Generate joy through tile placement in the idyllic village builder Dorfromantik


This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series.

Dorfromantik creates peaceful villages by placing tiles, steadily creating a living landscape based around where you place forests, rivers, houses, railroad tracks, etc.

Gamasutra caught up with Timo Falcke of Toukana Interactive, developers of the title nominated for Best Student Game, to find out how they worked to create a sense of peace in the game, the board game inspirations that shaped the game and create appeal. even the smallest interaction with the gameplay.

My name is Timo Falcke. I am one of the four members of Toukana Interactive, the studio behind Dorfromantik. My main role in our team is that of a programmer, but I am also mainly involved in game design and running our accounting at the same time.

The other members of the team are Luca Langenberg, Sandro Heuberger and Zwi Zausch, all with one lead role and several supporting roles.

With Luca, Sandro and Zwi, I studied for my Bachelor in Game Design at HTW Berlin. We developed several games as semester projects, and Sandro and I completed one and released it on Steam: the VR game. ViSP – Virtual Space Port. On top of that, I have participated in many Game Jams and developed smaller games for them, some on their own, others in various team constellations. I also enjoy developing board games as a hobby, although I haven’t pursued any of them so far.

Since 2020, the four of us have been studying in the Gaming Mastery Program at HTW Berlin and will be writing our master’s thesis on the manufacturing process Dorfromantik.

In April 2020, we were in our first semester of our masters program and also in the ideation phase of the first game that we would develop as Toukana Interactive. During this time, we have developed more than 10 different prototypes, and Dorfromantik was one of them.

The first one Dorfromantik prototype was born from the Ludum Dare game jam at the end of April, with the theme “Keep it Alive”. After thinking about different approaches to this topic, we liked the idea of ​​keeping a civilization alive by balancing it with its surrounding nature. Since we wanted to find a simple but very scalable base mechanic, we came up with the idea of ​​forming a simplified landscape by placing tiles adjacent to each other. To give this building mechanic a purpose, we’ve introduced quests, requiring the player to build certain landscape constellations.

We used the Unity game engine to develop Dorfromantik. For the creation of artistic assets, we used Blender and the Affinity suite. Additionally, we have used many plugins from the Unity Asset store like Odin and DOTween.

We all love board games, as well as stylishly designed video games that manage to really capture the essence of a certain type of game. This preference played a big part in the formation. Dorfromantik the way it is today.

We chose the setting of a rural village because we are all very familiar with this kind of scenery, having grown up in different places in the German and Swiss countryside. We felt the calming play matched the associations and memories we have of these landscapes.

After choosing the tile placement mechanic, we’ve put together some ideas on how to give players a challenge and a goal to work towards by placing tiles in a certain way. In our original prototype, we have already implemented the basic ideas of counting trees, houses and connected fields. Later we refined this idea and placed the quests on the board itself, they act as “requirements” – the deer wants to live in a forest with at least X trees, the train wants to travel at least X railroads, etc.

We also had other criteria that the landscape might need to fulfill in mind, but most of them weren’t as intuitive and easy to communicate as the counting quests.

With a simple but engaging basic mechanism in place, we had already covered the first and most important layer of our motivation: intrinsic motivation. Laying tiles and forming landscapes on your own was already very pleasant. Since the tiles are procedurally generated, the map also ended up looking different in each session.

By adding a high score and increasing difficulty curve to the game, we also had a way to create replay value through extrinsic motivation. On top of that, we designed the challenges. They behave like achievements, but are connected to unlockable biomes, tiles and skins, which gives players additional incentives to try out different playstyles. This mechanic is also very expandable, and we have a lot of ideas. for new challenges to come in future updates.

One of our fundamental philosophies when making games is that the interaction the player does the most should be as satisfying as possible. Tiny animations and sound effects are great ways to give player actions more impact.

Since we opted for an idyllic campaign as the setting, we also wanted players to enjoy looking at their creation and discovering little details that fill it with life.

For all of these additions, we have always kept our basic ideas in mind and made sure that no sound or animation disturbs the calming atmosphere of Dorfromantik.

Luca and Zwi created moodboards for our artistic style, drawing inspiration from landscape paintings and photography. Many artists of the past have done a phenomenal job of capturing the beauty of the countryside and nature in their paintings, often using an idealized way of representing them. Our intention was the same – not to create a realistic interpretation, but an ideal and harmonious interpretation of real world landscapes, with all their beauty and none of their flaws.

The painted appearance and haptic aesthetic of Dorfromantik should also emphasize its similarities to board games.

With Dorfromantik, we wanted to satisfy both types of players: those looking for a challenging puzzle with a lot of strategic planning needed, as well as those who just like to build beautiful landscapes. Even within our team, some prefer the one way and the other the other way of playing.

For this reason, we’ve added several strategic elements to the game, but none of them were designed to be too punishing for someone who only builds for aesthetics. In the future, we’ll also be adding a Creative Mode to make it even easier for players to relax while creating their ideal little worlds.

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