Stonehearth interview – Exclusive
Today we bring you another exclusive Worlds Factory talk with a developer. This time, it’s a Stonehearth interview with Tom Cannon of Radiant Entertainment. Their game is currently enjoying an unexpected success on Kickstarter, where they just surpassed half a million dollars on their campaign. There are still four days to go however, and additional stretch goals to be reached.
Let me add, for all of you who crave indie gaming in all its forms, that we’ll have many more interviews in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned on Worlds Factory!
First and foremost, welcome to our network. Please, introduce yourself and your game to our readers!
Thanks! Hi, I’m Tom, one of the developers Stonehearth, our first indie game. Stonehearth is a survival, sandbox game with city-building and RPG kinds of play.
In the game’s description on Kickstarter, you mention that Stonehearth is at heart about city building and management. However, you also said that there will be RTS combat with dynamic AI encounter. How do you intend to marry this part with city building/management in actual gameplay and how heavy will it be? What can we expect from these dynamic AI encounters?
Because it’s a game about city management, a lot of the combat is going to be about defending your city. The idea is that our AI will constantly evaluate your city’s valuables and defenses, and at any time it can throw an invading force at you. The invasion could be large or small, and it will always have some justification that makes sense to the player. If you’ve left a lot of valuable resources out in the open in the middle of your town, it’s going to attract a lot of attention.
In the single player mode, will there be different factions? You mentioned “raiders”, but will there also be civilizations and will players be able to ally with them against a common threat?
Yes, there will be both neutral and enemy factions. An example is the clan of underground rabbits, who are sort of like our version of dwarves. They have their settlements that you can potentially trade with. We want to keep the focus of the game mostly on your city, so we’re still trying to figure out the best way to interact with the other factions.
I understand the game is sandbox-driven and procedurally generated. However, I’m wondering if Stonehearth will feature a storyline and maybe even an ending of sorts?
We want to keep the game open ended, and let the player tell their own story. So we sort of set the stage by building a world with some set actors and a deep back-story to uncover, but then it’s up to the player to determine how they will fit into that world. We do want most games to have a narrative-like pacing, where there are high points and low points.
Seemingly important is also the RPG component, as all settlers will have jobs and they will be “like a class”. Can you explain this system a bit more for us? Let’s say that in a fight you lose most of the combat specialized settlers, will it be possible to respec the other settlers quickly or not?
The idea is that we want all of your settlers to have strong, defined roles like you would see in an RPG. So we have classes for all the crafters, carpenter, mason, smith, scribe, as well as the more traditional combat-type classes. Your civilian classes will gain new crafting recipes and abilities as they level up, and some classes can evolve into entirely new classes, like a trapper evolving to a hunter or a herbalist evolving to an alchemist. This class-tree system is heavily inspired by games like Final Fantasy Tactics.
As for replacing lost settlers, there’s a special class called the Worker class. Workers are your manual laborers. They chop down trees, haul things around, and build buildings. Workers are also the root of the class tech tree — they can upgrade to any tier one class. We anticipate that you’ll always have a pretty big pool of workers around, so if you lose your specialized crafters you can replace them by promoting some of you workers.
Of course, since the stretch goals are reached I’ll ask you about the Player vs Player City Raids as well: how do these work? Do you connect your entire city to those of other players?
Not initially. At first, for PvP will be asynchronous. The attacking and defending players don’t play at the same time. Instead the defender sends over a copy of his city to the attacker, and the attacker plays on that map and tries to bring down the city with his army.
This is a stepping stone to a more traditional, RTS-style PvP where both players play on the same map at the same time.
Similarly, how will co-op work? I know you’re waiting to release more information about this, but what do you intend to achieve with it?
We’re still working out the details, but the idea behind co-op is that you can play the game with your friends and everyone can help each other out. For some people that means having shared control of everything, but for others it means doing your own thing with your own settlement, but on the same map as your friends. We’re trying to find a way to accommodate both kinds of play.
I spotted an interesting thing on the campaign page: your work with GGPO, a networking library for games. This makes me hopeful for good networking capabilities for Stonehearth; however, I think it would be even greater if it had some persistent elements to it. Do you think this would be feasible in the future if the game has a great success in sales like it’s having right now on Kickstarter?
It’s possible. There are different levels of persistence, from us hosting your city so it’s always online and other players can visit it, all the way up to a full blown MMO where lots of players are all playing on the same map. Of course, job #1 is building the game as planned and then seeing what makes sense based on how players are enjoying the game.
Thank you for your time.