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The Cosmic Horror of Stargaze


Hi folks,

The Design Lead of Stargaze here. Today I have for you a perfect Halloween tale of game development tricks!



Intro to Stargaze Galaxy


Every planet you visit in Stargaze is telling its own story that fits within Stargaze’s “Little Prince” inspired galactic setting. On Ignis-6 an once fiery fox is looking for new sources of energy. On Gelat-0 three lively shrimps are getting together for an unusual ice brawl. And Florian-5 – a planet of once lush vegetation – has caught a deep rooted sickness and needs intensive treatment. The planets oscillate between zany adventures and mysterious cosmic enigmas. Of the second type Planet Specul-8 (The Crystal Planet) is possibly the most unusual one. One that required a different approach during development.


Designing and weaving The Cosmic Horror into Stargaze


Specul-8’s design was so unique due to spicing up our philosophical fairytale with a fair share of horror influences. The main idea was to have a dark and alien planet that encased a beast inside, which is only briefly glimpsed at until solving all the puzzles.

Right away this idea gelled with a planet made of crystal with transparent as well reflecting surfaces that distort the image the same way that halls of mirrors at amusement parks do. Add to this some layers of smudge covering the planet and some tricks of light – and now you have a set of challenges before you get to see what you can’t unsee…


Progression structure


Warning! Some lite spoilers will ensue.


Player’s Main Goal:

Find out what creature dwells within and make sure it doesn’t stay… lonely.


Puzzles’ General Steps:

  1. Clean up parts of the planet from magnetic metal chunks.
  2. Introduce a source of light inside the crystal.
  3. Spread the light all over the interior of the planet.
  4. Combine several crystal lenses to achieve a clear, sharp vision of what hides in the planet.
  5. ??? – I won’t spoil what happens at the end 🙂





We asked Justin Franklin the VO artist behind the game’s mysterious narrator, to slightly change his tone for this planet. His lines also became more arabesque and had those little moments of Lovecraftian ill-gotten-wisdom and warnings to eager scientists after it’s too late to go back. All of these written delightfully by our writer Alex van der Wijst.


Fun ideas that kept on giving


  1. The little Firefly character was important for the light spreading puzzle which was focused on reflecting light beams. Inspired by Jack-Jack from the Incredibles, we came up with the idea to have the firefly sneeze with lightbeam shots. We equipped the firefly with a long snout and gave it some cool sounds between organic allergic reaction and laser hits.

  3. The Creature hiding within the planets was named after Played with Fire CEO’s cat Julian. This enhanced the beast’s beastliness and personality to an unforeseen degree.


    Wish you a sweetly spooky Halloween!

    And on this special day don’t forget about the Ol’ Great Cosmos looming above out there, always ready to crush you with its vast mysteries and paradoxical optics.


    Igor Hardy
    Lead Designer, Played with Fire

Igor is the lead designer at Played with Fire. Largely self-taught indie games designer and developer with diverse experience and skill set. Led several micro indie game projects - where he had his hands in almost everything from programming to graphics.