Welcome back to the Conversation! We’ve completed the move to the other side of the planet and now I get to take you even further then I went with the Extrasolar team. Joining me today are the team from Lazy 8 Studios to talk about this interesting exploration experience, thanks for joining us today!
Glad to join the conversation! I’m Dr. Rob Jagnow, the founder of Lazy 8 Studios in San Francisco. I wear quite a few hats for Extrasolar. I’m the producer, the main programmer for our rendering software, and also the actor who plays in-game character Robert Turing.
Extrasolar is a bit hard to classify, even though you guys are calling it a “game” having actually “played” it I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. I think of it more of an experience, can you explain it as best you can?
For a long time, we avoided using the word “game” because it’s so different from any other game out there that the word comes loaded with the wrong expectations. We prefer “interactive story,” but that’s such a broad term that we’ve gone back to describing Extrasolar as a game.
The story of Extrasolar plays out entirely through a Web browser -- through written messages, videos from live actors, Websites, terminal systems, and beautiful photos from the surface of an alien planet -- no two of which will ever be the same.
The premise is that a private space exploration company, XRI, has launched a mission to an alien planet with life. They’re looking for volunteers to help drive the rovers that they’ve put down on the planet’s surface. You can apply to the program, and if you get in, you use a Web interface to tell your rover where to go, what time of day you want your photo, and what direction you want your photo. Hours later, when you arrive, you get back a gorgeous cloud-rendered image from that location on the planet. On average, it takes our players 27 days to play through season 1. During that time, you’ll find yourself wrapped up in a conspiracy, searching for answers both on Earth and on the planet Epsilon Prime.
Now I discovered Extrasolar way back June when you showed up on Gamasutra and promptly shared it with my fellow NASA coworkers. What do you think of people who actually talk to spacecraft and rovers playing your game and enjoying it? (Note: All pictures in this interview are from my own personal playthrough)
It’s been totally amazing having fans at NASA and SETI. We’ve tried to keep the science as accurate as possible, and so far, we haven’t had any major complaints from our players about scientific fidelity.
To allow the story to happen, there are two major places where we broke the rules of physics -- first, we have faster-than-light communications so that it doesn’t take 20 years to send a round-trip signal to our planet, which orbits the real star Epsilon Eridani. Second, we claim we used a near-light-speed propulsion system to reach our planet in just over a decade.
Beyond that, we aim to keep the science as real as possible and even hired a biologist to give realistic commentary as a character within the story.