Alien Planet, Alien Alphabet
Prospector is a narrative adventure game for PC. In the role of a space adventurer, the player travels to a foreign planet and explores a futuristic metropolis on the edge of a gigantic crater, veiled in constant fog.
A sense of alienation is one of the design pillars of Prospector; this is supported by using an unknown, fictional writing system in said metropolis.
The main criteria for the development of the alphabet were on the one hand its plausibility as a writing system of a civilization in the space age, and on the other hand — for a Western audience accustomed to the Latin alphabet — an unusual and strange, yet accessible aesthetic appearance.
In contrast to other games/universes (e.g. Heaven’s Vault) the foreign language does not play a major role: it is mainly meant to support mood and atmosphere. For this reason no attempt was made to create a linguistic substructure to the writing system — the characters are combined according to purely aesthetic aspects. There is neither language construction nor translation.
I began by experimenting with different writing tools to get a feeling for the desired aesthetics. Subsequently, I alternated between research and additional practical writing exercises with the brush pen.
Among others, Devanagari and Hangul as well as the Tibetan and Hebrew alphabets served as references. It was a priority to use scripts from several different cultures as inspiration so as not to exoticize one specific culture.
This organic process resulted in a handful of suitable glyphs. In the next step I analyzed and extrapolated the characteristics of these glyphs and used my findings as a basis for additional ones. A combination of conscious systematic variation and intuitive form finding finally resulted in a set of unique but harmonious characters.
Bold Monolinear Appearance
The »regular« weight of the typeface has a monolinear stroke with a relatively large, constant stroke width. This characteristic, together with the manageable complexity of the individual characters, ensures that the alphabet is fundamentally accessible, even friendly; the script is foreign, but not entirely unfamiliar and by no means unapproachable.
Negative Horizontal Line
Some scripts found in India (such as Devanagari) have a connecting headline that links the characters in a word. In my alphabet, there is a negative middle bar, which divides the characters into upper and lower segments (but is sometimes crossed by the characters). This negative horizontal line is also a stylistic device that is often found in science fiction logotypes and evokes corresponding associations.
Geometric und Organic Shapes
A combination of geometric shapes and organic, handwritten details emphasizes the duality of technology, precision, science fiction on the one hand and a long, living writing tradition on the other. This sense of history was a design principle that was also applied in world building.
The metropolis where Prospector is set is bilingual; the fictitious alphabet is used together with Latin letters. This becomes apparent above all in neon advertisements, which play a prominent role in the street scene depicted.
The theme of mask and face — the basis for our story — can be found again in logos and advertising graphics. Additionally, the alphabet is used in warning signs, graffiti and various other lettering.
Prospector is a narrative adventure game for PC and was created during the Games Master’s Program at the HAW Hamburg. The game can be downloaded and played for free (or a voluntary donation) on itch.io: Prospector on itch.io