If for the rest of my life I could only play two games, they would be Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft, both of which allow for near-endless possibilities in their own ways. And so hearing that a team of developers is working on a game combining the best of both these games comes as a welcomed sign that good things are on their way with Terasology.
According to the developers, “We’re aiming for a survival and discovery game with a strong influence from Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and Dungeon Keeper. A key part of the game will be building up an estate of some sort and managing specialized minions to climb up the ladder of discovery, while surviving in a world that might just be full of things that want to kill you.”
Now, any game with a voxel, cubed world with building and destruction often gets written off as a Minecraft clone, but Terasology doesn’t try to say otherwise. It is similar to Minecraft, but builds on it with NPC helpers and caretakers, and it’s aiming for “added depth and sophistication in the foundation systems akin to [Dwarf Fortress].”
It’s hard to catch what that could mean unless you’ve climbed the merciless cliff that is the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. What makes DF awesome is the sheer amount of possible events that arise from its complex system of NPCs and how they interact with each other. Maybe one Dwarf has a kitten, someone gets angry and kills it, the owner of the cat beats someone to death, that person’s brother goes on a rampage, and before you know it the entire civilization has fallen into a state of total anarchy… then an army of elves lays siege to your fortress because you tried trading them a barrel made from a tree. It would be just another day in Dwarf Fortress (I’m not exaggerating either).
Whether Terasology will have the same level of depth Dwarf Fortress has, frankly, I’m not too optimistic, but if Minecraft even had a little of that it would be unstoppable in its conquest over the world of gaming.
The project is open source, so development is open to the community. That also means it’s free to download. There are a few videos of the project already up (one at the bottom of this article). Currently, it looks like an early build of Minecraft but with some pleasant graphics (thanks to the Good Morning Craft texture pack) and a different physics engine.
But there are some awesome ideas being tossed around on the development forum. Among these are dual wielding (like holding a torch in one hand and a sword in the other), editable maps (like jotting down notes), underground tar pits and oil deposits, seasons, abandoned towns, and potentially some explanation of why you are where you are when the game starts.
It will also include multiplayer further down the road. “We’re aiming for low-scale multiplayer at first, but interested in how far we can push the numbers,” states the website.
The project used to be known as Blockmania. It was started by Benjamin “begla” Glatzel to research procedural terrain generation and efficient rendering techniques in Java, but now a team has decided to turn it into a full-fledged game, according to the website.
Here’s a basic list of features they’re planning to include:
- Minion management akin to Dwarf Fortress or Dungeon Keeper – creatures that will have needs that take up space to provide that then in return provide you with various benefits. This helps fill out the world.
- The simple visual appeal of 3D in a voxel world like Minecraft – not too focused on providing hi-res splendor, as that inevitably leads to the high-cost race towards photorealism. At the same time, if we can jam in some fancy effects on top of that, like reflective water, so be it!
- A deeper tech tree to climb, achievable mostly solo but heavily aided by minions or other players
- Crafting more focused on realistic workshops improving quality and quantity based on upgrades, specific minions, etc
- A more vivid world that’s alive and changes over time, even without direct manipulation by the player
- Autonomous NPC societies that grow on their own and can both be source of minions as well as valuable trading partners. Or be your greatest enemy…
- Various kinds of blueprinting to allow the reproduction of specific objects, tradeable with other players. Also similar systems to designate areas as special in some fashion, like enclosing workshop areas or defining defenses
- Portals to center societies around and allow easy travel (but not transfer of goods) between settled areas
- Meaningful (and meaningless!) statistics about your world
- Realistic simulations of world elements like liquid flow, structural support, natural growth, and the dangers of delving deep
- And maybe most importantly: Build a community around an open source project that will be able to achieve all this and more – making Terasology more than just a game