Sci-Fi Sandbox Proven Lands Proving Itself On Kickstarter

By Nathan Grayson on March 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

Jim first dug up Proven Lands back in October, but now more than ever it’s looking like a game given life after an invasive scan of an RPS reader’s brain. The catchiest way to describe it would be “sci-fi Don’t Starve,” but that’s far, far, far too simplistic. Proven Lands is an infinite sci-fi sandbox with a Left-4-Dead-style AI/story director, archaeology of ancient ruins, unsettlingly bizarre alien flora and fauna, a functioning ecosystem rooted in actual science, an ambition/mood system, and catstronauts. CATSTRONAUTS. Goodness, I would like to see this game get made. There’s already a free proof-of-concept tech demo, and you can watch an impressively informative video below.

The scale of Proven Lands is positively grand, but the basic structure is one of exploration, discovery, building/farming, character progression, and the slow unraveling of a story through environmental cues and subtle nudges from the AI director. The central plot will be pre-written and episodic despite Proven Lands’ procedurally generated nature, a fact that both excites and worries me.

Here are a couple highlights from the Kickstarter:

“We’ve been working on PROVEN LANDS with a super small team for some months now, creating a game in you become an explorer – not just another sandbox item collector. Packed with the real mysteries of physics, biology and chemistry, plus tons of (hopefully) reasonable science-fiction, influenced by Star Trek, Don’t Starve, Project Zomboid and Cataclysm.”

And!

“Think of the AI meta game engine as a pen & paper game master who gathers all the randomly generated elements unique to each player’s experience and weaves these components into an one-off adventure. You’ll be kept busy battling thirst, hunger, oxygen deprivation and dwindling energy supplies …. but as soon you’ve gathered enough resources, seek out for new civilizations!”

The developers were also quick to designate their untamed world’s wild and woolly beasties as “animals, not monsters,” which is an attitude I really like. They have their own little lives, aspirations, and desires. The center of their universe is not you, The Player.

Other key systems include interaction and trading with the more advanced alien species, technology development that doesn’t just happen overnight, and weather effects that can have an earth-shattering impact on your exploratory itinerary. Oh, and a strong focus on mod support is the cherry moon orbiting this ice cream sundae-shaped feature galaxy.

The biggest problem, of course, is that Proven Lands is yet another madly ambitious game from an itsy bitsy squad of (relatively) un-proven developers. It looks gorgeous and the concept is really strong, but the developers are asking for £299,000 – which would be a not exactly ugly penny even for a more well-known studio. Right now, Proven Lands is, um, rather a ways out from that goal.

I’m hoping for the best, but the odds aren’t exactly on its side. But hey, suspense, right? Maybe the giant AI/story director in the sky only wants us to think Proven Lands is off to a less than favorable start.

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28 Comments »

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  1. LevelHeaded says:

    This is going to feel empty as hell with no multiplayer.

    Edit: apparently, co-op is a stretch goal but it should be fundamental for a game like this.

    • frightlever says:

      “The scale of Proven Lands is positively grand, but the basic structure is one of exploration, discovery, building/farming, character progression, and the slow unraveling of a story through environmental cues and subtle nudges from the AI director.”

      Nothing there screams ‘multiplayer’ to me.

      • guygodbois00 says:

        +1.My thoughts exactly.

      • LevelHeaded says:

        Agreed. It screams “boring.”

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Probably not a game for you then. Lonesome wanderer games on the other hand are exactly my cup of tea, especially one with lots of systems.

    • The Random One says:

      Ha, now it’s just a matter of time until Pope Ratzo comes out screaming from the woods…

      Personally, I don’t think Don’t Starve needed multipalayer, and I can see this being fun and engaging with it. Depends on execution, though, so I’m not holding my breath.

  2. wz says:

    It’s a Unity game, which makes it more likely to succeed with a smaller team.

    “it’s looking like a game given life after an invasive scan of an RPS reader’s brain”
    This.

    From the Kickstarter page:
    – Sole survivor of a crash, other than a medic companion.
    – The planet is procedurally generated every time, including ocean planets(?). 3 intelligent races. Then it talks about jumping to other planets and space travel. If the game is about exploring space and not just surviving on one planet then devs need to make it clearer.
    – Use hard sci-fi science in game play.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      “Use hard sci-fi science in game play.”

      o_O

      • Eggman says:

        Hard sci-fi means sci-fi that’s focused on real physics and chemistry. Like, how would plant-like lifeforms evolve on a planet like Venus or in Jupiter’s gas atmosphere? Etc.

        (Unlike, say, Mass Effect which focuses on interpersonal relations, grand interspecies politics and the quasi-religious ragnarok thing.)

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          Cinek says:

          No offence to the authors, but for me it smells more like one of these flashy points from bullet lists under every other game that got very little to deal with reality.

          Remind me exactly how many scientists with relevant knowledge do they have there? Zero. It’s lovely idea, but creating sci-fi that would have anything to deal with real chemistry or biology is extremely challenging on many different levels. What’s under headers like that is like claiming that Hackers movie contains accurate depiction of hacking community and every day life of hackers.

          • Eggman says:

            Sure, it’s a vague bullet point. Your first post made it look like you didn’t know what hard sci fi meant. :-)

  3. AngoraFish says:

    I’ve pledged (because I’m a sucker for anything with a hint of procedural generation), but history suggests that if a game with this kind of target can’t drag in something around 20% or more of its budget in the first couple of days, then thereafter coast home on momentum with a late rush to get it over the line, it’s well and truly doomed. I’ll be thrilled if the game proves me wrong, but this is a very ambitious total to aim for. As for stretch goals, well, pffttt…

  4. ColdSpiral says:

    After trying the demo I can say that I want to like the game and the idea enough to back it, I really do.

    But that camera. It’s awful. For those of you who haven’t jumped into it, the camera rotates in clunky 90* increments with Q and E, zooms out to one preset (the dramatic long-range shot) toggled by C, in to a more traditional 3rd-person perspective toggled with V, otherwise hovering somewhere in the middle, and tows absurdly along after the player only after they leave the middle 3/4 of the screen, giving it a rubber-band-y feel.

    Not until it’s combined with the odd design quirk that the astronaut can instantly pick up anything in view by clicking on it, without having to be in a reasonable range, does the camera make sense. It’s the tablet version’s control scheme, and on PC it’s as awkward as xbox controller icons in an RTS. I have asked the developer on the reddit thread they’ve set up for feedback and suggestions but have as yet received no response. I’ll consider backing when I do, because this game has a lot of promise, but the current camera system would make it unenjoyable for me to discover.

    • wz says:

      I had a short try and I agree. This should be fixed very quickly before too many players try it.

      Movement should be fixed too: WASD turn/move is a starting point. Jumping for when the path finding gets stuck because of tiny obstacles should be added too.

      They should really have a game forum.

  5. Woodwork says:

    I mis-read as Castronauts. So I was thinking “Is that just spacemen from Cuba, or maybe it includes the entire Caribbean?”

    • BTAxis says:

      Or it could just be astronauts without testicles. This as opposed to female astronauts, who are called astronautettes.

      • Geebs says:

        Hey now, castration isn’t just for men!

        I’ve always wanted to go into space, but I don’t think it’d justify quite such a swingeing focus on reducing weight to save on fuel.

        On the other hand you’d at least have fewer gruff voiced space marine protagonists

  6. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    Whenever anyone says something like ‘…but with real science.’ I am always reminded of a certain Dr Fox and his opinions on crabs with respect to paedophiles.

    • bitesize says:

      “Now that is scientific fact. There’s no real evidence for it—but it is scientific fact”

  7. geldonyetich says:

    It’s about time we’ve some indies developing open-ended, sci-fi, roguelike exploration games like this, Rimworld, Maia, Starbound, No Man’s Sky, ect. I’ve been wanting to see games this for over ten years. Now that it’s happening, the trick is in the implementation, and so it’s good to see many different takes at it. That way, odds are improved that at least one of these turns out to be something that I’m looking for. (Or maybe I should get off my lazy behind and do some dabbling with Unity myself, no?)

    Proven Lands looks to have some great content developers on board, but I’m a little iffy about their choice of GUI. It seems they’re opting for a “single-character/hotbar inventory/buff status” approach to the GUI, which means this might end up playing a bit like Gothic in space, even if there’s some more interesting things going on in the background.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if they nail a good implementation, but it basically means they’ve put themselves in competition with the likes of Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and every other game I’ve played that has gone with that approach. I’m going to be playing Proving Grounds wondering if this game plays significantly different from games I’m already bored of even if it’s got a nifty AI-driven storytelling mechanic going on. It’s a tricky first impression to overcome, they’re probably going to want to frontload what makes the game unique as much as possible.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    So, one of their influences is Alien, and there is “a pregnancy” in the scripted story line. I think we know where this is going…

    Anyway, it might turn into an interesting game on its own, and I’ll keep an eye on it. But I’d sure like to see something like this wedded to Elite:D, so we’ll have places to fly our shiny spaceships and do more than fight space battles. I know that’s sort-of the long term plan, but these folks seem to have a good start on it.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Sinomatic says:

    “Star Trek and Alien are our biggest influences”. I would like to have your game’s babies now, thank you. Random offers of pregnancy aside, I might well be tempted to back this one, it looks really interesting.

  10. Cik says:

    I prefer to watch how Planet Explorers with survival multiplayer develops on Steam than this.

  11. SillyWizard says:

    Yes pls. Sci-fi Don’t Starve sounds exactly like a thing that should be done!

    Off topic — would it be gauche for me to request RPS do a follow-up mention of Darkest Dungeon, here? They’ve got just over a day left in their kickstarter, and an absolutely ESSENTIAL stretch-goal is only $70k away…!

  12. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Please can the guy who voiced this video come round my house and tell me everything’s going to be ok, with that music playing.

  13. Premium User Badge

    ffordesoon says:

    They’ve got a proof-of-concept demo and they’ve asked for an admirably large sum of money when they could have tried hiding the cost and going lower. Those two facts convince me that I should back this project.

    I mean, aside from all the lovely-sounding stuff they’re promising.

  14. Josh W says:

    The way the AI director works reminds me of the game LOVE, with it’s parsing of landscapes in order to create buildings, except this is parsing events in order to add stories. If this works, it could be a very very nice way to combine story based scripting with procedural generation, something on my personal “better than deus ex game” technical problems list.

  15. The Sero says:

    Apparently the kickstarter has been cancelled?