, and appearance of every single colonist or dwarf. Over the years, Dwarf Fortress has acquired a legendary reputation as a generator of interesting stories, and Rimworld aims to do the same.
Originally published 24 Aug 2016; recovered after tragic server shenanigans.
“Ludonarrative dissonance”: I’m going to say that it’s become something of a cliche in games criticism. It’s a term that was coined by Clint Hocking to describe a peculiar situation in the 2008 game Bioshock. Continue reading “Ludonarrative dissonance, thematic incoherence”