All pieces of concept art featured here are rough sketch ideas – they most likely will not be representative of the final game product. The trees and background forest image are sourced from the internet, links are here.
The player has crashed on an alien planet that is far away from the nearest Sun. As a result of this, the world is in darkness during the day and pitch-blackness during the night. The player will need to use the provided torch in order to see.
The torch also has a small amount of power in it, that can be used to briefly power up Crashed Starships (to gain Lore Logs) and other story-related elements. If the player chooses to do this, the torch will be disabled for 1 minute, before starting to glow brighter and brighter until it reaches its full strength again after 5 minutes.
Healthbar & Inventory –
The player has a healthbar at all times, which can be seen on the top left hand corner of the screen in the concept art below. Certain environmental objects and events can decrease the player’s health (for example fire, fall damage etc.). The only way the player can regain their health is by sleeping through a night in the Aeoniflyer.
If the player loses all of their healthbar, they will die. They will drop one of their Special Items (selected randomly) on the spot, and will respawn back at the Aeoniflyer. If they return to their Death Point they can regain said item.
The player also has an inventory, in the form of a toggleable UI element. From here they can see which of the Special Items they currently have, as well as having limited communication with their ship, the Aeoniflyer. They can activate its sound-based beacon, and use it to find the ship if they become lost. They can also use the system to translate and view Lore Logs that they have collected, as well as certain story-based logs when they complete elements of the game narrative.
Interactive Environment –
This is the main mechanic of A Starless Sky. Interacting with certain objects within the world (Trees, Plants etc.) can have an effect on the environment around them. These objects include:
- Trees –
- Purple Tree –
Touching or even just brushing these poisons the player. They will lose 5% of their healthbar every 2 seconds for the time they are in contact with the tree. After this, the poison effect will last for 10 seconds.
- Blue Tree –
Touching these lights the way – pointing in the general direction of the closest Ruin or Crashed Starship. These can be very useful if the player needs a Special Item, but is unable to find one of the locations.
- Green Tree –
Getting close to these causes a branch to swing down and hit the player, launching them forwards. This causes them to lose 20% of their healthbar. This can be a good or bad thing depending on what the player is trying to do, for example utilising the launching effect to gain access to another area.
- Red Tree –
Getting close to these causes sparks to fly out – causing a small forest fire and temporarily (2 minutes) making the area impassable. The fire will damage the player (10% of their healthbar for every 2 seconds they are in it) and kill any wildlife caught in it.
- Yellow Tree –
Getting close to them causes an electromagnetic pulse to be emitted, disabling the player’s torch and HUD for 3 minutes.
- Auburn Tree –
Touching them causes a vine to lower down from its branches that the player can swing with. This can be used to swing across large gaps OR can be taken from the tree to be used later – it has a one time use. The detachable vine can be attached to certain tree branches and used for swinging or lowering down.
- Purple Tree –
- Small Plants –
- White Plants (glowing) –
Touching these teleports the player to a different location. It is usually not a place the player will want to go. (70% chance of being within 100 metres of an Unseen, 30% chance of being within 100 metres of a Ruin or Crashed Starship).
- Purple Plants (glowing) –
Getting close to these causes the plant to expand after a few seconds, perhaps blocking the path of a creature chasing the player, or if they are not quick enough blocking the player themselves. The plant will stay expanded for 10 seconds, before returning to its original form.
- Green Plants –
Touching these makes a giant tree/stalk erupt from the ground that the player can use to climb up and reach higher areas. After 10 seconds, the stalk will retract back into the ground where it came from.
- Yellow Plants (glowing) –
Touching them injects the player with a powerful formula that temporarily (30 seconds) allows them to run super fast. This is very useful for escaping the Unseen.
- Black Plants –
These are the Unseen’s attempt at taking over plant life. Getting close to these will cause them to come alive – stopping at nothing to keep the player there until an Unseen arrives. They can stretch and expand around the the player to trap them, and create dark manifestations to surround the player and stop them from escaping. Once they see the player, they will have 20 seconds to get away before an Unseen will arrive to kill them. The only way to stop the Black Plant trapping the player is by using the Light Sword.
- Blue Plants –
Touching these causes nearby water areas (ponds, rivers etc.) to drain and the water from them to move rapidly towards the Plant. The area will be flooded temporarily (2 minutes) and the water will then return to the water areas. The water will rush into the area, so if the player is still nearby they will be carried away by the current. Can be useful if an area the player wishes to reach was previously underwater, or to escape rapidly from an Unseen.
- White Plants (glowing) –
The player can use these objects to navigate the environment. For example, say there is a location up high that the player cannot reach. They could search around for a Green Plant and interact with it, making a giant stalk erupt from the ground. The player could then climb this and gain access to the location up high. After interacting with the objects, they will be out of action for 10 minutes before being usable again.
The player can also use certain environmental objects to hide from the Unseen. These include bushes, shrubbery and certain trees. They use the “E” key to hide upon interacting with the environmental object. The player must also turn the torch off by pressing RMB, otherwise any Unseen nearby will detect them even if they are hiding. The objects that the player can use to hide in are infrequent in the game, so the player will not always be able to rely on them if they encounter an Unseen. The hiding objects do not appear in any of the story-based locations (the Maze, Vessel or Sinkhole) or the Crashed Starships or Ruins.
The Trees and Plants will be semi visible in the environment around them. Here is an example of what that could look like:
The player will be below the treeline, so the different coloured trees will be difficult to see versus the standard ones. Some plants glow and some do not, so care must be taken by the player when navigating through the forest. The torch is essential for this. Some objects will help the player, but others will hinder them.
If the player sees a potentially harmful plant in front of them, they can choose to attempt leaping over it (although depending on the plant this will not always work – if it is activated by proximity for example) or brave getting close to it. If the player sees a potentially harmful tree in front of them, they must either find another way to gain access to the area, or use a Special Item to get past the tree without being detected (the Visible Ring). The interactive Plants are much more common than the Trees, so that the environment is balanced (i.e. so that not too many areas are blocked off by potentially dangerous Trees).
Day/Night Cycle –
The alien planet has a day/night cycle. As stated before, during the day the planet is in darkness (the player can make out silhouettes around them without the torchlight) and during the night the planet is in pitch-blackness. The day lasts for 20 minutes, and the night for 10. Players can choose to either brave the night (and use their torch to navigate) or head to the Aeoniflyer to sleep through it. The Unseen become much more aggressive at night, and are able to see the player from much greater distances as well as being able to move slightly faster upon sighting the player. The other creatures go into hiding and are not seen.
There are two types of weather on the alien world. Clear skies (where everything is normal) and thunderstorms (which last for up to 10 minutes). When storms occur, visibility is decreased (the world darkens slightly, obviously if it is night then this has no effect) and rain begins to fall. Occasionally, there will be a thunderclap and a flash of lightning. The rain and thunder will most likely hinder the player as sound is a key element of the game, and it will be difficult to listen out for potential threats while heavy rain is occurring. However, the occasional flash of lightning will give the player a split-second to see everything around them in bright light, so thunderstorms can also be useful. It is up to the player how they choose to utilise them.
There is also a small range of local wildlife that inhabit the alien planet. These include:
- The Critters (small, passive) –
They do not attack but sometimes follows the player around, curiously. They move quickly, and if an Unseen is nearby they will move very rapidly out of the area. They are semi-rare, only spawning during the day and appearing only if there are no Unseen within 100M. Their behavioural patterns can be useful to the player, as they can be used to roughly judge if/when there are Unseen nearby.
- The Runners (large, passive) –
They move slowly (at first) and do not attack the player. They will however run away very quickly upon sighting the player or any other wildlife. If they happen to run towards the player, then the player can fall underneath them and be accidentally stomped on. If this occurs, it will cause the player to lose 50% of their healthbar. The Runners spawn rarely, only during the day and when there are no Unseen within 150M. Like the Critters, their behaviour can be used by observant players to detect nearby danger.
- The Unseen (large, hostile) –
They are the most formidable foe on the planet, and the main antagonist of A Starless Sky. They spawn semi-frequently across the game’s map (higher spawn rates in story-locations) and tend to hunt on their own, although if other Unseen are nearby during a hunt they will join in. The creatures are almost invisible (only a shadowy form) with a glowing eye. They move slowly (at first), and use their long legs to transverse the terrain. They will hunt down and attempt to kill the player on sight, as well as any other wildlife that they spot. The best way for the player to detect them is to listen out for their whispers.
Upon sighting the player, the Unseen will go from its standard slow patrolling movement to a high speed sprint/gallop in an effort to reach the player. The Unseen are slightly faster than them, so the player will need to move quickly in order to evade the oncoming creature. The Unseen can leap across gaps in the Tree Levels, as well as being able to jump fairly high to grab the player if they are attempting to ascend a Tree Level, however if the player is successful in going upwards the Unseen cannot follow them.
In terms of evasion, the player can hide, use one of the Special Items or interact with certain environmental objects in order to combat the Unseen or escape them. If the Unseen catches the player, they will lose 100% of their healthbar so the player will die. The Unseen will then return to its standard slow patrol movement. There is also a giant version of an Unseen creature that appears throughout the game. It is part of the story and only appears in story-based events. Due to the darkness and story locations, it is hardly seen.
Sound is an important element in the game. The player must rely on it heavily to detect wildlife as their vision is impaired largely by the darkness of the planet.
- The Critters emit a high pitched chirping, as well as a quiet pitter-patter noise when they move about. If an Unseen is nearby, they will emit their chirping but much louder, which can help warn the player if they are listening out for it.
- The Runners emit a low mooing, similar to a cow, as well as a dull thumping noise when they move about.
- The Unseen emit a low, creepy whisper. If they sight the player, the whispering will become more intense and rapid.
- The giant Unseen makes loud footstep noises that can be heard getting closer and closer as it approaches. The creature also emits a loud roar upon sighting the player.
The planet itself also has a lot of ambient noise, such as the trees moving in the wind. Just before nightfall, a whisper will sound that is similar to the Unseen’s, but slightly deeper and lower pitched. This is to alert the player of the incoming night.
One of the key aspects of A Starless Sky is exploration. The player will be encouraged to explore as much of the open world around them as they please, and they will be rewarded for doing so. The world features a number of collectables that can be found in certain locations and can be retrieved by the player. These include –
- Special Items –
- The Light Sword –
The most powerful of the items. It can repel Unseen for a short amount of time, as it can glow very brightly and they do not like light. Upon the player using the Sword, the Unseen will visibly recoil and will move rapidly out of the area, as well as whispering furiously. The player must then escape, as the Unseen will return after a few minutes. The Sword needs to recharge for 20 minutes after every use.
- The Unseen Shield –
This can shield the player once from an Unseen attack per encounter, if they catch up to the player. Upon attempting to kill the player and striking the shield, the attacking Unseen will bounce backwards and be visibly stunned for a few seconds before attacking again. The player will need to use those seconds to escape. The shield needs to recharge for 20 minutes after each use.
- The Gravity Booster –
Enables the player to double jump. Can be used to gain access to higher areas as well as being necessary in certain parts of the game narrative (navigating the Sinkhole for example). As soon as the player equips the item they will have the double jump ability and it will never run out, except if the player drops the item.
- The Signal Searcher –
Used to track mysterious signals on the planet – can find Crashed Starships if the player has not already located them. This is mainly used to advance the story (tracking the Mysterious Signal for example).
- The Visible Ring –
The player can become invisible for 3 seconds upon use, mainly useful for navigating past potentially dangerous Trees and Plants as well as briefly hiding from any Unseen that pass the player. After use it needs to recharge for 10 minutes.
- The Light Sword –
- Trophies –
- Lore Logs –
Contains lore about the planet or the location that it is found in. This is useful for players wishing to know the full story behind certain game events. The full Logs that can be found are here. Players can collect them all for an achievement.
- Mini Statues –
These can be found in ruins, and are remnants of a civilisation that died out a long time ago. Players can collect them all for an achievement.
- Lore Logs –
The alien planet is not procedurally generated. There are a number of different locations throughout it that the player can visit. Some are related to the narrative and some are related to the exploratory elements of the game. The map is made up of several levels; each being a certain height. The alien planet is one large jungle forest, made up of trees that are hundreds of metres tall and are capable of supporting life and other structures. There are many gaps throughout the Tree Levels that the player can use to transverse between each Level. They can do this by utilising certain interactive environmental objects. Here is a rough overview of what the map could look like:
- The Aeoniflyer –
The player’s starship, and base of operations. For most of the game it is a safe place that they can shelter from the Unseen in. They can also track their location and view their objectives here, as well as view collected Lore Logs and Mini Statues, and see which of the special items they have and have yet to obtain. At night, they can choose to sleep here and regain any health overnight that they may have lost.
In certain story events, the ship can be flown. It uses controls similar to player movement (W and S for forward and backward, MOUSE to point the ship).
- Beacons –
These are story related, and are the parts needed to fix the player’s starship. All three must be visited and the parts collected before the ship can take off.
- Ruins –
These are ruined buildings of a civilisation long dead. The player can discover Lore Logs, Mini Statues and three of the special items here:
- The far left Ruin contains the Light Sword.
- The middle Ruin contains the Unseen Shield.
- The far right Ruin contains the Visible Ring.
- Crashes –
These are crashed starships. The player can discover Lore Logs and the remaining two special items here; the Signal Searcher and Gravity Booster:
- The far left Crash contains the Signal Searcher.
- The middle Crash contains the Gravity Booster.
- The Sinkhole –
This is story related, where the player must navigate down into to retrieve the stolen Aeoniflyer. Lore Logs can be found here, as well as a Mini Statue. The Gravity Booster is necessary to transverse parts of this location.
- The Maze –
This is story related, where the player must navigate through to reach the Vessel. Prior to the story event, this location is inaccessible. There are also numerous Unseen here, far more than those dotted around the map. Several Mini Statues can be found here. The Visible Ring is necessary to transverse certain parts of this location.
- Both the Maze and the Sinkhole contain traps. These include –
- Spike Trap – Upon touching them the player will lose 20% of their healthbar for every second they are in contact with the spikes.
- Fall Trap – These cause the player to fall down deeper into the location. Depending on where they are this can be a good or bad thing, although the player must keep fall damage in mind.
- Alert Trap – These alert the Unseen nearby to the player’s location. After triggering the Trap, the player has 10 seconds to escape the area before several Unseen will descend onto it.
- Both the Maze and the Sinkhole contain traps. These include –
- The Vessel –
This is story related, where the player must navigate through to reach the control room and investigate a mysterious signal. Prior to the story event, this location is inaccessible. Lore Logs can be found here, as well as a Mini Statue.