As we hammer away, getting the core production-quality pieces of InnerSpace in place, our concepts and theories have started to coalesce into something alive and working. That alone has been exciting but, as an artist, I take special joy in seeing our 3d artists turn my doodles and sketches into living, interactable models. Lately, Nick built our Archaeologist’s submarine, a key element in building out the narrative and progression systems of the game.
The Archaeologist has accompanied the Cartographer to these worlds on a mysterious mission of his own. As far as the player knows, he’s there on a quest of discovery, peering into the material remnants of the dead civilizations, just as the Cartographer maps out their geography. To do so, he has his own vehicle- a submarine- which takes him into the sunken depths, where he can research in solitude.
When traversing the skies or seas of InnerSpace, the player can easily call upon the Archeologist, “pinging” his location, which reveals his position on the map. Upon approach, the player can then transfer relics to the Archeologist to be analyzed. With each new object, both learn more about the world they explore, and the player gains access to an expanded, more accurate description of the relic in their possession. As the Archeologist learns more about this world and develops an understanding of its technology, he will offer useful upgrades to the player’s plane, opening up possibilities for exploration.
While we are continuing to develop the game, we know that the characters populating InnerSpace will be few, but significant. Because we’ve cast the Cartographer as a silent, plane-bound protagonist, a character like the Archaeologist- who is the only other person from the Cartographer’s world- becomes an important way to convey character and story information without the use of exposition. Like the player’s own aircraft, the Archaeologist’s vehicle says a lot about who he is, where he’s from, and, perhaps, the nature of your relationship to one another.
The way significant figures appear in games always communicates something about their role and relationship to the player. In InnerSpace, some of our limitations as a small team, and the accompanying design choices, mean that something like another, friendly character is a precious storytelling resource.
InnerSpace has no cutscenes, so interaction with the Archeologist relies upon the player’s choice. Here, as in general throughout the game, it’s important to show who he is and what he does from a distance, in an instant. First off, we have to convey that he’s from the player’s world, foreign to the InnerSpace, without explicit mention. Accordingly, his vehicle echoes the design pattern of the player’s plane, sharing an overall color scheme that correlates to materials shared between the two. Likewise, both vehicles share a vaguely organic, curved silhouette that isn’t found in the constructs native to the game’s world. These basic details establish a relationship of similarity between the Cartographer and the Archaeologist, making the submarine a kind of persistent signpost when the player has a new, mysterious relic to analyze.
Beyond serving as a means of progression, the Archaeologist has his own behavior patterns that play out independently of the Cartographer. While we’re still working out exactly how these will manifest and, indeed, how detailed a simulation they’ll represent, we’re set on the basic design logic. Unlike Ocarina of Time’s Navi or Guilty Spark, from Halo, the Archaeologist doesn’t exist purely for the convenience of the player or the story. Instead, he becomes an entity unto himself that exists in the game world.
As a result, he’s evidence of our general approach to building InnerSpace. We want to direct the player largely by means of their own curiosity, pulling with interesting and curious things to explore, rather than pushing with cutscenes, narrow paths, or the compulsion to level-up. Like a flock of birds fleeing a predator, or a compound of towers waiting silently, the Archeologist becomes an ambient and, we hope, living piece of the player’s experience.