The last two weeks have been incredible for us. We certainly did not expect the kind of positive reaction to Astroneer that we saw in hundreds of comments, tweets, and emails. The day we revealed the trailer, website, and blog was one of our best (if not the best) days as game developers. We always felt Astroneer was special, but now we really feel like we’re working on something that will be special for a lot of people.
The trailer has over 200,000 views right now. That’s just… what? We were hoping the trailer would resonate with people, as the game does with us, but we never expected that. That’s unbelievable.
Working on the trailer was a real highlight for us. Sophie’s original song was one of the first things to be completed as we worked on the trailer. When we heard it, we realized we couldn’t just show a montage of gameplay features. We were inspired to explore mood, emotion, and story. From there, the team captured footage and Riley spent many hours cutting it together in a cohesive, emotional narrative that we all really loved. When we saw the final cut, we couldn’t wait to stand on a soapbox and show it to the world.
Our Twitter is now with over 5,000 followers and our Facebook page just over half of that. Participating in#ScreenshotSaturday has been very rewarding. It’s a great chance for us to go back and look at some of the things we had worked on during the week, showing updates of the game one GIF at a time. A couple of them have been Favorited and Retweeted well past our expectations.
A crashed spaceship! Use your deformation tool to uncover hidden objects #screenshotsaturday #indiedev #gamedev #ue4 pic.twitter.com/iiVJByorZI
— ASTRONEER (@astroneergame) September 26, 2015
Needless to say, we’ll be participating every Saturday for the foreseeable future.
If the past two weeks have shown us anything, it is that we’re not alone in wanting to experience the Astronaut-Adventurer fantasy. And with your help, we can’t wait to deliver exactly that.
SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT AND STRAIGHT ON ‘TIL MORNING
Eighteen months ago, the team started from scratch with a vision of a lonely unnamed Astronaut struggling to adapt the resources of harsh planets to his unsure survival. Since then, our team members have, respectively, both worked around full time jobs and quit them, crunching many late nights to figure out exactly which gameplay reality would fulfill that vision. Our first year was spent in Unity 3D, prototyping a basic experiences: Survival on randomly generated planets, mineral extraction, and the crafting of fully formed “space base” modules. The result was a sort of isometric third-person survival “board game” in space where the main action cards were “deform,” “mine,” and “build.” From a design standpoint this was safe for us. Many video games have explored these things, and ultimately it was a great exercise in getting the team working on something together. In many regards, the Unity build of the game was a success for us. We proved that not only can we work well together, but we had a cohesive vision for what the game was. Where it failed was that we didn’t take as big of a risk on gameplay as we’d like to. The survival, resource management, and crafting felt familiar and the base-building was lacking a certain sense of creative attachment we really wanted every player to feel. Back in March we made the decision to scrap the Unity build in favor of Unreal Engine 4, so that we could rapidly prototype many new ideas while eschewing focus on the safer ones. We abandoned a clean world where players mine canned, functionless resources and where they select pre-made buildings from a dropdown list. And we started looking for ways to give players the creative keys. We instead created resources that require problem solving to harvest, and physical mechanics that allow players to creatively build functional machines and pipelines which interact physically with the world rather than just pushing numbers on a progress bar.
Diegetic UI was one of the first things Jacob explored when we jumped in to Unreal. When a player can directly interface with the world, they can build solutions in a more physically intuitive context. An Astroneer will print a solar panel, a mining drill, and a storage rack and snap them together. Voila: a rudimentary mining operation. But! What if they then decide to go exploring and will need to some things? Now they can rip the storage rack off off the drill and strap it to their rover. It is concentrated, contextual design and on-the-fly decision making that will keep every Astroneer on their toes. At the same time, the survival and and crafting elements from our Unity days are still very much on our radar – these are the glue that will challenge the player’s progression and generate meaningful objectives.
IT’S THE JOURNEY AND THE DESTINATION
Astroneer will not be built in a vacuum, and will become the best experience possible if we develop it together.Astroneer is now on Steam and will release early 2016 to Steam Early Access for Windows and Mac, with Linux as a stretch goal.
Be sure to follow our blog, Twitter, Facebook and/or Steam page for updates. As well, check out the sub-Reddit for Astroneer created by the community.
-Paul, System Era