Topia is an upcoming world-creation game from developer Glenn Corpes and Crescent Moon Games that we first saw in action during WWDC last year. A more robust developer created hands-on video was released a few weeks later, but we really haven't heard much about the title since. Both developers have been extremely active in our forums though, dishing out details on the game's progress as it happens as well as trying to figure out exactly what the heck Topia is in the first place.

You see, Topia's foundation is a fantastic terrain deformation engine that lets you literally mold the landscape of a planet using your fingers on the touch screen. Glenn Corpes is an industry vet who's had a hand in the development of some major franchises over the years, like Syndicate, Theme Park, and Dungeon Keeper, but what's more pertinent is he also worked on the classic civilization simulation Populous, and you can definitely feel its soul ingrained deep within Topia.

It feels really great to raise a range of mountains or create a deep ocean trench all with the tip of your finger, but while the world manipulation felt great Corpes and Crescent Moon still hadn't quite figured out what the "game" part of Topia would be.

Well it turns out that just the act of sculpting your own planet in Topia was pretty darn fun on its own, and since a game's most basic function is to entertain you, forcing game mechanics into this intuitive creation tool just to have them didn't feel quite right. Topia is entertaining just as it is, so the decision was made to release the game as Topia World Builder, a sandbox type of world creation tool, and let people just go nuts with it.

Post-release, if ideas pop up to make Topia more "game-like" then they can always be implemented in updates. In other words, later this week we'll be getting Topia the creation tool, and things will evolve orgainically from there based on player reactions and input. Pretty good idea, I think.

We've been playing with a final build of Topia for the past couple of days, and are definitely having a good time with it. A simple set of tools allow you to raise and lower terrain, or flatten it out so you can make some beachfront along your coastlines if you wish. A quick tutorial introduces you to the controls, which are pretty self-explanatory anyway, and then you're off to start creating a world from one of several included preset options or a randomly generated one. From there you can save your planet as your own and come back to it to tweak or change anything as you see fit.

Aside from the terrain deformation, there are also several types of creatures that can spawn and inhabit your world in Topia. You simply choose a type from the menu and then "paint" the creatures right onto the landscape. You can draw a line that the herd will follow, so you can lead them places if you wish, and they can even do a bit of exploring on their own, though like lemmings they have no problems walking right off a cliff and into the water to their death if you don't keep an eye on things.

There are interesting complexities with the creatures in Topia too. As most living things are instinctually inclined to do, the creatures will reproduce and grow in numbers over time. While some breeds are content just munching on the vegetation that sprouts up in Topia, others are a bit more carnivorous. Allow one of those breeds to mix it up with one of the more docile ones and it becomes a lesson in survival of the fittest right before your eyes. Of course, your sadistic side can mix these breeds on purpose just to watch the chaos ensue, and I totally won't judge you for that.

There's not too much more to Topia than those basics for this release version, and I'm not too convinced that there needs to be. There's something very tranquil and engrossing about just forming the planet to your liking. Do you want to write your name out in mountain ranges? Or make a giant face on the planet's surface? Or just create the kind of paradise that you'd like to visit, and then observe the wildlife and how they interact with it? You can do all these things in Topia, along with whatever other ideas you're able to dream up.

Future plans for Topia include the ability to share your planets with friends, send each other various challenges, leaderboards, and new game modes, as well as whatever other ideas pop up once the game is actually out in the wild. We'll have more on Topia when it hits the App Store as a 99¢ Universal build later this week.

  • Mike Lata

    Was WIll Right involved somehow? Sounds like something he would do.

  • andsoitgoes

    99 cents?!?! Holy fart balls. I expected the depth and awesomeness of this to easily push $3+. I cannot wait for this game, I can't wait for my wife to play it, she was a HUGE populous fan, as was I. And my daughters will have a blast with this as well, they love creating and playing with stuff like this. It doesn't seem to have IAP, at least not the consumable kind, and if this adds IAP to expand the game modes, I am ALL for it.

    • tim240

      Holy fart balls indeed.

    • MidianGTX

      I'm thinking the 99c tag is likely because there isn't actually much depth. Infinite possibilities sure, but you can say the same about a lump of plasticine, which is more or less what this app appears to be. Should be fun for a while nonetheless.

  • ImJPaul

    Hmm. This is interesting. For 99 cents ill give it a shot. Would be cool to implement some sort of simulation element into it. Whether that's creating inhabitants and making sure they survive and don't start wars and such, protecting from natural disasters and maintaining the planet to sustain life while molding it to your liking. Ill download it just for the building mechanic though. It'll be exciting to be able to have the reviews and such mold the future of the game possibly. Awesome.

  • crvtcrshr

    Can I just say that this would be awesome on the vita with the back touch panel?

  • Collin

    I wouldn't mind being able to fling meteors at the planet, and observe the effects. Also volcanos, earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters could be fun too.

  • Solidfart

    Empty planet with creatures. This will be fun for like 10 mins n most people will not click on it again. It would be great if they incorporated some aspect of viva piñata into it.

    • MrAlbum

      By that logic, Minecraft should have been a failure. Considering how popular and/or good Minecraft became as it was developed and eventually released, that shows that players can have as much fun, if not more fun, with both a structured action RPG and a sandbox where the potential things to do are essentially unlimited. Creativity and engagement are both compelling elements of game design, and neither is more powerful than the other. Both are good things to have. And this game looks to have the creative side down pat, and will find ways to create a more engaging experience as players get to play the game. So even if this doesn't start with both, it will hopefully have both by the time it reaches something close to completion.

      • Briker Ed

        Not really. . . . Minecraft offers good tools, but more importantly tight control of over what you create (blocks as opposed to amorph land mass, and supposedly, semi-autonomous life and death cycle). Black and White was fun for a while, but once the novelty of slapping your beast wore off it got boring rather quick, and pretty much the same could be said about Spore (the creature creator was the most fun part in that one, sadly).

  • Benjamin Rodriguez

    black vs white? or was it black and white? regardless Looks pretty amazing.

  • Calvin Tam Wah Kit

    Ideas on how to make topia fun? How about just making populous for ios out of it.

    • ducksFANjason

      Bring us Populous! The populous demands it!!

    • Jenny

      Yes! Populous on iOS! That has to be a thing now!

  • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

    Am I the only guy that think that this game is going to get boring fast with no "purpose" or "goals", yes terraforming and moving animals around is fun, but for how long?

    • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

      Ever heard of a little program called Minecraft?  Seems to be popular for the same reasons.

      • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

        Minecraft has a goal, not "visible" but it is there, the crafting of items, where does this appear in this game? unclear, or at least not obvious.

      • http://twitter.com/CM_Games Josh Presseisen

        There is no goal, and we aren't really calling it a game at this point. Its more of a world simulation where you shape the world, watch things grow and interact, etc.

      • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

        I have no problem with that, I am just stating that some sort of progress, goal, etc needs to be somewhat known / visible for the game to gain traction, otherwise it is a nice simulation or a technology proof of concept.

      • tim240

        Isn't the goal in minecraft to kill the enderdragon and make those horrible green people suffer?

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        Everything is optional, there really is no goal, those are just things you can choose to do if you want.

    • JPhilipp

      Perhaps think of it as a toy, not a game... often toys can be fun much longer than games (because if there's a goal, it can be reached).

  • http://twitter.com/WhiteSponge David Lin

    Certainly reminds me of the game I used to play called Populous ~

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=633605190 Matt Cox

    This needs to be Populous - the game has so much potential but after 10 minutes I will have seen everything I can do - it needs to have some deep and long lasting gameplay for me to come back to it.

  • NOEN

    I'm really looking forward to this title and the updates to follow.

  • ImJPaul

    Why isn't this released yet?! Better come in 2 hours!!!

    • Baracus

      I read 11th somewhere, so this time tomorrow you will have planetary control :D