Friday, August 29, 2014

Starfall Inspirations

To better explain the atmosphere I want to instill in Starfall, I will share some of my inspirations for the setting. These range in media from movies, to video games, to music, to books. I hope this will both serve to help introduce you to this dark and mysterious world, as well as better codify my own thoughts on the matter.

Video Games

I am drawing on two particular video games as inspiration for Starfall – Diablo and Dark Souls. Both are dark, brooding, violent, and grim. Diablo started and epitomizes the epic loot grind that lies at the heart of any dungeon-delving video game. The idea of constantly returning to a massive dungeon started there, for me, back when I got a copy of the original game for free on a 5.25" floppy (yes, I'm that old). The two sequels expanded on that core and created a game that boils down to killing monsters and taking their stuff so you can improve. I have a hard time naming any game that is more Dungeon Fantasy.

The second game I mentioned was Dark Souls. It is not about the grind at all. It features relatively little improvement; indeed at high levels, you still die in a single hit and can easily take five or ten minutes to defeat a single opponent. What makes Dark Souls special is the atmosphere. It achieves this through its NPCs, never completely explaining the entire story – you are left to fill in the missing pieces with your imagination, and its seamless transitions between regions that give a sense of change and bespeak to the flavor of the upcoming section. You may spend hours working through a cramped, dark abandoned city, walk across a stone causeway to enter a massive castle full of traps just to be whisked away to a bright and devastatingly large, empty abandoned city that feels completely different. A dark stairway downward leads to a dank cellar that opens into a sewer-swamp; stepping into a painting transports you to a world as grim and gothic as the massive canvas portrayed.


While the typical mythological books always bare mentioning – I'm looking at you, Illiad, Odyssey, and Beowulf – I also hope to tap into the descriptions of differentness described in Ben Bova's Mars books, capture the sense of daring and exploration from the Barsoom novels, and the impossible struggle against supernatural forces present in such gothic fiction as Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin, many of E. A. Poe's works, and so, so many of H. P. Lovecraft's.  For that matter, Lovecraft deserves a mention all on his own, considering I draw heavily on his mythos for the general feel of the demons in Starfall.

Of course, I cannot help but be influenced by the works of Tolkein, but I am hoping to deviate from them in this. I want something more grim, more dark, more pessimistic. This isn't a fight to save the world – it is already lost, and it is not a post-apocalyptic mission to create a brave new world – demons are still devouring the old one. I suppose that makes this a transapocalyptic setting, if such a thing exists. I suppose you could almost call it a cross between Lord of the Rings and All Quiet on the Western Front, if you had to.


A wide variety of movies probably lend some piece of themselves to this project, but the main ones are probably based on the books I've mentioned above. Others would include Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill, R-Point, Ju-on, and Ringu: Besudei. A feeling of individual struggle against impossible odds hoping for a happy outcome but generally resulting in futility pervades the setting. People struggle to live another day, not to save the world; the world is already lost. A band of adventurers may fight heroic battles for personal gain, certainly, but the horrors they face should change them. Fun, huh?

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