Last week, Volker Wertich–creator of Ubisoft’s city-building sim series The Settlers–and his new studio Envision Entertainment announced Pioneers of Pagonia, a brand-new entry into the city sim genre.

Set on the island of Pagonia, players will create a new settlement using dozens of building types and goods offered throughout the adventure. Goods are found by exploring procedurally generated islands, each one rich with both resources and unknown dangers.

After the game was revealed, we had the opportunity to speak with Wertich about how he’s approaching this new title, which includes some insight into the game’s procedural generation. He speaks about how using that method of level building is a change in philosophy for him, but one that is instrumental to Pioneers of Pagonia.

We also spoke about elements and lessons learned from Wertich’s experience in the city-building realm that have influenced the game’s development. Finally Wertich highlights the importance of hiring a team of developers also well versed in this area, as it allows the team to worry less about foundational systems and focus on more unique ideas.

Pioneers of Pagonia will launch in Early Access on PC later this year, with a full release date to be announced in the future. This interview was conducted via email and edited for clarity.

GameSpot: In developing this new game, what elements from your previous games did you want to include here, and where did you decide to try something new?

Volker Wertich: Every game system of Pioneers of Pagonia has been freshly designed and offers a new experience. This includes exploration, territory gain, construction, transportation, job assignments for units, food supply, conflict, trade, objectives and many more. We try something new everywhere, but of course there is a connection to my previous games as they are invented and inspired by the same person. Some new feature examples are the treasure hunter who can find lost and valuable objects, a trade system which allows to trade specific goods with NPC factions on the map and the overall goal to gain the trust of the peaceful inhabitants instead of conquering everything.

How has building a team with experience in the sim genre helped the overall process? Does their collective background allow for more creative experimentation, considering the group knows the foundations of how sims work?

We are a small but ambitious team of 20 developers, a great mixture of very experienced industry veterans complemented with talented junior developers. Half the team has more than 20 years of experience developing strategy games, which is our foundation. As you assumed, we are not worried about the realization of the core systems. This gives us more room to work on ambitious goals like pushing the total number of units higher, experiment with our new game systems for transportation, trade or exploration, and enhance the procedural content rules for a high replay value.

What are some of the challenges or pitfalls in the sim genre you’re trying to avoid here? How are you doing that?

We aim for an Early Access launch by the end of 2023, which means we have to deliver an exciting core gameplay experience with a high replay value at that time. On the other hand, we are a small team, and this means we have to focus: cooperative gameplay instead of PvP, procedural content instead of a campaign and one player faction but with lots of production chains. The biggest pitfall is choosing the wrong battles for your initial release.

How does the use of procedurally generated areas change the design philosophy of a sim like this? How is the team using that unpredictability to its advantage?

Procedural generation of content is a very powerful tool which is already very important for many games. Some people mistake procedural generation with complete randomness. Instead, it means there is a designed ruleset which creates interesting content, and the quality of the content can be improved by better rules and algorithms continuously.

For Pioneers of Pagonia, a simulation with many different interconnected game systems, procedural content fits excellently. We procedurally generate map layout and terrain distribution, resource amount and allocation, locations for hostile and friendly inhabitants and their objectives. The combination of those challenges will be unique on each map. Another advantage of procedural content is that it leads to unusual situations, which a level designer may have never thought of.

Finally, what should fans of previous sim games like The Settlers expect from this new game? Will there be a new learning curve, or will they be able to jump right in?

In Pioneers of Pagonia, the player experiences a fascinating ant-hill of thousands of bustling units which execute the orders without commanding them individually or directly. The dynamics of all the interconnected game systems lead to proud achievements if things work out according to plan as well as unexpected surprises which challenge the player every time.

In the early stages of the project, we defined the DNA of Pioneers of Pagonia, and one of these is self-explanatory gameplay and presentation. Ideally, everything can be understood by watching the game world. Every transportation, resource gathering, and production process is visualized in detail. This will enable anyone to start building and experimenting right away.