After the success of the Mars Curiosity Rover last year, lifelong space aficionado Tyler Owen felt inspired. Unlike most of us though, who put that inspiration into queuing up a few more Next Generation episodes, Tyler thought, “I just can’t think of anything that would be more fulfilling to me than setting foot on another world. Lacking the ability to do so I figured I would just make a game about it.”
Lacuna Passage, currently in development by Tyler and a small team of modelers, is the result of his dream. Described as an “impressionist representation of modern space exploration” the game places players in the boots of Jessica Rainer, the lone survivor of a failed exploration sent to investigate the very first Mars expedition. What could be the set up for a Dead Space spin off, instead focuses more on exploration and discovery, or as Tyler puts it, “think Dear Esther in space.”
Covering 25 square miles of Martian terrain, players will be tasked with collecting the clues left behind by the previous team, while also battling the harsh realities of space: the need for oxygen, water, food, and sleep.
Through a painstaking process, described in fascinating detail in his Devlog, Tyler has been able to Utilize the Mars High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) to create a “hyper realistic” version of Mars that combines its true topographic features with something that might satisfy our imaginations, (Mars is actually pretty brown and dull, yes Brian DePalma lied to you).
The adventure won’t be easy though, as Lacuna Passage isn’t going to hold your hand. There won’t be any objective markers, and key locations will need to be recorded manually. “Essentially the player is faced with defining their own goals. You can try to see how many days you can survive alone on Mars or you can try to see how fast you can solve the mysteries of the planet. Death in itself is not necessarily a fail condition in the game.”
Key to unraveling the mystery of the lost crew will be the players ability to photograph their journey. “You have a job to do. You need to deconstruct the events that took place prior to your arrival on Mars and do your best to record and preserve what you have discovered.”
Through their photography, players will be able to share their experience and work together to solve the mystery surrounding the missing crew. In fact, crowd sourcing will be key to discovering every tidbit the game has to offer, “I want the game to be something that people are “playing” when they aren’t even at their computers,” says Tyler.
“ARGs have come a long way, but I think the most disappointing part of ARGs is that they sometimes feel inaccessible to players who don’t have as much time to commit to being super-sleuths. Some of the most fascinating ARGs I’ve seen are ones that I merely witnessed play out rather than participated in, so I would like to challenge that idea a bit.”
Still a ways from release, Tyler is hoping to start a kickstarter some time this summer to fund the final push for the game. You can follow along with the games development on the official site, and follow Tyler and crew on their twitter @randomseedgames.