Video Game: Creeper World

"In the end, no answer is ever as elegant as its question."

Creeper World is a single-player Real-Time Strategy shareware game developed by Knuckle Cracker. The game starts off by throwing the player to the far-off date of 13,271, after humankind has colonized thousands of worlds in the galaxy. For millenia, everything was great, until the Creeper showed up. Then things started going downhill. The Creeper, which seems to be a form of sentient, xenophobic, destructive ooze, flowed across the human empire, killing trillions of people. On the first day alone, it struck 50 planets and slaughtered nearly 500 billion humans. The remaining fifty thousand humans gathered on a planet called Hope guided by the writings of the Old Man, and constructed the mobile outpost known as Odin City. The player takes the role of Commander of Odin City. Each map is a human world that had been overrun by Creeper, and your job is to power up Warp Totems so you can teleport to the next one.

One of the things that makes the game noticeable is that it eschews some established Real-Time Strategy tropes, and taking new looks at others. The result is a rather unique gameplay style, and can be addictive. Like Go or Checkers, it's easy to pick up, but can take some time to master. There is only one resource, energy, which is collected by plonking down Fractal Energy Collectors (and/or Reactors) across the map. The more sections of the map that is covered by your collectors, the more energy you produce. However, at the same time, Creeper emitters will try to cover the map with Creeper as well, which damages any of your buildings it touches. You stop the flow of Creeper by building weapons, which blasts away the mean ooze. Fight your way through the waves of Creeper and connect the Warp Totems to win the map. If the Creeper deals enough damage to Odin City, it'll be destroyed and you lose.

The tutorial can be played here, or downloaded (either the demo or the full game) here.

Tropes exemplified in this game:

  • Ancient Conspiracy: Revealed in the Third game, the reason the Creeper does what it does.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Averted. Go ahead and build as many Blasters, Mortars, and Drones as you like. Good luck powering them without sufficient energy, though.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Averted, kinda. You don't have to build training facilities, and non-weapon buildings can be put anywhere within your energy network. However, it's often a good idea to put them right next to Odin City, however, to speed up building times on them, and ensure they're among the last things threatened by the Creeper.
    • But every building needs to be connected to the energy network, and in most cases that involves making a chain of collectors to wherever you want to build (since they take less time than relays and provide additional energy to boot).
  • Command And Conquer Economy: In full effect. But to be fair, it's pretty much just the player who is doing all of the work.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Averted. To be fair, if you squint, the green zone that represents your energy production can resemble the spreading blue of the Creeper, but the Creeper has emitters that just make more Creeper. You have actual buildings and weapons.
    • Word of God is that the third game will heavily examine how similar human tactics are to Creeper's, and the story will focus on the fact that humanity's method of spreading across the map makes them Not So Different.
    • In the map editor, the colors of both the energy zone and the creeper are fully customizable, so there's no reason why an evil map author couldn't make them match.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The first game. Your enemy is an amorphous Eldritch Abomination that has killed most of humanity, save for a small mobile city. No matter how much firepower is thrown at it, the Creeper will not stop coming until Odin City is destroyed. The only hope for survival is to constantly run away. Subverted in the final mission, when the player is given the means to fight back and destroy the Creeper for good. Later games, meanwhile, have technologies that can be used to stop the Creeper from spawning.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Your weapons will continue to deal full damage even if they're down to their last Hit Point. The game actually encourages you to take advantage of this: Dropping a Blaster into some Creeper that it can kill will deal minimal damage to it, but will soon be pushed back.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The only way to defend yourself against the blue menace.
  • Did The Research: The spread of creeper and the navigation of energy packets on the network are done with real-life scientific equations (thermal flow and A* graph search).
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. One of the reasons you require so much energy is that it gets converted into the ammo for your weapons. And without a network of collectors and relays to deliver said ammo, your weapons will fire what they have and stop. Quick way to get overrun.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Creeper itself.
  • Fog of War: Averted. You can watch the Creeper flow out of its emitters, which on later difficulties, can be pretty scary when you see just how much is being produced.
    • The Creeper was actually inspired by Fog of War, though!
  • Foreshadowing: The existence of The Precursors, and Platius/Old Man's relationship with the Commander.
  • Forgotten Superweapon: Oh, did you not notice there's another box for a weapon next to Drones?
    • This appears in some custom maps, though it is extremely over-powered. It's called, fittingly enough, The Thor.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Coupled with a bit of Fridge Logic. In both the first game and it's sequel, Creeper can almost instantly destroy human buildings, yet a mound of dirt and rocks will stop it in it's tracks (mostly, the second game features some areas the Creeper can eat through but most terrain is still immune to it). The building materials of the future must be incredibly flimsy. Perhaps it's a result of the Ridiculously Fast Construction but even then, why did so many extinct planets not think to build a berm or two around the emitters? And why can't Odin City build a bulldozer instead of hoping to find high ground?
  • He Who Fights Monsters: In a meta sense, when you're halfway through a map, take a look at your network, and compare it to the creepers, beyond one being the player, there's very little showing how one slowly-expanding network of monocolor that destroys it's archrival until it one is gone is better than the other.
  • Hold the Line: The beginnings of each map can play out like this, until you build up enough weapons and energy to push the Creeper back. Played straighter on the final map of story mode, at least until you find the Forgotten Superweapon.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The final map of story mode, again. See Hold the Line.
    • It's possible to win it without using the superweapon if you build lots of weapons. Only, it breaks the story.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Commander tries to do this with the Forgotten Superweapon, but a Deus ex Machina on the behalf of The Precursors saves him. Played straighter by The Precursors themselves, except for Platius/Old Man.
  • More Dakka: The rate at which energy flows through your network can be increased by Packet Speed Enhancement Drivers, theoretically infinitely. This becomes increasingly essential on the dreaded "labyrinth" maps, particularly because Odin City only starts sending packets for a building the moment it appears on the network. If it takes 10 seconds to get energy there, there will be a 10 second gap between the time the previous node is finished and the new node is even started.
    • In a more traditional sense of the trope, in some of the later levels you can end up with a massive support system powering a mixture of dozens if not hundreds of Blasters, Mortars, Bombers, Anti-Air weaponry, Missiles, Snipers, Fighter Jets, BFG's, and machines that pump out a friendly version of the Creeper. Typically building 40 or so is enough to beat even a late game level, but there's no kill like overkill.
  • Nano Machines: This game is absolutely in love with nanotech. The plans for new buildings are even called nano schematics. It's implied that this is how humanity did everything before the advent of the Creeper, so you're using the leftovers of civilization to defend you on the maps.
  • Non-Entity General: You play the "Commander," who is assisted by "OPS."
  • No Recycling: Sadly truth.
    • Especially worse in that the energy used to power a Totem is completely lost if your energy network connection to the Totem is broken. You will have to pay to charge it up again from scratch. Likewise, if you lose connection to a Storage unit, and that brings your capacity below what you had. Meanwhile, your weapon buildings will hold onto power forever (that is, if they don't fire).
    • In the third game, if you lose your Forge, all Aether put into it and all upgrades researched are instantly lost, even if you build a new one.
  • Oh, Crap: At the end of the second game. When you first hit the Nexus with a darkbeam, it starts telling you how amusing it finds your efforts, and assures you that many civilizations have tried the same attack on it through history, and they all failed. As you keep throwing more and more firepower at it, it's messages become less smug and more desperate until by the end it's alternating begging you to spare it and begging it's creeper masters to give it more power to resist you. Quite satisfying.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: Played straight precisely once in the campaign mode, for tutorial purposes. For the rest of the game, it's averted.
    • Until you get to the second half of the game, where it is played painfully straight again. Have fun collecting the same 6 upgrades mission after a mission.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Powered by Nano Machines!
  • Separate, But Identical: Not even anywhere close.
  • Sequel Hook: In the ending. And lo and behold, for there is actually a sequel, too!
  • Sequence Breaking: You're supposed to beat the final level by getting the tech for The Thor and holding off the Creeper while you build it. However, it is perfectly possible to defeat the final level using no other weapon than blasters. It takes a lot of energy, but once you've established some weapons outside the wall, you can slowly build your way across the map, eventually capping the emitters.
  • Shout-Out: The credits state the author is a fan of multiple science fiction series. The Commander person may have been inspired by Battlestar Galactica's Commander Adama (as well as references to The Old Man), and Odin City bears a striking resemblance to Atlantis.
  • Stop Poking Me: Sadly averted.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel: Perhaps inverted. The player creates technological buildings and weapons, while your foe is waves upon waves of (what appears to be) biological slime.
  • Support Power: Type 3. There are masses of undifferentiated Nano Machines on some maps, and if you can build your energy network to them, you can spend them on upgrades.
  • Tech Tree: Averted. Like the Support Power above, there are nano schematics lying around on certain maps. build your energy network to one, and you instantly learn how to build the associated tech.
  • Timed Mission: Surprisingly, it's not until the third game that Creeper World will throw these at you. There is enough time to complete the missions, though at first it might not seem that way.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In the final level, you're supposed to complete it by holding out until the super weapon becomes available, but you can actually power your way through the entire level. Only the black hole at the end is supposed to be defeated by Thor ramming into it and exploding, destroying it. So what happens instead? Knuckle Cracker pops up a message congratulating you for being so 1337 and tells you that, for the sake of the story, it's going to assume that you used the superweapon anyways.
    • Note that this is not present in the older versions of the game. The Dev Team didn't think of it until people actually pulled the feat off, and crashed the game (The game just sits there forever, with Odin city alone. After people found the bug they patched it.
  • The Precursors: Previously unmentioned 'Others', among their numbers being Platius/Old Man. Can feel like a bit of an Ass Pull, especially if you don't understand the Foreshadowing.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: As previously stated, you're going to need a looooooot of energy. The method of gathering and using said energy is pretty unique, though.