In Art Works For Change's BioHarmonious, having a planet dedicated to manufactured elements and another dedicated to natural elements really helps inspire lots of new ideas. It sets a clear stage for the imagination. However it is only a starting point. It was important to do a fair amount of research to make sure we are creating a cohesive aesthetic between the two planets while maintaining two unique identities. A wide range of influences helped inspire and motivate the vision from the game. Without imitating we look for references and identify what works and why we like it. Then use that to inspire are interpretation of the mood and feeling.
(Old inventions along side fantasy imagery and sculpture provide a nice spectrum of inspiration)
(Movies, Design and Games stir the imagination. I usually avoid games, but there are exceptions)
It was also important to do some writing and discussion so that the imagery reflects behaviors and personality. We wanted to develop a character for the nature of these planets as well as the civilization. A character that properly relates to the message of the game, but also will give the player something to connect with emotionally and intellectually.
In a game with little direct narrative, the story and character are all in the imagery. The buildings themselves need to say something about the inhabitants living and working in them. The designs of the wild creatures not only need to be visually stimulating, they need to reveal something about the ecosystem they evolved in. Likewise, the ecosystem should reveal something about the creatures and why natural relationships developed. So the importance is in putting the extra effort in the details and putting those details in for a reason. Nothing is arbitrary or aimless. When we create concepts for this game, we know why the builders built something a certain way and we know the functional purposes of nature (Generally speaking in some cases). They are all rooted in a few basic principles.
The inhabitants of the manufactured planet are of an industrial culture. Much like the American Industrial Revolution, a large cultural theme is the moral of hard work and the drive to produce as much as possible. For better or worse. Playing on those themes, we created a sense of the manufactured planets culture falling in love with its own invention and design. So much so that it is injected into every aspect of life whether it is practical or not, safe or not. The small planet shares a one track mind. Keep working. Unfortunately it is at a cost. Growing pollution, destruction of the environment, wearing infrastructure start to threaten the sustainability of the society. The inhabitants are aware of the issue and are aware of the need for help, but are a bit stuck. They have been working with their heads down so long they are a bit lost on how to change their ways. That is where the player comes in. They need help updating their civilization so that it is healthier and more efficient.
The wild creatures of the natural planet are another story. They exist on the chaotic harmony that is the razor's edge of life. I wanted to really push the the theme of symbiotic relationships between a single creature and it's surroundings. From this came the idea of various creatures having evolved a symbiotic relationship with some sort of smaller life form (usually vegetation). In some cases it appears to be a newer relationship, the GyroBeetle and the Propeller Tree still seem to exist as separate entities in cooperation. The tree provides the beetle the ability to fly, giving it advantages in evasion as a well as food gathering. In return, the beetle provides the plant the evasive protection it lacks, by eating for two the Beetle allows the plant to take root in it's body and create an exchange of nutrients. Other creatures have a much more blurred line in the symbiotic relationship. For example the frog concept. The flower like appendage is used as a lure, much like an angler fish. The relationship having existed for a longer amount of time, the two beings began to merge into one entity. In a dangerous, cramped planet, movement is a mutual benefit for both creatures. The key to surviving the natural world is adaptability.
That is it for this entry. I will try to cut them down a bit to make them a lighter read. Next entry will begin to discuss more gameplay elements and pull the curtain back on the natural worlds environments.