A Review Of :: Gnomoria

“Fortress-Like” Gameplay In Beautiful Pixel-Art Aesthetic

Gnomoria is perhaps the best example of a “Dwarf Fortress BUT” game I’ve encountered. This game takes the fundamental fantasy of the genre (oversee a group of beings and help them survive by defining the rules for their community) and gives it a facelift with pretty pixel art, and a point-and-click GUI.

What’s amazing is that’s all it really needs. The ant-farm style gameplay is engaging at its very core, and the constant drive for resources and security will keep you playing for a long, long time. The replayability comes from meeting the challenges of procedurally generated terrain (especially mining) and incrementally improving your strategies for maintaining your empire.


If you’ve never played an ant-farm game before, know what you’re buying; games like this can be unforgiving and they require some practice. Your Gnomes are clever, but they only work within the rules which you set – learning how to manipulate those rules will take time. In many ways, this is the major limitation of the genre.

If you’re coming to this from Dwarf Fortress; you won’t find as deep an experience, but you will gain accessibility. Where Dwarf Fortress is notoriously bad, Gnomoria is better than average. Gnomoria *wants* you to play it.

There are other limitations to the game – some notable game-breaking bugs with the way your goods are stored and traded can ruin your kingdom. Bugs like these tend to be fixed given time, but beware of their existence. Importantly, the game tends to chug a bit – maybe because there’s a lot of complicated decision trees to run through under the hood. When you have a big kingdom running, it can become laggy and difficult to play.

Having said all that, Gnomoria’s good parts massively outweigh its bad parts. The game is cheap, replayable, challenging, with a long but approachable learning curve. There is depth, and room to grow. The developer is active and still providing content updates, and there is a notable player community. It’s worth every penny.

Perhaps most importantly, Gnomoria is “Dwarf Fortress BUT playable”. That’s, ultimately, a very good thing.

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Even More Dishonored-er

To call me conflicted about the sequel to one of my favourite games ever is… probably an understatement. Here’s why.


Let me be clear about this: Dishonored rocked. I love it for so many reasons my brain can barely fit them all in at the same time; and every time I replay it, I find more. Dishonored just did things right. So, why am I apprehensive now that the sequel trailer has surfaced?

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Sympathy Levels Failing, Cap’n!

Tim Hunt recently made some rather ill-advised comments regarding women in science, and caused quite the Twitter storm. So much so, in fact, that it was all over the news – every scientist I know (many) has an opinion.

Quite a few are, understandably, rather angry. Collectively, we work very hard to minimize systematic barriers to entry to women. We strive to undo what centuries of poor attitudes have left us with – a profession in dire need of half the population, who’ve been institutionally pushed away. It’s an indictment of the public perception of science that the gender representation at PhD level and higher is so awful.

In that context, Tim Hunt’s comments are yet another example of behaviour which ruins our profession, and it should be treated as such. Not only were the comments patently indefensible, they were made on an international stage in front of a large audience. They have caused tangible harm to science’s image, and contribute to the challenges which our female colleagues endure. For this, Tim Hunt must obviously be held to account.


Tim Hunt has suffered a lot for this, and the suffering of his family is disproportionate. Not only has he endured a Twitter outrage (probably disproportionate on its own), he was forced to resign immediately from his post at UCL, and has been ejected from all of his advisory positions. He and his wife (a prominent scientist, and a feminist) are enduring the press camped outside their door.

This is extreme punishment; the court of public opinion has been swift and uncaring.

So; does Tim Hunt deserve sympathy? Some people in the community think not; “Sympathy Level Zero”, as one put it. I disagree – he’s human as much as any of us, and it’s unreasonable (“sociopathic”, as my friend put it) to deny him sympathy at all. People have a tendency to conflate individual cases of poor judgement with plain old bad character, and it’d be fair to say that the former is probably true for Tim Hunt. He does not deserve his punishment.

On the other hand, the man is an adult and therefore must face the societal consequences of his actions. “I can’t believe I said that” has never been either an excuse, nor an adequate apology, and it is unlikely to make amends. Feeling sympathetic towards Hunt doesn’t make him in the right, either, and it’s worth remembering that.

So, call me “conflicted” over the Tim Hunt affair. I wish him well, for whatever that’s worth.

In the mean time, we should be talking more about the female scientists which influenced Hunt’s own career, and thinking more about how to change people’s attitudes before such events occur.

Because, really, it would be nice if we got something positive out of this sorry state of affairs.

Posted in General Science, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s Amazing What Some People Do For Fun

So look, if you’ve read this blog before you might be forgiven for thinking that the following statement is somewhat redundant, but here we go: I think about videogames a lot.

What I’ve been getting more and more into recently is thinking about how they are constructed, and this has lead to a gradual realization that my skills as a programmer are way inferior to where I think they would need to be to produce a game on my own. My brain doesn’t really occupy the same headspace as those who write serious code for a living.

… but that does make thought experiments on basic aspects of game construction very informative and revealing to me. So, let me tell you about this dream I had!

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Posted in General Science | 1 Comment

Darkest Deconstruction

There’s been a lot of good words said about Darkest Dungeon (by Red Hook Studios), a new dungeon-crawler-tactical-turn-based-gothic-horror-themed RPG in Early Access at the moment on Steam. I’m generally not a fan of early access games, but Darkest Dungeon is already (in my opinion) a pretty well polished product and has enough content to justify the £15 purchase for me. But this post isn’t a review, it’s more of a discussion of the way its mechanics make is so good. I like deconstructing these things, so I hope you do too.


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In Their Words: What A Mythic Disappointment

On Thursday night, I wrote a rather emotional post about how Mythic raiding has disappointed me and my guild, made my life measurably worse, and taken away something precious to me. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to take much notice.

Ho boy, was I in for a surprise!

I’ve received a huge number of responses from people all over the internet, most of whom are in a similar position to my guild. I’ve been completely bowled over by the passion and the bitter disappointment expressed in the responses I’ve seen is touching. Moreover, the points made have been eloquently expressed and hit points which I couldn’t express on my own. Here, then, is what some of my readers had to say about their experiences. I treasure each and every one of these posts.

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Posted in World of Warcraft | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

EA Says!

I read a news report today that made me a little bit sick in my mouth, so I thought it would be fun to deconstruct it a bit and discuss why I think EA is one of the weirdest games companies out there.

In this case, that’s not a good thing.

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