Kickstarter Patrol: DwarfCorp

As a famous philosopher I made up for this article once said, “Kickstarter is a good platform for crowdfunding, it is!” He wasn’t particularly insightful, but he spoke the truth with real enthusiasm nonetheless. Kickstarter has helped plenty of ‘regular’ people transform into bonafide game developers, and as gamers, we’re pretty lucky to be a part of an industry that has such opportunities; encouraging creativity, showcasing passion, imagination and growth. We’ve come a long way from the days of the credit-less cartridges, and communication between player and developer has never been stronger.

With every new generation comes a slew of new games to experience, ranging from massive RPGs, to Japanese dating simulators; there’s something for everyone, and while there’s no doubt that Call of Duty will remain the dominate video game franchise long after Gatorade unveils its “Doritos Cool Ranch” flavored sports drink, there are some lesser known games that deserve their day in the spotlight. This week we present DwarfCorp, a “comedic fantasy real-time strategy game.” Is there any part of that sentence that you didn’t love? I didn’t think so. The Story: “Back in the Dwarven Motherland across the great sea, the Dwarven King, Dunold the Wise, has chartered a number of Dwarf Companies to explore and colonize strange new lands beyond the sea. As a Regional Manager in one of these companies, it is your duty to scout out one such island and make a foothold for Dwarven civilization there. Back home, the Dwarves are at the beginning of an industrial revolution. With newly invented gunpowder weapons and steam engines, the Dwarves have quickly overcome their ancestral enemies in the motherland, and have spread across the earth in search of “profits and expanded market opportunities.”

DwarfCorp is being developed by Completely Fair Games, a tiny company in Pittsburgh, PA. While Completely Fair Games doesn’t really seem to be at a completely fair advantage when it comes to game development, as their principal team consists of only a programmer and an artist, their ambitions are quite grandiose. We have a little chat with Matt Klingensmith, the programmer and mind behind DwarfCorp.

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[Hardcore Gamer] What was the inspiration behind such an amusing game?

[Matt Klingensmith] When a friend of mine first showed me Minecraft, he knew that I was an avid Dwarf Fortress fan, so he told me Minecraft was sort of like a “Dwarf Fortress FPS.” I found that intriguing, and when I played Minecraft I was amazed at how such a simple game could be so fun and have so many possibilities (that was back in the early days of Minecraft). But as I played the game, I just kept thinking about how awesome it would be to explore a Dwarf Fortress in such a 3D engine, or even to play Dwarf Fortress in an engine of that kind. With that in mind, DwarfCorp started out as a viewer for Dwarf Fortress, much like Stonesense. I used the tutorials of AlwaysGeeky (dev of VOX) as a starting point. When we realized there was way too much to sprite in Dwarf Fortress, we decided to branch off and make our own game.

This is why our game looks so much like DF or Minecraft. We couldn’t simply do “Dwarf Fortress in a Minecraft Engine,” so we thought long and hard about the kinds of games we were interested in, and what made them unique. Wilson [artist] was very into Roller Coaster Tycoon. I had a lot of fun with Black and White and Dungeon Keeper. We really liked the lighthearted sim aspects of these games, the dark humor, and the subtle satire. Out of our brainstorming came the idea of DwarfCorp (short for Dwarf Corporation). The idea is this: what if those mythological races from Tolkein-like fantasy settings were allowed to develop for a few hundred more years? What if they had an industrial revolution? What if they got into “isms?” It seemed to us like Dwarves were set out to become capitalists, the Elves environmentalists, and the Goblins anarchists. Throw in the idea that Dwarves are often going to new lands and digging into the earth to extract natural resources, and you’ve got a full-blown imperialist agenda on the Dwarves’ part. What happens when these views collide? We thought it might be pretty funny.

What could you accomplish with no more than gold, a warm hearth, and ale?

Use the gold to hire Dwarven game developers. Keep them happy with the hearth and the ale. Develop DwarfCorp. Profit.

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What kind of gameplay depth should we expect from DwarfCorp?

A philosophy I really like is “Easy to Pick up, Hard to Master.” We want to be as accessible as possible to new players while still providing the option for hardcore gamers to tweak things to meet their desires. Our game will be nowhere near as deep as, say, Dwarf Fortress, but we do hope to provide the extra bit of detail hardcore gamers expect.

This project appears to be very ambitious. Did you expect it to become as feature heavy during its conceptualization?

We are very, very worried about feature creep. Kickstarter can be notorious in forcing developers to state grandiose ideas to get more backing. Every game developer can get excited when just discussing the ideas, and can go a bit over the top. With the last bit of stretch goals, we may have gone too far. The core gameplay, in my opinion, is not terribly complicated. However, I am personally much more of a technical programmer than a game designer or human interface programmer. That’s why I’m hoping to bring in at least one more programmer/designer into the company to make this easier for us to implement. We are hoping to develop general systems which make adding new content much easier than it currently is.

How would you describe DwarfCorp to someone who isn’t familiar with simulation games, and how would you sell the idea to them?

We’ve gotten tons of emails from different people claiming our game is like one game or another, but with this new aspect or that new aspect added on. I think depending on your experiences with different games, you will come at it from a different perspective. DwarfCorp is a game about micromanaging a mining operation, building things, and exploring with the help of AI-controlled employees.

How does it feel to have reached your funding goal with 10 days to spare?

Exhausting. I was working 16 hour days, 7 days a week from a week before launch till we hit our goal. As you can see our rapid rise has sort of tapered off, so I’ve got to get back to work!

Do you see a strong future for games like DwarfCorp with the new generation of consoles right around the corner?

I can’t really comment on consoles at the moment. Traditionally, simulation/strategy games have not done so well on consoles. One thing I can say is that new hardware in the industry is likely to spur innovation from the big guys in all kinds of different directions, and that could mean good things for indie game developers in terms of tools.

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If you’re feeling generous, or would like more information about DwarfCorp, visit their Kickstarter site. If you’d like more images, updates and contact information visit their official website.