First of all, I want to say this format is good and you should keep it up.
But I want to mention something about Neon Struct, a game mentioned by Austin in the episode. Besides the music, Neon Struct is made entirely by one guy David Pittman. So Austin is right that it serves as an example that with some level of personal drive, making an immersive sim isn’t out of reach for any kind of dev team.
While it’s not a game I think too fondly of, it’s problems largely stem from going too wide with it’s design. Pittman obviously lacked the resources to fill the half dozen or so hub worlds with characters or stuff. I think the game could have benefited a lot by reducing down to one hub world or something to emphasize how progress of the game effects its world. Regardless, it’s proof that if a one-man team can make an immersive sim too big, anyone who sets out to make an immersive sim can do it.
But it also raises some questions about whether there’s an appetite for small small studios to actually pick up the banner of the immersive sim, and that has to do with the steam workshop support Austin mentioned. And this is quite possibly, the saddest thing you can find on steam.
Literally no one has ever used Neon Struct’s workshop.
Go there now and you’ll only find two uploads have ever been submitted to the workshop, both of them by Pittman himself. One is an official prequel/DLC for the game, and the other is an example of a level that can be made in as little as fifteen minutes. Neon Struct didn’t sell a lot of copies, but as far as I can tell it’s the only immersive sim, that has a level editor/game making tools included. If there was an appetite individuals stepping into this field you think somebody would have made something.
I browse through the itch.io releases for a personal blog I keep, and I see RPG Maker games uploaded daily. I see walking sims uploaded daily. Somebody probably uploads full skyrim questlines daily. There’s a pile of great standalone Shadowrun mods that could count as seperate games. But nobody is making Neon Struct powered games. These other genres are types of people take up game creation to make, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with immersive sims.
Which leads me to think Patrick’s observation about fidelty is correct. Sure there’s lots of people in the industry liking these games. But when people make them, they want to make them on a full a scale as possible. It doesn’t seem to be a genre people want to make small bite sized versions of (Gone Home is literally the only one I can think of and that’s debatable). The thinking seems to be that if you can’t do all the bells and whistles it’s not worth doing. Even people who passionatley defend immersive sims rarely even shout Neon Struct as an example for others.
What does that say about the immersive sim? Does the genre actually have an identity beyond, look how big and complex and expensive this game was to make. Is the genre structurally tied to the production values arms race. Is the increasing desire for AAA devs to make more conservatively ambitious, yet more polished works going to put a cap on the genre going forwards?