I got a chance to sit down with Nathan Irondot, an indie developer kickstarting a new type of city-building game called DotCity. DotCity is a new type of city-building game with a unique focus on demography and technology and a distinct art style. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the kick start page for a run-down.
So, Nathan, with the understanding that the game is in early concept and development, and that things are naturally subject to change, what would you say are the key defining differences of DotCity's approach?
Nathan: DotCity is not just a city builder. It's a game about demography, possibly the first of its kind. The basics of city building games will be there: taxes, health, traffic management, etc, but in a minimalist form. The main focus of the game will be on managing an ever growing population, death and birth rates, increasing life expectancy and surviving successive demographic transitions (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition). There will be a huge technological tree to climb in order for your city to survive from the industrial age to a far distant future. Expect things to go bad often before you start to get it right!
DotCity will also be unique because of the size of its cities, but most importantly because of its peculiar aesthetics, never seen before in the world of city building games. Some people will love it. Some will find it silly, but they should keep this in mind: you can't have a realistic looking city building game and at the same time massive cities, spreading over very large areas. Our computers just cannot handle this at the moment. The artistic direction of DotCity was therefore inevitable.
What motivated you to come up with the concept of DotCity?
Nathan: After the failure of SimCity (2013), I completely lost confidence in the ability of the traditional game industry to produce what I wanted. I was really angry when I ended up with this buggy game back in 2013, with tiny cities lost in vast empty areas where you were not allowed to build anything. What was that?
Great things are born out of frustration. That's why we now have Cities: Skyline or that a mathematician from Brussels with no prior knowledge in how to make a video game is now trying to make its own city builder :-)
DotCity appears even more abstracted than most city-building games with many elements -- staples of the genre -- like infrastructure being largely abstracted, what kind of city-building experience can players expect compared to more traditional city-building games?
Nathan: Unlike usual city builders, DotCity is going to be a very stressful game. You will be driven to the edge constantly. Not enough power because you failed to develop alternative technologies to burning oil and now you ran out of it, implosion of your city because you failed to see a demographic transition coming, economy about to collapse because your dots start to be entitled to far too much and you did not develop your financial districts to support this or were not able to veto some of these social changes, etc. DotCity is going to have a trial-and-error gameplay, with a lot of randomness, making every game different.
With a focus on demography and technology, is DotCity more focused on macro details or will players be able to drill down and micromanage? How detailed are the details? For example, will we know the names of each citizen, their health, finances, etc?
Nathan: The areas you define between roads will develop by themselves, provided your economy can support their development. However, you will be able to delete or add a building manually at any moment. In fact, you will be required to do this, as special buildings, with area effects, will not pop up with the others, "regular", buildings. This micromanagement will make the difference between a successful city and a failed one: only by taking advantage of these special buildings can you hope to smooth the inner workings of your city just enough to avoid collapse.
What kind of game-choices would a DotCity mayor have to make that would different from a SimCity or Skylines mayor?
Nathan: DoCity mayors will be able to decide what technologies should be developed to improve the city. They will also be able to make a choice between several type of governments, democracy being for instance one where he cannot veto some technologies that are automatically unlocked with time but can push the development of others otherwise not accessible.
What's the ultimate goal of building a DotCity? What kind of achievements in the game might be measured? How does building one city after another feel distinct?
Nathan: The ultimate goal is probably to climb with success most of the technological tree, and to end with a stable population, able to finally go on by itself. Another goal is to build the highest skyscraper possible in your city, knowing that, eventually, your city will be doomed as you pursue this unreasonable goal :-) Each game will be different because the features of your buildings are random as well as the technologies you can unlock and the social changes in your city. I also intend for easy/medium/hard modes.
What are your thoughts on custom content, and might there be a place for player modifications in the game?
Nathan: There will be a skyscraper editor, where everyone will be able to make and share skyscrapers. That's all I've got so far on the matter, but I'm open to suggestions :-)
What inspired the design aesthetic?
Nathan: My biggest source of inspiration was the city from Mirror's Edge :-) For people working in my field (mathematics/statistics), it is hard to miss that a statistician is behind DotCity. Black dots in a mostly white environment? That's what they deal with every week when they seek out meaning in a dataset. In a way, DotCity is just a mathematical plot, but unlike plots such as the one scientists see on a daily basis, this plot is amazingly animated, possibly the most gorgeous plot you'll ever see!
Do you plan on developing DotCity full-time?
Nathan: Should the game get funded (and with more than a week to go and knowing the press never toke any interest in it so far, meaning no one knows about the game yet and therefore that everything is still possible), that's indeed the plan. If it is not funded, I will work on it like a hobby, hopefully finishing it one day :-)
Thanks for taking the time! I encourage anyone who loves city-building games to check out DotCity the Game's Kickstarter and toss in your support if you like what you see. We're wishing you good luck!
- Visit DotCityTheGame.com