Making worlds alien

Here’s a concept screen for an untitled NES collaboration slowly taking shape.


I tried thinking material this time. I followed a certain order to work out the details.

  1.  First, define what ground looks like.
  2. Put that in a context. Ok, so we’re in some sort of ravine or valley. I also added a contrasting look to the distant background to foreshadow another set, but that’s beside the point.
  3. Establish what life forms would thrive there.
    I went with two main vegetation strategies: something flourescent, moldy, creeping (thrives in the accumulated moisture of the shadows, may fit a symbiotic nische), and something striving to reach up, with a sensory organ (the eye-like thing) at its extreme. Those are meant to be animated and follow the direction of the closest moving object.
  4. Last, introduce alien-made constructs. Since we’re dealing with a moist environment, piping seems fine. Maybe it’s some kind of managed mold farm? Or a drain system? A structural skeleton? It’s really up to the player*.

alienplanetTile/character usage-wise, it’s acceptably efficient (by designing tiles to be combinable in different ways on the meta-tile level), currently using up 38% of the background tile page. There’s plenty of room for animations, bg-based enemies, or a whole other set loaded at the same time.

alienplane3tFor comparison, here’s a snapshot from somewhere halfway in the set-building process. It is preferrably uncrowded. Levels shouldn’t use every asset every screen, lest you oversaturate the experience.

I’m interested in critique. If you have any, please comment.

*The last step makes a point. For it to feel alien or strange, let it be vague. Example: What’s so great about Alien, the movie? You don’t get told what’s what. It hints at a much larger, wondrous, and horrific universe with schemes and designs beyond the human scope. What’s not so great about alien 3, resurrection, prometheus and onwards, apart from their individual failings? They do their best (worst) to serve the audience a digestible explanation of everything (a substitution for a solid plot), which sucks the life out of the fantasy.