Fancy a look at the first map of the game? Well, take a gander!
This is an in-editor view of Port Faria's Adventurer's District; yes, it's one large seamless map. The vast array of lively NPCs, functioning doors and other constructs such as lovely windmills, elk-and-carts, ships, boats, mineral deposits, goodie-chest, berry-bushes and threatening wildlife (Lolicaps, Nara Wasps, Longtusk Boars, Vinesnatches and Soltraps here) don't appear here but this should give you a clearer idea of how the big the areas and what to expect environmentally.
In Port Faria, there is much to interact with! You can purchase a dizzying amount of goods from the local shops (or harvest much yourself), chat with the countless NPCs, hunt wildlife for item-drops that can be sold or used in crafting, as well. You can visit the lumberyard, search for hidden treasure chests, stroll the beach, grab a cup of tea at the Brewed Awakening or sit back and read a book or two at the Loreforge Library. This freedom is a defining aspect of what makes Starfall a wonderful game to play.
And this is just ONE of the hundreds of areas you'll visit in the game.
Also, see if you can find where the screenshot below is, on the map above. That should provide you with a better sense of scale!
The saturated colours and the vibrancy of the whole scene really serve to illustrate the warmth and liveliness of Port Faria and its surroundings. The palette and visual look of the game is something that never remains static, however, as it's ever-changing in response to the tone of the narrative as the game's story unfolds.
Thanks for having a look!
Globins, Orcs, Longtusk Boars, Croconuts, Spikeshells, Starshell Crabs, Skeletors, Ancient Machines... the list goes on and on. Faria I: Starfall has a LOT of monsters for you to fight. That can either be a fun thing... or a bit of a slog. Personally, I believe it's the former.
When you engage the enemy, the game switches to a side-view battle that presents you and your party versus the enemies. The backdrop for the battle is a blurred snapshot of where you just were.
In the image above, Renee, Sarah, Skye and Fiona go up against a sole Consumed Soltrap, a boss battle that occurs a few hours into the game. The battle occurs in real-time, but your ability to perform an action is dictated by the grey bars appearing beside your character. This is something enemies must also abide by.
When the bar is full, you may attack. The order of attack is determined by who's bar filled up first. Due to everybody's values being different, the attacking order changes quite a bit over the course of the fight.
Skye and Fiona aren't mainstays in your party, unlike Renee and Sarah. Because there is no levelling system, I can direct how certain fights should be approached and beaten. This can include the swapping out and in of certain party members who harbour various abilities. In this particular battle, Skye is your most important party member.
Elsewhere in the game, Renee and Sarah rely on self-made or shop-bought potions and jams to keep themselves healed and ensure they have enough stamina to stay active throughout prolonged battles. In times like that, the strengths of the two characters come into play.
Renee has more stamina but hits about half of what Sarah does. Renee's attack bar fills up at a faster rate, too. Sarah, hits at double Renee's damage output, but has less stamina and HP. Therefore, a great tactic to utilise is to keep Sarah as your primary damage dealer and have Renee play a supporting role, attacking when free.
The Consumed Soltrap is an unavoidable foe in the story and has a LOT of HP. The likelihood you have stockpiled enough consumables to outlast the fight is low. Therefore, you must rely far more on Skye.
Unlike other party members, Skye is proficient in the Celestial Arts; she can use magic! Since Skye is a Seraphim, she has more HP and stamina than anybody else. Her damage output exceeds the others and she can heal and replenish party stamina at will. While this sounds great, it's not enough to keep herself alive and fight the boss at the time. Why? Her attack bar fills up pretty slowly.
It is because of this, you must use Skye and her magical abilities wisely. You must simultaneously keep your party alive and keep their stamina up, so they're able to fight. If a party member runs out of stamina, he/she can use the "protect" ability to increase the defence of others.
You must also be wary of foes that change up their own tactics mid-combat. The Consumed Soltrap, halfway through the fight for instance, gains the ability to poison party members. Later on, it is able to paralyse party members completely.
So, I hope you understand how battles unfold in Starfall. Early-game fights are rather simple, but they become increasingly more tense over time and often require you to target individual foes when going up against groups (healers or exploders, for instance).
This fight against the Consumed Soltrap is just one of many. The HUD and UI is unfinished at this point in time, but if you're going to spend a bit of time in combat, it's best you know how such events transpire.
Thanks for reading!
If you wanted to play through the story and nothing but the story, of course you could. Side quests, mining, harvesting, crafting and other such activities are entirely optional. For those who are invested in the game and the universe of Faria, however, may want to take a look at my favourite feature; "Relic Restoration"!
Now, you can catch a glimpse of the crafting process in the trailer. There are multiple crafter NPCs that cater to the specific fields of crafting and provided you have acquired the right instructions (crafting books) and ingredients, you can visit them to begin crafting to your heart's content!
One Nok in Port Faria in particular, however, specialises in relic restoration. It is the process of recreating relics from Faria's past. Each one has a hearty description that enriches Faria and The World's lore and many of them are actually connected. In fact, a rather beautiful "sub-story" of the game can be found within the relics, provided you can link them together well-enough.
Which ones are you most interested in reading about?
When Starfall first entered development, it was envisioned as a two-parter and it had the subtitle "Light the Path".
As you still do, you (Renee Dawntide) begin the game in your hometown of Port Faria. You have life-long friends and acquaintances, and alongside your childhood friend Sarah Stormhawke, have just graduated to become fully-fledged members of the Protectors Guild.
What follows are your adventures with Sarah as members of the guild. As the seemingly individual escapades and trials the both of you go through unfold, the greater narrative sifts through the seams. After a while, after certain events and revelations transpire, it culminates with the need for you and your party of eight having to leave on a journey northwards.
The original idea was for the game to end there, but I soon realised how unsatisfactory such an "ending" would be. So, at a great expense, I decided to merge the two together and rework many of "Light the Path's" aspects to avoid any jarring dissonance and it actually worked out for the better. And no, not because the game suddenly doubled in length and became two games for the price of one!
A lot of games, with their tragedy-fuelled narrative, ask you to sympathise with their characters, what with their trials, ordeals and what-not. With Starfall, I aimed for a different approach. What if I could not only get the players to sympathise with the characters but also EMPATHISE with them, too?
To most heroes, leaving home turns out to be no big deal. Speaking from experience, it's not easy. So, if certain characters miss home, how would I get the player to do the same? That is where the immense benefit of Starfall's two halves really come in!
For half the game, you're free to enjoy and engage with an open-world full of delightful inhabitants. You're free to follow the story or roam about as you please, doing whatever you may. It's lovely, really.
But then, all of a sudden, there is a calling you must answer to. You must leave on a grand journey where it seems as if it would take an entire lifetime before you were to return. Unlike other RPGs where there is a false sense of urgency, where you are told to go do something of grand importance but are still allowed the liberties of fast travelling wherever you may and engaging in an innumerous amount of side quests, you CANNOT do so in Starfall.
When you leave, you leave. You do have a choice in when to leave, but once you have left, it is a commitment you cannot reverse. And as the narrative builds and the character burdens begin to burrow and weigh, you might find yourself longing for those carefree days you spent sipping tea at the Brewed Awakening...
The "hero's journey" is embedded within the roots of every great piece of literature, film and even videogames, perhaps unbeknownst to the writers of such works themselves.
Originally coined by mythologist Joseph Cambell, you can see in the image above how the cycle represents the stories featured within many of your own favourite works.
Does Faria follow suit? Not exactly.
The Writer's Journey
The "ordinary world" as its put, is wild and fantastical in itself. The characters are already heroes (some greater than others), they are stoic and in firm belief of themselves; they all harbour the desire to do good. "Refusal of the Call" is out of the question!
The most satisfying aspect of the "hero's journey", however, is the character development. To see how timid characters grow to fulfill roles of great importance, particularly when they set off, unentirely sure of their own capabilities, is always a joy to watch unfold. That being said, Starfall subverts this iconic structure.
Within the broad tale of Starfall, a tale that encompasses and entwines the life of several characters, I aimed to develop a narrative that provided growth of a different kind. The traits and personalities of the brave, almost fearless characters within Starfall, expand in ways of the unconventional. In many cases, the reverse of what is expected of the "hero's journey".
It is the characters themselves that are what drive the story; it is not the other way around. The urgency of their quest and the many different threads that come together to form the greater, hidden narrative featured within are driven through the many, seemingly unimportant actions of Starfall's large roster of heroes and villains.
When I sat down to pen the many characters, I denied thinking of the possible advantages a certain character archetype might lend to the story further down the line. Having character archetypes was something I wanted to wholly avoid, anyway. In Starfall, you won't find a "sweet and innocent" girl, a "grizzled veteran" guy or an old sage that allows the central character to peer into themselves for a revelation of great importance.
The story would have to take a leisurely pace and unfold in a way that felt "organic", at times that made the most sense, too. So, if this was going to be a large, protracted tale with a slow-burn during its early hours, I'd have to design characters I myself would WANT to see and characters I would WANT to write for regardless of any future narrative importance.
Uniquely, the initial cast of characters that are introduced are already well acquainted. They are all lifelong friends, including a mother and daughter. They are varied in age and sex, too. This, in itself, distances itself from other RPG peers where you build a party "along the way", often embroiling yourself within the mysterious, often melancholy, pasts of your new-found friends to forge stronger bonds. Although you do meet and befriend others along your journey, you actually depart as a well-acquainted fellowship of nine.
It was this desire for an "organically" evolving narrative (yes, I've used the word "organic" too many times) has also (rightfully) denied my usage of certain storytelling techniques. For instance, "flashbacks" are something I will never commit to. Particularly because they often succumb to little more than exposition blobs with little merit, unless the idea of utilizing flashbacks was something conceived as a core storytelling trait like the TV show "Lost".
I did allow the story itself to take control of where its narrative led during certain times, however. Many temporary characters whom I enjoyed limited time with, have grown to have greater roles because of this, as it felt "right" when watching their on-screen interactions, regardless of what I had penned the previous day.
Errors of the Stream
The same applies to the characters seen in "Ghosts of the Stream". When I first set out, I had no intention of seeing the characters return for any future game, (production of Starfall began before it) but I enjoyed my time with them so much, I had to have them return in Starfall within a certain capacity, despite lacking the certain "gravitas" the central characters of Starfall harbour. Indeed, the tone of Starfall is wholly different.
"Ghosts of the Stream" was an admittedly shallow experience with a hastily constructed narrative but it allowed me to plot forward and develop narrative threads that would lead into Starfall. This also applies to lore, which has changed in a variety of ways since "Ghosts" released last year. I have amended the "Ghosts of the Stream" page to detail this further.
I could talk all day about my writing process but it means little to nothing without seeing the results. And of course, the results are what matters. When the game finally releases, I hope the story inside resonates with players and strikes a chord with them. But that being said, even if it doesn't, there's still a fun game hidden inside.
"Dark". "Gritty". "Visceral". Such words are used in abundance these days, particularly when it comes to summarising the premise of a wondrous new fantasy world an RPG is set to boast. If you're not being mugged by bandits, you're embroiled within a political intrigue as numerous parties vie for the throne. If you're not fleeing the smoldering ruins of your hometown, you've cured your amnesia and learnt of your destined fate as The Chosen One.
But this is about Faria I: Starfall. So, let's turn this on its head!
"Happy." "Adventurous". "Pleasant". Such words are used in abundance these days, particularly when it comes to summarising the premise of this wondrous new fantasy world my RPG is set to boast. And so on and so forth...
During a blissful summer reverie many years back, a delightful thought I did conjure! "If I were to construct my very own fantasy town, what would I call it?" After much contemplation, the words "far away" became Faria. I threw a "port" before it and came up with the enchanting municipality of "Port Faria".
I pondered in euphoric merriment at what lovely, adventurous people might gather there. I wondered what the weather would be like. I even speculated what manner of cobblestones would pave its roads that were wedged between the city's magnificent promenades.
These dainty little pictures and ideas I had thought up wouldn't last long, however, as the crushing realization that such a charming world might never see the light of day began to loom. Or so I thought...
"If no one else will bring to a life a fantasy world brimming with opportunity, excitement, adventure and happiness, then I will do it myself!"
Now, that was years ago. Since then, my life has gone under a slight metamorphosis! After much changed, I found myself in a situation where I was able to revisit my curious daydream a few years prior and between the hustle and bustle of my current lifestyle, the releasing of the mediocre "Faria: Ghosts of the Stream", I have managed to chip away at the block of marble that has come to be known as "Starfall".
Everything began with that little town I envisioned, called "Port Faria". Though it has grown to become a city of remarkable commerce and it has established itself as a hub where many adventurers forge new friendships and fellowships, it only made sense to designate the rest of the kingdom "Faria" in tribute.
But what is Faria? What sets it apart? Do people just smile all the time?
To describe it succinctly, it's like taking an old jRPG and dialing the saturation levels all the way up, leaving the ugly bits and their "god-slaying, bandit-massacring, amnesiac hero" stuff at the door. Faria, at its core is "happy" but it's not without its evils.
Sown to Reap
To make Faria feel like a tangible place, it needed depth. Almost every waking moment in the past couple of years has been spent deliberating every aspect of the kingdom. Be it the geography of certain areas, the lore pertaining to the varying races and their quirks; anything you can think of, I did and continue to do!
But to make the world feel enticing, I don't just take common tropes and flip them on their head. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Every charming (and positive) trope you can think of, from your favourite high fantasy books, adventurous animes and engrossing games, you'll find much of here.
Before you shake your head and think reading this far was a waste of time, I implore you not to meander off just yet! You see, with tropes and everybody's recognition of them, it builds instant familiarity and comfort.
There are cute slimes, feral orcs, silly cat girls, voluptous demons, magic academies, boorish Dwarves I call "Nok", Humans I dub "Solarian" and gracious Elven-types I call "Aerith". It's cozy! And it's this "coziness" that helps to elucidate the sweet feelings I wish to propagate upon the players and more easily allow them to jump in and get immediately acquainted with the world I have established.
This being said, it is also used to magnify and heighten the more "freakish" elements I have hidden within the game. And from a narrative point-of-view, it's about taking these characters who are familiar with the average threats associated with such colourful worlds (corrupting miasma, anyone?) and then throwing them into situations that are as baffling and strange to them as it is for the players.
Ever since I can remember, I have been absorbed with the infinite vastness and almost terrifying emptiness of space. Yes, that black void above. Indeed, the mystic expanse of the cosmos played a big part in the creation of Faria and its deeply engrained within its DNA.
The sci-fi undertones are rather prominent and work better than you might expect. Just don't think you'll be running around firing laser guns and swinging lightsabers at any given time. First and foremost, it IS a high fantasy setting, but to draw on some extra-terrestrial elements helps to elevate the original concept and bring the narrative to greater heights as the story unfolds.
And so, that's it! I hope this serves as a brief introduction behind the thesis I have woven into the fabric of Faria. There's a lot more to come, that will cover varying aspects of the development process.
So, as cliche as this sounds; if you have genuinely read this far I thank you dearly! The road ahead is long and paved with many trials and for those who are at least remotely interested in the concept of Faria, I will try to exceed any expectations you may have reserved for Starfall.