Interview: SMP talks about Towns

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Thanks to Steam Greenlight, a slew of new indie games are getting the opportunity to appear on Steam and be introduced to a new, larger audience. One of the first games to make it through the approval process is Towns, a simulation game from SMP that’s currently in early stages of development. Though it isn’t quite finished yet, SMP and Valve have gone ahead and released the beta version onto Steam for $14.99, so people can buy in now and play, watching as the project progresses to the finished project.

GamerTell recently got the opportunity to talk to Xavi Canal, SMP CEO and Lead Developer of Towns, and Ben Palgi, Towns‘ Game Graphicist, to talk about how Towns came to be, advice for new players, their thoughts about Valve and Steam and their reaction to early Towns‘ buyers via Steam.

GamerTell: How did you decide to blend a city simulation with RPG elements?

SMP: We loved what Majesty did with the idea of being an RPG town housing heroes, so because of that, we felt this kind of experience can really be brought to life in a Dwarf Fortress-like game, where every item must be manufactured rather than bought through special buildings.

GamerTell: Were you inspired at all by Kairosoft games like Dungeon Village?

SMP: We heard about Kairosoft’s Dungeon Village midway through Towns‘ development. The thing is, we dont play too much games on our mobile devices, so we have very little exposure to that market. PC is another thing altogether. We play all kind of games and being inspired daily by AAA and indies alike Our newest favorite is FTL: Faster Than Light and we see a lot of promise in Simon Roth’s MAIA, which looks stunning.

GamerTell: Say someone is making their first town in Towns. How would you suggest they get started?

SMP: The first thing you want to do is build a food production system, so that you could sustain your townies. Dont rush off to build large buildings right away, and don’t start digging too early. Also, try to build your population gradually, as population size has direct control on how big the siege waves that attackes the town would be.

There isn’t a perfect or set-in-stone start. Each user has his or her own preferences and style of play. Some users like to clean the map of weaker monsters (like Yetis or Snakecrabs), some want to attract heroes right away and some just try to get iron as soon as the game starts.

GamerTell: I had some trouble getting started with Towns when I got going, mainly because the game starts with notification messages telling me what to do or how to play. Will you be including a more comprehensive tutorial in a later release?

SMP: We love the harder start Towns provides. This is one of the things we find to be really fun in video games, actually exploring its mechanincs and figuring how everything relate to each other. However, we do plan to incorporate a kind of “mouse hover” help for every menu and a sort-of in-game wiki which would also contain some tips. We also will be improving the current tutorial.

GamerTell: What part of Town‘s progress are you most pleased with so far?

SMP: We really like the variety of monsters, items and building blocks the Towns already has. We are more or less happy with the number of heroes, although a new, community made hero will soon show up in the form of a herbalist who can control plants to assist him in his quests.

GamerTell: Right now Towns is in a preliminary state. What features do you hope to include in the full game?

SMP: We want heroes to trade amongst themselves with items they acquire from dungeons and monsters. We want interactable water, which could be controlled via flood gates and be contained in walls.

We also plan to have a system which will allow players to experience other players towns. Here’s how it will work. A player could “bury” his/her town at any point in Towns. That town could then be generated when another player starts a game. However, it will not be on the surface, but rather in a buried state. The second player could dig, explore and find “past” towns of other players. This feature could have many interesting applications. Imagine if items could be found as well! A really rare sword could be found in an empty room circled by bones of the heroes who once lived there.

GamerTell: After Towns‘ official release, will you continue to support the game with new content or start work on a new project?

SMP: We will continue supportingTowns and developing new things for it as long as people keep playing it.

GamerTell: Will you offer any mod-creation tools for people who might want to add new buildings/monsters/gameplay elements?

SMP: Towns is moddable, and very easily so. There are already dozens of various, ingenious mods that our community has created. Its very easy, even for first timers, to set up their own items, monsters, heroes, building blocks and even more advanced stuff. Also, there are already a few tools available that allow users to easily add content. We will either embrace one of those when Towns is officially released or make one of our own.

GamerTell: Right now, Towns is a PC exclusive. Would you consider working on a console or handheld port should it be well received?

SMP: We havent discussed porting it to any other platform other than the trio of PC/Mac/Linux. We really love mice.

GamerTell: Did you expect Towns to do so well when you submitted it to Steam Greenlight?

SMP: Well, we have a great community who loves the game so naturally we knew the numbers, but never really anticipated their influence to that extent. In a way we were really surprised, but in hindsight we know the reasons that lead us there. The Indie Royale gave us a huge exposure. We’re grateful to Sips from Yogcast for his amazingly well done series on Towns. RPS was a big help as well for the early favorite exposure they gave us.

GamerTell: How helpful was Valve in getting Towns onto Steam?

SMP: Valve has treated us pretty well, since from the start we had a few people ready to help us with any issue. Also, Valve has great tutorials and documents describing how to release a game through its platform. We are pretty happy with Valve’s support.

GamerTell: Some people on Steam are upset about Towns being released on Steam in its unfinished state. How would you respond to their criticisms?

SMP: They are wrong and they are correct. Towns as is, in our eyes, in a very playable and enjoyable state which can provide dozens of playing hours. However, we still have a lot of work to do now as we have seen the mainstream reaction, which is a very different than that of our alpha backers

GamerTell: How much time have you spent developing Towns so far and how long do you think it will be before the project is finished?

SMP: Towns started one and a half years ago as a personal challenge. At first the development was slow, as it was being worked on only in our spare time. It started to blossom as we started dedicating more and more hours, until we began working on it full time.

Towns is a game and a concept which SMP can provide a development map for new features for the next 10 years, similar to Dwarf Fortress. You can always add more features, of course with care to not make it into a feature creep. We will still work and develop Towns as long as enough people enjoy playing it.

If you’re interested in trying Towns, the beta version is available through both Steam and the official website. SMP is constantly working on improving Towns and buying in now for $14.99 will get you every beta version as well as the complete game once it is released.

Site [Towns] Product Page [Steam]

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