Sticks & Starships is a game about Ascendancy. It is a game about seeing your place in the world, and your limitations, and setting them aside. You can set your sights on a distant mountain, with a valley full of perils between, and then reach that peak. Or maybe you are tired of looking up at that moon, and not being there. Maybe even one distant day the stars are closer than they appear.
Sticks & Starships is a game featuring a random, proceduraly-generated world with a rich cast of pixel-art beings. The player develops through a massively-complex tech tree, following the path of a civilization progressing through the ages. Slowly they gain the knowledge, tools, and infrastructure to reshape their world and their expectations. It is a game that anyone may play alone, but the real thrill is in sharing. Communities of players may divide up the nearly endless tasks amongst themselves to collectively climb the technological ladder as a symbiotic group, while building friendships and sharing interests. Those amongst them with creative skills may design and culturally develop the group's evironment while others focus on engineering and logistics. Everyone may grow together as people, for a common goal, or for no goal at all other than the joy of experience and sharing.
A long time ago, in a galaxy very close, perhaps even on the earth (or maybe not), our story begins with a simple question: Who are we?
The players find themselves in an idyllic ruin. The world is both hostile and giving. It is full of great savage birds and undead aberrations, and yet is also replete with bountiful resources.The shadows of civilzations past litter the landscape, but no one remembers much about them. The lore and culture that can be gleaned from what remains seems to depict a brilliant race of bird gods who taught the world in ages past.
But who are these mysterious figures? Could understanding these beings be the secret to unlocking our own past and our full identities? The answers to such questions lie strewn across the long path ahead!
Our story takes place on a procedurally-generated voxel world. The basic unit of measure is the half-meter, which is the universal discrete grid size throughout the entire known galaxy. The world is projected over a sphere, and is thus circumnavigable.
The surface is divided into set of diverse biomes demarcated by latitude, proximity to water, and a degree of random chance. Some of these include temperate and coniferous forests, plains and savannah, arid deserts, icy wastes, tropical marsh and jungleland. These biomes are home to more than 50 unique species of plants with nearly unlimited specialized uses, and over 300 distinct materials.
While being rather large, and probably larger than fully explorable to most players, the entire planet is projected to be around 16 kilometers around the equater, and so the player will be capable of eventually mapping their entire world and its resources.
Not only does the world stretch on over the surface, however. If the world is expansive overland, it is endlessly serpentine below. Stretching over a kilometer deep are dozens of strata of stone of varying hardness and refinement, encasing both natural treasures in the form of metals and minerals, and hidden relics from civilizations past. And of course winding through all of these strata are vast and unknowable cave systems, home to denizens both docile and ravenous. These shadow-dwellers become progressively hardier as the player descends, so in order to reap the fruits of the deep, the player must continually improve their equipment, and the infrastructure of their technology.
As the player acquires the requisite tech to penetrate deeper and deeper, so too deepen the mysteries and wonders they will encounter. Vast ecosystems of bizarre flora and fauna based around an exotic chemosynthetic food chain, crystaline caverns, nearly-impenetrable vaults, and terrible underworld full of burning sulfur and seemingly-demonic beings await the well-equipped and well-resolved. Developing the level of civilization and knowledge required to visit these strata will not only entail purposeful collection of very specific resources, but also gradually learning early sciences such as metalurgy and alchemy.
Just as competent farming techniques were the foundation of human civilizations, so too will farming be the pillar of your settlements, and the source of a host of products which will help propel you into the industrial age. The earliest game will be a trajectory toward acquiring the proper tools for farming, and collecting specimens for production. Unfortunately, most of the wild plants found in their natural states will not be viable for easy or efficient farming, so the player will need to use genetic principles to selectively cross-breed many specimens together in order to create plants which are suited to your chosen climate, and highly fertile and productive. Among the crops available to be cultivated in this early phase are flax, alfalfa, rapeseed, beans, and wheat, alongside several orchard trees such as pear-trees, cherry-trees, and raspberry bushes. While several of these provide food, just as importantly they provide essentials such as bio-oil, linen-cloth, and fodder.
If farming is the foundation of civilization, then metalurgy is the ladder whose rungs define that civilization's capabilities. As the player obtains more tools and machines, they will slowly acquire the ability to smelt, purify, and forge increasingly more useful metals. Weak gold or copper tools will require only basic tools such as hammers and stone work tables to craft, whereas tungsten will require considerably more, such as coal coke, high temperature blast smelters, and air bellows.
The placement of technology, even at this early stage, will require a fair bit of planning. As an example, these smelters have the need for a heat-source appropriate to what is being smelted, and an output for purified ores and slag. In addition, many of the apparati used in metal work will generate a large amount of smoke, which will either need to be vented directly to the environment, or collected with smoke hoods and led outside with smoke flues and chimney stacks. The need for adjacency-planning in future technological stages will develop into an artform, when the player has to coordinate fluid and electrical conduits, production and storage facilities, and power-transformers, as one example.
As mentioned above, in order to progress from the middle of this first chapter onward, the player will need to learn and perfect techniques of alchemy. These techniques allow the player to take minerals and plant sources, and identify useful components within them, then to infuse those components in solution and then separate and purify the desired components through temperature-controlled denaturation, distillation, osmotic separation, charge-affinity separation, and simple filtration. These purified components can be studied and then used individually or combined for scores of uses. These uses include the production of industrial acids and solvents, and the brewing of potions used to enhance the player's strengths and overcome various hazards, but even this pursuit is not without drawbacks, as the player will need much study before they are able to produce potions which aren't as hazardous themselves as what they protect against.
The number of materials and their products present in the game is somewhat staggering. Because there are hundreds of products all with their own fabrication patterns, and the uses of the many materials are not always immediately obvious, a useful reference is provided to the player to guide them through all of this. This reference is indexed by material types, and is also searchable; it will provide detailed descriptions of every item, and will provide templates for either how to fabricate each, or where they may be found, as well as to what uses each may be put. This reference is found on the right side of the screen in these interface images.
Found within the world are several dozen types of creature, many of those natively surface dwelling. One example is the "Great Cassowary", which is a large predatory bird which roams the temperate biomes in small herds. These birds are quite threatening to a poorly equipped player, however with the proper gear and precautions, they may actually be domesticated and bred to serve as powerful mounts. Exploring the multifaceted nature of several creatures in this manner will be one of the many paths to further development.
In addition to the hundreds of general-use materials available to the player, there are also many designed specifically for use in architectural design. The player's access to these forms will partially be dependent on technological development, but even early on, blocks such as carved wooden beams and paneling, fine metalwork and glazed windows, daubed and plastered walls, floor parquetry, many kinds of fine brickwork, wooden shingle-board and thatching are all accessible.
Beyond those first wooden, brick, and metalwork elements, the player also has access to highly-detailed carved stone blocks, and intricately-cut stone patterns. The first of these are available in classical Greco-Roman styles. Column, piers and pilasters, pedestals, balustrades, entablatures and beams, and processional stairs are all included. Architectural works of great complexity are easily possible by combining even a few of these elements in a purposeful fashion; with a few of your friends, you might design and construct an entire antique metropolis!
The player has even more opportunities for creativity beyond simply the macro environmental design. An easel system with a layered interface will allow the player to paint original works in many sizes which can later be placed in the environment or copied. An exchange is also planned, whereby players can share paintings they have created online for others to use in their own game environments. Similarly, there is a loom-element, which the player may use to create wearable garments, or even design entirely new player-character skins which they may also share online.
Perhaps most elaborately of all, there will be a midi-based music system. The game will feature a fully produced ambient soundtrack already, however the player isn't limited to this. There exists a piano item, which is a playable instrument where one may either use their standard qwerty keyboard to play, or plug in a midi-controller device such as a digital piano. The piano is much more than that, however, as occupying the piano will bring up a midi-composition suite, where the player may actually compose real music with full range and dynamics. Composing music with this system will produce sheet-music manuscripts. If there is a phonograph nearby, the player may actually record their own compositions to records discs, which can be copied and played at any time; of course this system will also be subject to an online exchange. What all of this means together is that the player is capable of producing beautiful music to enrich both their own game environment, and everyone in the online community of user's experience.
Early Musical Track Review
For more tracks previews and more material on the ongoing audio design part of our process, be sure to checkout our project's Facebook profile, linked below!
The holistic vision we have for this project is admittedly far-reaching. As indicated, we intend for this project to develop into a full-fledged climb from primitive implements to interstellar-traveling starships. Because the project demands the expertise of several disciplines, and because it is irrational to take on such an ambitious undertaking all at once, we have chosen to divide the development into four phases. What you have seen described here makes up the first development phase; the first development phase will be complete when all of the material described here is available to the public in stable form, and we have integrated multiplayer server support. It is our belief that sales and interest garnered during this first phase will likely allow the project to continue on into self-sufficiency.
If the first phase deals with classical-era civilzation, the second phase will address industrial culture. This phase will include cultivating the infrastructure to produce highly refined materials and machinery, and the need to automate tasks which were previously manual in order to develop industry on a much wider scale. The challenges the player will face in this play phase will include designing and maintaining an economy with many material and service needs, such as energy production and storage, power distribution, fluid management, large-scale mining and acquisition operations, and creating engineered solutions to laborious problems. This section will test the player's ingenuity and management skills, and the rewards will be powerful new tools for travel and exploration, and new means to automate constructions.
The third phase deals with information-age technology. This phase will be defined by computing resources and aerospace systems. In order to progress to the end of this phase, the player will actually need to learn to acquire resources found off-planet. To do this, they will need to build the infrastructure to produce, outfit, and ultimately execute manned and un-manned space missions, and find a way to harvest the resources from far-flung worlds. A system of modular parts will allow for the design and fabrication of these vehicles, however quite a lot of testing and theory will need to be grasped in order to master this art-form. The player will also potentially find the challenge of existing in environments very different from their home world, sometimes complete with quite hostile native life.
The fourth phase will be a sort of finishing school. The player will take all of the skills they developed in planning and management from the previous periods, and they will construct massive interstellar craft, which they will live aboard and maintain, as they traverse the stars in search of the final mysteries.
It goes almost without saying that our backer's and our users are the people who ultimately give us the ability to spend our time developing games. We want to thank your for your help, and offer these tiered rewards for your support!
What we can ultimately achieve will be a function of how much time we can afford to spend in development, and the level of specialist collaboration our resources allow us. We are confident that at our first funding goal of $20,000 USD, we have what we need in order to finish our core game engine in a timely fashion, and deliver this to the player, as well as meet all of the above-promised rewards. We fully intend to complete our full development cycle, where we add all of the projected features, however additional resources will allow us to do this with far greater speed and polish. Anything our backers provide us above our lowest initial asking will be applied directly to offering the best possible experience to our users.
Who We are
Chris Bolton, 29, is the holder of a bachelor's of computer science, and an experienced team member with past work at several AAA publishers. He has extensive knowledge in a multitude of computational theories, and with it, has tackled a variety of independent roles in the software development industry including the implementation, debugging, and maintenance of various systems for core engines, games, and tools. He has a strong past game industry experience working on cross-platform games and was responsible for designing, developing, and deploying core technology for independent developers. He is also an expert at engine module assembly, game-physics construction, and environmental rendering. He brings to the project over a decade of C++, C#, Java, and Lua-script coding, among many other languages.
Dennis Varvaro, 27, is the holder of a professional-bachelor's degree in architecture, with an emphasis on historic and traditional design. He has in the past done work in classically-oriented architecture and landscape architecture firms on the US east coast and in Belgium, and has contributed to historic architectural survey work for the Prince's Foundation. He is an expert in architectural computer modeling and general environmental design, as well having experience in digital and watercolor painting media. He is also an adept at several commercial game engine suites and computer modeling suites, and an amateur musician and composer.
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Risks and challenges
Computer game development is a pursuit intrinsically accompanied by delays. We offer dates in order to provide a realistic projection both for our own development pacing and for our backer's information, but these dates cannot be allowed to become our taskmasters. In the interest of providing a product which is worthy of our backer's funding and interest, and our own considerable personal investments, our schedule of projected milestones may often need to slightly extended. Our goal in producing an independent title like this is to create something which challenges present boundaries, and redefines the user's relationship with their peers through digital media. It is simply not plausible to do this with the polish we feel you all deserve on a non-adjustable schedule; we are confident however that many of you will be happy to take this journey with us, in producing something massively fulfilling to all involved!
We are speechless. I will personally paint a large-scale portrait of you wrestling a tiger, or discovering the ark of the covenant, or uppercutting Hitler. Or doing almost anything for that matter. I really will.