Far Away takes place on distant planets. All the landscapes, creatures, and other local features must showcase their alien heritage. Players should thumb through the tiles believing the world they are about to explore is nothing like Earth. Of course, the world must also be internally consistent. Every bit of flora and fauna must make contextual sense with each other. Jake and I have been doing some world building to ensure the aesthetics of Far Away give an alien vibe without alienating players.
The mechanics and the setting have to support one another. Far Away’s resources are abundant, all things considered, so the planet has to look lush and rich. There are also numerous creatures, so the ecosystem has to support large herbivores and packs of carnivores. This led us to our starting point for the world: there is consistent moisture, there is dense vegetation, and there is ample available land. Our primary two biomes (base land hexes) are now forest and swamp.
Since there is so much vegetation, we wanted to differentiate it from Earth’s trees and plants. So, we thought about photosynthesis and how it could be changed. Fundamentally, Far Away’s plants still need sun. We also know green is a challenging color to print. So, what if instead of chlorophyll-filled leaves, plants developed a more animal-like organ to convert light into sugar? We settled on these blue “eyes” that are densely packed with cells capable of photosynthesis. Small grasses have more primitive bulbs while larger trees grow giant eye organs atop multiple stalks. Naturally, these organs need protection. Some plants surround their eyes with spikes and barbs, while others shield them with a thick, clear carapace. With this as the dominate plant strategy, we can branch out into variations or other plants taking advantage of these species’ deficiencies.
Player movement is Far Away is mostly unrestricted. We do not want the player to discover unusable tiles. This effectively rules out oceans and mountain ranges. That begs questions about the planet’s tectonics. Clearly, if there are no deep oceans or tall peaks, either little seismological activity occurs or the erosive forces on the world are extreme. Perhaps some of both exist? All our world’s water likely forms rivers running down existing plate boundaries, further digging canyons. This area is our third biome, where minerals and ore deposits are found. We can inform this terrain process through the hex art too. Canyons have jagged rocks and small streams, whereas some of the swamps can show those same jagged rocks submerged in water and slowly eroding away.
All of this geological and biological exploration is an attempt to have a cohesive world. We want players to explore the world through both the game mechanics and the art. We want players to reverse engineer our thoughts and dive deeply into the universe they are now a part of. We want them to feel like they belong to something far away.