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."
"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.