Flat Earth Games makes a return to PAX Australia, but this time as part of the Indie Showcase. We had the chance to catch up and play their upcoming game – Objects in Space. Objects in Space is a space-trading game, where players have to make end’s meat by traversing Apollo – a large star system, doing odd jobs. The game is pretty much Firefly without the western-theme.
Although the genre is a space trading-game, the demo at PAX Australia highlighted one of the key gameplay mechanic – space combat, while highlighting the basic navigation system. The space combat was similar to submarine-based combat games, where players can only detect enemies and nearby ships via a scanner. While moving throughout space is difficult enough: rotating your ship in the correct orientation and using your boosters to move, ensuring that you maximize how efficient you use your boosters and turning off your non-essential equipment, or making sure you don’t crash into an asteroid field; space combat added an extra layer of micromanaging to the mix: avoiding enemy rockets. And on top of that, Flat Earth Games has built a fully functional Arudino-based controller specific for the game, adding to the complexity of the game. To help me with the demo, I had Matt from Flat Earth Games assisting me, teaching me the basic controls.
The demo started with me and my ship travelling through a protected region of space: whether pirates are less likely to appear and allied ships could help out in combat. Moving the ship was simple (in comparison to the later stuff): rotate the ship with the RCS controls and hit the boosters – gliding through space. During exploration, two key areas were highlighted to help remain undetected: asteroid fields, and nebula. Asteroid fields are dangerous to move through, but can help loss enemy rockets, while nebula reduces the player’s detection for other ships.
For the sake of the demo, the ship ‘detected’ an unknown ship nearby. By scanning the unknown ship, the model and other basic information was relayed back to the command bridge – namely the energy levels of the nearby ship. The readings of the enemy ship provided information of whether our ship was detected – indicted by if the enemy ship had powered up their weapons, or had continued their path without seeing the ship. As the enemy did not detect our presence, we powered up the rockets and launched an attack – diverting energy from the boosters to power the rockets. Due the amount of micromanaging and a lot of things to considered, it was hard to keep up with everything: pushing buttons, flicking switches, while trying to evade enemy fire. In the end, the enemy ship was destroyed at the cost of taking severe damage to our controls and weapons system.
Matt then later showed me how to repair the ship: replacing any damaged sections with new parts. He then mentioned that in the event of insufficient parts, the player would have to disconnect non-essential sections to repair any damaged parts. Afterwards, we explored the rest of the ship, namely the captain cabins – where players could interact with any passengers – expanding the story, while learning about their background; and the airlock – which connects the ship to space stations, where players can interact to other non-playable characters, or purchase parts and upgrades for their ship.
When discussing the game with the developers, they said they wanted to make the game something different to other games. Instead of the game being centred around the player, the entire universe is constantly changing in the background while the player travels throughout space. One example given was that if a space station required assistance in delivering cargo to another location. The player could accept the task, or ignore it, allowing for rival traders to make a profit. All these decisions by the player add small differences to the story in every playthrough, furthering the replayability of the game.
Objects in Space is still in development for Windows and Mac computers, with no confirmed release date.