The earliest versions of Anomalous Ruins began at an airship crash. The player simply walked the protagonist outside the debris and found some ruins. But the protagonist grew into a character with the name Clo. She came from somewhere. This “somewhere” eventually become Origin City.
I didn’t need to build the city of her birth. The bulk of the gameplay was already set up at the ruins. But the city was necessary if I wished for my game to have a powerful story. This meant letting the player slow down and breath in Clo’s culture for a while. I also could have simply written about the city in notes at the crash site. This would make the knowledge of the city optional for those who wished to learn about Clo’s past… but that would have been a copout. I needed to invest some time in Clo’s origin. She needed depth. The city provided this for me. It became a great place to sow the seeds of the deeper story to come.
I first thought that Origin City should be, well, a CITY type of city, meaning tons of skyscrapers and the like. There just wouldn’t be time for a one-man team to give those buildings character. They would end up being empty husks that the player would pass up to get to the more interesting areas. This would defeat the purpose, which was to slow the player down and enrich the story. So, I had to make the city intriguing. I settled on a few buildings. This gave me time to make those buildings interesting characters of their own.
As an aside, I am beginning to build that metropolis I’ve always wanted, just slowly, and one building at a time. So, if you boot up the current game you will find at the end, a school and a beach called Shell Beach (Dark City anyone).
Near this are the 3-star resort, a collection of shops, and a Wushu Kwoon (Chinese fighting school) that make up Harbor’s Bay. Beyond that I’ve built a Minecraft version of Sea World which features Elder Guardians called Guirdi and Friends. There is a half-built TECH co. building and a bridge. I have plans for many more buildings such as a few business towers and a zoo. But, these are not the heart of my town. That would have to be the Old City.
Clo’s story begins in a dream sequence which first reveals the ANOMALY. She wakes up in her apartment (seen at the end).
From here the game opens up (there is a fence around the Old City so the player can’t wonder off to the other areas until they beat the game). Clo can explore a Pizzeria, a bank, a large house, a drug store, a windmill, and an amphitheater. These lead the player through some soft story moments that build up Clo’s world. I don’t tell the player where to go, so it encourages them to explore. The way out of this and on to the game proper is easily seen at the end of the road.
Four of the buildings have hidden meanings which explain the four pillars of the RAGNAROK myth: CUBE, WYRM, ANOMALY, ZOMBIES. The villagers are well aware of this mythos; it has affected how they build. This myth isn’t plainly told to the player, which is by design. I repeat the subtle meanings of the four pillars as an idea de fix which is felt throughout the city.
RAGNAROK is the basic backstory in a nutshell. So, if a player is blazing through the story, my hope is that they at least see these four pillars. The first time this motif is seen is with the first four buildings you come across: the apartment, bank, three-story house, and pizzeria.
The Four Pillars of Ragnarok as Buildings
Crafty CUBE Apartments serves a practical gameplay purpose. Apt. 300 is where Clo wakes up from her nightmare. In this room you learn that she recently had a baby named Steve. There’s a sign from Clo’s mother that says she is taking care of Steve so that Clo can go to the premier of her documentary film Forbidden Continent. There is also an article which shows that some people think Clo faked the documentary; it hints that she might even be a little crazy. After all, Clo claims to have heard a voice in her head while filming the ruins. Walking out the room shuts the rain off which I used in the dream sequence. It also creates a sunrise.
Climb up the roof and Clo finds a greenhouse of flowers called Mom’s Green House Effect. Clo’s mom works in the greenhouse. You never actually see Clo’s mom (much less see her death at the end of the game). The greenhouse and the loving note give her mother a place within the world. The player can imagine how the mother looks. This is more powerful than actually showing a blocky villager with the title “mom” above it. The greenhouse also covers up some machinery I build which erases the “Baby Boy” paraphernalia in apartment 300. When you beat the game and reenter that apartment, it will appear to be uninhabited.
Apt. 200 is where Clo wakes up at the end of the game. From this room the player begins the end-game content. This content starts off when Clo discovers someone has kidnapped her baby. This begins the scavenger hunt quest I just finished designing (in the current build). There is also a letter from her late mother which gives more detail on Clo’s dad. When Clo walks out, the game changes to survival mode meaning that you can break blocks and craft things. It also means that mobs will appear in the dark.
Craft CUBE Apartments is a traditional brick building, something you would find in old American towns. It is a representation of the CUBE which is the first of four pillars of RAGNAROK. This can be found in the name of the apartment itself, the CUBE design at the top of the elevator shaft in the back, and the various CUBE designs that Mojang already designed in the chiseled stone brick.
Crafty CUBE Apartments is also a model for the red dust theory which states that humans were made from red dust scattered by the CUBE long ago.
Clo leaving the apartment building is a representation of the new birth of humans leaving the CUBE. The first word of the name “Crafty” has a duel meaning. It’s an adjective of how well the place is designed and a pun on the word Crafter which is the name of a powerful family that owns most of the town. This is shown further with the name of the nearby bank.
Seth Crafter Bank and Trust is a symbol of the Crafter family’s wealth and power. I’ll do a separate post on the Crafter family, whose tragic lives are peppered throughout the game.
The bank has a vault. Once the game is beaten you can choose to open it or blow it up. TNT is provided for you under the bank’s foundation with a mysterious note written by the Order of Creepers. The Dandy Lion hero character has written a counter note to this (oddly leaving the TNT untouched). This sets up a hidden battle between the cult and the Batman-like super hero.
The bank has a sort of Greek-style design. The pillars of the bank make up the WYRM of LIFE which is the second pillar of the RAGNAROK myth. I use the chiseled red sandstone block to depict the WYRM’s head. The WYRM of LIFE is a powerful character in the Anomalous Ruins mythos. She was a giant Chinese style dragon who watched over the humans. The CUBE was her home. It makes since to have the bank represent such a power to the town. As the WRYM once ruled over the humans, the love of money rules us all.
A three-story house called Heavenly Manner was built to the right of the bank.
This represents the beautiful interior of the ANOMALY. You can acquire the House Deed from the bank vault.
Across from the bank lies the Everlasting Pizzeria.
On the second floor is an apartment for the owner. Behind it is a brewery called Crafter’s Brew. This is a play on the American craft beer craze as well as the Crafter family. Sorry dark beer lovers. Crafter’s Brew only brews wheat beer.
The Pizzeria itself dishes out chocolate-chip cookies that you can pretend are pizza pies without the red sauce and with um… olives I guess. The building represents the ZOMBIES which are the fourth pillar. You can see this with the etched sandstone creepers along the wall. Everlasting Pizzeria is a warning that searching for everlasting life always leads to a zombie outbreak.
Other Buildings of Old Town
The player can also enter a drugstore which has all sorts of weapons and tools (reached at the end of the game).
Near the end of the road is a water mill which mimics the gears of a real one.
The rundown Sun Amphitheater advertises a presentation by Dr. Willis.
He thinks that Clo is wrong about some of the ruins she found in the Forbidden Continent. In the green room you can see his crazed sketches that piece together some of the history. This gives the player a hint of the mythos that you will encounter in the game.
At the end of the road is a threshold. Once crossed you are a step closer to the beginning the game.
Tune in next time as we continue my undying adventure in the making of Anomalous Ruins.