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 Post subject: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 4:12 am 
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I've gone through several major revisions for the concept of the game world--how they look, how they would tie into the gameplay. This is a short outline of roughly the first full year of preproduction and the concepts I considered--though you'll have to wait to see the pages more of sketchbook sketches not yet scanned.

One of the very first, and admittedly still key inspirations is Tsutomu Nihei's BLAME! (pronounced 'blam' apparently, go figure Japan), which features the world of "The City", an excerpted page seen below:

(for those that don't bother to read, this is not my work)
Image

I washed out of reading the damn thing once he got into predictably insufferable manga lore conventions--but the first chapter or so (and the visuals throughout) are still worth the price of admission. The City is huge, as in very possibly Dyson Sphere huge, and the protagonist Killy tends to run afoul of all manner of cyborgs and subhuman/former human ghoulies of all stripes in this monstrous world.
While I don't really go for the greebly tech downer thing going on here, there were there are some things about this that inspired AM early on. The idea of a tech dungeon, first and foremost--with the sort of back to basics dungeon-related things, the roguelikeness, that it would imply for a game. Architecturally, harkening back to some 70's/80's science fiction paperback cover art, too. Nihei's work is really excellent in evoking scale. There's an added bonus that when the world is this never ending tech labyrinth thing, you're off the hook as a world designer creating reasonable bounds.

So even at an early stage, roughly a year or so ago from the time of this writing, I wanted to build some kind of science fiction world but with a more grounded perspective on the player character, his/her abilities, and for those that lived in the world. Go big and fantastic on the background, keep the foreground (characters and such) believable.

Outside of my sketchbooks this is the very first concept for this project, the file dated January 4th 2010.

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It may or may not be obvious here but the governing formula really was just BLAME! + ANOTHER WORLD. The Another World angle--more stylized approach to the visuals--was an initial approach to making the art asset production for the game more manageable. I still might spec out a look that resembles it, but I doubt this is anything like how the game will look. For one thing, how I paint is very different from the way I make 3D assets. But more on that later I suppose.

This was the next step, file dated to May of 2010, the Panopticon.

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Still assuming a BLAME!-like world structure I struggled to give the world a better sense of form and purpose, and having a killer visual from the very beginning of the game, where you look up from the squalor of below (and yeah by the way I am indebted to Tiphares from Gunnm too, while we're at it). I ended up essentially applying the Citadel lesson from HL2. But my Citadel was to be upside down! This to me seemed a masterstroke for flow:

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With this layout, you could conceivably have the big evil tower, the ultimate fortress always in view of the player's progress, but at that most critical moment of approaching it, the player would actually reverse course again, going down to the top, not up. At this point I am less sure about why I was so excited about this idea beyond some vague idea about implementing a New Game+ condition based on some overly neat narrative logic of putting the player from the top of the inverted tower back down to the start in the below "city".

The trouble was is it wasn't clever enough. And a lot of people, including Pariah Dog, who got a glimpse of this piece out of context a long time ago, thought the tower just looked like a penis. Soothsayer is he. More than that, I felt like I was going to end up boxing myself into making a whole game set in this dreary tech-labyrinth setting, which was less than appealing.

Panopticon take 2, Morning Star Station:

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Same basic idea, but a different take on the inverted tower. A cleaner tower structure topped by a menacing shape called a hyperbolic dodecahedron. I wanted to suggest more of a military installation, surveillance. This stage of preproduction I was hugely influenced by a book recommended from BLDGBLOG called Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism by Stephen Graham. Highly recommended, by the way. If I hadn't been lensing it more specifically as research for my game I might be utterly terrified at the possible futures it suggests is coming and in many ways is already here for our world cities.

But was the inverted tower anchored in space, or was the whole complex underground, like so? :

Image

This went on for some months with plans for all kinds of things, like a whole mirroring complex for the fake sun in the fake sky, and how the bad guys could probably even change the time of day at will, a power the player might at some point gain themselves... much of the gameplay also predicated on piercing various forms of securitization and barriers, both social and physical. That sounds pretty airy but I am sure I will expand upon it at some point--and as with the other stages there is some DNA from this stage that remains.

The big problem with it was the same as the previous one--getting boxed into making one huge contiguous environment I realized was a bad idea for quite a number of reasons. Least of which I might get bored with it, far more pressing was the thought that the game I was dreaming up started to seem an awful lot like some kind of free-roamer/sandbox, and I had enough trouble with keeping the project scaled to be within my expertise without anything so ludicrous as building a sandbox. Prohibitive and doomed to fail on all accounts. But what was more, was that I was losing a grip on the images that first came to me, that had more to do with forward motion, travel through some kind of monolithic scale science fiction world.

*******

Much later I would come to the current scheme, which borrows something from all of the above while leveraging more unique and interesting gameplay opportunities than any of the previous versions, while also streamlining what would undoubtedly become potentially serious problems for level design.

But that's for part 2.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 5:54 pm 
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i actually think your redesign looks WAAAAYYYY more phallic than the original. the original looks like an inverted sky scraper with a globe on the end

the second looks like a truly terrifiying phallus. like, seriously fucking scary (it has spikes!). the suspension bridge is great though.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 6:57 pm 
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The suspense! Will anything end up looking like a penis? Stay tuned!

I will take your name-drop as a recommendation and take a look at Blame and Gunnm, if only to catch the reference. The black and white picture that you drew* at the top of the post reminded me of Le Carceri. I'm not super familiar with it, but it has the same feeling as that early concept art, too. And personally, I think that the upside down tower thing is a pretty kick-ass idea.

The Panopticon, sheesh. How could you not make a game (or Transformer character) out of that concept. Staying tuned.



*I know, I read it.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 24th, 2011, 7:17 pm 
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Piranesi's Carceri is another reference point, I have an oversized folio of those etchings. Really wonderful stuff, kind of caves your head in to be looking at for all the world looks like a contemporary fantasy scene and then find out it's hundreds of years old. But then if you were wandering around and contemplating Roman ruins in Piranesi's time (absent most of the modern buildup we know today in Italy) you might end up doing drawings like that, too.

And while we're citing reference points, Terry Gilliam's Brazil is another one. One of the towering cinematic triumphs of imaginative vision from the 80's, like Blade Runner Brazil is often cited yet rarely understood for its synthetic genius. There's an awful lot in the movie that looks like "steampunk" now, but I think the essential misstep with that whole hollow aestheticism is that it foregrounds tech over people.

(how's that for a post.)


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 27th, 2011, 3:21 am 
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artemas wrote:
i actually think your redesign looks WAAAAYYYY more phallic than the original. the original looks like an inverted sky scraper with a globe on the end

the second looks like a truly terrifiying phallus. like, seriously fucking scary (it has spikes!). the suspension bridge is great though.

First one made me think of final fantasy viii's lunatic pandora, though upon viewing a picture of it they don't really look that much alike.
Image

I am looking forward to part 2


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 27th, 2011, 6:41 pm 
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i really love the one coming down from the sky, pretty scary looking and cool


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 29th, 2011, 12:19 am 
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gausswerks wrote:
BLAME!


Please give me lots of jaw-dropping, vertigo-inducing shots of architecture.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 29th, 2011, 5:08 pm 
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First poster here, found your blog and learned a lot from your postings. Saw you had a forum and had no choice.

So far this looks damn awesome.

I'm not sure where you are now on this thing, but to avoid the phallus look maybe there could be a another shape instead of a sphere?

Maybe something like a sleek, metallic (maybe even chrome) disc? Almost a 60's UFO kinda thing? It could even provide a hazardous play area for a finale if it was porous.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 30th, 2011, 1:02 pm 
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xalener: hey thanks man, and welcome to the forums. I'm not sure where the inverted tower structure is going to fit in but hopefully there's a place for it, somewhere. I like your suggestions and will keep them in mind, thanks.

BobSagat: fully intending to, as it happens. :mameshiba:


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 30th, 2011, 8:14 pm 
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Maybe you could suspend the sphere from a cable/series of elevators at the bottom of the tower? Give it some other spires or appendages?

Alternately, just make it a literal giant dong in the sky and call it a day.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 30th, 2011, 8:23 pm 
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The question of whether or not to use the tower isn't really what I meant to table here, but I haven't posted the second half of the discussion so it's my fault entirely. As I hint at toward the end of this piece, most of the world designs that involved the tower also started sounding an awful lot like some kind of open-world setup. And while I'm dedicated to player being able to make their way towards objectives freely and approaching as they care to, an actual sandbox environment is prohibitive in more ways than one, least of which mission design. There are a lot of reasons why missions in sandbox games have certain shared qualities.

Anyway, what it will be more like is a series of discrete levels. Both for more realistic development concerns (being able to pull a level that isn't working, or say resequencing them), but also because I think it gives a more natural rhythm to how the game could be played. But more on that soon. Just need to get the bit about the train up.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 30th, 2011, 8:49 pm 
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On the other hand, don't stress out about the concept posts when you could be working on the game. No sense in spending all your energy writing and none doing.


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 Post subject: Re: evolution of The Spiral (part 1 up)
PostPosted: March 30th, 2011, 9:04 pm 
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Certainly not, thankfully they go hand in hand. Coming up in polycount, an online artist community, I get a real boost out of the cycle of sharing work in progress, getting feedback, and then the reaction when the finished piece is posted.


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