I think of city builders as peaceful longform games—I could spend hours, even weeks, crafting my perfect little clockwork society, drawing roads and watching houses and shops pop up as it grows. They can be soothing, but there’s also commitment there. Building a city is a slow process. That’s why I’m so taken with the idea of indie city builder T-Minus 30, which completely upends the premise: You have 30 minutes to build a city and harvest enough resources to send your population into space before the dying Earth snuffs out whoever’s left.
The time limit is novel for a city builder, but I think what T-Minus 30 does that’s really clever is change why you’re building. You’re leaving the city behind after half an hour. It doesn’t matter what it looks like; the endgame here isn’t constructing a perfect work of art to zoom out and admire. All that matters is how many rocket launches your city can support before time’s up.
If your city turns out to be ugly or inefficient, great! That’s room for improvement the next time. You only spent half an hour on it, anyway. There’s practically no sunk cost to get hung up on.
Unlike, say, Cities Skylines, there’s a bit of a resource gathering element at play here, according to the Steam page: “You have 30 minutes to scavenge a post-apocalyptic environment to build infrastructure, grow crops, generate power, and assemble rockets to save as many people as you can.” That includes harvesting materials from abandoned cities and junkyards, and I think the 2D art has just enough detail to convey some personality without bogging down a fast-paced game.
Last year the same developers put out 20 Minute Metropolis, which really looks like a rough draft for a much more fleshed-out idea in T-Minus 30. We should know more in a few months: T-Minus 30 is set to be out this fall.