Rock Simulator is a joke. But it’s also not a joke.
Its joke status is set up right away on its store page.
“Become what you have always imagined, a rock with no responsibilities, no debt, and no worries. The only thing on your checklist is to exist and watch as time fades away… also to become the golden rock.”
And that truly is the game. There are no controls to set up, because there are no controls. Your role in the game is to watch an image of a static rock, as accelerated time passes around it. The longer you watch for, the more “levels” you complete, and the more rock points you earn for unlocking biomes in which to see your rock, and indeed new skins for your rock.
It is, in the most ordinary way, a spoof of much of gaming. Levels, unlocks, new skins as rewards, and yet your role is minimal (or indeed non-existent). It’s not exactly high satire. I mean, it does the industry-wide “SIMULATOR” font in its title, and that’s always funny, but not exactly original. So why am I posting about this?
Because it’s sort of lovely in a stupid way. It kind of does what it slightly wryly says it’s setting out to do. Let me talk you through my experience.
First up, I obviously tried to move the image with my mouse, then my keyboard, and finally waggling controller sticks. And nope, there’s nothing. You can’t move the camera at all. The Sun was moving across the sky in the background, and that was it. So laughed, rolled my eyes, and thought, “Cute. Next…”
And then I looked a bit closer at the rock. And you know what? It’s a really nice rock. I looked at all the details of the rock, moved my head closer to the screen to study it further. I started to appreciate the detail that had gone into the rendering of such a lovely rock.
Then I glanced at the fractured tree trunk, perhaps once a victim of a lightning strike, and noticed the moss growing on its stump. The Sun was now so high in the sky that it was off the top of the screen, and I noticed that the clouds were gently moving in the background. Very slowly, real cloud speed, somewhat incongruous to the Sun’s rapid trajectory, but nice to watch. And at a certain point I was just very calmly, very happily taking a lot of time to notice the tiniest details of a fairly ordinary image. And that’s a thing.
The next aspect I noticed was that the slowly filling meter along the bottom of the screen was about to be completed, and so waited to see what would happen. Would it tell me I’d won? Would something happen in the scene? No. It just started again, but told me I was now on Level 2. I gained some rocks shown in the UI top right, and it just carried on exactly as it was. I laughed out loud. So now this silly gimmick game had managed to lull me into a calmer state of mind, AND made me laugh!
Next, the Sun began to descend on the right side of the image, and the colours began to change. Sunset, the sky reddening, the gloaming light reflected in the purpling of the rock’s surface, as stars began to appear. A beautiful night sky of thousands of stars, curving overheard as time continued its rapid charge. And all the time I was levelling up, scoring more rocks, and I kind of felt for a moment like I deserved it.
Midway through the second day I clicked back to the menu to see what was now available. The Desert setting was now mine to visit – again a really beautifully realised location, the Sunlight on the rocky vista really compelling to study. And the store within offered some really stupid skins for the rock, like a picnic blanket checkerboard, a purple plastic sheen. I could afford everything but the Alien rock, and the ultimate goal of the game, a solid golden rock for 10,000.
I thought that time passes far more slowly in the desert. It took me a concerning while to realise it just doesn’t pass at all, the Sun fixed in the sky. Which is kind of disappointing, as I wanted to see the stars over this setting. Which is also to say, I was now so into Rock Simulator that I was feeling disappointment at the lack of features.
Somehow I’ve gone from goofily wanting to post this silly thing because it’s so inappropriate to the remit of this site, to really thinking this silly thing meets the remit of this site. I kind of really like it. Even though it’s obviously deeply stupid.
Space, by the way, is a slightly unsatisfying backdrop. It’s just a slowly moving scroll of distant stars, and the big twist – your rock now spinning weightlessly – rather gives away the seams in how it’s built. I felt a bit betrayed by my rock. And while I wanted to unlock the next location, Snow, this one was a bit boring, nothing to look at. Come on, couldn’t it have had a planet or something? In other news, what has become of me?
The reality is, you can leave the game running in the background to keep on levelling up to get more rocks to spend, more locations to visit. I’m cheesing Rock Simulator.
A part of me just thought about telling you what level you needed to reach to unlock Snow, and I realise I’ve now reached the point of wanting to write a Rock Simulator Guide. I might write a Rock Simulator Guide, and post it to the Steam Guides section. I think I’m probably going to do that. (It’s level 15, by the way.)
It’s definitely disappointing that there only appears to be a day/night cycle on the first setting, and it’s definitely concerning that this is a real sentence I just wrote because seriously. At the same time, look at that lovely snowy mountain range. I mean, you can tell this is the Unreal engine, right?
Yes. This is idiotic. There’s no sensible reason to buy it. I really like it a lot.