So I may have mentioned occasionally that Fringe Planet is heavily inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, it’s not just his works which inspire Fringe Planet – but other weird fiction authors as well – Poe, Wells, Bloch, Stoker and many more. It’s a genre I love and it’s very easy to work with source materials you love so much.
The primary inspiration for the design of The Void is the Lovecraft story “Dreams in the Witch House”. This is where a student of mathematics is able to travel to a higher dimension which allows near instantaneous transport between two different points in the universe. This higher dimension, filled with eldritch entities and simple geometric structures really resonated with me. I thought it would be an awesome environment to design a game for. Also, the description of some of the structures in this space could almost be described as voxely.
The cold frozen environment which the peons must survive in is also a nod to another Lovecraft story – “At the Mountains of Madness”. This was the first of his works I ever read, and the descriptions of the old technology used, the frozen wastes, the cosmic horror of the city – it sucked me right in. As someone who loves the snow (we really don’t get enough of it in England alas), it’s also awesome to work in an environment which would be constantly coated in the awesome white stuff.
Now I get a lot of feedback on Fringe Planet. Which I love. I get emails and tweets every day about some aspect of the game. I get feedback from people I’ve pitched too as well as from friends and family. Which is fantastic. Getting this feedback allows me to shape and craft the game in ways I wouldn’t have thought off without it. Some feedback that I have been getting recently is as much as I talk about Fringe Planet being Lovecraftian in nature – the screenshots, the videos don’t always suggest it. So this has got me wearing my thinking hat.
There are many themes that are very Lovecraftian that are in the game and also planned. The primary one which is already in the game are the story tellers – the Aspects. These Aspects are ancient entities who watch the peons, and will attempt to destroy them as you play the game. Though they have no physical presence in the game they can influence pretty much every part of the world. The thought of an ethereal entity, watching you, planning against you is unsettling to say the least. The problem is, by the very nature of the Aspects, you can’t exactly go up to them and hit them over the head with a pickaxe. They can’t be defeated in such way. So something I’m working on is a way of making the Storytellers feel slightly less ethereal – but still keeping the cosmic horror factor.
Now onto themes that I haven’t fully implemented yet, but want to. These are split into two groups, things that I’m planning to have at release included in the game and “Feature creep”. The dreaded words of doom to any developer.
Tentacles – this is a big theme and is the sort of thing the majority of folks think about when they think about Lovecraft. I can confirm, I’m very much working on multiple tentacle implements (a sentence I never thought I’d write). Initially there will be a tentacle related resource to harvest. Think about a bush that can potentially fight back. Got some very fun ideas about that. Also, I’ll be bringing more creatures into the game. Initially I’d settled on just 5 in the vertical slice (three of which are currently in game) – but with that being said, there will be some more fauna appearing quite soon – I’ve upped that limit to 8, which should allow me to get a lot of tentacles into the game.
Mutation/Evolution – this is a re-occurring theme across many different weird fiction stories. Being exposed to something that changes a person, or an event triggering dormant genetics (did I mention my great great grandfather actually married a fish person?). There is a lot that can be done with this theme and some of it is very much feature creep. However, it has always been planned to have an aspect to mutation within Fringe Planet. So this is going to get slightly bumped up the development list. The mutation system is a system which is very much designed around the magical aspect of the game. Performing rituals, using portals and magical objects will cause the peon to be exposed to energies that can change them. These energies will build up within the body and when they reach a certain threshold a mutation will occur. Similar to the procedurally generated clothes, you’ll see this reflected graphically on a peon. Expect some very ugly peons come to some screenshots quite soon.
Scale – we are just ants walking across a tiny blue sphere that is drifting through a vast cosmos. Getting the player to feel small when in fact they are nothing but a floating camera is an interesting challenge. One of the early experiments to induce this feeling was the tilt-shift camera. Which looks awesome, however, it’s fairly impossible to play the game with tilt shift turned on because it completely confuses your depth perception. I’ve been prototyping some ideas to give this sense of scale to the game – and it’s nothing that I want to reveal quite yet. This is mostly because it does look incredibly awesome, and a trailer would probably be the best way of showing this off.
Contamination – similar to mutation, but for the environment. This is very much something that has been labeled as feature creep, but it is something I very much want to implement after launch. After the landscape is exposed to something (or too much magic is used in a certain area) to have the landscape itself change in some fashion. Strange colours appearing on the snow, strange growths on familiar plants and animals, voxel creation/destruction. Lots that could be done with this.
So that is it for today’s blog post. Just a quick note however : there is a lot going on with the business side of both Fringe Planet and Sigil Initiative Ltd, a lot of very exciting things. Nothing I can talk about quite yet, but hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to do a nice long blog post talking about everything which is happening behind the scenes.
There is a lot more to read about Fringe Planet… why not try: