Grant Williams tried his hand at growing cannabis a few years back.
The Richland native had a license with some friends, and as he was cultivating his crop — doing all he needed to make it grow and thrive — something occurred to him:
“I thought, ‘there’s a game in this,’” he said.
And he was right.
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Now, Williams, founder of the entertainment software company Red Level Games, is launching Cash Crop, billed as a “delightfully fun farming tycoon game with cannabis.”
It’s a partnership between Red Level and the Richland-based software company Wildland.
Williams is excited.
“It feels good. I feel a pleasant, positive eagerness about what’s ahead,” he said.
Cash Crop debuts Thursday, available for Macs and PCs on the Steam online platform. It costs about $15.
Williams and the Cash Crop crew have been working on the game for months.
They’ll keep adding features and updates while it’s in the early access phase of release, with plans to put out a 1.0 version on more platforms next year.
Williams is game designer and Ty Mulholland, Wildland’s president, is creative director.
The team also includes Joseph Weakley as lead developer and Amy Kennedy as art director.
Cash Crop’s look is something special. Set in a 2D pixel art world, it has a Super Nintendo, retro vibe.
With the avatars, for example, “we wanted to make them very approachable, very relatable, and give people that nostalgic feel,” Kennedy said.
The team also did extensive research, visiting actual cannabis operations to get the details right.
Different strains, for example, look distinct and unique in the game — just as they are distinct and unique in real life.
Playing Cash Crop is a lot of fun, Williams and the team said.
The game gives players plenty of choices, from the strains they grow to the licenses they pursue and the contracts and orders they fill.
“From the very beginning in the Character Creator screen, players are customizing their business venture,” a game document said.
“Crew size, strain types, operation size and location all affect the experience and outcome of Cash Crop, creating limitless replay value. Indoor grow operations vary widely from outdoor grow operations, and the expansion into pursuing processor or retailer licenses offers unique risk and reward. All of these varieties and choices culminate in a game that feels personal to every player,” it said.
Players can have a wide range of experiences, Williams said, from managing a small grow to commanding a large-scale commercial operation.
The game isn’t about illegal drug dealing or violence, and instead is “a true business simulator with a fun RPG (role-playing game) element that allows gamers to take on their own legal operation,” the game document said.
It gives players a glimpse into the burgeoning marijuana industry, which is going through a “once in a lifetime ‘end-of-prohibition’ transformation,’” the document said.
And it does so in a way that’s playful, bright, creative and even at times a little silly.
“It’s so great,” Kennedy said. “I’m so proud.”
Steve R. Lee of Pineapple Productions and Green2Go is a sponsor. Fuse SPC in Richland also provided key support, Williams said.
Working on the game has been rewarding, Cash Crop team members said.
When Weakley was approached about becoming lead developer, “I said, ‘Sign me up. It sounds fun.’”
It’s been gratifying to see how far the game has progressed during development, he said, adding that he’s excited about additions coming down the road.
Williams, who also developed Dragon: The Game, looks forward to Thursday’s launch — and to Cash Crop’s future.
“There’s a lot more to come,” he said. “This is not the finish line, this is the starting line.”
To get Cash Crop, go to store.steampowered.com/app/662910/Cash_Crop/.