FlowScape

The Beauty and Fun of FlowScape

FlowScape is a design tool you can download from Steam that allows you to create a world of your own imagining. It can be a lush jungle, a medieval city, frozen mountain ranges, or a desert plain.

It starts with picking the landscape. Will it be flat? Will it be mountainous? Will there there be a volcano? Is there a lake or steam?

Then comes the act of “painting” the world into existence. There are hundreds of objects to choose from such as trees, plants, shrubs, cactus, buildings, carts, lamps and animals. If that’s not enough, import more. Then select some colorful flowers and watch them grow into existence. Click to place a tree, and watch it spring to life and sway in the breeze. Create a town square. Draw a cobblestone street. Create a fishpond. Set it to bright sunny day. Dim the sky to sunset. Have the dark clouds of a storm rolling in. All of it is possible.

FlowScape is a deeply satisfying experience. You can add as much or as little to the landscape as you want. Or, you can have the computer generate one for you as inspiration. And when you’re done, you can drop into your world and literally walk around it. The voice of Bob Ross will truly be whispering in your ear as you bring things to life.

I adore this program and have barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. But, everytime I sit down with it, several hours go by and I’m just amazed at what appears on the screen.

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Glorious scene and city builders in a non-traditional sense

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve stumbled across some fantastic builder games in the guise of TownScaper, Islanders, Cloud Gardens and FlowScape. They are “games” that forgo the typical tropes of achieving a high score, slaying some overpowered, ridiculous looking boss, looting some rare resource that drops once every one hundred tries, or going for the headshot from a thousand yards away. Instead, the goal is to install a feeling in you and create an experience with you. When there is no wrong way to play, you simply enjoy the ambience.

All of these “games” create the same enjoyment as snapping Lego together. When you click to place a house in TownScaper, or start a new land section, there is the satisfying splash of the water, the burst of color from the house, the amusements as the birds come to roost, and the excitement and anticipation of placing the next block in the sequence.

Even if you have no artistic flair, you are still creating something beautiful and entertaining to look at. It will be unique, colorful, and artistic no matter what you do. You are in the hands of a great teacher who won’t let you fail. There is a true sense of accomplishment with creating something of your own, not just following a map or exploring caves someone else put together.

And these are the types of game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. You won’t be penalized for not having twitch reflexes. You don’t have to worry about high score. You don’t have to grind for days, or weeks to reach the “end game.” Technically, there is no end game. The world can go on forever, or be restarted as many times as you want.

I love the fact these games exist. Not only are they a pleasure to play, but they introduce news twists for gameplay. The offer fun changes and allow people to experiment with ideas without investing hundreds of dollars in a game and thousands of dollars in computer hardware.

I bought FlowScape this weekend and jumped in with both feet to try it out. I watched a couple of tutorials, watched what some others put together, then clicked through the selection of objects available and started dropping trees, rocks and water into place. Before I realized it, two hours had gone by. I was so engrossed with the action on the screen, and so riveted with trying “the next thing” that I lost all track of time.

It was so incredibly satisfying and that’s exactly how games should be.

A bit of fun with plants in FlowScape

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Dressing up an overpass sign in Cloud Gardens

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