Jake Solomon's upcoming life sim will create a cast of characters for you in a way that almost sounds like Dwarf Fortress

A vector silhouette illustration of a multi-coloured crowd of people including young adults, teenagers, mature adults, and children.
(Image credit: Getty Images/A-Digit)

Former XCOM lead and pillar of strategy games Jake Solomon announced this week that he's co-founded a new studio and will be working on a life sim game, of all things. As it turns out, he's actually been hoping to work on a relationship simulation for a very long time.

"Right off the bat, it's going to seem very different from what I've done before," Solomon said after the announcement. "But this is where my passion is: emergent player stories. I want to make a game that you can't play without writing a story."

In an interview with PC Gamer last week, Solomon described a systems-driven life sim that, to my ears, sounded almost like everyone's favorite dwarf society survival game, at least in how he envisions the beginning of each story.

"What we want is for players to tell the game 'hey, I'm trying to tell this kind of story," Solomon says, whether it's about romance or family or running a successful business. "And then we actually generate a cast of characters to make this story more interesting.

The Sims 4 (Image credit: Maxis, Electronic Arts)

"We are pre-seeding the town with relationships. So when you start the game, just like you would start up a book or a TV show, your character has relationships in the town. If you're trying to tell a romantic story then we'll say okay here's your starting cast: your ex-lover is your coworker and your neighbor is your high school boyfriend and your secret crush is this rival in town."

So it's like starting a game of Dwarf Fortress? I asked Solomon if the comparison fit.

"Nobody has said that, but that's a very good way to put it!" Solomon tells me, laughing. There are important differences of course. I don't get the impression that he's planning for players to read a giant wall of text that explains the tragedies, usurpers, and doom of society every time you start up a new town. "But yes, we want it to feel like a simulated environment," he says.

After choosing their story style and getting that starting town of neighbors created, Solomon says a player can go in and edit characters if they actually want those relationships to be different.

The concept of players always being able to concoct a story is one Solomon returned to often during our talk. He also described his ideal audience as Sims players on Tumblr sharing screenshots of their dramatic storylines.

For folks who have been playing The Sims for years, we can occasionally get that burnt out feeling where inspiration for a new project just isn't striking us. It sounds as though Solomon is envisioning a life sim where you never have to ask "what should I do next?" because the hooks of some dramatic tension are already waiting for you to pull on as soon as you start a new game.

That's most of what we know about the first project from Midsummer Studios—it doesn't have a name yet, and there are no screenshots or trailers to speak of—but you can find a few more details about Solomon's small town drama life sim vision in our longer interview.

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.