Friday Facts #413 - Gleba

Posted by Albert, Earendel on 2024-05-31


Making a new world in Factorio is relatively "easy", just create a new set of tilesets for the ground, add some new models of trees, create a bunch of new decoratives, some decals (optional), a new skin for the cliffs (optional), and bam! you get a new planet. Well, to be fair, you also have to play with the terrain generation noise and autoplace algorithms, experiment with proper LUT's, and adding some new shader won't hurt either if you want to succeed.

The problem of making it from this simplistic perspective, is the danger of falling into a superficial automatism. So probably all your planets will end up looking the same with just different colours.

Gleba is the one planet that has all the things needed to make a new Nauvis-like planet in Factorio, but it is still different on many other levels. What makes Gleba very special, at least to me, is how we twisted the core-concept of the planet and pushed the necessary elements in a specific way to make it more unique.

Before having its final name, Gleba was internally called "biological planet", and an obvious direction for that would be a planet looking like a jungle. This would be fine for a new biome in Nauvis, but for an exotic planet, never explored, and full of life (more than ever), this time we needed something more alien looking. With not too many clichés in it, extravagant, and if possible playing with new colour palettes. Ah! But also with some link to the reality of Nauvis. And it needs to look very different from Nauvis. Ufff, Okay!.

So we started to think about the microcosmos of the world of lichen, fungi and algaes under the sea. Something that exists in our reality, which it's believable already, but it has all the requirements mentioned above.

In this video we made the effort of showing what exactly we have in mind for the look and feel of Gleba. The planet is still work in progress. But we better show it now because we will need to keep showing elements of Gleba in future posts.

The map was handmade, but with a realistic vision of the autoplace algorithm and the map generation. The "trees" used are concept art used as placeholders. The cliffs are also placeholders, some tilesets will get tweaked to integrate them better. Some doodads will be added and modified. Colour grading is less or more missing, and the rain shader on the foreground will be tweaked.

For a planet full of life (more than ever!), now it looks very static, but we are planning on adding some more animated "things" to really bring some life to the experience.

And overall, we are avoiding to show, on purpose, the red area of the planet (look at the map during the last frames of the video) that one is too early to show.

This video would be 55% worse (or more) if Petr wouldn't have composed and recorded this soundtrack for Gleba. You do remember our dear Petr, right? from the FFF#406 Space age music. The track is not exactly as it will sound during the game, now he is finishing some remixes of the tracks to make them flow perfectly fine for the gameplay requirements.

Now our usual galactic tour operator will guide us through the sophisticated nuances of the nature of the biomes and habitats of Gleba.

Welcome to GlebaEarendel

Gleba planet icon

Your descent ends in an unsettling splash. Fortunately you're not sinking. The noises of your landing pod spool down and fade into the soothing sound of rain. The hatch opens to reveal a green swampy landscape shrouded in a light mist. The air is thick and humid, carrying the muffled cries of unseen animals from far away.

You leave your pod and wade through the shallow murky turquoise water. There's so much vegetation and detritus floating on the surface that it's difficult to see the bottom, even though in most places it's barely up to your knee. It almost feels like whatever is below the surface is squirming under you.

Strange twisted fungi grow out of the water, snaking and undulating as they rise like malformed trees. Hair-like tendrils droop down from the ends of their slender branches, caressing you with a sticky mucus as you try to make your way beneath them.

Gleba green swamp invaded by the roots of various specimen of hairyclubnubs

You climb the shore, and although you're out of the water, this can hardly be called dry land. The wet rubbery ground squelches beneath your foot like olive blubber.

The landscape is covered by a tangled network of root-like mycelium and thick matts of various colourful lichen. This complex interweaving carpet is home to all manner of tiny animals that skitter inside to avoid your gaze. Presumably mostly insects and amphibians, their chirps and hisses signal their annoyance as you step nearby.

This area is dominated by fungal cups that catch the rain and stew their own little ecosystems. Many of them are smaller than a hand, but the largest of them are huge funnelled trunks of bark-like material: their structure riddled with holes and infested with small pink wormy things.

The occasional slime mold blankets a large area of the terrain with a sickly yellow slime. Its surface is dotted with the occasional balloon of gas.

Gleba slimy shore with funneltrunk macro-fungus

The surface starts to firm up as you make your way out of the lowlands, becoming more like a spongy bark. The vegetation shapes of this area are more wispy and fragile. Desaturated shades of green and teal give the region a beautiful but ghostly appearance.

Towering stalks of lichen fan out at the top like a translucent umbrella, always splitting into 5 branches before sending down tough stinging fronds.

A stingfrond ancient cluster on the top of the torrent spreading spores in a ghostly fashion

Going higher still, the ground is drier. In this area the incessant rain of the planet is reduced to a faint spitting. Ground water is quickly absorbed into the pitted rock-like surface making this the first place with solid footing. On closer inspection, the ground appears to be a giant merged mass of dark grey Stromatolites. It seems that every part of this place is alive.

Large towers of beige sponge reach out for the sky, filtering the air and releasing spores into the gentle breeze. Vibrant yellow bulb-like creatures erupt from their pores near their tops, almost like flowers blooming in the sun.

The spongy formations of the sunnycomb

On the other side of the hill, the landscape shifts to autumnal hues. The lichen matts here are a crusty orange. The ground is pierced by many thorny vines of dark fungal mycelium which surround and guard their fruiting body, which sags on the ground like a large soft red grape.

The largest mushrooms here have bulbous trunks that support a huge inflated spore sac. In many cases, new sacs grow on top of the previous growths in a precarious stack of balloons ready to rupture.

It's easy to end up sneezing while crossing the lands of the spore-core area due to the amount of spores liberated by the fleshy boompuffs

The way forward leads to lower ground once again, but here the swampy wetland has more reds than greens. Delicate blankets of translucent pink lichen flop helplessly like seaweed on the shore, their fan-like shape contorted into a mass of slippery wrinkles.

The thick squishy carpet of pink and red lichen bulges when stepped on. The paler areas are almost translucent revealing the root systems under the surface. Here the root-like mycelium is looking more tentacle-like and spongy.

This area is infested with varying sizes of tubular coral that are eager to protrude above the water's surface. The water-dwelling examples are more vibrant and the land versions more sickly.

Entering into the meatlands

Along with the sound of rain, various animal calls have been your constant companion so far. Mysterious distant wails and cries once formed a background chatter, but now one of the sounds is now noticeably closer. The source cannot be seen, but it abruptly breaks into a trumpeting scream.

The small creatures lurking in the lichen undergrowth suddenly go silent.

Now there is a new sound. The sound of great waves crashing, followed by an earth shaking  stomp  Stomp  sToMp  STomP  STOMP…
each one louder than the last.

I'm sure you can't wait to concrete this place, so as always, wade through the other feedback and rain your thoughts down upon us in the usual places.