Interview: Talking Stonehearth with co-creator Tom Cannon
Have you ever played hours upon hours of Civilization games to the point that you start wondering just what it’s like to be a settler? You know, that feeling of exploring uncharted territory, the possibility of being the first intelligent being to ever see certain sights, and ultimately that drive to build and support a brand new town? What goes into building a village? Will your people have food? Will there be population growth? Are there enough local resources? Can you defend yourself against hostile elements and those native to the region?
Take all these questions -- but add RTS elements, a sandbox world, and RPG aspects -- and you've got yourself Radiant Entertainment's Stonehearth. This game, currently on Kickstarter, will take this exact scenario and question if you have what it takes to turn your little town into a thriving city. With a job system comparable to that of Final Fantasy Tactics, your characters will level and develop to help your city excel both in and out of combat.
On this adventure, you’ll also come across others in the region. Will you be able to make diplomatic pacts with them or will they want nothing more than to destroy everything you’ve worked so hard on to create?
In our curiosity to learn more about Stonehearth, who better to talk to than co-creator Tom Cannon? Through a Q/A style email interview, Tom took the time to answer a barrage of questions about his game and to better enlighten us all on what Stonehearth is all about. Take a gander at their Kickstarter page, and if you like what you see, feel free to back the project.
Without any further ado, here are the questions and answers:
GameZone: What exactly is Stonehearth?
Tom Cannon: Stonehearth is a game about exploration and survival in an epic fantasy setting. Your job is to help a small group of settlers survive and carve out a place for themselves in a hostile land. You’ll need to establish a food supply, build shelter, defend your people, and find a way to grow and expand, facing challenges at every step.
Starting from procedurally generated terrain with dynamic AI encounters, Stonehearth combines city sim and good old combat with infinite building possibilities. It’s built to be moddable at every level, from your city to the people and creatures inhabiting the world, and will ship with the tools and documentation for you to add your own customizations to the game and share them with friends.
GZ: Where did the idea for Stonehearth stem from? How long have you had a project like this in mind?
TC: Well we've both [Tom and his brother Tony] loved city building and management games since we played the original Sim City as kids. We also love the story-telling and leveling aspects of RPGs. So for Stonehearth we're trying to combine the two and build a game that at the core is about building your city in a sandbox, but then layering on RPG systems like a story-based adventures, character classes, gear, and leveling.
GZ: There seems to be sandbox, RTS, strategy, puzzle, and crafting elements in Stonehearth. What was your motivation to take on such an ambitious project?
TC: Well, we're guided by a vision to create a believable simulation of a fantasy RPG city. So you've got things like shopkeepers, taverns, ordinary citizens, and maybe some adventurers, and we want interesting things for all those town people to do.
We know that this is really ambitions and we won't get there overnight, but we're hoping this is the kind of game that we can continue to improve year after year, even after our initial release.
GZ: What games inspired you for this project?
TC: The core city-building is inspired by the old-school Maxis Sim games, and also by the incredible Dwarf Fortress. Our class system draws a bit from tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. The look of the game is definitely influenced by the old 16-bit RPGs of the SNES era and the early Zelda games.
GZ: I’m curious about the class/job system. What more can you tell me about the Geomancer and Engineer?
TC: Well our thinking on both of these classes is pretty early, but I here's the general direction each class will take.
The Geomancer is all about boosting your productivity. She's an advanced spellcaster who has gained mastery over the earth and can move huge chunks of earth with her magic. As she gains power, she'll learn to build earthen golems who can help out your laborers in hauling goods around town or building structures.
The Engineer is sort of a mad scientist type character who will craft some of the most advanced tech in the game, like black powder weapons and traps. We want him to have a sort of wild feel, where you're not totally in control of what he comes up with, and some of his inventions sort of backfire or have unintended consequences.
GZ: What roll do factions play in Stonehearth?
TC: The idea there is that there are other races or civilizations in the world, and they all have their own predisposition to your settlement. Some will be friendly and open to diplomatic relations or trade, while others are just want to see you wiped off the face of the world.
You'll encounter the different factions by exploring, but if you do something particularly interesting or significant like amassing some wealth, they may come to you.
GZ: How much strategy goes into the season changes?
TC: We've just started thinking about seasons. There are some obvious ideas like food production goes down in the winter, or different kinds of monsters come and go with the seasons, but we don't have anything final yet.
GZ: Is there any talk about cross-platform play or cross-platform moding? How excited are you to see the mods the community makes once the game goes live?
TC: Modding is definitely something we're super excited about. Fans have already started creating their own voxel models and sharing them with each other on our forums, so there's a lot of enthusiasm already.
We're so committed to modding because we really do want the players to have a role in determining the long-term destiny of the game: the kinds of play and adventures that the players want to experience.
GZ: What are your stretch goal plans past co-op multiplayer?
We'll announce those soon. We're still narrowing down our options to the final stretch goals. We want to make sure that we don't over-promise, and that we have goals that are both exciting and attainable for us by the first release.
GZ: As of now, Stonehearth has already been funded. Any insight into future projects for Radiant Entertainment?
Ha, not yet! For now we're 100% focused on making Stonehearth as great as it can be. Being funded is great, but it's just the beginning of things for us. Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and finish the game.