Set 120 years in the future, the premise revolves around a plausible future Earth, one that has developed near space flight, but nothing much faster. The story opens with Earth discovering a signal from an alien life. This discovery kicks off something called the Morning Star protocol, an agreement that outlines what to do if alien intelligence is discovered. The research vessel MSRV-Joplin is outfitted with military weapons and sent to Saturn, where the signal is coming from, to explore.
It’s not so much an announcement, as knowledge of Scalzi’s involvement with the creation of a videogame has been floating around for a while, but this is the first concrete information about the title. Scalzi reports on the project:
As most of you know, for the last year or so I’ve been working on a video game with Industrial Toys, the new video game studio formed by former Bungie founder Alex Seropian. We’ve been quietly chugging along in the background putting the game together; my job has been working with them to create an overall game concept as well as the narrative that fits into that concept. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun, in no small part because my co-workers at Industrial Toys are some of the smartest and most creative people in the video game business.
As the trailer notes, the video game is a first-person shooter, but with a bit of a twist: It’s designed specifically for mobile gaming on tablets, which means that everything — gameplay, controls, story — was put together incorporating both the physical layout of tablets and the gameplay dynamic of mobile gaming. It’s not a port from another video game medium, in other words: It’s at home in mobile. Which is also very exciting.
The involvement of Alex Seropian, best known for his involvement in the early Halo games, and also behind under-the-radar critical darling, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, is a definite boon, though Scalzi’s involvement appears to be more creatively-driven, rather than development driven, which, naturally, plays to his strengths. He joins other authors such as Orson Scott Card, Richard Morgan and Warren Ellis as successful novelists working within the videogame industry, to some capacity.
From a technical perspective, the most interesting note is that the game is being developed as a traditional first-person shooter, like Doom, Halo or Call of Duty, but with a ‘twist.’ Polygon, in an interview with Tim Harris, co-founder of Industrial Toys, reports further on the idea that the game is being developed specifically with tablet gaming as a platform:
“We have completely forgone anything like virtual dual sticks,” he said. “When we sat down and started talking about the controls we decided that the status quo seemed dissatisfying. You’re essentially porting a paradigm over from consoles.
“You won’t see any of that with our game. Touch, swipe, pinch, all of those are being incorporated into the control scheme in an interesting way.”
This new approach makes players feel like they’re a part of the mayhem and action of the game, he said, not like you’re viewing it through a window.
Developing a game with the strengths of a platform in mind is hardly a ‘twist,’ but it is good news that developers are beginning to understand that they can’t continue to take control schemes from popular console and handheld videogames and try to replicate them on a buttonless touch screen. This is definitely a project that I’ll be keeping an eye on, despite not owning a tablet.