Monday, October 3, 2016

Of Dreams, Mice, & Way Too Much Time

What does a game designer do while waiting for a last component to arrive from the printer before he can fulfill his latest Kickstarter rewards?  But of course: he works on his next project, with the (perhaps false) impression that he has all the time in the world since he really should be doing something else but can't.  So much for "way too much time."  Never mind that next year's project is really only a few months down the road.  Honestly.

Calidar Flying Circus
So, I had this idea in "Beyond the Skies" of a flying circus that traveled the Great Caldera--not the sort that Manfred Von Richthofen would imagine, but rather one a fantasy roleplayer would come up with.  Imagine this:  a huge triple-decked, flying platform with a circus on top (big garishly-colored tent and all), surrounded with fun-houses, food vendors, a ghost train, a roller-coaster, and a great wheel powered by diminutive fellfolk running within cables and crossbars like hamsters in a spinning wheel, all of this surrounded by a ring of multiple-level houses inhabited by the circus people and perched precariously at the very edge of the platform.  (Okay, you can breathe now.)  Add giant masts protruding from the sides, fitted with gargantuan sails and massive ropes to anchor them and the big tent at the center, amid a ballet of levitating barges bringing townsfolk from down below to attend the fabulous exhibition: The Greatest Show on Calidar. 

Calidar Flying Circus
The idea is too captivating just to leave it as a mere half-page reference in "Beyond the Skies."  Wouldn't you agree? The thought of something sinister taking place in the shadows while Disney-World-like fireworks flash and boom in the nightly sky is enough to spur me into developing the entire thing.  Meanwhile, as I seize the mouse beckoning me on my desk and hunch closer to the mesmerizing computer screen, crowds in the imaginary circus ooh and aah at the spectacle within. Screaming folks diving and tumbling along the roller-coaster's rickety track nearly drown the tunes of the circus's steam-powered calliope echoing in my head.  I have got to map this!

Calidar Flying Circus
A couple of weeks later, I'm still on that part... but it looks good, and I'm seeing some light at the end of that long tunnel. . . way over there.  Or is this all smoke and mirrors?  Never mind.  I keep soldiering on, because I'm that kind of guy.  It's a challenge, and I don't give up easily.  The plot is written.  The main characters have names and faces.  The main deck is drafted, the lower deck too (where much happens away from visiting townsfolk eyes, much like the underground  beneath ancient Rome's Coliseum), and the level below that, where all the masts connect and their rigging is anchored.  I'm now adding all the colorful detail to the houses at the rim, which illustrate my frantic rambling this morning.

Calidar Flying Circus
It doesn't matter I already know what the adventure will be like.  Designing "a map" is a springboard for the imagination, sparking new ideas and fun connections between the houses' residents.  At first, you see the circus's top view.  But then, details come alive when you remove the roofs and the tents, and peer at what lies below.  I discovered a way to darken lower levels, gradually erasing the illusory dimness around lanterns, giving the impression of glowing light.  Then, there is all the other detail giving the feel that these places are lived in.  You can almost count those muffins in the bakery, the boots in the cobbler's shop, or the dolls in the puppet-master's workshop.  And, what's that vat with bubbling green goo and bones sticking out?  What you see here, today, is but the first few residences--one of eight other housing blocks named "aeries."

Calidar Flying Circus
I only hope I have enough pages in the book to describe everything--and there is quite a lot.  I think "Dreams of Aerie" will be another book with small type, and very little empty space.  Forget about fancy layout.  We've got stuff to fit in, and fit it will.  Hope you enjoyed the peek at the circus people's houses.  It's now time for me to get back to work and finish the other half of these residences.  More later, no doubt about it.  The show must go on.

One more comment: the last component for "Beyond the Skies" KS project, "Skies of Fury" is finally getting close to delivery to the printer.  It looks great and it will be worth the wait!