An Overview of the Surreal and the importance of Lore in D E E X I T
Impossible yet so simple. The cube is the building block and the core element of D E E X I T . Its simplicity already generates a first layer of surrealism: to see a world represented by only cubes challenges the “normal” and the usual comprehension of things. It supposes a change in perspective and a distancing from realism. That is an objective with D E E X I T ’s artstyle, to surprise and make the player wonder over the strange world they are traveling in.
But the cube is just the basis upon which D E E X I T ’s surrealism is built. It is more complex that that and we will be go more in detail later.
Surrealism is deeply connected to the story and the lore of the game. It is not the on its own rather a way to convey the stories we want to tell, the world we want to show.
Let’s get a bit of context. The world of D E E X I T is called The Plane of Remembrance. It is the place we go when we die if there are people alive to remember us. It is a weird, surreal world, where death is always present, shown in a positive, warm way.
The Importance of Lore:
D E E X I T is a narrative experience: it is at the center of our objectives for the game from day one. We want to focus on the story the game tells and the message it conveys through it. But storytelling is not limited to these aspects. The world itself will tell a story simply in the way it is built. For example, a hat abandoned on top of a tree tells a story , a pair of boots on the edge of a cliff tell another. Additionally, there will be points throughout the game where the player will be able to learn of details of the Plane of Remembrance . These “lore points” as we call them will take various forms:
– Part of the world: engravings on the walls made by a long-forgotten sage, quickly written words on the side of a house by a fleeing and desperate individual… The buildings and world itself will be filled with all kinds of writings in a special language/alphabet specially created for D E E X I T . This language takes cubic form and is (almost) always in 3D. Not painted but always protruding from an object or engraved within it. 3D is a special characteristic of this language and its alphabet;
– Special objects: as people travelled to the Plane of Remembrance, they found themselves discovering new strange things they did not understand. Some were so fascinated by what they saw that they started installing objects resembling tombstones all over the Plane in which they wrote what they knew and studied. These are called Knowing Tombstones and they are part of a collaborative project to catalogue and discover everything around the Plane of Remembrance. You might find one in a garden next to a new and gigantic flower that resembles a hand, or on a wall next to a cave that calls the name of your first pet;
– NPCs : a lot of NPCs will be found in the Plane. On one hand, they help the player get around and progress in the game and its story. But not only that: each and everyone of them was alive at some point and came to the Plane of Remembrance. For that reason they all have special tales and stories to tell about their previous life, their vision of death and more. This is central in D E E X I T as each NPC will be based off of people that exist or existed in real life;
Now, as we said in the beginning, this all ties in a really close way to Surrealism.
The Choice of Surrealism:
Why did we choose to approach the Plane of Remembrance with a Surrealist aesthetic?
Well, in first place, we do not know what comes after death. Nobody does, that is kind of the point, for good and for bad. That leaves us with total freedom when constructing a world where people go when they die.
Yes, that is an easy answer. And “it is surrealist because we can” is just a part of the answer.
The Plane of Remembrance is a place where normal physics, biology and all does not necessarily apply. The Plane exists thanks to the Light, an almost divine source of energy that prevents everything from falling apart. The Light has its own logic and it makes certain concepts unnecessary. For example, thanks to it whales can fly in the air, islands can float on gigantic seas of clouds and strange beings come to be.
As so, the Plane is not just another place where the dead go, it’s an entirely new world with its own logic and inner workings. As people do not have the same needs as living people, the rules for this world do not need to be so strict either: they keep existing because of memories after all.
A good question would be: why make a realm of the dead so different to ours, so strange? Why choose surrealism? Well, dying brings an enormous change for us, so it makes sense that the place we go when we die should also be completely different.
We cannot use the term “surrealism” as is. It is not a single style that can be covered absolutely in a game. There are a lot of aspects and branches in the Surrealist Tree.
We pursue a surrealism type that makes its weirdness clear without completely alienating the player. We want them to see things they are used to and discover they do not behave like they expect.
Let’s be clear, there are still rules and elements that make sense. The idea is not to make a setting where “everything is allowed” and any elements is more bizarre than the next. We want to pace the weirdness for the player so he gets to live a feeling of “wonder in a strange place”.
For example, ground is still ground and for the most part, when there is no ground you fall. If there is a wall it must be climbed or avoided, although the wall might be sentient and deform itself so you can climb it. If you have a lantern the light illuminates the dark and allows you to see better, as it normally does. But maybe in some places there is special type of air that compacts with light, creating special platforms. It’s all about creating a balance between weird and “normal” (if such a thing exists anyway).
Next are a few examples of what you will find in the game:
Knowing Tombstone near the Portal of Resurrection, pointing directly towards a Floating Island.
“Floating Islands are a sight to behold. These were naturally created over time, as the mountain range kept degrading. Big chunks of earth fall and separate from the mountain from time to time but, instead of falling down, they come to rest and float in the air, on top of the Sea of Clouds. As years pass, a floating island gets farther and farther away from the mountain, at an extremely slow rate. That gives time for plants to grow on top of them, creating new wild gardens.”
Found engraved in a stone wall inside a lost cavern.
“I sometimes come here to rest.
I like the smell of the crystals, and the glimmer from the stone,
Faces tend to appear on the walls, but only when I sleep.
I know because when I wake up I feel like I’ve talked to them.
I wonder what we talk about,
The faces of the cave and I.”
Knowing Tombstone on the path to Shu’s Temple, oriented towards the sea of clouds, where strange beasts sometimes roam.
“The Farwalkers have earned their name for just that, for being always far from us and from life. Some of us have tried to get closer to them but they always seem to get away at the same pace. They are not hostile nor are they helpful and it is actually unsure whether they are alive at all. Some have said they are just rocks floating about but then, why would they get away from us? And more importantly, why do they seem to stop and look at us from time to time?
Farwalkers resemble spheric rocks with extremely long legs. Are these legs or just vines? Nobody truly knows, as they disappear into the Sea of Clouds.”
Influences and Inspiration:
For the lore and aesthetic of the game, we take inspiration from all type of medium. Here are a few of them:
Zdzislaw Beksinski, specially his paintings and depictions of hell. Combining the strange and worrisome with common desolate objects (mountains, bones…)
Jacek Yerka, his paintings give a more positive, warm vision of surrealism. Often using unexpected combinations of known, mundane elements.
El Garaje Hermético, Inside Moebius ( and other works of the same author), Moebius, comic writer and artist, works on the limit between sci fi/fantasy and surrealism. Using extreme designs and concepts and gigantic scales, without fear of exaggeration.
Invisible Sun, Monte Cook Games, A surrealist tabletop rpg that has the similar premise of “weird yet understandable”. The surrealism is linked tightly to the rules of the game and to the experience the players have.
Coco, Pixar Although not being a direct inspiration for surrealism (although worldbuilding in the movie is a big inspiration, from skeletons to use of colors), Coco is close to the message and idea of the world of DEEXIT and as such deserves a place on this list.
That was all for now. Hope you liked it and don’t hesitate on telling us what you thought on social media. And, if you want to help us to improving and making D E E X I T grow, join our Discord server!
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