hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Extrasolar does exoplanet exploration, but it is more than meets the eye

2:30 PM on 04.22.2014 // Darren Nakamura
  @Dexter345

Come for the control of a rover on an alien planet, stay for the [REDACTED]

When I was talking to one of the developers of Extrasolar on the show floor at PAX East, I said something that I now regret. "This looks like something I would really like, but might not appeal to a ton of other people." He responded gracefully, simply saying that they have a healthy number of players, and a good percentage of players see it through to the end.

To be fair, the presentation of Extrasolar in the Indie MEGABOOTH was intentionally muted. There, it was shown as a simple exploration game on an extrasolar planet. The player tells the rover where to go, and after a set amount of time it sends back a photo. The intrinsic value of that alone was enough to get me started, and I urge others to sign up for it now to experience it as intended. If you need further convincing, then keep reading. Prepare for minor spoilers.

Extrasolar (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC)
Developer: Lazy 8 Studios
Released: February 18, 2014

One of the draws of Extrasolar is its attention to scientific detail. It takes place on a world that could plausibly exist, orbiting Epsilon Eridani, the closest star with a known planet orbiting it. The development team consists of several science advisers in addition to traditional game designers.

The world itself is fictional, but it behaves as a real planet would. It has a set day/night cycle that does not match our own. It has two moons, each with its own orbit and resulting phases. It has water and islands, and our rover's journey begins on one particular island called Artocos.

On the surface, Extrasolar is as advertised. Most of the active playing involves scheduling a path for a rover, choosing its direction and basic lighting options, and taking a photo. The servers take in all of the variables (position, direction, time of day, et cetera) and produce a high resolution image. Indeed, every picture in this post is taken from my profile, and no photos taken by other players are identical.

However, right from the beginning, Extrasolar makes it clear that it is not as cut and dried as it outwardly admits. Upon activating an account, the player is initially denied access, with the head of the fictional space exploration company XRI citing a large volume of volunteers and a shortage of available rovers. Shortly afterward, an email shows up from an unknown hacker who gets you into the program.

This hacker's motivations are unclear at the outset, but it sets the stage for Extrasolar being something more than just a browser-based photo simulator. There is a narrative coursing through the entire experience, and it is divided into two threads: what they want you to know and what they do not want you to know.

What is really special about the narrative is that it transcends the browser, presenting information via live action video, audio files, PDF, and email. The result is an experience that facilitates the suspension of disbelief. Rather than pretending to physically be on another planet, the player only has to pretend that he is sitting at his computer, directing a rover and uncovering secrets as the story unfolds. It feels more real than almost anything else out there.

One thing that some players might not be able to get over is the pricing structure. Extrasolar is free to play, but it does not exploit that as severely as many other games in that space. For free, the player can schedule two photos ahead, has to wait four hours for each photo, and has limited uses for the panorama and infrared options. For a one-time purchase at ten dollars, the wait for each picture is reduced to one hour and the player is given unlimited uses of the options.

Even more money can go toward a type of season pass, which covers future missions off Artocos Island. Outside of those payment options, there are no microtransactions or other sinister money-grubbing tactics. It makes sense to treat the free version as a sort of demo (though one could technically play through the story entirely without paying), and to buy it if the demo pleases.

For me, it has been an immensely cool experience. Of all the games I got to see at PAX East, Extrasolar is one of the few that has invaded my psyche so completely. I make sure to schedule photos before I go to sleep, and I check them right when I wake up. Heck, I am playing the game right now, eagerly looking forward to what my next photo will turn up, and what revelations will arise from that within its hidden narrative.



Darren Nakamura, Associate Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Dexter345 Tips
Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
Remember Black? That PS2 era shooter from Criterion? It has a REALLY good orchestral soundtrack. I'm gonna throw that in my MGSV iDroid. Why not.
CaseyCor avatarCaseyCor
Can't sleep cast: Donkey Kong Land Any% [url]http://www.twitch.tv/caseycor[/url]
ooktar avatarooktar
Defeated a sniper in MGS V by dropping supplies on his head. 10/10.
Nat Monney avatarNat Monney
I'm with 3 other guys and we're about to release a mobile game we started almost 3 years ago. What should we do ? [youtube]https://youtu.be/5EGPUBZCGwo[/youtube]
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Guys I'm on a train what should I do?
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Traded in a bunch of old Star Trek novels and other books at a used bookstore. Made $10 and got Tori Amos' "Strange Little Girls" album along with it. They made me take the William Shatner novels back. Smart clerks.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Can this be Toy Story 4? [youtube]https://youtu.be/XJkZX0rKElY[/youtube]
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Also I will be reviewing freedom wars. I didnt make it to the end. I will not be kind to it. There will be blood.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Yeah....been there before.
techsupport avatartechsupport
MGS V review: When using a character other than Big Boss for missions, the intro credits still say, "starring Punished 'Venom' Snake." Sloppy work, Kojima - no wonder Konami dumped you. 0/10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Grim Fandango......some real good sruff here. As soon as I complete it (vita version, of course) will probably see about a write up. Not perfect, but theres some good stuff here. Glad it got brought back from obsolescence hell.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
*sigh* If only Disqus had a "block/ignore user" option :/
VIRGO avatarVIRGO
Must. Use. This. Blog. More. But. School.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Just started playing Hyrule Warriors again. Man is that game fun. A bit mindless at times granted, but fun nonetheless.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
I ate vanilla ice cream and didn't put on any chocolate syrup. Now wondering if that was racist whitewashing #thanksjed.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
The cat dragged in some action figures !
[img]http://i.imgur.com/6Cu2Asg.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/qMFDAw3.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/RPUraY8.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/51DLqjh.jpg[/img]
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
There's a Custom Soundtrack folder in MGSV. I can't think of a better thing to put there than the old episodes of podtoid I've been running through lately. I'll be fultoning guys and Holmes will be puttin' on mesh tank tops. Perfect.
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down to 0. It actually makes the view distance for the guards correct, and doesn't make nighttime the best option for you every single time. When guards shoot flares in the sky, the lighting looks like Dragon's Dogma.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Proof I listened to too much Weird Al growing up: I really do hear "Living in America" as "Living with a Hernia."
Nic Rowen avatarNic Rowen
I've been playing a shit ton of Heroes of the Storm recently. It's my first MOBA and I'm SHOCKED at how much fun I'm having. Anyone else into it? Would love to get some games in with Dtoiders.
more quickposts


Contest!


destructoid's previous coverage:
Extrasolar


  Feb 26

Extrasolar's mobile interface got a slick update

Controlling an exoplanet rover on the go


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!



Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -