When we first started sketching Worbital and its world of futuristic interplanetary warfare, we knew we needed factions. It takes two to engage in a destructive planet-to-planet artillery war, but one more on top of that would guarantee the cosmic chaos we were aiming for! To celebrate our release on Xbox One, I figured I’d do some digging and make a bite-sized retrospective on how our three factions developed — the story of Terrene, Lucid, and Celestials.
From its inception, Terrene was intended to be the balanced, the “regular” faction, and it ended up changing the least in development. They’re the jacks-of-all trades with good defensive and offensive options. The original idea was to keep their weapons simple to use and easy to understand, with few projectiles that would need to be manually activated mid-flight, but since we wanted them to have a lot of different weapon types to sample from, they did gain a bunch of trickier unlockable weapons as well.
Each faction was created with an ideology in mind, which is something that would determine not only their visual themes and campaign stories, but weapon loadouts as well. These ideologies were made to be counterpoints to each other to create tensions between the factions. The Terrene are conservative and revere tradition. Their signature weapons include the Shield Defense, to protect the one and only home planet; the Dreadnought, the ostentatious controllable flagship that generates a forcefield around the home; and the Grand Blaster, a ceremonial cannon that is so powerful it can actually derail their planet from its orbit when fired.
The look of the Terrene characters is based on “Hoods”, the mysterious hooded figures featured in our previous, thematically related game Interplanetary. As such, the idea evolved little: they are a hierarchical traditionalist society with a charismatic leader. Early on, I had the idea to make their leader a young girl as a fun contrast to their old-fashioned ways, but her youth would also be a source of a lot of energy… and stubbornness! Grandmaster Rem Amashyo uses her visor to be able to seamlessly speak with her citizens at all times, an idea which came from the always online-culture of teenagers and their phones. Get off my lawn, kids!
Next up, we wanted something powerful. An aggressive, heavy damage dealing faction with less regard to their defense. My first idea was a threat from deep space: Parasites, aliens that feed on planetary destruction and pain. We went ahead with this idea for a while, but I decided to rehaul it after some consideration. Three main reasons: the faction trio at the time started to overly resemble the dynamics of Starcraft; having completely alien factions would need weapons that are so visually distinct that it started to eat into our art resources; and the campaign storytelling would work better if the factions would originate from the same planet. This formed the idea that the factions would start up as one, and split onto their own planets at the beginning of the story. With some elements from another rejected faction, the grounded and old-fashioned Cannoneers, thus was born Lucid, the instigators of this interplanetary war.
Characterized by the coldest of the cold logic and a practical mindset, Lucid eschews any sentimentality, at the cost of empathy. Good intentions, but their mathematical view of the world clashes with the realities of humanity. They’re ready to make any sacrifice for the greater good, which is apparent from their weapon loadout as well. Their Cataclysm hits hard enough to cause a supervolcano on the victim planet and wipe out much of the soil. They also have a unique planet colonization method: the Evacuator actually destroys the Lucid owned planet its launched from, trying to catch their enemies in the explosion.
This one was difficult! Lucid had incorporated the element of ruthless planetary destruction, but there was still something from the rejected Parasites that I wanted: the absolute value they place on cosmic chaos itself and the joy they gain from it. What if there would be a faction that had a religious need to reform the solar system into a new order by changing planetary orbits and destroying the planets that do not fit their views. Astrology instead of astronomy? For a while, I had this thought of these mushroomy mystics with magic-like technology that destroy and move planets to fit their zodiac, not caring if the planets are inhabited. Again, we had to rein it in. The problems were basically the same as with the creation of Lucid: too foreign for art resources and storyline needs.
Enter the Celestials, a clear counter to the Terrene traditionalism. Celestials, a faction born from the horrors of the first blood caused by Lucid, are an idealistic space-faring generation of people, finding their new home on multiple colonized planets among the stars. Their inventions ascend humanity, but their experimental nature causes destruction and chaos. Celestial weapons are gimmicky and heavily based on shifting the movement of planets to fit their needs. They have multiple ways of derailing planets, changing their orbit speeds or even using their own planet to boost into enemies and ram them to destruction!
Three Sides of the Same Coin
These things are born in complex ways, but to put it simply, first we had the futuristic and mysterious Hoods, the old-fashioned and good natured Cannoneers, and the cosmic horror Parasites. Technically: robots, humans and aliens. Fun, although simple, but when taking these ideas and adding the vital ingredient of ideologies, the Factions were transformed into something a bit less generic and something that can be used for building a little story. Now, the secure, but regressive Terrene; the practical, but callous Lucid and the progressive, but chaotic Celestials make up a pretty satisfying triangle in my opinion. It was a shame to have to throw away the Cannoneers and Parasites, but hey, at least they live on in some form!