What do you do for relaxation when you spend five days a week designing bloodshed and carnage? You bring balance to your life by spending your free time creating a peaceful, stress-free trip through nature.
Shape of the World is the passion project of Hollow Tree Games Lead Developer Stu Maxwell, who works full time for The Coalition on the Gears of War franchise.
“My day job is a lot of blood and gore and danger and violence. Playing a game about headshots and stuff is relaxing in its own way, but for me the true relaxation comes from being able to just explore,” said Maxwell when XBLA Fans spoke to him at E3. “Take off the leash and go into a peaceful forest environment. It’s night and day.”
Inspired by Maxwell’s bike rides through Stanley Park and getting lost in a hotel as a child, Shape of the World is an exploration game through trees, hills and wildlife that encourages the player to get lost in their surroundings.
There are no tutorials or rules in the game. The player is dropped into the procedurally generated landscape, and, as they walk around the plants, trees and creatures literally grow around them.
Even though the game is mainly about exploration and creating your own experience, each level does still have an end goal. The player will see whatever it is — a stone arch or maybe a cave in the mountain — in the distance at the beginning of each level.
Along the way to this goal the player will most likely veer off the direct path many times, and this is exactly what Maxwell wants them to do. In fact, to encourage this behavior, he has added in little orbs to collect along the way. These orbs will lead players off the main path, but they will come with rewards. He isn’t 100 percent sure what those rewards will be yet, but he is thinking that collecting these will build up the player’s collection of plants.
The game is still in the early stage of development, and a lot of things have yet to be decided. Visually, though, it does seem to be achieving the serene look and feel that Maxwell is aiming for.
Assuming Hollow Tree Games can meet its current Kickstarter goal, the studio hopes to debut Shape of the World in the summer of 2016. The developer currently has a licensing agreement to release the game exclusively on Xbox One.