Initially, I only stuck with the lethargic trailer for Wayward Terran Frontier because I was enjoying the soothing warp of the guitar strings that serenade its spacefarers. It's a top-down combat and exploration game set on that most final of frontiers, but it was only when the viewpoint shifted to a ship's interior that my attention was entirely captured by the pull of the attractor beams. Wayward Terran is a complex project and while there's a free multiplayer alpha, a visit to the Kickstarter page is required dig out all of the enticing promises and secrets.
The ship's layout reminds me of Space Alert's raggedy disaster-capsules, which is an immediately endearing trait. Exploring, fighting and looting while constructing a vessel should be fun, particularly if the crew management side of the game is interesting in its own right. Even a slight shade of FTL would be welcome and, eventually, individual members will have their own inventories and tasks to perform.
While the game can be played as a space-based RPG -which allows players to trade, hijack or simply explore - there are stranger areas to explore. One-man design team George Hultgren explains:
"I played cookie clicker for hours and I asked myself...why is this fun? There is nothing redeeming in this. Is there something wrong with my brain?" the goal was to imagine the antics of an ideal antagonist intent on enslaving all of humanity. "I wanted to create a game that plays like a deep engrossing RPG, except as you play through it you learn that the mechanics are designed as a form of mental slavery for your character. The villain of the story is the one handing out the quest rewards, constantly encouraging you to do RPG type things in a freedom and frontier themed game world.
At the moment, George aims to expand on the free alpha, implementing the foundations of the larger game with the money raised on Kickstarter. Development will then continue, adding complex simulations to the world and perhaps expanding the meta game.
At its core, Wayward Terran Frontier aims to be a mix of a space trader, and an exploration based action role playing game. Inside the procedurally generated galaxy there will be some core human worlds that act as a safe haven for trade and commerce. Players will enjoy space stations, an economy, and non player characters going about their daily lives that can be messed with or exploited for profit. However, outside of those core worlds players will find the galaxy plays more like an action RPG. As they explore players will find dynamic events, monsters to fight, bad guys to explode, and most of all they will find loot.
The meta game can be played casually, or very hard-core depending on your preference. Players who stay near to civilization can enjoy short, low stress game sessions with constant character progress. This game is inspired by games like escape velocity, so trade and piracy will be viable gameplay strategies. Meanwhile players who venture out into the dark will find great rewards in exchange for great risk: the farther you travel the more dangerous and mysterious space becomes.
Fascinating and not at all what I expected when I first loaded up the trailer. There's much more information at the Kickstarter page and George is currently just over $40,000 short of his $50,000 goal, with the campaign still in its early days.
Could this be a massively multiplayer Space Rangers 2, with a similar living galaxy? That seems to be the plan. If you only read one post about the complexity of building an effectively infinite playspace, make it this one. Check out the alpha client or the Kickstarter page.