Prisons, Gulags and Work-Camps of the Animal Kingdom

Prisons, Gulags and Work-Camps of the Animal Kingdom

As all of you avid readers of Ark Lore already know, the Animal Kingdom was not always as enlightened as it is today. During times long past it used to keep its iron-fist rule by stric enforcement of lion law and opression of all those who disobey. And what kind of opressive Kingdom would it be without at least a few high-level internment facilities?

Internment Facilities of the Kingdom

There was a total of five internment facilities (you can call them prisons, or work camps, or gulags – you get the picture) in the Kingdom. Three of these are actually still in operation as work camps even in King Lav’s day, and in the game you will get to visit a few of them.

The first to be built was the so-called Blackbark Tower, designation IF-1. It was especially brutal and hosted all the worst and most hardened criminals, as well as political opponents of the Kingdom. The height of its brutality came during the reign of King Leopold, and after the Lav Rebellion, the Blackbark Tower was destroyed and the internment facility razed to the ground.

It is decomissioned and all that remains are horror stories from those who survived its walls.

Ark Fantastic on screenshots looks really beautiful, magical, and peaceful. But it wasn't always like that. Animals could end-up in prison. Or Worse.
Blackbark Tower in Blackbark, the former capital of the Kingdom.

The second internment facility (IF-2) was built in the west of the Kingdom, in the region of Streaks, operated by the rule of the tiger family. It was in use for those royals and nobles who committed grave crimes but were of too high political status to be interned in the Blackbark Tower.

Ark Fantastic on screenshots looks really beautiful, magical, and peaceful. But it wasn't always like that. Animals could end-up in prison. Or Worse.
Temporary map made with Inkarnate – Blackbark was the former capital, now a ruin from a bygone age.

As you can imagine, it was a much easier experience, living out the sentence in the lenient prison on the coast, and it has even earned the nickname “The Summer Prison”. It is still in operation today, and is disproportionately filled with Lynx nobles, who, for some reason, love killing each other in petty feuds (this mystery will be solved by Charles, though, so don’t worry too much about those poor cats).

Tower of London Tickets | Buy Tour Tickets | VisitBritain
Imagine the Tower of London but with room service. Or just imagine Swedish prisons.

The third internment facility (IF-3) was built in Clowder on the north of the Kingdom. As the Blackbark Tower can only host so much prisoners, and the Kingdom saw a huge rise in its population, the so-called Winter Prison was built on a huge wasteland. It is also the first prison which was also a work-camp. The animals there have to cut trees and work the lumber mills from dusk till dawn.
Temporary map made with Inkarnate – Clowder is the “northern capital” of the Kingdom.

This work camp still persists even in King Lav’s time and is a point of some contention, as the working conditions have not improved there, and it’s size has not diminished. However, sending hardened criminals to the large wasteland prison is a very effective way of keeping the local city prisons from being overwhelmed.

Exploring the Russian North
Maybe we’ll just go “all-in” with the historical similarities and just have some former prisoner write a book called “The Clowder Archipelago”. Or would that be “too obvious”?

The fourth Internment facility (IF-4) was built near Valencia by King Valent when the need arose to have an internment facility in the newfound continent as well. All sorts of bandits were sent here from all over the Kingdom, as well as certain political opponents whose opinions were too dangerous to be left whispering in the Kingdom Proper. It was also a work-camp with a large quarry.

One of the Kingdom’s more “innovative” and “modern” torture machines were built in IF-4, including the infamous “feather-plucker”, any birds true nightmare.

However, Vincent, the Explorer King, disbanded the entire facility as Valencia grew in size, and freed all bandits that wished to join him in creating the “Explorer’s Guild”. Later, the large prison was incorporated in the growing city of Valencia and is now home to affordable living quarters (read: slums) for many commoners and vermin living in Valencia.

The IF-4 was disbanned in Vincent’s time and all that remains of it are museum pieces and the informal name of the Valencia neighbourhood that used to be the prison – Ieffour.

Trip the Ark Fantastic Press Kit - Gamechuck Home
Given the choice of rotting away in a stone quarry or exploring the great unknown, what would you choose?

However, having far away isolated prisons was a good idea, and Vincent did build another one – IF-5, in the Bay of Michael, on the east of the newly-found continent. The new facility was the most modern work-camp and was used to develop colored dye with the most modern chemical technology known to the Kingdom (for almost no cost, due to the prison population not being paid, of course). This was one of the reasons that Valencia and the entire colony became a strong economic power in the Kingdom, as the dye industry in the Kingdom Proper is still very traditional, taking pride in its old methods.

That’s a nice prison-camp you got there… Would be a shame if something… happened to it.

This facility will quickly become the center of the game, as an important uprising happens there, as one of its prisoners was Coriolanus, the revolutionary eagle. Once you reach it within the game, it will no longer be IF-5 and will go by the name Caw Macaw, or “The City of Freedom” in the bird tongue.

Thanks for reading about this bleak topic. If you wish to experience gulag conditions yourself, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Discord and so on!

Dialogues, Letters, Papers – conversations in the Animal Kingdom

On the 6th of May in 1840, the (real) world’s first postage stamp was produced. Well, in the Kingdom, postage stamps are still not a thing. Letters are sealed, inked, and hand-stamped in the old fashioned way. And don’t forget it’s not the internet era yet either (D’UH!), so unless you’re royalty with your own carrier service, you need to get your letter all the way to the nearest post office to have it delivered!

The printing press, post office and the Royal Newspapers editorial staff all work in the same location!

The entire game starts with a letter. As Charles receives one from the royal messenger, he is summoned to the capital.

On today (6th of May) in 1840, the (real) world's first postage stamp was produced, while our entire game starts with a letter.
Charles: Is this an order or a request?
Messenger: The words of a Sovereign do not allow for such distinctions.

Letter sending happens quite often in the game and is one of the game mechanics we’re opting for, as most of the game will see Charles off in the colony across the sea, so his only way to retain contacts with the Crown and other important Kingdom characters will be through dialogues which are “offset” by time. What does this mean? Let’s explain.

Of course we have the usual dialogue trees you have with characters (like in other games) where you ask something, and get a reply, and then ask something else, etc, like this GIF here:

Also a very interesting read, check out that article as well if you’ve missed it!

Apart from those, we’ll also have the dialogues which you write as letters to others.

However, the letters will just have a series of questions and things you can write, and then when you finish your letter to a person in your list of contacts, you can send it and expect a reply in some time. This can sometimes lead to additional clues or just a reputation boost (if you solved a mining problem in the colony, perhaps the Burrows mine would love to hear about it as well).

This is similar to how the original Broken Sword had that envelope with all the contacts and you could choose when to call who and catch up for clues or just fun dialogue fluff:

Best phone pickup line in adventure game history: “Hi. My name is George Stobbart. You don’t know me.”

It might be a bit more difficult to pull off as every time you write a letter you have to go on with the rest of the game and the reply comes back in a week or more (not actual game time but still), until which time you might have forgotten what you were talking about (however there should be a “letter history” available, to make this easier).

A similar system of “delayed conversation” in the game is writing your own scholarly reports and publishing them to the Kingdom’s newspapers. This is similar to a dialogue tree as conclusions you make bring forth new possible branches of conclusions, et cetera, but unlike in dialogues, here there is only one person doing the talking (writing) – you:

On today (6th of May) in 1840, the (real) world's first postage stamp was produced, while our entire game starts with a letter.
A very early draft of the reporting UI

These reports will be published in the Kingdom’s newspapers and will have some “reviews” by your peers (other scholars, intellectuals, Kingdom elites, et cetera) depending on the topic at hand, which you can then reply to with other reports as well, thus having a “conversation” of sorts as well.

What do you think about these ideas? Are there games with similar mechanics? Do you think it would be cumbersome for you to use these mechanics, or would you just forget about them and never use them, or abuse them completely and send so many mails until the game has nothing more to give?

Feedback is welcome! Thanks!

And, as always, don’t forget to follow us on our TwitterFacebookDiscord, and while you’re at it sign up to our newsletter!

Do our animals eat each other? No. And here’s an essay.

What do animals of the Kingdom eat? In the real world, carnivores and omnivores all eat other animals. It’s a bit of a “tough sell” when writing sentient animals. Not to imply that it can’t be pulled off – it’s been done a lot in fiction, but it’s just not what we wanted.

For example, Watership Down was filled with creepy scenes such as this one:

Can you pay rent? I think not. I. Think. Not.

However, in Watership Down it’s obvious that the cat and the rabbits are antagonistic, sworn enemies. This can easily be extrapolated to whole civilisations fighting against each other in a war for dominance, similar to the cat and mouse game Root:

Continue reading “Do our animals eat each other? No. And here’s an essay.”

Everything you wanted to know about Charles (but were afraid to ask)

Today we’re talking about Charles the hedgehog. As our main protagonist, we decided it’s important to flesh out his life and history as early as possible. So here it is: the portrait of a scholar!

So cute!!! But don’t cuddle him – he is a prickly scholar!

Born in 1849, he was a child of Herbert, a distinguished scholar himself and a member of the new King’s council. As he grew up, he saw Pride shift from a quiet summer palace to the capital of the entire Animal Kingdom – things were never quite as peaceful in Pride as in those early years.

He enrolled in the Royal Academy in Pride in 1862, under the tutelage of Quorni, a turtle botanist in charge of the royal arboretum.
A turtle sketch. Is it Quorni? Doesn’t matter, all turtles look the same!

He graduated “summa cum laude” and continued his work in the royal arboretum where he wrote his first few “scholarly reports”.

His academic life from that point onward can be summed up into three distinct periods:

  1. The Quorni period
The roof of the Royal arboretum – Charles’ workplace for many years in Pride

From 1865 to 1874, Charles worked in the arboretum as an apprentice for Quorni, coauthoring many seminal works in botany, including forming the famous Quill-Quorni hypothesis.

For his outstanding work, Charles was awarded the Master Scholar’s Seal in Botany, becoming one of the rare botanists with the privilege of having their works published directly in the Royal Newspaper.

One of the royal arboretum’s roof on the inside – holding a rare tree called Ijustmadeupa Namea
  1. The Burrows period

When Quorni died in 1874, the emptied post of Head Botanist was thought to be taken over by Charles, but being such a young age, he believed he was not yet fit for such a high prestige position and it went to Gregury Cherni instead, a great botanist from a noble leopard family.

Charles himself settled in the Burrows, a quiet mining town not far away from Pride, where he set up his lab and started expanded his work to include geology (researching the Burrows cliffs), microscopy, and other things needed to build and maintain his own botanical lab.

This is Charles’ lab in the Burrows, and where you start the whole game.

Due to the unexpected use of his work on reflective surfaces (for a new series of microscopes), he was awarded the Master Scholar’s Seal in 1878. He was now privy of publishing any scholarly report, regardless of subject, straight to the Royal Newspapers, a rare accomplishment for such a young scholar, especially from someone in the commoner caste.

His seminal work was, however, came in 1883 – an encyclopedic endeavor to list all the Kingdoms fruit, vegetables and plant-life. A feat that required skill, perseverance, knowledge and no small amount of nerves to compile.

  1. The Ark period

After five years as a Master Scholar and with many botanical masterpieces written so far, he was now called back to Pride by King Lav.

After botany, geology and engineering, he is about to be pushed in yet another field – history and arkology.

This time, the research will not be done in the safety of his home, but across the far reaches of the Kingdom, and beyond.

Will he live up to his reputation? Wait for the game and see. Until then – like, subscribe, follow, and join our Discord!



This week in ark lore, we discuss estateology. What is estateology? It’s a branch of “science” in the Animal Kingdom that tries to explain why certain Animals belong to certain castes.

It is a form of pseudo-science, even though it is not considered that by the Animals in the Kingdom. We take a cue from real-life existing pseudo-scientific ideas such as Biblical literalist chronology or the descriptive parts of eugenic theories, as well as phrenology, etc.

As our game deals with science and its relation to mythology, this pseudo-science which tries to bridge the two is an important motif that the player will encounter and investigate several times through the course of the game, and will have to form an opinion towards it.

French revolution
From the French “estates”, or classes, which are one of the inspirations for the Kingdom’s caste system.

It was invented when the first new animals were found in the Southern Continent, and an approach on how to fit them into the castes was needed. As the Ark mythos states: “All Animals were of the Ark, and all are now of the Kingdom”. The statement was previously descriptive – it told of how the world is, and afterwards, when it was shown that there are Animals who didn’t even know there was a Kingdom to be a part of, it had to be prescriptive.

Rejecting the doctrine would have been fatal for the Kingdom, as it discouraged dissenters from leaving or forming new communities by framing the Kingdom as civilisation itself, or even civility itself. ‘Where would you even go?’ they ask, ‘There is nobody and nothing outside the Kingdom.’ The important aspect of the doctrine was that there was no alternative to the Kingdom, even in theory, there simply didn’t exist any successful societies outside of the Kingdom, only dens of bandits and lunatics doomed to failure within a generation.

Obligatory picutre of the ark caste system mural in the Pride library…

To make sure that the idea of no alternative to the Kingdom alive and well, the Kingdom had to take a certain stance towards the natives: The Kingdom had to pretend that these natives never had a society, that they are simply backward savages who never figured out a form of social organisation beyond small villages. The Kingdom cannot abide by the idea that they have another ‘country’ as an enemy. Or any outside enemies at all. There is no one outside, so who could be an ‘outside enemy’?

Specifically, this means that the Kingdom denies that there is a Monkey society, let alone a Monkey Country or Kingdom. There is a Monkey culture, that’s not problematic, after all there is such a thing as a Squirrel Culture.

However, if these natives were once part of the Ark, which caste did they belong to? And in answering that, the scholars wish to answer – which caste should they belong to now? This is the field of “estateology”.

Within estateology, there are many possible approaches or schools of thought. However, all sides agree on the basic premise: the Castes reflect a certain inherrent moral aptitude, ie. the Cats are somehow better than the lower caste. Where this quality comes from is a matter of debate, and that’s how the schools are distinguished. The main two schools of thought are these:

  1. Historical Realism – The historical realists believe belonging to a caste is question of historical merit: the animals belong to a caste based on the merit of their behavior on the Ark (and by extension, Civilisation). The placement in the castes is like a criminal sentence/meritocracy and reflects a presendent for the behaviour of a certain species.

Thus, the historical realists consider the newfound animals in the colony (the natives) as part of the vermin caste (unless perhaps there is extensive mythological evidence to the contrary–an ancient mural for instance). The logic is simple: only Vermin would abandon the great cause of the Lion Kingdom, and since the native animals are not part of the kingdom, they must have abandoned it long ago, therefore they are Vermin.

This approach puts the newfound natives neatly in a caste, but doesn’t solve the more minute problems of the Kingdom – such as the “Mongrel Lord”: a Lion/Tiger hybrid who ruled an important noble family a few hundred years ago.

Liger Facts | Big Cat Rescue
You’ve never heard of a liger before?
  1. Biological Descriptivism: Animals in each Caste have certain biological features in common, if you could only determine which features are salient for each Caste you could sort any conceivable animal into its appropriate caste. For instance: Commoners are small, Vermin have scales, Stewards are large and have imposing teeth or horns, etc.
Neuroscientists put the dubious theory of 'phrenology' through ...
Kind of like phrenology.

By using biological descriptivism, the Natives species would have to be allocated to the appropriate castes based on their physical attributes, not merit. So, for example, monkeys, as small animals, would be put in the commoner caste. A bigger issue arises with animals such as crocodiles – who have features both of vermin (scales) and of burghers (large bodies).

One of the prime estateologists of the Kingdom – Germaine, Keeper of the Ark Hall, is a biological descriptivist, but both of the schools have equal footing in the Kingdom currently.

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The tale of Coriolanus

The tale of Coriolanus the eagle

Despite being an eagle lord from the Aviary, Coriolanus has lived an ascetic life. When he came of age, he was sent to Blackbark for schooling in the academy, where he focused on a field called bureauology. It is the study of the efficient organization of the Kingdom. It was a dull field concerned with trying to reorganize offices and procedures to add more efficiency. This appealed to Coriolanus as he has a very militaristic and machinistic mind.

Before finishing his years in Blackbark, he received news of the attack on the Aviary . As Lav’s Rebellion just started, the eagle lord was rumored to side with Lav, and was attacked to prevent this. Leopold didn’t think that Coriolanus, being a very conservative and militaristic hierarchic mind, would side with Lav. But, being proud and driven by revenge for his father’s death, he did.

He took the remaining birds from the ashen remains of the Aviary and flew to wage furious war on Leopold. His war victories were already folklore during the war and his machismo charisma sometimes won battles without fighting them – the population just switching over due to his legendary status.

Continue reading “The tale of Coriolanus”

How we made (and named) our fantasy calendar

Trip the Ark Fantastic fantasy calendar

How we made (and named) our fantasy calendar?

Hi, everyone, it’s me, Alex, one of the developers of Trip the Ark Fantastic. I took it upon myself to do some investigating and create the internal calendar for the Animal Kingdom in our game, based on some insights from real-life animals and civilisations, so perhaps you’ll even learn stuff. Like – why is the calendar called that way, or how did civilisations sync up to the solar year before leap years were introduced…

First, a basic question: why do this at all? Well, a fantasy world needs a fantasy calendar. After all, they can’t have “July” if they never had Julius Caesar, right? And who doesn’t like the journal entries in their game filled with “1 Uktar 1368”? It’s not confusing at all:

There are various ways to go about it, though. The most common route to go about it is just making up different names for the 12 months and keeping the same structure as in our world (30 or 31 days per month, with February having 28 or 29 depending on the leapness of the year). It’s easiest for the player to figure out and not get lost in the re-calculations all the time.

Continue reading “How we made (and named) our fantasy calendar”

Three rules on surviving coronavirus if you’re a BUNNY!

Dear rabbits, hares, bunnies and other denizens of the Burrows!

I’m sure you’ve been quite on edge regarding the news of the coronavirus outbreak in the Animal Kingdom! Well, fear not, for here are simple rules to avoid getting the virus yourselves, straight from your favourite doctor!

Dr. Bones is ready for the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr. Bones Flappear, appointed to the Burrows mines by royal decree of King Lav 1878
Continue reading “Three rules on surviving coronavirus if you’re a BUNNY!”

Blackbark: A history of a once glorious city

We’ve mentioned Blackbark a few times already so we decided it’s time to write about this once glorious city. It will not be a playable area (the player won’t be able to travel there within the game), but as the center of power for over a millennium, it will doubtless crop up in many conversations and books.

This is where we already mentioned Blackbark

The darkened ruins of Blackbark still lie uninhabited in the old heartlands as the war is still an open wound for the older generations, but once it was a beacon of knowledge and the heart of civilisation.

Continue reading “Blackbark: A history of a once glorious city”

TYRANNY! In the Animal Kingdom

Blackbark: Once a glorious city

TYRANNY! In the Animal Kingdom

Stay, dear reader, and harken the tragic story of King Leopold, the tyrant king! Today we shall learn that in the wise words of our bard Orlando the Otter: “Nothing is more important to kings than the affairs of state – except the affairs of kin!”

The year was 1848. The days grew dark for the Kingdom. The once budding enthusiasm of the advances of science and technology now gave way to a bleak realism. The steam engined boats did indeed bring wine and silk across the continent, but not to all animals. While the nouveau riche grew rich-er, more and more commoners would have to contend themselves with harsher and bleaker working conditions. A meal skipped here, a Sunday skipped there… Is this really what progress looked like?

Continue reading “TYRANNY! In the Animal Kingdom”