Real science. Real reward. Real risk. That’s Mars Horizon.
In a world where hashtags are omnipresent, #Space and #Mars have found themselves at the centre of many a trend on Twitter in recent years. Space flight in general is also a hot topic in the public eye, following the developments of Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Virgin Galactic, and Boeing, not to mention the incredible sight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy roaring through the atmosphere, into orbit, and then witnessing the landing of two first-stage boosters — an iconic sight of our generation.
These recent events have raised a new bar — soaring interest to new highs.
Reality Check — decisions matter
Mars Horizon (MH) has its roots in reality. The amount of achievements made since humanity’s early launches in the 1950s are incredibly influential throughout our game. Players can revisit the timeline of spaceflight and recreate some of their favourite launches, just as they happened, whilst a full playthrough could span decades as humanity strives to become a multi-planetary species. Gameplay can and will be affected by in-game events inspired by their real-life equivalents.
For example, it could be that one of your astronauts feels compelled to land a stiff jab on the chin of a conspiracy theorist attempting to debunk news of the astronaut’s achievement — something that actually happened.
It’s then your decision whether or not to fire this astronaut, but bear in mind the re-hiring or re-training you’d have to invest in — funds that could be better spent elsewhere, such as on upgrades to your base or improved rockets.
Real event pop-ups can also prove a beneficial factor. Let’s say you’ve sustained your agency long enough to enter the 1970s. Word on the street is that there’s this new space opera movie thing hitting theatres soon, something to do with dark lords, aspiring farm boys, and little green goblins that wield laser swords… the in-game announcement of this film could give you a needed PR boost from the increased interest in space amongst the general public — just when you need it for an upcoming mission! Garnering support from your citizens like this plays a big role in MH, so although it’s fun to see, they can have a really positive effect on your space agency’s aspirations, as well as being grounded in the reality of how space is funded.
Historic missions also play a major part in shaping your agency and its workflow. Events like the Apollo Moon landings and the launch of Sputnik all feature — we wouldn’t be witnessing such new heights in space flight and engineering without them so they more than deserve their place in MH. In-game if you’re first in the race to complete these key missions, you’ll receive crucial bonuses as well.
And of course it needn’t be the Russians that achieve human-rated spaceflight first. Perhaps the ESA is the first to this milestone, while Russia focuses on reaching the Moon first, and the United States pursues a commercial model of space exploration earlier that it did historically.
These decisions on when to take a risk and dare to push the edges of human achievement for your agency can have lasting effects on your campaign and it’s this realism mixed with the “what if…?” factor that makes MH unique.
An authentic development approach
As part of the game’s development, we’ve held meetings and worked very closely with the UK Space Agency, making sure that the cogs of an actual space agency translate to the workings of our game. Without their input, MH always had a focus on real events and engineering, but working with the UKSA further adds to its authenticity by having input from experts in the field.
Episode 3 of our recent Mars Horizon podcast series saw the inclusion of an interview with Andrew Kuh who is the head of international space flight policy at the UKSA. Having Andrew as part of the conversation was a real delight — all helping to add further insight to the development of the game.
So, what’s included in the game?
MH is broken down into two distinct parts: Mission Control and Meta Management gameplay.
Mission Control is exactly that, it’s you issuing commands and orders from mission control on Earth during a live mission. Every decision here counts, as you’ll have to weigh up the importance of collecting science data or maintaining comms, both important. If indeed you’re directing a crewed mission, you’ll have to then be mindful of your crew’s oxygen levels too.
Decisions are two-sided of course. One action could impact you one way that perhaps another would not. If you action a scientific study, this’ll drain your power — limiting your abilities to follow. You have to calculate and prioritise — do you focus on the objective and transmit only the data needed? Or will you aim higher, risking the safety of the mission, but for greater rewards to bring back home?!
The decision-making continues on Earth within our Meta Management gameplay. A strategic approach to placement of each new building will grant perks — buffering your abilities in PR, research, and training. Deciding upon which research you conduct first could itself give you the edge — do you choose multi-stage rockets, advanced satellites, or better life support systems? These are all important decisions to lock down before your next mission.
Then there’s the launch itself — what’s the destination? What’s the payload? Can I afford this rocket, or that rocket, what boosters shall I choose? Are they within budget? What’s the weather forecast on May 17th 1967 and does that mean I can launch on that date? Phew…
Remember that prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance — here you’ll really find that failing to plan really does mean planning to fail, as other agencies could advance quicker — it is a race after all!
At its core Mars Horizon is a space agency, strategy, and management game but the development approach that the team has conducted, and the personnel from the space industry that we’ve engaged with throughout enhances the game unlike any other available.
Wishlisting upon a Star
Since announcing Mars Horizon to the world in May, the response has been so encouraging. A blog spot with PlayStation EU, tweets out by the UK Space Agency, and coverage via notable sites around the world including True Achievements, Dual Shockers, Bleeding Cool, and PlayStation Lifestyle — it’s been fantastic to see so many people excited about the theme of science and space exploration so far.
Mars Horizon is set for a Q1 2019 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. We have a dedicated Mars Horizon game page available too. I’ve mentioned the podcast which itself has even more information about space science, the game and its development, so give it a listen by subscribing here via Apple Podcasts. And don’t forget to wishlist Mars Horizon over on our Steam Store Page.