My once happy space colony has gone haywire. People are fighting in the dining room, prisoners are trying to break out of a small building I’ve dubbed the friendship room, and a bunch of robots just broke through the living quarters. The whole situation is a monument to my hubris and arrogance, and at the end of the day only the fittest will survive.
I’ve dealt with the chaos of the real world by spending a lot of time in it rimworld, a colony simulation game and story generator that is also very chaotic in its own way. In other simulator games you can fully run the show, but in rimworld Base building is balanced by random events and quests. Maybe you manage to save someone from attackers and they will join your party – or a nuclear winter breaks out, or a malicious AI is making everyone angry and paranoid with psychic rays. Mondays, am I right? A colony of three people can quickly swell to the point where you have a few dozen characters running around, each with their specific tasks.
Begin, rimworld assigned me a few random pawns, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. My motley crew of survivors included Trovatelli, a research prodigy who grew up in a glamorous world, so she was great at everything, intellectually or socially, but refused to work hard. She was joined by Sally, a starship tactician with anger issues, and Maverick, a former office drone.
These farmers need to survive, so I got to work building a small base for them. They grew their own food and medicine, tamed and corralled horses, and had beautiful little bedrooms designed to their liking. It is possible to play rimworld very much Stardew Valley or an Animal Crossing where the player is completely focused on building a thriving community full of happy neighbors.
Or, if you’re like me, you can go into the difficulty settings and select a narrative difficulty curve that will present you with dramatic challenges. What could go wrong?
things was goes well. I had a thriving economy and trade caravans, and I was unlocking more and more sophisticated technology. I had automated my farmers’ daily actions, which gave me the freedom to dream bigger. At this point, Trovatelli was the engine driving our colony’s research, taking us from a rural farming community to a sci-fi base with spaceship engines and plasma weapons. Sally was the sheriff now, and Maverick had fallen in love with Trovatelli and granted her every wish. They were joined by attackers who had been rehabilitated in the friendship room.
I was feeling pretty good, but little did I know that the seeds of my colony’s disaster had already been sown by my own lack of planning.
I didn’t know my farmers would have so much agency. They are fleshed out with childhood backgrounds, adult life, and their own personal biological or personality quirks. Sometimes that’s fun – a tortured artist might throw a fit and then get a huge boost on the next item they make because they need to be anxious for a while. At other times it’s a bit more dangerous. If you have a farmer who absolutely loves drugs, and you have drugs in the colony, that farmer – in this case, Maverick’s mother, who I rescued from a crashed escape pod – will take these meds. Needless to say, her antics caused stress in Trovatelli’s marriage, which was far from ideal when I needed her to build starship parts and research cutting-edge technology.
These are big problems to contend with, and rimworld strives to offer you a whole range of solutions, only some of which are “moral” or “nice”. First, the player has the option of growing crops or building a new room. But as I created new facilities and trained my farmers to provide medical care or research new technologies, I was rewarded with enticing new opportunities.
That’s how I got to know a dark secret: every farmer is technically full of valuable cargo… their organs. And a raider attack could result in a favorite pawn losing a kidney. When Rebecca Barajas, my colony’s number one artist and moneymaker, lost a kidney, I realized she was one kidney away from death. Dreadful! As such, the makeshift prison I used to recruit captured enemies called the Friendship Room became more of a hospital. Or a morgue, if you want to be technical.
My crop yielded fewer potato plants and rice and more devil’s lettuce and cocaine. I felt pretty good about that decision – neighboring villages and towns loved buy cocaine. But what I didn’t realize was that between raiding and fending off robotic invasions, a good chunk of my colony’s military was absolutely blasted onto Yayo. To make matters worse, they all became addicted to it.
Well, that might have been sustainable if I could keep producing cocaine – in rimworld‘s version of reality, at least – but on this hostile alien planet, a plague of my psychoid crop killed them all. That’s when things came up Yes, really bad because I experienced one of the worst possible outcomes for a rimworld Game: a cascade of nervous breakdowns.
Every farmer has a stress level. When they are well fed, comfortable, and surrounded by friends, they enjoy working and are productive members of society. But when they are hungry or sad, they need time to themselves. If you push a pawn too far, it may pause and hide in its room or smash an item in anger.
These mood modifiers become stronger under more extreme circumstances — for example, being withdrawn from cocaine or finding out that someone in the colony has been “organ murdered,” which is a specific category of murder rimworld Sense. And when an unfortunate prisoner died after I removed his lungs, it went straight to hell.
Everyone’s mood was shattered. A farmer tried to throw a party in the dining room to cheer everyone up. It worked for a while… until one of the performers, upset about the whole organ murder thing, dragged the body into the middle of the dance floor. This sparked several more consecutive breaches, including among the prisoners who broke out of the friendship room and beat their guards to death.
It’s a whole thing, and it will take me a few days to repair all this damage. Still, when things get hectic, it’s nice to disappear into a dense, narrative game. Yes, I may be dealing with a gang of organ-slaying monsters – but they are my organ killing monsters.
https://www.polygon.com/23199105/rimworld-colony-sim-sci-fi-adventure RimWorld turns disasters and casualties into a chaotic but hilarious party