Rover’s Return: Extra Extrasolar

Browser-based planetary exploration/photography/conspiracy/ARG oddity Extrasolar was a smart idea that offered beautiful rendered ‘photos’ of an alien world as you remotely steered a rover across it, but it was eventually laid low by repetition (and amateur dramatics). I said so here, and as we all know things written in the past are irrefutable. While it did enough clever stuff to keep me very much interested in what it might attempt for its planned second ‘season’, I didn’t anticipate it taking to Kickstarter in order to continue its ambitions.

Here’s the pitch:

Let’s address the elephant in the room (or the eerie monolith in the frame, if you will): $85k is a fairly big ask for a follow-up to a game that didn’t make too many waves, and I suspect success will depend on just how generous the existing community feels over the next 29 days. Best of luck to them, naturally, but blimey. They’re $6k in at the time of writing, which isn’t huge, but there is still a month left on the clock.

There’s a clear reason as to why they’re dancing the crowdfunding dance, though, and it’s that Extrasolar the first didn’t make any moolah to speak of. I’m afraid that doesn’t surprise me, as the optional paid upgrades to your planetary rover’s photographic capabilities were neither especially exciting or did much to speed up what was a consciously, and sometimes excessively, glacial experience. So I’m not hugely surprised to hear that the majority of people simply played the free version.

The devs say that “Quite a few players choose to upgrade their season 1 accounts, but it’s barely enough to keep season 1 up and running — nowhere near enough to fund development of new content. Kickstarter is the perfect fit. It gives us a chance to let you, our fans, play a more active role in the game’s development, and it allows us to finish the three-season story arc we always planned.”

Which seems only fair. It’d be sad if this didn’t get to continue, especially as the first season ended on something of a cliffhanger. However, I’m rather concerned that the Kickstarter gives little to no detail on what to expect from Season 2. No doubt updates will follow, but for now this all we have to go on:

“Extrasolar season 2 will take place on an entirely new island — an all new landscape, biosphere, and new lifeforms to discover. Season 1 ended with several unsolved mysteries, and we have lots to reveal about their origins and more questions to explore about the history of Epsilon Prime. We’ll be continuing the stories of the characters from season 1 and introduce some new characters as well.

Like season 1, season 2 will have about a month’s worth of new content, if not more.”

HMM. Those are some scanty details, guys. I think we’re going to need more than that.

Clearly I don’t want Extrasolar to stray too far from its real, or at least plausible, science angle (there’s a whole lot of finely-detailed botany in season 1), but I was hoping to hear there’d be new ways to interact with the lovely environments, and an increase in the effective but quickly abandoned out-of-game, ARG-style emails. I’m not sure I want another month of simply setting waypoints, waiting for a photograph and occasionally being rewarded with an enthusiastic video of someone who’s far too young and starry-eyed to possibly head up a space agency.

Clearly, despite sounding like a biggish number, $85k really doesn’t go too far towards building an ambitious game, though at least they do have the infrastructure in place already. It would be simply unreasonable to expect them to dramatically shake things up based on that alone, but I sincerely hope this won’t be a case of simply making more story.

I really would like to have this ticking away in the background and presenting me with a lovely photograph of another world every couple of hours though, so fingers crossed.

Extrasolar season 1 remains free if you want to check it out. It’ll take you at least a couple of weeks to complete it, but it is simply running in the background (i.e. emailing you whenever anything happens) for the vast majority of that time.

7 Comments

  1. bhauck says:

    I don’t think it’s too hard to imagine where they’re going with season 2: a more lush island, where you’re surrounded by photobionts that you’ve already taken pictures of, looking for rarer ones, or motobionts. The same type of artifact/conspiracy stuff. That sounds great to me.

    That said, I loved Extrasolar, which is why I already bought the $25 Pioneer option that gives me access to all future seasons. They’ve reiterated that the Kickstarter doesn’t change that, but I’m not sure I loved Extrasolar more than $25-worth.

  2. MrFinnishDude says:

    Oh boy! My inner scientist is tingling.
    I hope they would focus more on the evolutiony side of things and keep the conspiracy and drama more as a bonus.

  3. mr.black says:

    And I hope there’d be more ARG elements and they at least somewhat retain real world scientific background. Existence of publicly known FTL travel to an unknown star out of nothing was a bitter and big pill to swallow, but it was manageable. I’d like more integration with our messy, complicated, but, well… real world.

  4. daver4470 says:

    I loved my time with Extrasolar, and I’m one of the ones who sprung for the Pioneer option too.

    But…. I was also a bit taken aback when I saw the $85k goal. I don’t think there’s any way they reach that, unfortunately, short of an “angel investor” swooping in out of the goodness of his/her heart.

    In Dr. Pangloss’s Best of All Possible Worlds, the Extrasolar team would somehow link up with Bohemia Interactive, and turn this into Take On Epsilon Prime….

  5. Cvnk says:

    Honestly I wouldn’t mind this game minus the terrible story and the whole guided tour feeling. Make a game set in a much larger landscape (or multiple landscapes) covered in interesting things and places to see and let the public loose with rovers to go where they will and do what they want. It would utilize the same delayed action mechanic which would make it a casual exploration game.

  6. richard says:

    Sell that perfect headline to them as a game title, Alec. Easy $2B.

  7. Alberto says:

    I felt quite disappointed at the [ SPOILER SPOILER ] end of the 1st season, but felt they’ve misfired somehow. The beauty of an alien landscape and its flora/fauna was turned aside in favour of human drama and [SPOILER].

    I wish them well, but I’m not playing the 2nd season.