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.
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