The news that people have been asking me about for years is finally here! I’m planning on releasing RimWorld on Steam Early Access around the end of July or early August.
(Edit: Having considered the feedback so far, there’s a good chance I may release the game on Steam as a non-Early Access finished game. Read below for why. Nothing of substance would be different from how it’s described here – it’s just a labeling/PR issue.)
At that time, the key distributor will be set up to give out Steam keys to qualifying existing buyers (currently it only gives your non-Steam download links). I’ll try to get the keys up at the same time as the Steam release, but be warned that there might be a day or so of delay. In either case, the content will be the same on and off Steam.
Steam Workshop will be supported from day one of the Steam release, so it’ll be extremely easy to subscribe to mods. In fact I’m a little worried that people won’t come to our thriving mods forum any more! But I think it’ll be okay. A community this awesome is about more than just getting the mods.
In the run-up to the Steam release, I’ve been focusing my efforts on perfecting what there is of RimWorld rather than biting off chunks of new content. If you read my changelog you already know that I’ve been obsessively bugfixing for a month now. As I mentioned in the Alpha 11 release video, I’m pretty satisfied with the shape of the game. Up until Alpha 11, there were always big holes in the design. Back in the days of yore it was the lack of real hauling and stockpiling (resources were stored in hammerspace, like StarCraft II). Then it was the monotony of a single enemy type with a single strategy. Then the monotony of a single biome. As each piece was added, it filled in a missing piece in the design. The last hole was the one represented by the all-powerful killbox strategy which funneled dumb enemies into a single turret-lined room. Alpha 11’s new sapper strategy solved that.
Now, for the first time, I look at the design and I don’t see gaping holes that need to be filled. Of course, there are still countless things that could be added to the game. I have a document listing hundreds of them. But they all feel optional to me. What’s there is a rounded, integrated design. In my mind the design always used to look like an irregular lump of Swiss cheese; now it’s more-or-less rounded and more-or-less smooth.
So is it done? I’ve thought a lot about what it means to call a game “done”. Ten years ago, a game was done when it was printed to disc. But with digital distribution, we never lose the ability to keep changing a game. So when is a game done? Is it just when you stop adding things? No, because a game can be abandoned without being finished. Is it when there’s nothing else that could be added? That’s not reasonable; I could work on RimWorld for 50 years and never satisfy that. In the end, I think that a game is done when promises have been fulfilled, and there aren’t holes in the design. And we’re reached that point, so RimWorld is done.
That said, just because RimWorld is done doesn’t necessarily mean I’m done with it.
I like working on the game, you all like playing it, and it’s profitable. So I probably will add more content to the game. In the meantime, though, I think it’s time for a bit of a break. I’ve been working on RimWorld and its prototypes for going on three years straight now, and my hours are usually pretty long. I’m starting to feel a bit of burnout. I often seem to develop this dull ache behind the eyes after a couple hours of work. I have trouble concentrating for the lengths of time that used to be normal for me. For that reason – and just because I believe in having a life that isn’t all work – I’m taking some time off from full-time RimWorld development starting in September. Currently it’s looking like it’ll be about six months. I’ll still be around to interact, but I won’t be developing constantly like I have been.
I can’t say exactly what will happen when I return. I might just take the feedback from the Early Access release, integrate it and release RimWorld 1.0 without major new features. Or, I might continue developing the game for years. As I said, I like working on RimWorld, but I’ve also learned that the future is very uncertain and it’s a bad idea to make promises you’re not sure you can keep. That’s part of why I’m telling you about my break now, before the big Steam release. In any case, as always, I encourage people to only make buying decisions about the game based on what it is today. Please don’t ever buy any game – including mine – based on a guess at what it might some day become. Hype trains crash a lot.
So – that’s all the news! I also want to say thank you. There are a lot of scary stories about indie development, and back when I quit Irrational I wasn’t looking forward to facing the poverty and vicious online hatred I kept hearing about. Thankfully, this whole process has actually turned out to be great all around. You’re make this community fun and interesting to interact with. This is an awesome job and I very much appreciate you in giving it to me.