Salad Sits Down With Huw Millward, Creator of Warsim
Last week we reviewed the text-based kingdom management simulator Warsim: the Realm of Aslona. Today, we’re delighted to bring you the designer, programmer and ASCII art extraordinaire Huw Millward, the sole creator and current overseer of all things Warsim. Our writer, Jared Carpenter, chatted with Millward during their digital sit down on Discord. They discuss the inspiration, motivation, and process that lies behind the tantalizingly complex fantasy realm simulator. We hope you enjoy!
Q. First, I have to say that it was my pleasure to play Warsim. It took me back to an earlier time in my gaming life, which leads to my first question. What were the major inspirations for Warsim’s design and play style?
I heard a lot of people refer to old school BBS games, but Warsim was really just a test project. I dropped it fairly early into development to start work on a procedural wasteland RPG called The Wastes.
Unfortunately, I lost the source code to The Wastes in an awfully stupid computer crash. I didn’t have any valid backups for it, so I returned to work on Warsim instead.
The core goal was that wherever there was room for procedural content: put it in. And I wanted to give the player the notion that they are actually an all-powerful ruler. I was so tired of games where you’re a “King” or “Emperor” and your power is absurdly limited. Not so in Warsim. Want to charge people for the right to breathe? Sure. Want to jail that small child who asked you for a handout? Sure.
The gameplay has also been shaped a lot by its players. I’ve tried to pay attention to the community as much as possible because most of them have far better ideas than I do. Thanks to countless players the game is far better in concept than anything I could have thought up all by myself.
Q. That was one of my favorite aspects of investigating your game, scrolling through the subreddit and discovering how much say your players had in the game’s development and fine-tuning. What made you open to that approach? And did Warsim’s popularity surprise you, or did you anticipate being able to build a following like you have?
Off-topic, but you also scared me for a second. There’s a “game” with a really bad rep among Kickstarters called The Wastes. Totally different though.
Well, I have what the players said, the same criticism as my own ideas and thoughts. If they had better ideas, then you bet they were going in the game.
I think I also tried to make Warsim something I would enjoy, and over time I made a game that is just that. So, all of these ideas the players came up with was like conceptual DLC that I really wanted to play. I just had to code it to make it happen.
Warsim’s popularity always surprises me. I only put the game on Steam after I got a bunch of donations on itch.io when it was free. I never thought it would be something commercial or something anyone would be interested in.
Huw’s desk. Posted on the right are Steam reviews that keep him motivated.
And I know the one you’re talking about…that’s the problem with generic names I guess. When I used to make videos of the old ASCII game with the same name, I’d get random abuse comments that didn’t make any sense. Then I saw that Kickstarter campaign…
Q. You figure people would take the two seconds necessary to figure out the games were vastly unrelated, but you can never overestimate angry internet comments. So, in terms of the future — what do you have in store for Warsim?
Unfortunately not, but I started to find it funny after a while.
To be honest, too many things are planned. I used to write down every good suggestion or idea I had myself for Warsim, but that file bloated to containing thousands of items. I’ve been cutting it down lately, but there are some that are too good not to put in the game. I have stuff I could work on for years to come.
Q. In that case, is Warsim going to be your Flagship game? Or do you have other titles cooking on the back-burner?
Well, I have concepts and ideas for games, but I think I’ll be sticking to Warsim for a while. I have too much going on in the real world to add another game project to my list of stuff to do, and I’d never abandon Warsim, before it was finished. I don’t want to be like all those other skeevy early access devs who cut and run when it gets a bit tough.
Q. I mentioned this before — I feel like you’re really using Early Access the way it was meant to be used. Instead of doing what…well, most people do these days. This last question is mostly for my curiosity. About how much time does each ASCII picture take you to create?
Well, it varies quite a bit, but to be honest, I’ve been drawing so much with ASCII over the years it feels natural. Usually, any given graphic will be drawn up within a minute, or if it’s really complicated maybe ten minutes.
Huw is highly active in both forums, as he’s always ready to receive the latest feedback or suggestion from his dedicated Warsim fans. Perhaps you’ll get a chance to do your own mini-interview with him!