Steampunk Central America: Adventures in Sort-of Verisimilitude

Well, we just wrapped up a two-pitcher lunch at the Sewer Brew Pub with a fan (hi Kris!), so you  know that means: time to write a blog post! So Daniel has been cranking through biome stuff and asked- no, let’s start this over.

The sky above Vancouver was the colour of a television tuned to a dead channel. Daniel entered the gently cultivated chaos of the art room and recoiled slightly. The chaos recoiled slightly back at him. 

“After Steampunk Colorado, what’s next?” — Oh, well then: we could do a desert. Lots of bones, dust, salt, jagged rocks. No? Really? I thought it’d be pleasant. Then perhaps a swamp, something lovely; Lots of plants, molds, miasma, large insects, fevers. No? Not a swamp? If we must then, let us set our sights on:

Steampunk Central America

White sand beaches, tropical forest, volcanoes, cenotes, deforestation, strange statues buried in the sand at the low elevations and giant, scowling basalt heads at the higher; beetles grazing in tropical meadows before wallowing in warm streams. It’ll be lovely. And we still get those fevers in.

It starts with a palette of colours, the right colour for the right sub-biome from the top of the topology to the bottom. It’s all layered like some kind of terrible cake full of dirt and growing trees. Below is a quick sketch I did to give an overview of what could be going on in a roughly Central American biome set:

Literally the broad strokes.

Literally the broad strokes. (And with apologies to our Central American readers — this is all about capturing a certain interpretation of a feeling of reality without being much arsed to be real reality. Which is about what CE is doing in general but with more steam engines. Would it help if I said the word “verisimilitude” here and waved my arms around? Good. It made me feel better too.)

Erupting with enthusiasm.

I’m erupting with enthusiasm for top-down concept maps for biome generation. (If you enjoyed that, I’ve got more. So many more. Er, to clarify: I’ve got both terrible puns *and* biome concept art.)

And while we’re at it, let’s fit some volcanoes in there because why not innit. Lots of drama there. Though I imagine Dwarf Fortress has instilled in players Terrible Ideas and Certain Expectations about the utility of building in the proximity of volcanoes which, I’ll have you know, has traditionally been Frowned Upon. Related: The Clockwork Empire has many traditional Frownings which fall outside the scope of this blog post. And that’s all I’m going to say about lava at this time.

Breathe deep.

Try to hold your breath, the thrice-damned particle engine should have this under control or the Echidna is going to have a rough time of it. This all makes perfect sense if you’ve been paying obsessive attention to our blogging.

Moving right along, this new set of biomes comes with a new set of assets required to properly flesh them out (to say nothing of the Flesh Biome, but I’ll say no more about that either). Certainly some nature objects can be recycled: a rock is a rock whether textured as basalt or rhyolite, though I do get concerned about accounting for proper cleavage & weathering, and any number of broadleaf bushes can be adjusted a touch to become appropriate for tropical climates. Nonetheless, there are some entirely new creations required! Among them: fumaroles spewing clouds of brimstone & other pleasantness, burnt logs, glowing vents, certain tropical broadleaf trees and possibly mangroves alongside some larger coral clusters (to keep the smaller coral clusters & sundry polyps company).

Each time we populate a biome with content, the next biome because slightly easier because 1. we can, as said, adapt material from other biomes and 2. our entire asset production pipeline becomes more practiced. By the end of this we’ll be extruding these things at a rapid pace!

Tropical Highlands

Tropical Highlands transition from volcanic plains. W/ Cenote & karst

Further, I get to be enthusiastic about karst geography. Is anyone not enthusiastic about karst geography? Good, then we’re all on the same page. This special sort of madness is how we ended up with bauxite in Dredmor which is a touch I was also enthusiastic about.

See, the thing is, it’s all too easy to say “oh, there’s some ‘copper ore’, if it’s good enough for Minecraft it’s good enough” as if no one had heard of malachite, tetrahedrite, chalcopyrite, and so on. Or “there’s A Tree”; That’s not good enough,  not for me and not for you dear Gaslamp fans. Verisimilitude. Hand waving here. (I should note: Minecraft’s strength is not authorial world-building– it’s player world-building.)

(But seriously, doing just a little research on anything at all provides a tremendous flavour of internal consistency even if one is mashing together a lot of different concepts using the aforementioned broad strokes. Many games rely on world-building borrowed from movies & other videogames, ending with some sort of blandly incestuous world design. It’s so much more interesting when a game designer uses more primary source material as a basis for creating setting & mechanics. This is what, for example, Sid Meier or old-school Maxis was all about and why those developers made so many compelling and original games. Or take, from television, David Simon’s dedication to verisimilitude that gives his work an amazing life that the rote shambling trope-zombie productions lack.)

I'd like a drink with an umbrella, please.

It’s all lovely ’til you realize everything contains randomly generated fevers. (Not pictured: The Greater Giant Horseshoe Crab & human prey.)

Right, so it’s fun to draw palm trees and cute islands. What I’m not showing in carefully cropped images is the huge spreadsheet of models & textures that I need to write JIRA tickets for. But I’ve discussed that process and it looks a heck of a lot like I’m going to be doing that all tomorrow.

Hope you’ve enjoyed our tropical adventure! Please queue to the left for your coconut drink with a little umbrella in it and a free tropical fever.

21 Comments

21 Responses to “Steampunk Central America: Adventures in Sort-of Verisimilitude”

  1. Fade Manley says:

    I am actually really and sincerely and truly enthusiastic about karst geography. And not just because it’s fun to say. And to type.

    (karst karst karst. karst. KARST.)

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  2. ChocolateWaffle says:

    Holy crap, each post makes me want this even more, I’ll be the first in line when any sort of semi-public testing begins 😀

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  3. Xyvik says:

    *puts vote down* Save the echidna! Save Knuckles!

    …Also, please tell me that we can toss our evil cultists into the cenotes? Or, in a mad reversal, that the evil cultists can toss our citizens in them? Please? Pretty please?

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  4. octopod says:

    …a rock is a rock whether textured as basalt or rhyolite, though I do get concerned about accounting for proper cleavage & weathering…

    (I think you should be OK for using the same object for two different extrusive volcanics, at least. Beyond that, it might be a bit dodgy — granite? no.)

    Is anyone not enthusiastic about karst geography?

    …it’s all too easy to say “oh, there’s some ‘copper ore’, if it’s good enough for Minecraft it’s good enough” as if no one had heard of malachite, tetrahedrite, chalcopyrite, and so on.

    And this is why I hope CE doesn’t come out until after I finish my thesis (in, yes, geology — well, paleontology), because otherwise my thesis won’t come out until I’ve finished CE.

    I love you people so much, you have no idea.

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  5. Darren Grey says:

    “Gaslamp Games, a begrudging source of madness and strange, quiet smiles.”

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  6. The funny thing about the ‘sky the color of a television tuned to a dead channel’ line is that it still works fine. It’s just, instead of being a grey stormy sky, it’s a beautiful clear blue.

    I love technology.

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    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

      — and therefore totally inappropriate for Vancouver.
      :/

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      • Cuthalion says:

        Vancouver’s sky is better. All these blue skies in Not Northwest parts of the world are Plainly Unnatural, not to mention stressful and uncalming.

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    • dtanders says:

      Neil Gaimen used almost that exact same line near the end of Neverwhere to indicate that the sky was a clear blue. I thought it was hilarious, but nobody I told about it got it because none of them had read Neuromancer :\

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  7. Ruigi says:

    By the time you’re done, CE will have mountains, plains, swamps, islands and forests– just like Magic, the Gathering!

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  8. DrQuackzalver says:

    The only danger of this blog is if it’s too good so playing the game will actually be a let down. Also don’t stop postin’ even after you release! … ok, two dangers.

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  9. Thomas says:

    Why would the building of structures around volcanoes be Frowned Upon?
    You’d think that the Empire would jump (In a uniformed and orderly manner) at the chance for free Perfectly Safe steam.
    Just have the Working Class dig add bit of ocean, have the Overseers stand back at a reasonable distance, and … poof.
    Enough to power and grow a colony for generations.

    (..or until the Tropical Fever takes them all)

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    • William says:

      Perfectly Safe Geothermal Energy, now at a colony near you!

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    • Tyler says:

      Wrong, as soon as the tropical fever sets it we can use the perfectly unobtrusive basalt monolith to harvest excess body heat from all the poor useless commoners, thus completing the natural cycle of things.

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  10. Poklamez says:

    A volcano in a flesh biome would probably smell delicious.

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  11. Vahilior says:

    I noticed there was no Cocoa in the list of crops. WHAT THE HELL! you think empires get built without chocolate?

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  12. Robert Tseng says:

    I think Cogs should be a crop. Also, Cthulian (er, cthonic?) tentacles, Fruit of the Elder Tree.

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  13. Donavon Karpinski says:

    Funny, I just finished reading Neuromancer the day this post went up. Hell of a coincidence that.

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  14. Mike says:

    “is there a market for steampunk tropico”
    OF COURSE!

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