I wanted to discuss why I think Stonehearth is a very unique and different project which in my opinion will be far superior than all the other games of it’s type that are currently on the market or in development, and which I am aware of.
First a bit about where my perspective comes from. I have been playing electronic games since somewhere around 1976. My first video game experiences were on a TRS-80 that my older brother purchased.
My first console gaming experience was on my best friends Coleco Vision
My first computer gaming experiences were on a Commodore 64 which I worked hard and saved up for. (best computer of all time )
Since then I have owned an Amiga, and many many PC’s, never purchased anything Apple in my life. As an avid gamer I have played pretty much every genre of gaming. RPG, FPS, RTS, MMORPG, Extremely hardcore historical strategy games, text based adventures, graphical adventures, the list goes on.
With this perspective let me discuss why Stonehearth stands out:
Since Minecraft entered the PC gaming scene in 2009, it’s phenomenal success has created many imitations. The other thing Minecraft did was showcase certain technologies that were not new, but their use in Minecraft and it’s success caused them to receive much attention. This in turn has greatly affected the video game industry. You can’t help but see it’s influence on many games that have been released since and many that are in development. Stonehearth is included in that list, although I definitely do not consider Stonehearth to be a Minecraft clone. It is a certainty that Stonehearth would never have been conceived if Minecraft did not exist however.
To me Minecraft is one of those games, and there have been many before, which is actually not that good, but you wan’t to play it. The reason you want to play it, is that it is the only game that offers a particular thing. Although there are many open world sandbox type games, Minecraft was the first one I can think of that gave you the ability to create a completely custom world within a natural type environment, and having to survive and collect the resources to do so. These things are very compelling, but in my opinion, could be done so much better, but since no one is doing them better Minecraft is the best.
Let me be specific, as an adventure / survival game Minecraft is lacking. The diversity of Mobs, and weapons is minuscule, and combat is very simple and uninspired. So this aspect of the game merely adds some flavor and risk to the building / exploring aspects of the game.
As for an exploring game, Minecraft scenery, even based on giant low resolution textured voxels can be beautiful. There is plenty of variety with the biomes, and practically infinite lands to explore. (I think the limits would fit 75 times the surface of the earth). But as an exploring game I believe it is lacking. Yes there are an infinite amount of worlds, and each world has infinite variety. Once you have seen one Jungle, or one Desert temple, you have seen them all. It doesn’t really excite me to go and find another one that’s shaped differently. Granted there are quite a few different things to discover.
That brings us to what in my opinion is Minecraft’s greatest aspect, building and creating. Everyone here is most likely aware of the amazing things you can build in Minecraft. This to me is why this game is so popular, but it is also what it does so poorly. For me personally, it is the only real draw for the game. Every time I started a game I wanted to build something amazing, and build it while surviving. The practicality of this endeavor soon becomes evident. The hours required to even build a portion of what I imagined was monstrous. If your desire is to create voxel based creations of any type, Minecraft makes a very inefficient Voxel editor. Even in creative mode, flying around in a 3D space and having to select items from an inventory is not a very efficient way to edit voxels. Anyone here who has used Qubicle can attest to that.
I know that there are a multitude of mods which can add a lot to Minecraft. I do not wish to start a debate on how good Minecraft is but want to use it as a detailed contrast to what I believe Stonehearth is.
Another game which I will use to contrast Stonehearth is Cube World. This is a game which I was highly anticipating. It looks amazing. The scenery is stunning, a testament to the creativity and skill of it’s developer. But as a game it has no longevity, for similar reasons to Minecraft as an exploring game. There are several biomes in Cube World, and discovering and exploring them for the first time was a good experience. But after you’ve seen them all, it doesn’t do much to see a new one, with a different random variation. The game-play is completely repetitive. Wander around kill random things to get new gear so you can wander around and kill stronger random things. Adding colored cubes to a weapon to boost few different stats does not really qualify Cube Word as a creating or building game.
Now with this lengthy (I did put a warning in the title that this was going to be long) pre-amble I can more clearly Illustrate how Stonehearth will be better. While I do not like sandbox games where there is a scripted story that you need to follow, I do think you still need some sort of purpose to build your, in this case, city for. I don’t think that purpose should be specifically scripted, but it should be more than to protect it from randomly spawning creepers, or frogs, or Orcs, or the like. The fact that Stonehearth has NPC factions, both friendly, or neutral, and hostile gives the game a more complex purpose that can still be randomized to give each game it’s own personality. This is an excellent way of giving a sandbox game a real sense of purpose without scripting a story into it.
The randomly created world works well in Stonehearth, as your purpose is not to run around and see as much of it as you can, but to build your settlement, or city. The world as described will be big enough that you won’t find the edges, this means you can pick out where you want to settle to suit your desires with plenty of variety. It also gives you the opportunity to pack up and move to a new area if you so desire.
The mechanics of how you build your city (as explained so far) are the best I have seen. It isn’t just plopping down buildings from a set list. It’s actually designing buildings and suiting them for a purpose. This is dramatically different. The fact that you draw a floor plan and your workers build it (to spec) is a huge improvement from other voxel based games. Timber and Stone is an improvement on Minecraft for building things but is still way too tedious, and requires too much micromanagement to be fun. Mark my words, those of you who play T&S, myself included, will not be able to put the effort into building with it after Stonehearth shows everyone how it should be done. Directing and designing with an interface designed to be efficient and not artificially tedious, and then watching all your workers execute your instructions organically is something I have desired in a game like this for years. It is one example of how @Tom and @Ponder 's statement that they are making the game they want to play, is not just cliche.
Combine these mechanics with the high quality visuals that @Tom is producing and you have an extremely compelling world which allows you to create in without grinding, or unnecessary tedium. I think @Tom is respectably humble about his abilities, but his artwork is top notch. He has done an excellent job of giving a consistent style to all aspects of the game, and it is extremely enjoyable to watch him work and explain his reasoning and motivation for it. When I compare what I have seen from Stonehearth to other voxel games, Stonehearth makes the others look like children’s Lego creations, and @Tom’s look like those expertly built Lego creations you see from professional artists in museums and Lego Land.
I don’t want to sound like a Fanboy (too late I guess). I know that while anticipating a game your expectations can grow and you can think more of it than what it will actually be. But this is the first game of this type that has specific design concepts that make it very unique and something I know I will love. Other games which I have anticipated, like Cube World, didn’t have any real (to me anyway) game-play concepts which made them unique. They just looked amazing, and I really wanted to play them. Stonehearth on the other hand looks amazing, and has some very unique gameplay concepts which I believe are going to be key to making this game overwhelmingly compelling to play.
I know that the alpha is not going to have much of the content that will eventually be in the release, but the main concept of designing efficiently and watching your workers build your creations will, from what I understand. I hope there will be some sort of danger in the form of mob’s for you to deal with, but even if I just get to play with construction and crafting it will be a fun prelude to the game.
In summary, December 30’ish can not come too soon.