That’s a bit of a chicken and the egg thing, isn’t it? If Radiant didn’t start that second game, they wouldn’t have been noticed by Riot, and SH wouldn’t have developed as far as it did.
If I had to place blame anywhere, I would put it on the devs’ insistence that the building system had to look perfect. If I was in charge, I’d have hearthlings hammer the ground until the building was completed, without any dependency whatevers that made it so hard to make the system work properly. Then I’d make the gameplay enjoyable and fun, tie all of the game’s systems together, and use the remaining time to make everything look as nice as possible. As it is, we have a beautiful water simulation and a pretty good building simulation, with water and buildings having very little effect on gameplay. Functionally, caves are a good analogue for buildings, but with the town value and the “cramped spaces” debuff, Radiant forces you to make SOME buildings.
I don’t know how it came to be that we have all these systems with little impact on the game. If I had to guess, old decisions were grandfathered into new development phases. When it was time to put the building editor on hold, and focus on making the game fun, sunk cost fallacy took over instead, and resources were doubled towards a new building editor. Maybe. Maybe not, I wasn’t there.
I haven’t played very much SH in the last while, honestly. The way the game plays is almost identical to how it did 3-4 years ago; the biggest change probably being seasons, coming in the last month of development. Before that, it was the addition of combat. And then… just a very long stretch of some strange nothingness. The conversations feature feels like it does nothing but distract my hearthlings. I care about hearthling traits to the degree that I’ll randomly re-roll them until I get beneficial traits. There is nothing in Stonehearth tying you intimately to any individual hearthling, because part of the game directive was, “you must not micromanage”. How can I feel cozy and close to my hearthlings if I can’t spend time on them individually? Pick out their gear, customize their pet, name their codpiece? That is essential for a game that allows 30, maybe 40 hearthlings at good performance.
They knew from this January that SH will stop development in the summer. I danced around the forums, talking about how everything was gonna be alright, and when it suddenly wasn’t, I felt like an enormous dunce. I know why they didn’t say when they knew they’d stop, and I’m sure that if they feel anything, they feel bad about it. But I hope I’m allowed to feel bad, too.
Stonehearth is a nice ant farm with a building system. That’s what it was 4 years ago, and that’s what it will be 4 years in the future. I played it 4 years ago, and I’m sure I’ll play it in 4 years, as well. For now, I’m still salty over this whole thing. Freaking sucks, man.