Today we have a very special guest stopping by our blog for an interview! Corteo is the creator of The Final Outpost, a pixel art adoptable site featuring gorgeous sprites and rich lore. Thank you so much for being here today, Corteo!
What inspired you to make The Final Outpost?
I’ve always wanted to run an online game as a side project and have started playing with ideas here and there, but I’ve never found a concept that I found compelling enough to complete. While I have always enjoyed the retro feel of pixel art adoptable sites, I find that after a while I lose interest as all of the sprites within a species look the same, so that’s where the inspiration of a genetic engine came in. There are other sites that include a genetic engine, but I wasn’t aware of one that specifically involved pixel art.
In terms of the core concept, I was inspired by the massive seed vaults in the arctic and asked the question “what would happen if the vast majority of biodiversity was wiped out, what remained was changed, and you were part of the team who got to deal with that fallout?” That seemed like a good way to present a collecting game where breeding the creatures would produce such drastically different outcomes.
During the very beginning of the pandemic lockdown, I was bored enough to finally sit down and write some code! Very quickly, I realized that the site had the potential to be something special. All of the early testers loved the concept and game play, so we worked together to bring the site to where it is today.
Limaka Cevalos are a reimagining of the term “seahorse.” Art by Virida.
You chose a post-apocalyptic science fiction setting for TFO. What’s your favorite part about working in the constraints of that genre? What’s your least favorite part?
Most online adoptable sites tend to go into high fantasy. And while I love high fantasy, I wanted to have a concept that was noticeably different and would have a fresh feel. My favorite part of working in the science fiction genre is that everything echoes back to something that we experience every day. Everything is grounded as much as possible in reality. Sometimes with high fantasy, it can be difficult to relate to the concepts, as we don’t have magic, for example. But everyone knows what the cold hard metal of a lab table feels like. My least favorite part is that people can keep you much more accountable, and you can’t just hand wave it away by saying “magic.” We’ve gotten used to retconning content and finding creative solutions to questions.
Cielarka Cimos are a cave-dwelling beetle with butterfly- and moth-style wings. Art by Dohaerys.
TFO is all about collecting (and breeding) beautiful sprites. You’re the artist of several yourself! What is your favorite? Or top three favorites if it’s hard to choose?
The trope of “don’t make me choose which child is my favorite” definitely applies here! Even if I didn’t help with the art itself, I’m attached to all of them. At the moment, I am particularly keen on the Avka Felos which came up from interpreting the word “catfish” a bit more literally. I also always enjoy the Kosmira Girafo—a giraffe-type creature but with multiple legs. But of course my favorite changes from day to day.
But of course we can’t forget the writing either! We are so fortunate to have an amazing writing team, and the descriptions and quests are works of art themselves. One of my favorite pieces of writing was a series of quests around Halloween where users had to discover the source of an infection spreading through the outpost. The tension and pacing of the stories were delightful.
Avka Felos are a semi-aquatic mammal comfortable on land and in the water. Art by Corteo, Malcorium, and schenanigans.
The diversity of TFO creatures in terms of colors and design is incredible. It must be quite the process to create each set of sprites. How are genes and colors determined for each creature? Are there any limiting factors?
Because we use Punnett squares with codominant genes, we are mathematically limited to multiples of 3 (3, 9, 27, etc.) in terms of how many variants each part of a species can have (a part could be horn color, marking type, etc.). Co-dominant genes means that each marker has a unique part rather than just the dominant letter deciding what is expressed. This way of doing things is not technically the most scientific, but it’s the easiest within a game engine. Artists are able to create any colors and patterns that they want! The beauty of the site is that when a creature is generated, it picks from all the different parts and variations. We have species that have anywhere from 27 combinations to others that have over 20 million. There is always something new for the user to discover!
Senfina Krizos have over 14 million possible gene combinations. Art by Infinis.
It’s been a year since the launch of TFO already, and the site has grown so much! Is there anything you would go back and change in the past year if you could? Is there something in particular you’re looking forward to in the year to come?
Oh absolutely there are tons of things I would change! 100% of it is code related. A lot of the legacy code wasn’t created with the intention of the site actually growing or developing further. I’m currently in the process of completely recoding the site to get everything up to date. Totally wish I had done it the right way first!
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story line develops this year. At the beginning of the year, we discovered that there is potentially another outpost in the world somewhere, and this year, we will get to discover if it really exists and if so if they are friends or foes. I can’t wait to see how the wonderful writing team develops it!
Kosmira Girafos use their short front legs to help climb steep cliffs. Art by Dohaerys.
Before we end this interview, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the importance of having a solid team around you. One of the biggest strengths of The Final Outpost is the team of creatives who are involved. My advice is no matter what you do, involve a solid team around you. I am reminded of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Suna Hundo colors were inspired by stars. Art by Malcorium
It’s been a pleasure having you here today, Corteo! Thanks for stopping by. Readers, you can find out more about The Final Outpost by visiting the site. We hope to see you there!
About the Interviewee
Corteo is a self-taught programmer with a love for coffee and a dislike for code bugs. He lives in Germany with his family and a small voidling pretending to be a cat. When not buried in the latest coding shenanigans for The Final Outpost, he can be found enjoying walks in the sunshine or mixing up tasty desserts in the kitchen.
About the Interviewer
Fueled by chocolate and moonlight, Heather Hayden seeks to bring magic into the world through her stories. A freelance editor by day, she pours heart and soul into her novels every night, spinning tales of science fiction and fantasy that sing of friendship and hope. Heather’s publications include Augment and Upgrade, a YA science fiction duology, and ten short stories in the JL Anthology series. She also heads The Final Outpost’s writing team under the pseudonym Shark.
Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. Fueled by chocolate and moonlight, Heather is currently working on Upgrade (the sequel to her first published novel) and an as-yet-untitled series of fairy tale novelizations.