A journey of discovery…

The Evolution of the Rise of the Occulites

Evolution of the Concept

This is a section of the website that I’d like to continually update to track the evolution of the concept from a simple beginning in 2004 to what it is today.

Rise of the Occulites is a concept that that has evolved as much over the years as the characters in the game do over the course of a campaign. It has been a fantastic trip down memory lane putting this together and one that I hope to be able to add to over the years as the concept is implemented by a series of games.

To start this trip, we need to go back to early 2004 when the first idea for the concept struck. I was in uni studying teaching at the time. By this time I was always carrying around a Visual Diary with me to jot down notes and ideas as they hit me. It was on the way to Kilsyth for a mother’s day lunch that the first idea hit me. The idea was to create a game with cute, cave dwelling creatures that kept wanting to improve their cave. I called the game “The Grass is Greener” and the variety of creatures were coded by colours. They looked very different from how they do now and I hadn’t called them Occulites yet. They were simply “Creatures” and were very varied and different from each other. You can start to see the basic idea for the creatures in this picture.

2004 concept

This little guy was called ‘Snail-trail’ and was one of many cute little “Creatures” I drew for the game. It was a burst of activity, where I had the game designed and made in around 2 weeks. It was fun, but had lots of flaws. But I loved the “Creatures” enough to make my own little figures for the game out of Fimo.

“Creatures” made from fimo in 2004 (I still have them now – this is a recent photo)

After creating “The Grass is Greener”, concentrating on university took hold and designing games was put on hold for a couple of years as I worked to get through uni and land a job. I finished uni in 2005 and was lucky enough to be able to get a job straight out of uni at a great school. It was my first year working as a teacher, in 2006, that the ideas came back to me and I introduced the game to my kids. They really enjoyed it and as a class project we created some more “Creatures” and refined the game a bit. It was a fun project and stoked my passion for designing again.

I started playing with the design of the “Creatures” a bit and fleshing out the background. The “Creatures” turned into Occulites as the design had developed a snail like stalk with an eye in it (an early idea can be seen in the above picture in the back behind the initial “Floris tribe member”).

The took on a personality of their own as the background material I wrote brought the world to life… all gaining arms, some with wings, some with pouches to help them gather more Sungems.

2006 Occulite concept

2006 Occulite variant designs “Happy” and “Kanga”

2006 Nimbus tribe Occulite concept “Flitterfly”

I sketched hundreds of these little guys until 2007 when I came up with the concept of the Luftles – a helper race that would aid the Occulites in return for protection and shelter. Developing a kind of symbiosis with them.

2007 Luftle concept

The ideas just simmered for a year as I concentrated on my job and the concept faded from immediate thought again until…

2008 when I started to design games in more earnest. During that year I was able to get one of my games, Nuthin’ But Net published by Two Hour Wargames (now owned by Impact Miniatures). This was terribly exciting and helped me to renew sketching my Occulites.

2008 Occulite Concept

It was then when I started to explore the concepts of the world and develop the background more. I decided the Occulites came from a planet called Crepusculum. They were a primitive race, but evolve quickly. It is a high gravity planet, where the pressure of the gravity stunted the grow of all the creatures, putting some of the largest critters at no more than a metre high. I decided that gravity, coupled with the increased atmospheric pressure would force minerals to be pressure cooked on the surface of the planet. So what had started its life of as being just treasure, the Sungems were now crystals created by the atmospheric pressure. I went on to decide that due to the planet’s rotation, their lands were plunged into darkness for half a year at a time. To stay warm and survive, the Occulites lived in caves, collecting enough Sungems to last the “long dark”. Why collect Sungems? Because they absorb the suns rays and create a radiant heat that lasts months at a time. This would make them extremely important to the different tribes I had created and something that they would fight over… the story was beginning to take shape.

2008 – Concept of the size of the creatures due to gravity and atmospheric pressure

Another concept that grew from this background were giant plant-like creatures called “Podmothines”. They grew in mineral rich areas, feeding on the minerals in the soil. These creatures couldn’t move, but to keep warm during the “long dark” would utilise the minerals they ingested to create their own Sungems that grew on the outside of their bodies. Once the Occulites gained news of these, areas where Podmothines grew became hotly contested areas indeed.

2008 Podmothine Concept

It was mid 2008 that I started to write the miniatures game in earnest. Initially it was called “Twilight”, but quickly changed to “Dusk” after realising there was another game already called “Twilight” being written by Mike Thorp (which is a great game and has fantastic miniatures as well).

Looking back on the evolution of the concept, I thought to myself, its all changed so much over the years, I could do a trilogy of games spanning the evolution of the Occulites from their isolated tribal days right through to creating civilisations. And so so that’s what I did, I started work, taking a break to write Song of Fur and Buttons and A Frog’s Banquet (unpublished), and am still going to this day.

It was mid 2009 when I created the character of Darwin and his journal and the story just took off from there. The Occulites were still on another planet, but now a human could view them through “Windows in Space” and he was able to document their evolution over time.

Extract from one of Darwin’s first diary entries.

And so after working very hard on the games for two years, the Rise of the Occulites Trilogy was born in 2010, started with this blog. As you can see, the concepts for the Luftle and Occulite changed a bit, especially the Luftle’s size, becoming much smaller.

I had adpated my original miniatures game into a boardgame setting (something I’m still working on now), so I had the flexibility of going either way. The second boardgame was completed in early 2011, with just the art remaining to do. The third game, which was just in concept in 2010, was begun to be developed.

What I needed were figures. It was in early 2011 that I started to sculpt up my own figures. My plan was to teach myself to sculpt so that I had figures to support the game.

Early Prototype Painted Luftle (with early prototype Occulite Teaser in background) sculpted by me in 2011

Prototype Occulite sculpted by me in 2011

Painted prototype Occulite sculpted by me in 2011

I also did some more Luftle sculpts that were ok, but as proud as I was of how I had gone with the sculpting, I wasn’t confident that they really represented the concept that I had in my head. It was in April of 2011 that I sent Bob Olley an out of the blue “Hail Mary” email asking if he would be interested in sculpting up my figures. I just happened to catch him with an opening, coupled with him showing an interest in the models, agreed to sculpt them up. He sculpted a test piece to see if I was happy and needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled. We then got the green light to go ahead with the other tribes. Bob has been tremendous to work with and is just a top bloke.

The Tribes

For a skirmish sized game, going for a 28mm/32mm scale model gave us the opportunity to not only have some nice detail in the figures, but also to give each figure a nice heft when you move it around the board.

Most games will see you control five Occulite figures (sometimes along with a couple of Luftles). Your Tribe’s Chief and four other Tribe members. In the detailed back story, it is said that Occulites believed this Tribe configuration was best as it reflected the digits on their hands. The Chief was the thumb and the members were the four fingers. Without the Chief, the tribe could not operate effectively.

Bob Olley did a great job sculpting all five Occulite Tribes and their Luftle counterparts. Kosta Heristanidis then did a marvelous job painting them up. Of course in the boardgame, you can paint up your Tribes however you like as there are many different variant patterns in their natural environment. These are just a selection of our favourites.

Palaudis Tribe

This was the first sculpt he did.

Painted versions:

Hydris Tribe

Painted versions:

Floris Tribe

Painted versions:

Ignis Tribe

Painted versions:

Nimbus Tribe

Painted versions:


Painted versions:

So now you now what all the Tribes look like, which one is your favourite? Which one would you want to play in Dawn – Rise of the Occulites? They all have their strengths and they all play differently when the Advanced Rules are used.

Evolution of the Card Design

The card design of the Natural Selection Deck was always going to be important. Not only from a visual standpoint as they are a big part of the game, but as with any card with multiple uses, the readability was paramount.

One of the first card designs the game had was the one below:

This was ok. It wasn’t cluttered and the numbering was large. Numbers were colour coded red for aggressive cards, blue for defensive and white for boost cards.
The issues with this design came from the numbers being in the centre of the cards, so quick reference as to what was in your hand was difficult. Also the card effects did not have any text explanations on them, so it made referencing other materials important at least until the card effects were learnt. This hampered new players.

The second card design was a little more ambitious…

This design had a more elaborate card frame, which looked a little too “unpolished”. The numbers were colour coded again and still large, but also the value of the card when used as an opposite (aggressive as defensive etc…) was placed in the top left for easy reference. The card effect was explained on the card itself and the Activation number was placed at the top of the card.
This design was too cluttered, so a more streamlined design was tried.

This was the third design. A more minimalist approach was taken.

Again the same image was placed on each card, with the card effect explained on the bottom again. The numbers were still colour coded, but the card number and Activation number were placed to the left side of the card so when the cards fanned out (for right handers anyway – sorry lefties… I tried placing it on both sides but it was too crowded) they would be visible.
It was at this point that I played with our first colour blind player and it was unplayable. The coloured numbers were difficult to distinguish and this made it very unpleasant to use for this particular player.

The fourth design was created as followed:

The whole card design was given a make over and the coloured numbers replaced with symbols. A spear head for aggressive cards, a shield for defensive and an Occulite eye for Boost cards. Each different card effect had a different illustration thus making it a bit easier to identify card effects quickly from a brief fan out in the hand. I am really happy with how the design evolved over the life of the game and hope that it helps to make a visually interesting card, whilst still being practical and easily referenced.

So there you have the evolution of the Natural Selection Deck cards. What do you guys want to know about next?

And that is the story so far. I look forward to see where this exciting journey goes! I hope you’ll come along for the ride. 🙂


4 responses

  1. Hi, I very much like the concept. I’d also like to send you a personal mail but I cant find a contact address on your site anywhere! Is it safe to say you’re dutch (name)? hope to try some of this out soon. Contact me at admin@warcompass.com


    September 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

    • boromirandkermit

      G’day Jeff,

      Glad you like the concept. 🙂
      Feel free to email me on ben@darwin-games.com.au


      September 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

  2. Robert

    Pretty awesome story, and evolution. Keep it going man. How can I get involved with play testing?

    October 6, 2011 at 4:39 am

    • boromirandkermit

      At the moment, openings in the playtesting team are closed. If they open again closer to completion, I’ll keep you in mind Robert. 🙂

      October 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

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