Iridescent Crown, Zephyr 3, and Worldbuilding Notes

Iridescent Crown


I’ve made a lot of progress on my 2D roguelike platformer, Iridescent Crown. I’ve finally settled on a name I like (only took me 6 years). I’m looking forward to finally releasing it this month!  🙂

I think the randomized weapon system has been the biggest quantum leap in terms of replayability. I expect to release the game sometime this month, once I’ve added a few final features and bug tested it more. I will also follow it up with a more detailed development blog.


If all goes well this will be my first game that runs in HTML5, so that will be awesome to see!


Zephyr 3


Check it out here. I made this back at the end of September to see if it could run in HTML5. Unfortunately it seems to be too much for Game Maker Studio, despite only being a few lines of code. I even tried rasterized graphics, and no luck. But now that yoyogames have announced the release of Game Maker Studio 2, I’m hoping they’ve fixed the exporters.

I’m being cautiously optimistic, but GMS 2 looks like it has a lot of useful features. My only reservation is the software may be too bloated because of them.


I was also hoping to use this game for Sonic-style special stages in a 2d platformer. Perhaps that could still work in a non HTML5 project.

If you’ve never played them, check out the first two Zephyr games here and here. They’re both available for free.  🙂


Worldbuilding and Gesamtkunstwerk

Worldbuilding seems to be used primarily for writing prose fiction, or making video games. Lately I’ve been wondering what other forms of artistic mediums it could be used for.

When designing games, I am often inspired by Richard Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or total synthesis of the arts. I feel like his operas are the best classic example of worldbuilding outside of its typical uses.

This sentiment could be extended to concept albums by modern rock bands. Pink Floyd, The Mars Volta and Dream Theater stick out in my mind here. Concept albums get away with character development in a way that most music cannot, since the songs have character interactions. They can be about specific people like The Mars Volta’s Frances the Mute, or more generalized archetypes like Pink Floyd’s Animals.

The Who’s rock opera Tommy is the earliest example of this. Pink Floyd took it further with their series of concept albums in the 1970s, starting with The Dark Side of the Moon. Animals in particular is very literary, basing their songs off the conflicting Dogs, Pigs, and Sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And of course The Wall, like Tommy, had an ambitious movie that brought visuals to their music.

These are the best examples of atypical worldbuilding I can think of. Worldbuilding expressed through poetry also fascinates me. While I’ve never been exposed to JRR Tolkien, I’m aware he does this in his work.


One of Tolkien’s original maps of Middle-earth.

These days, everyone from JK Rowling to Stephen King to Nintendo to Bethesda are directly inspired by JRR Tolkien. Storytellers, pen and paper RPG designers, and open world video game designers all derive a lot of inspiration from Tolkien’s worldbuilding techniques.

Comics too. The Marvel and DC multiverses stand out for the sheer size and scope they cover, often having many alternate realities as a result of changing writers. These alternate realities can end up interacting in very interesting ways.

It’s definitely worth noting that before JRR Tolkien, writers didn’t usually write extensive amounts of background information that is often never used in the final products they make. It’s interesting to see how much that approach has changed the dynamic of writing stories.

That being said, many other artists before him often gathered their works together to form a greater whole. Robert W Chambers did this with the collection of short stories that make up The King in Yellow. HP Lovecraft’s short stories ended up forming the Cthulhu Mythos, which has been expanded by other authors.


Worldbuilding by Subtraction, or Tolkien vs. Lovecraft

While there are plenty of positives to copying Tolkien’s formula, there are also some negatives that I don’t think are discussed enough. The main problem with JRR Tolkien’s approach to worldbuilding is the more information, history, and lore you have, the less space the reader’s imagination has to fill. If you take it to an extreme, you are essentially doing the work of the reader.

A lot of short stories I read derive their strength from their brevity. Stories built through traditional worldbuilding rarely have this trait, unless they consciously choose to only show the tip of the iceberg.


SCP-682 must be destroyed as soon as possible.”

The SCP Foundation is a good example of extensive worldbuilding that manages to keep its secrets to itself. No one even knows what SCP-001 is. The entries are often short enough to leave plenty of room for imagination in the reader’s mind, not just for the SCPs but for the entire Foundation and its purpose. The articles also use a copious amount of redactions to give an impression of more going on behind the scenes.

HP Lovecraft’s stories also benefited by suggesting there’s more going on than what is being told. Lovecraft represents the literary opposite of Tolkien in a worldbuilding sense – one relies on subtraction while the other relies on addition. Many classic short story writers like Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe benefit from the former approach, as well as modern novelists like Kurt Vonnegut and Chuck Palahniuk.

You can also find a lot of this in filmmaking, whether it’s traditional or avant-garde. It’s perhaps a natural side effect of movies being short affairs that are rarely revisited. Not everything can be explained in 2-3 hours, and some directors like David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman exploit this to absurdity. The Twilight Zone and similar shows also come to mind here.



JRR Tolkien and HP Lovecraft represent two very different approaches to storytelling. Tolkien tried to cover every important detail in an attempt to achieve “literary omniscience” about his fictional world. Meanwhile, Lovecraft tried to point out how much we don’t know about the world around us, and how much may remain forever unknowable.

Since the advent of movies, television and video games, the total synthesis of the arts now takes many forms. Music, visuals, and dramatic storytelling are all essential ingredients to your favorite movie, TV show, anime, YouTube channel, etc. In the case of video games, you could consider interactivity to be the fourth dimension.

The concept of Gesamtkunstwerk is alive.

One final point worth mentioning is the role that procedural generation and artificial intelligence can play in worldbuilding, and the creation of things that are far beyond the scope of a single person’s endurance. Map making tools can help speed up the worldbuilding process. Randomized writing prompts can give you a lot of ideas.



Keep an eye out for Iridescent Crown, which will be coming out later this month.  🙂







About Dylan Franks

My name is Dylan Franks, and I'm a game designer and musician. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. View all posts by Dylan Franks

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