I’ve been playing RimWorld since Alpha 15, almost two years before the full game came out. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of things change. I’ve seen a lot of things added, and I’ve seen a lot of things taken away. For example, I have a nostalgic desire to start using the survival rifle again. It still technically exists with a slight accuracy nerf, it’s just call a bolt-action rifle now. Same with deathfall traps. They still exist with a bigger nerf (they were kind of OP before, so I won’t complain about that) under the name “spike traps”. They’re still super useful, I just really want that name back. It’s a cool name.
If you’ve never heard of RimWorld, it’s a survival game where a ship crashes over a sparsely populated, low-technology planet at the edge of human society–a rimworld. You need to keep a group of escapees alive by making sure they have food, shelter, clothes, whatever. You have to keep them safe from other humans, mad animals, and even war robots. You have to build up a base for them–or more accurately, tell them to build it themselves–because this is their new home, at least for a while. There is technically a way to beat the game, escaping the planet either by building a ship or traveling to a parked one really far away, but most people are happy just to build the best base they can. In 200 hours I’ve never even considered thinking about trying to win, and I have no desire to do so in the future. I have too much fun building my base up, and hanging around with the people there. Just as the thing I miss most from earlier versions of the game are the names of items, it’s hard to say goodbye to my AI buddies.
I’ve only played two games of RimWorld 1.0. The first ended pretty quickly, with everyone dying to death. That’s life on the rim, baby! The other one is my current game, and it’s one I’ve been playing since February. Since it’s my first full version game that didn’t end prematurely, I’ve run into a problem that I’ve never had to deal with before in RimWorld. I’ve never had to choose to say goodbye to my colony. I’ve seen a number of colonies come and go, but those were all forced. I’d turn on the game one day and hey, my save doesn’t work with the new version. Guess I’m starting over. I never wanted to, but I didn’t have much of a choice, beyond rolling back to an old version. Now that I do have a choice, it’s a bit tough to do. Even though it’s one of my favourite games, I haven’t played in over a month, because having the characters in limbo feels better than turning my back on them. They’re still there either way, I’m not expecting any post-launch changes large enough to mess up my save, but having them abandoned feels better than having them replaced. Isn’t it?
Admittedly, it’s been feeling like time to say goodbye to this game for a while now. I like my people, no doubt, but there are a couple of things I maybe should have paid closer attention to when accepting a few of them into my colony. I currently have eight people living in my base, with an average age of 55, and three over the age of 75. One of my three deceased colonists was that old as well. Three of my eight living characters are incapable of violence, at one point they accounted for half the colony. One guy is frequently on the edge of a mental breakdown. None of these things are bad in real life, but on the rim? The rim is a place for the young and strong, who can fight for their home if need be. At the start it wasn’t too bad, but as my colony started to get bigger and look juicier to raiders, the difficulty really started to ramp up. I plateaued a while back, and with the difficulty still rising, I can see doom on the horizon. If I get rid of my people who can’t fight, or can’t fight well, it will harder to defend the base until better people show up. If I keep them, it will be really hard to attract new people, as the game likes to keep you between four to thirteen characters. As I get nearer to thirteen, the influx of new characters is starting to dwindle, without even accounting for the fact that I won’t want everyone the game tries to give me. Rock, meet hard place. But even more importantly than all that, I don’t want to get rid of them, even if it will make things better.
“Characters” is a good name for the people in RimWorld. None of them are really that special, in the grand scheme of things. Just a selection of skills from 0-20 and a couple of traits, you could remake them pretty much exactly in every game by going into the files and changing a couple numbers on people. Sure they’d have slightly different relationships, but that’s more of a parallel universe type thing. An author hasn’t written these people to be special and unique, they’re just a bunch of numbers. Right? Wrong. They maybe shouldn’t feel like characters, but they do. They really do. I mentioned that RimWorld is one of my biggest savescumming games back in an RUL article a few years ago, and that’s still the case. Most of the time not because I’ve gotten my butt handed to me by a particularly nasty attack, but because one of my favourite people got killed. I could get obliterated in a raid, lose half of my colony, and still power through it. But lose just one of two or three people? Nope, time to restart. Like I said earlier, I could get rid of my bad characters in an attempt to jump-start my colony. It might cause everything to go horribly wrong, but it might fix all my problems. But that would really depress not only the other in-game characters, but me a little bit as well. I don’t want to replace these people, no matter how bad they are, I’d rather just say goodbye to everyone and start anew. Which again, is also tough.
RimWorld feels a lot like a tabletop RPG to me, one where you’re a “secondary GM” of sorts. The main GM is the aptly-named storyteller, the AI that creates all of the random events in the game. As a secondary GM, you need to make sure your characters stay alive. While you can control them to a certain extent, they’ll also do their own thing, and there’s of course some randomness thrown in there. The title screen of RimWorld calls it a “story generator”, and that’s really what it feels like. An author may not be writing these characters, they may be a bunch of numbers, but it feels like a story generator nonetheless. That’s also why it’s so hard to let an end happen. It’s like putting down a book, or getting to the end of a story-driven video game, but even worse. Those can be tough things to do, but at least they have endings. In RimWorld, you go forever without an ending, unless of course, you know, everyone dies. That’s why the alpha and beta days were so much easier. Whenever you said goodbye to a colony it was because you had to, it wouldn’t work anymore. Sure it was tough, but it was necessary. When it becomes time to say to say goodbye and it’s not necessary? Now that’s a whole heck of a lot harder.
Do you have a game that you find hard to give up on? Want to tell me that there are probably mods to get back the names survival rifle and deathfall trap? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter!