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Towns lets you build a fantasy city, one human corpse at a time

Ian Harac | April 15, 2013
Who wants to be an adventurer, when you can be the NPC who owns the town the adventurers shop at? That's the premise of "Towns," and it's a damn good one.

Who wants to be an adventurer, when you can be the NPC who owns the town the adventurers shop at? That's the premise of "Towns," and it's a damn good one.

Towns is a bit like Dwarf Fortress, a bit like Minecraft, and a bit like a roguelike. You begin with some wandering civilians who enter an untamed wilderness and immediately begin chopping trees, mining stones, and butchering the wildlife. You till the fields, build homes, and set up complex production chains to keep your civilians alive, because they have all the survival instincts of lemmings.

A nascent town in action. Cows are being butchered, logs are being harvested, and my townspeople are wandering deep into the dungeon to die. The civilians will trap themselves in pits. They will work to starvation. They will get stuck in suicide chains where one dies to a monster, so another feels compelled to go gather their bones, and then they die, and so on. Of course, this is a feature, not a bug: The challenge in games of this genre is to learn the citizens' default behaviors and modify it. You set the highest priorities to gathering and producing food. You tell them that you don't want any more bones, and you give them weapons and armor so they stop dying quite so much. You tweak zones, production schedules, and task priorities to keep everyone happy and healthy.

For example, a standard start-up sequence in Towns goes like this: Do some logging, create a zone for carpentry, build a carpenters' table and a wood detailer. Then mine some stone, and make a masonry area, and then make a mason's bench. Then till some fields, gather some wheat, and plant it. Then make a bakery, equipped with a mill, an oven, and a bakers table. Then you take wheat to the mill, which produces flour, which you then bake into bread, which your civilians can now eat.

Then, once you've got the basics down--fields, mills, bedrooms, storage areas--you start to dig and mine. (You will need to do some preliminary mining just to build basic utilities, but you really go full bore once you've got the rudiments of survival managed.) As you do, you will uncover a vast dungeon filled with slimes, spiders, goblins, and worse.

A dungeon being minded. Stone blocks and dead oozes await transport up to storage areas, and the weapons and armor of a slain civilian serve as a grim reminder of the fragility of digital life. Your hapless civilians, even with armor and weapons, are ill-equipped to deal with this horde. So what do you do? In Towns, you build a tavern, of course! Taverns attract Heroes, and Heroes can clean out the dungeon, often leaving behind useful materials (slimes, for example, leave behind gels used in many types of manufacturing processes).


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