Gone Fishing!

Michael Halila 2 minute read

One of your most important tasks in Goblin Camp is to feed the population of your camp. If goblins don’t get enough to eat, they’ll start getting weaker, and eventually they’ll just leave the camp altogether. Goblins won’t just hang around and starve!

The first way to get food that we implemented was farming. We’re quite happy with our farming mechanics, and especially with slash-and-burn farming. Growing crops will be essential for feeding larger populations as your camp grows, so the farming isn’t going anywhere. However, after the feedback we got from our excellent playtesters, we decided to go in a slightly different direction for the early game.

The way the story is usually told is that prehistoric people lived in small, mobile bands that hunted and foraged for a living. This all changed dramatically with the invention of farming, which made people settle down and effectively started society as we know it. This is known as the Neolithic Revolution, because it happened in what’s called the New Stone Age, and Neolithic is Greek for that. I should know, I’ve taught this often enough!

The actual story, as usual, is a lot more complicated. Most things in history that are called revolutions and such never really mean that everything suddenly changes in the blink of an eye. The adoption of farming almost certainly took a long time, and we know that the transition from small, widely roaming bands of hunter-gatherers to farmers took a long time.

And besides, there’s a considerable problem with the name hunter-gatherer: it omits fishing completely. Yes, technically fishing and gathering marine resources like molluscs and so on count as hunting and gathering, but the name hunter-gatherer tends to obscure how important marine resources were to prehistoric people. Before modern overfishing, the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes were teeming with life that provided an easy living for small populations of humans.

These food stocks were very important for prehistoric people. At least back when I was at university, there was a theory that the entire American continent was basically colonized by prehistoric people moving south along the Pacific coast, because the fish and so on provided them with such an abundant livelihood. Even more crucially for us, some of the first permanent settlements were almost certainly older than farming. In places where there was good fishing, lots of food to gather and nearby animal migration routes, people will have been able to settle down permanently. It may actually be more likely that farming was invented in permanent settlements than the other way round. For a really good read on this, get your hands on the incomparable James Scott’s Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States.

So, what does all this mean for Goblin Camp? Well, we already knew that the starting location for the camp is by a river. So we’ve decided to turn the clock back. Farming will now be a technology you have to discover by finding seeds, and the first food source available to your camp is fishing in the river. Your first technology for this will be the fishing spear: you can build fishing shacks and a fishing workshop, to make spears for fishing and catch fish for the table.

At first, this will be a much easier way to feed your goblins than farming. But you’ll have to develop your farms as well if you want your camp to grow! Later on, we’ll be introducing new ways to fish and acquire food.