Science is messy and cloning s unlimited ter twin-stick shooter Beacon, PC Gamer

This spel about splicing yourself with alien DNA turns out to be stitched together from influences that are just spil unusual.

Te Beacon, you are what you eat. Or rather, you are what you splice. Ter this roguelike twin-stick shooter, not only do you pick up weapons and equipment left lounging around by the recently deceased, you also harvest their DNA and technology. Back at your pod you splice alien limbs or cybernetic upgrades from your defeated enemies into the next backup clone of the protagonist, freelance space prospector Freja.

Hopefully the resulting cyborg-alien hybrid monstrosity will have more luck than hier predecessor&mdash,Beacon is a roguelike, so death’s likely to come quick&mdash,and no chance to fret about the continuity of existence when both bod and mind can be recreated on a quirk.

I had a chance to speak with three of the members of Monothetic, the team working on Beacon. US-based Kiefen Zipf, UK-based Arran Seaton, and Thailand-based Tay Dunn talked about about how this visually striking shooter blended all of their talents and practices.

PC Gamer: When I very first spotted Beacon, what instantaneously struck mij wasgoed the vormgeving aesthetic. What inspired Beacon’s look?

Tay Dunn: Primarily cyberpunk, anime, and minimalism. I am a big fan of the illustrators Tomer Hanuka (which is where the vivid color palettes came from), James Jean, and the BLAME! manga series. And lots of architecture vormgeving books! My dad studied architecture so I’ve always had a fondness for the kunst.

Beacon is an homage to all those comics I liked when I wasgoed junior and the sci-fi films and designers that have seared themselves into my visual memory. Akira, Satoshi Kon’s work, HR Giger, and Dune came to mind.

. there’s some weird combinations you can get te Beacon where you’re a half-droid, half-bug monstrosity!

Arran Seaton: I came from a background ter HL2 modding, making levels and injecting mapping competitions through my late teenagers. Wij originally worked together on a mod called Canvas, a third-person escapade spel that had a conceptually interesting Psychonauts/Mario 64 vibe to it. Working on that project led directly into mij landing a level vormgeving job at Playground Games, where I worked on the very first Forza Horizon.

After that I moved to Newcastle to join Ubisoft Reflections and worked on The Squad for almost two years. During that time I wasgoed still staying ter touch with the team, helping out with [Half-Life Two mod] Black Snow and subsequently Toevluchthaven [a cancelled Monothetic project], before eventually quitting to concentrate on Beacon once wij established a more concrete idea of the spel.

Kiefen Zipf: Wij also take a lotsbestemming of inspiration from classic sci-fi films. A few off of the top of my head are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Starship Troopers, Blade Runner.

For the very first few years of development I moonlit spil a Dota Two Workshop artist. I wasgoed still living at my parents’ and wij had just embarked working on Toevluchthaven. I figured I could attempt make a job out of it after I eyed a few other artists having success.

Workshopping ideas

Kiefen Zipf designed several voorwerp sets for Dota Two before working on Beacon. His dearest is Charge of the Tundra Warden for Crystal Maiden. (Illustration by Tiffany Boother.)

I had already had a duo of Team Fortress Two items added in-game, but Dota wasgoed a entirely different kunst style and workshop. After about a year of contributing, I actually wasgoed able to get some sets ter spel and wasgoed able to budge out here to San Francisco to live with Tay and our programmer [Mike Corsaro].

Spil: You had some pretty welgevoeglijk success however!

KZ: For the International Dota Two Championships 2014 and 2015, Valve invited some of the workshop artists to attend and showcase their work at a Workshop Section of The International kampplaats. Both of those years I wasgoed invited to forearm out and sign prints of my sets to ventilatoren. It wasgoed a cool practice, both to get invited to the event to observe the games ter person and also to get to interact with ventilatoren interested te our work. It’s always satisfying to see a cosplayer bring something you worked on to life.

How do you apply that practice developing for the Dota Two Workshop to Beacon?

KZ: Learning to adapt an aesthetic and set of models to a set (helmet, armor, bracers, weapon, etc. ) actually translated pretty directly into my work on Beacon. When you diegene ter Beacon, you get the chance to apply DNA you’ve looted to your next clone, providing you a chance to get mutations. The mutation system te the spel has slots set up that let mij add a mutation for Freja’s head, back, arms, feet, and tail, so making mutation sets te Beacon is a pretty similar process to making a Dota set.

Just how you can have wacky combinations of items ter Dota, there’s some weird combinations you can get ter Beacon where you’re a half-droid, half-bug monstrosity!

Tell mij a bit more about each of the factions.

TD: The Prism are the main antagonist. They consist of a workforce of automated droids which patrol the planet. The Prism are the lynchpin of Beacon’s aesthetic, spil it is the very first faction being concepted, I took a loterijlot of inspiration from [Neon Genesis] Evangelion and Neill Blomkamp while designing them. They are very angular and hostile looking, yet sleek. Even with decades-old tech, Prism is still ahead of any contemporary technology suggested on the public market te the world of Beacon.

The Solus are bugs! Alien bugs! The Solus is the prominent species on the planet before Prism came along. For the Solus I just kinda embarked doing something vaguely Starship Troopers-y and ended up with what wij have now. I’ve added a loterijlot of softer, curvy forms to the Solus architecture and enemies to distinguish them from the droids. My big inspiration actually came from underwater creatures and anemones.

The Native faction represents the indigenous population of the planet that is outside of the Solus ecosystem, so it could be all sorts of things. Wij actually project to introduce a few more creepy crawlies ter this category. Right now wij also have the Chilopods, giant space centipedes that can curl up and roll around like spiky wheels of death, and the Karnak, which are pacifist Nautilus-headed tripods.

Most of the mutations are directly based on of enemies te the spel, so whenever a fresh enemy is added I rip it up and find ways to make the parts “grow” out of Freja.

The natives don’t have a very cohesive vormgeving aesthetic, since they’re all supposed to be their own little factions ter their own right. Wij have everything from space raptors to a floating gas bag that wobbles around and munches stuff ter the background.

[The Uncharted faction] is very likely the most joy one. Wij toevluchthaven’t demonstrated off a lotsbestemming of thesis yet. They are basically specimens that Prism have imprisoned te the facility, to either be contained or experimented on. They come from all overheen the galaxy so they could literally be anything, and wij undoubtedly have some wild ones planned.

How do you make odd combinations like that work well together? It seems like it’d be hard to make them adhere to a samenhangend look.

TD: I usually do concept kunst for most of the stuff wij have going te Beacon so the visual vormgeving is still pretty consistent. Right now wij’re at a point where Kiefen can produce a lotsbestemming of organic chunks without needing much input from mij, since he now understands the aesthetic that wij were shooting for. Wij’re te this sort of harmonious balance now, where I do the sci-fi/hard surface stuff, and he does the more organic lumps like the Solus insects or caves, etc.

There is a very clear cut color palette for each faction. For example, Prism is orange, Solus usually bright neon green, Native is subdued brown, etc. Freja and anything friendly or equipment coming from hier ship is usually yellow.

Losing Toevluchthaven

A vormgeving by Tay Dunn from canceled project Toevluchthaven. The Monothetic team realized Toevluchthaven wasgoed impractically large and complicated, and canceled it te favor of beginning of development on Beacon.

Freja is also a relic of Toevluchthaven, which also had a strong female protagonist spil the player character. When I designed Freja, I used my love of both Western graphic novels and Japanese manga spil a base, and she is somewhere ter inbetween. Hier look is very mixed, and it is implied she comes from many racial backgrounds: spil a homage to hier vormgeving spil well spil my vision of the future spil being a conglomeration of many cultures, with countries taking a backseat to self-identification.

Hier sleeves came from thesis indeed cool ’80s-esque perky PVC jackets that I eyed ter a style shoot somewhere that I can’t seem to find anymore, and something that echoes Rachel from Blade Runner with those truly broad shoulder pads. I wished something ordinary and functional yet with a striking aesthetic and landed on this. Hier original vormgeving had hier wearing a helmet that looked like a soccer ball [laughs]. And I guess hier haircut is similar to what I have now, albeit it wasn’t like that when I designed hier!

KZ: Making distinct mutations within each faction is pretty elementary actually. Most of the mutations are directly based on of enemies ter the spel, so whenever a fresh enemy is added I rip it up and find ways to make the parts “grow” out of Freja. Each enemy within the faction has its own distinct gam form or armor color or head, but it still feels like a Solus mutation (the insect faction) or a Prism mutation (the droid faction).

. earlier iterations just have the player arrive into a post-combat wasteland packed with gibs, with the factions killing each other off already.

Spil: Albeit each faction and subsequent player mutation adheres to a certain look and specific colour palette, wij certainly want and encourage folks to mix and match with all the various types of faction DNA to create wonderful monstrosities. That&rsquo,s where the benefits of the modular vormgeving come from: from a visual and gameplay perspective, wij can control how all of those potential combinations intertwine.

Wij look at what can work te terms of affecting Freja&rsquo,s silhouette te interesting ways. What parts of the enemies can wij use to that make sense for our mutation system and their purpose from a gameplay standpoint. The low-poly aesthetic I think helps homogenize the potentially conflicting looks, but yeah wij want to embrace the weird for sure.

TD: Beacon’s science is a bit messy, more Aliens or The Fly than Minority Report. It is not sleek, it’s kleintje of tongue-in-cheek, and it can produce some crazy results!

So you have all this backstory for thesis factions. How is that communicated to the player?

KZ: Everything ter the spel is tied to the factions. Spruit spawns, enemy spawns, DNA and Mutations, the world you’re ter. The factions are a excellent way to add randomization spil well. One playthrough you might fight your way through a Prism mining outpost and find a cache with a Laser Boomerang, and the next you might fight through a Solus hive and find a Quill Cannon.

TD: The factions were something that wasgoed determined fairly early on, spil wij want the player to see and use thesis warring teams to their own benefit. I’ve always loved games that have a more dynamic conflict system like this so it feels more alive, and the world doesn’t feel like it exists just for the player to come ter and fight everything.

Yes, wij had to tweak this a little bit even&mdash,earlier iterations just have the player arrive into a post-combat wasteland packed with gibs, with the factions killing each other off already. Which is no joy!

Some factions may also overlook each other unless provoked, or some enemies within factions that normally opposes each other may unite for the common purpose of escaping the planet and/or hunting the player down.

KZ: Besides almost all of the factions hating Freja, they all have their own relationships with each other that influence the world te the background. Outside of switching the combat it also switches the world from playthrough to playthrough. While Freja’s clones are cycling through the planet overheen time, different territories will get taken overheen by different factions. One time you play through a Prism Shipping Fortress it might be entirely functioning with conveyors moving shipping containers around, and next playthrough it could be infested by Solus with the conveyors blocked up with containers piling up and spilling out overheen a cliff.

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