Skyward view of the DropRoom on Aether II, with ancient lighting structures illuminating the surrounding rock

From an artistic standpoint, the work in Xeno is really pushing my boundaries.  I have no background in the arts, which is becoming redundant for me to say, and I find myself constantly testing this boundary by studying concept art more and more.  With each passing week I step further into sites like Artstation.com and ConceptArtWorld.com in order to garner a kind of "metaphysical understanding" of the realms in which I have to move.  The work on these sites is exquisite, and really does aid in my own work and imagining the world and entities which will sit and move and populate Xeno.

At my core I want to be a video game designer, and as it stands I wish to approach this motive from an emotional perspective.  That is, I want to engage the player/s through a firm grip on their imagination.  Personally, that is how I am captivated.  The work of game designers and artists whom have designed games like the Dead Space, Mass Effect, Halo, and Resident Evil series, have riveted me by pulling me into their vibrant worlds full of wonder and detail.  The same has been true of my life studying Astronomy over the past thirty years.

Dead Space 2 Fall to Titan Station, the hollowed-out Saturnian Moon which doubles as both a human mining resource and residential colony.  This game was beautiful and inspiring.

My mother bought me my first telescope when I was in 3rd grade at the age of 9.  I still remember, as clear as yesterday, where I was standing in our backyard when I first looked through the tube and saw the Moon.  It was so close, the face so gibbous and pockmarked with craters and mountains.  I felt as though I could reach out and touch it.  My wonderment was profoundly touched and a lifetime of searching for that "tickle" of the vast-yet-familiar unknown was, at that moment, unlocked forever.  I wish to convey this kind of wonderment to the players of my games.  I do realize that this is a mammoth proposition for a massive endeavor.  It takes a clever and knowledgeable teacher to commit to and successfully perform such a feat, and in many cases more than one teacher (I am lucky to have Michael alongside me in this endeavor).  Not only must one be deeply knowledgeable in the subject matter within which one wishes to focus, but she must also understand the medium through which she wishes to teach.

I can confidently say that I am no longer struggling in this regard.  Every day I become more confident in my strengths, but am also nowhere near proficient enough to be comfortable that what I am doing is yet effective.

I don't know if what I am doing will work.  I can only continue learning and tweaking my work depending upon the reactions of the players.  As of this moment, our first public prototype will be released on May 25th, 2014, and I am hugely excited for this.  We are still completing and finalizing animations for the Femme XMSuit, both First- and Third-person models, as well as the hostile Dead Rover creature, both of which will be seen in the prototype.

The hostile Dead Rover creature, one of many biological forms on Aether II.

As for some teaser info on Xeno, and a major reflection of our desire to touch upon the player's imagination, a large part of the game will be the "Lore" mechanic.  Mike touched on this with his blog post from last week, but to be more candid, the Lore will be deep and integral to Xeno's immersion.  Nearly everything in every planet will be able to be "studied", with a mouse aim and the click of a button, and cataloged in the XMSuit's "Encyclopedia," and accessible as readable information later, or even in-situ.  Everything from a planet's atmospheric chemical composition, to the ecology of hostile and/or neutral biology, to residual energy signatures from a long-extinct alien civilization through which you tread, will be explained to the player (to the best of the narrative's "in-game" knowledge and analysis) and will hopefully leave the player wanting more.

Each and every piece of Lore will also give the player additional Upgrade Credits which can be used to increase the myriad Skills available to the Player's XMSuit.  These added Credits will be very small per piece of Lore, but there is so much Lore to be analyzed that they can quickly add up.  As with everything, we will be examining this Lore->Credit relationship further along the testing phases for the next few months, but we will adhere strictly to the "immersive" principle, which relies on the wonderment of the player's imagination.

Mass Effect 3 "Codex" example, part of our inspiration for the Lore mechanic in Xeno (Copyright: EA, BioWare)

Metroid Prime "Scanning" tech, another inspiration for our Lore mechanic (Copyright: Nintendo)

Metroid Prime "Scanning" tech, another inspiration for our Lore mechanic (Copyright: Nintendo)

That's all I have for you for now.  Check in next week for more juicy tidbits on Xeno, our 2-player Co-Operative FPS-fest!  Thank you for reading!