How To Build A Planet – Indie End

A visual novel, point and click game inspired by FTL? Well that certainly sounds different.


Demos!  Do you remember those?  Little slices of a game to help you decide whether you should fully dive in or not.  I used to get demo CDs with PC Gamer magazine back in the day and play some of the demos avidly.  The ones that were most effective would be ones that had a story with a little cliffhanger ending that would demand I look into the full game.  Also Half-Life: Uplink.  That was awesome.

How to build a planet game jam
The FTL visual influences are clear, but the gameplay has nothing in common with it at this stage.

So here we have How To Build A Planet, from Hexagon Blue (who made the pretty damn cool Unloop).  This was once again made for a Game Jam (still not about competitive preserve eating sadly) called Adventure Jam, in which teams make an adventure game in around a week.  Obviously creating anything of significant length in this time scale is challenging, which is why this game is set up as being the opening chapter of a much larger game.

How to build a planet game jam
You’ll often get a few choices to progress the plot.

Due to its short nature, I won’t say too much about the story.  You, as Oizo Lumiere, wake up from stasis aboard the Darwin, a ship seemingly seeking planets suitable for terraforming.  You’re met by the robot Beasley (who I loved) who explains that you and the crew have been asleep for around 7 months.  After a brief walk around the ship and a few conversations, some odd things happen resulting in a significant discover.  And then we cut to black and the story ends on a cliffhanger that had me wanting to find out more.  The story plays out in about 10 minutes but did enough to make me want to learn about what happened and where the plot would go.

How to build a planet game jam
Beasley! Easily my favourite character in this so far.

The game plays a little like a visual novel at this point, with a few choices in each room and some conversations to have.  You travel to rooms by clicking on them and select an option.  I wasn’t sure which rooms to head to at first, but this just lead to me exploring the ship and in most cases I simply needed to find and speak to one of the crew members.  At this early stage there isn’t a great deal in terms of diverting from the main path, but there are supposedly plans for this in the future which I’ll go into shortly.  The game’s environment looks strikingly similar to FTL, with rooms spread throughout a top down view of the ship.  The art work of the characters is all distinct (again, Beasley is a standout here) and those that can be interacted with have identifiable personality traits that will likely crop up later.

How to build a planet game jam
The spots in the rooms represent characters to interact with.

This is chapter 1 of a game with a much larger story, described as a sci-fi thriller.  There are plans for this to be a visual novel with point & click adventure and puzzle sections when the game gets a full release next year.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.  I have hopes for a branching story and more characters to arrive.  I have no idea if this will happen, but that’s half the fun of demos: where will this game go in the future?

How to Build a Planet was developed by Hexagon Blue.  I played the game on PC and recommend you give it a go (click on the link near the start!) if you’re interested in seeing the beginning of a science fiction story that has potential.  And with such a short play time, what have you got to lose?  I for one am looking forward to seeing where this goes and will post about this again once the final game is released.  Get the game and give it a go here: Link!

Unloop – Indie end (it doesn’t even matter)

Game Jams!  No, not a tournament involving the competitive consumption of preserves (as delicious as that sounds), but competitions amongst indie development teams!  The idea of a Game jam is for teams to create a game within a time limit, sometimes involving a certain theme, and have often resulted in some real gems.  Just look at Superhot, a game originally created for the 7 Day FPS Jam, and the success that has come from it.  Whilst the final game is far more than was originally created, the game that was put together was pretty stunning for such a short period of time.

Resistjam is one such competition, with games revolving around resisting oppressive regimes (which considering the present climate is really rather relevant) being created between 3rd and 11th of march.  At the time of writing, there have been 215 entries which is a whole lot of game!  I’m going to look at one in particular though: Unloop created by Hexagon Blue.

Some of the early dialogue choices. The art style is quite unusual but it works for the world that has been created.

Unloop is a short point and click game with a narrative focus (I’ll avoid any spoilers here, as going in blind makes a bit of a difference).  We awake in a strange machine as Alby, a scientist involved in time travel experiments, who is approached by a very excited Ben.  We quickly learn that their time travel experiment has been successful and Ben dashes off to being analysing the results of their success.  I won’t say any more, but through exploring the small environment, we learn a little about the oppressive society they live in before events take a turn and the story grows with some unexpected turns.

Time, unsurprisingly, plays a part in the story.

The game has an unusual art style, with characters being made of voxels (the style reminded me somewhat of a grim 3D Dot Heroes) and a muted colour palette punctuated by bright reds and greens for the machinery you can interact with.  As a look it’s quite different from most point and click games, but it works for the dystopian near future setting.  The music is good and suits the setting well (it’s been stuck in my head for a surprising length of time), but sound effects are rather limited due to there not being many moments that would require them.

The view from the building’s window suggests a near future setting.

It’s difficult to talk about Unloop without spoiling anything about it.  However, you can interact with various objects in the environment to learn more about the world, and talk to Ben to progress the story.  You do have dialogue options, but the majority of them do not effect the game’s story.  The final choice, though, has implications that aren’t explored.  I would have loved to know what happened based on the decision I made, but I would put this down to making your own conclusions being as a great deal of the world and its machinations are kept hidden from you.  The game can be finished in around 10-30 minutes, meaning it’s certainly worth a try even if you don’t like point and click games (I would be one of those people) as its not much of a time commitment.

The machine that’s the source of all…well, I’d rather not say!

Unloop was developed by Hexagon Blue as part of Resistjam.  I played the game on PC and would recommend you take a look at it.  At the low, low price of nothing and only needing around half an hour to play it’s worth a go.  As a narrative point and click game it’s pretty good, especially given the time scale it was made in.  Unless, of course, they have a time machine…

Disclaimer:  I know one of the developers of this game; this write up is an honest reflection of my opinions but that fact should be noted.  Nothing has been exchanged for any particular kind of write up.