Begin at the beginning


So I thought it was about time I started to build up a web presence for King under the Mountain, and to start a dev blog to keep myself organised and motivated. Although I’m writing this in March 2016, the source code repository was started almost exactly a year ago and early designs for the game came much before that.

I’ve created a page to explain what the game is and how it’s intended to play, so I thought I’d share my inspiration and goals here. Too many years ago (nearly 20!), one of my favourite games of all time was Dungeon Keeper (and later it’s sequel). Not only was it a lot of fun playing “the bad guy” (albeit a slightly cartoonish one), I loved the mechanics of tunnelling your own dungeon out of the rock – creating a dungeon and infesting it with monsters, rather than playing as the goody-goody heroes exploring a dungeon someone else had created. Planning what to build and where in addition to caring for and training minions. I loved the whole thing.

Dungeon Keeper 2, a worthy sequel in my opinion

This stuck with me for a long time, and few games scratched the same itch, Evil Genius was great (particularly its visual and audio design) but I felt it was flawed somewhat in the end-game with its offscreen worldwide agent activity, relegating the wonderful base-building mechanics to the sidelines in favour of a numbers game on a static world map (as an aside, I felt this was even more of a problem in the unfortunately short-lived Elixir Studios’ other game, Republic).

Although there were a few similar games released over the intervening years, nothing hit the same chord with me until I stumbled upon Dwarf Fortress fairly early on in its development. I was blown away (and still continue to be) by the level of detail and richness of its simulated world. Despite the now ridiculously deep level of simulation for combat (down to modelling muscle and tissue groups), or procedurally-generated dwarven poetry, what has always drawn me to Dwarf Fortress is the core fortress management game – designating orders for the dwarves to build and maintain their settlement starting from almost nothing.

Dwarf Fortress – either a masterpiece of simulation or a screenful of unintelligible ascii

Much more recently, Prison Architect has captured some of the same magic, although with an unusual theme of building and managing a prison. The guys at Introversion came up with a simple 2D style with little to no animations that can convey a lot of information to the player, looks good(!), and most importantly – is achievable for a small indie developer to produce. Similarly to Rimworld, I’m going to be using their graphical style while developing King under the Mountain.

Prison Architect – kudos to Introversion as the main inspiration for the graphical style

It’s these games and their core mechanics that form the main inspiration of the game. The goal is to combine some of (but not all of) the simulated depth and “losing is fun” stronghold construction antics of Dwarf Fortress with the accessibility of Prison Architect’s graphical style. The biggest, and usually only criticism people seem to level at Dwarf Fortress is that the game is inpenetrable, mostly due to the UI and ascii-art graphics (although this can be alleviated to some extent by mods). While I think it would be foolish to attempt to copy the breadth and depth of Tarn Adam’s work on the incredible level of simulation in Dwarf Fortress, I aim to use the elements and systems most relevant to the core gameplay of designing and building a fantasy settlement. Similarly, I’m not looking to plagiarise Prison Architect and its design, just use it’s graphical style and some other lessons learnt to give myself an achievable goal.

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