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Towns: Fumbling After Dwarf Fortress's Crown

A copy/paste of a Steam Forums post I just made clarifies my position on this new game I just finished playing for a bit, Towns.

I like Towns but, after playing it pretty hard over the past couple days, I'm thinking I'd be best off waiting for a few more builds.

The biggest issue I have is that the division of labor is all off. Part of this is that the task AI tends to do last happenings first, which oft provokes the Townies to run extremely far away to do something even if there’s an identical goal right next to them. The other part is because, unlike Dwarf Fortress, you can't assign a person to only do woodcrafting, or stoneworking, building, or hauling, ect. Instead, you have a priority queue, which seems to roughly assign tasks for everyone to do.

Towns is a massive time sink.  It took me pretty much all day (real life) to build this inn,
and, as the second day, I'm up to the third floor of it and it still doesn't have a roof.
Because the configurable priority queue is too fuzzy to resolve it, you’ll typically end up with a nasty backlog where things are being done slower than their needs to be done, and it just builds and builds.

Even on the most basic level, Townies are coded to just throw everything on the ground. In Dwarf Fortress, you could have someone free who would haul the item to a stockpile, but not here, so this creates work for other townies to reach the stuff they’re dropping. In Towns, even if I prioritize hauling first, it will only assign maybe one or two townies to hauling. I can’t leave it set this way for long, because it seems to prioritize the last dropped thing first, and this will result in townies running into the arms of waiting monsters while leaving a giant mess at home.

The real trouble starts when people start dying.

First, because you now need to build tombs/graves to contain them. (Either that, or destroy their corpses, which is a bit of a cheat.) More townies run down to mine the needed minerals or retrieve the corpses, but end up getting killed, creating more corpses, creating a whole cycle of that same corpse-recovery task to do.  Given enough time, the corpses will sprout hostile ghosts, killing yet more townies.

Second, because the dead Townies have most of their equipment destroyed. Now, you need to take the time to recreate most of the armor and weapon they were carrying. Unfortunately, as everyone is now busy trying to pick up the slack of the dead townie, it’s probable that armor and weapon will not be replaced in time. 2-4 immigrants show up and get to work, unarmored and unequipped, vulnerable to adding another iteration to this cycle.

I suppose I could enjoy the added challenge involved in the Townies choosing the worst possible thing to do first. I could see the only real way to play this being in waves: clear a dungeon floor. Wait for the townies to clean up the mess. Finish up everything you need to do topside. A few months will probably pass in-game while all this goes on. Everything complete, and feel ready to tackle the next level? Alright, dig that ladder and lets start this whole cycle again!

Comments

Geldon said…
Hello Geldon Yetichsky, I am the "Fellow Geldon" which added you on Steam last night. I know it seems odd that I would go to such effort to contact you without you knowing who I am and vice versa and I apologize. Getting on to the point, my inquiries are simple,
A) How do you pronounce Geldon, G as in Gold or G (J sound) as in Gel.
B) Is this a real name or just an alias you have created? If this is an alias what influenced you into making it.

You see, since I started gaming my online profile was for the most part Geldon, which at the time I thought was a very original name and thought I had made it up all on my own. And over the years a few questions have popped up which I as of last night decided to get answered. (Albeit I was a tad drunk while doing so.)
I often come across others who insist on pronouncing Geldon with the sound of a J which I strongly disagree with and insist it should be pronounced with the sound of a G.

Thanks in advance and I wish you the best of luck in your blog, gaming, and in life, perhaps we shall meet in game sometime.

Sincerely,
Geldon
In real life, I got people who call me Don, Donny, or Donald. I prefer Donald, but I'm alright being called anything else.

So, when it comes to Geldon, I get people who call me Jel or Gold (because they're so rushed when reading on the Internet they read "Golden" instead of "Geldon). Like you, I do prefer Gel-Don - not with the J but with the G. But I 'm alright with being called anything else.

Geldon is actually a shorter name I've adapted from Geldon Yetichsky or sometimes Geldonyetich.
Vetarnias said…
Speaking of Steam, there seems to be something of a controversy over the state in which Towns was released, which is apparently too close to an alpha for some. I tried the demo, but couldn't really get into it; it's just too "indie" for me. I don't mean the lack of budget, but the general aesthetic of the game.

Did you ever try Gnomoria, by the way? It's pretty much the same DF-lite that Towns seems to want to be, but it goes for a retro approach that doesn't seem too bad. I'm really looking for a serious alternative to Dwarf Fortress now, after I realized that while losing might be fun, spending half an hour trading with merchants through a clunky interface isn't.
Long time no see, Vetarnias.

Honestly, I've played worse "release-state" games than Towns. The game does not crash, there's no show-stopping bugs, and it has all the features that are really required for a playable game experience.

That said, it's still a relatively rough diamond. The tutorial is a skeleton, and I would say it's an issue that the Townies getting easily mired down into circles of automated production that prevent them from getting anything else done: basically, there needs to be a means to designate townies to only perform specific roles. As it is, what will happen is a Townie will head out to a mining site where you've designated several things to be mined, mine one brick loose, then run off and do something else that needs doing all the way across the map.

But, as for the controversy, it's less controversial than some people think. The bottom line is that this is a Steam Greenlight Game, the only reason it's up for sale is because popular community support made it that way.

I have tried Gnomoria. If you ask me, the game is too much like Dwarf Fortress. It essentially is Dwarf Fortress (not quite as sophisticated, of course) but with a graphical GUI. In playing Gnomoria, I'm thinking I'm not really afraid of a text-based interface, if I wanted to play this I might as well play Dwarf Fortress, which is free and deeper.

Towns stands apart by attempting to make the formula a bit more accessible. Perhaps the foremost example of this is the way they did the workshops. Instead of placing down one of two-dozen workshops that automatically take up a 3x3 square and pump out a very specific set of goods that you have to manually designate, in Towns you zone as large of a workship you want and place specific utility bench types, thereby fulfilling several Dwarf Fortress workships in one Towns workshop. Then, instead of designating anything for that workshop to do by manually editing that workshop, you instead just designate what you want built and the Townies figure it out. Dwarf Fortress had done something similar with the idea of a "manager" Dwarf, but Townies streamlines that and makes it the only way to build items/furniture.

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