New Orbit - Episode 1

date
Aug 20, 2023
type
Project
year
2012
slug
new-orbit-ep1
status
Published
tags
Project
Game
summary
Lost in space. Realistic gravitation. Fully voiced story.
Video preview
🌍
Earth is gone. Only some survived. Everyone who could, fled the planet and settled in the asteroid belt.
Years passed, factions formed, WAR ensued over scarce resources and precious knowledge.
"New Orbit manages to accomplish something very rare in the increasingly all-encompassing video game industry: it does something new. I've never played anything quite like it."  - Justin Davis, ign.com

Background

I’ve always liked spaceships. After I left Funcom in 2008 to start my own little Indie Game studio with … mostly just me, I started playing with the idea of making a game about gravitation.
I wrote a prototype, put it on the iPhone 3G and it ran at several seconds per frame. Yes - seconds per frame, not frames per second.
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But a few days of optimizing later, I had it running beautifully! In addition to learning some important lessons about how costly different mathematical operations are, I came up with a system that would calculate new values depending on how far apart the relevant objects were. If they were close, they needed to update their values often, if they were far apart it would be enough to calculate every once in a while.
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And then I left it at that for a while and worked on other projects. A few years later I picked it back up and decided to turn it into a small game over the course of a month or two. And then I had a really good idea for a story… And then I decided to record voiceover for everything… In the end I spent about a year (across 2011/2012) holed up in my home office working on NEW ORBIT - Episode 1.
The game wasn’t a huge success, but it did well enough for a one-man-indie-shop and I got a ton of good reviews and so many people sent me kind words. What a great and humbling experience!
I also got many emails from astrophysicists all around the world scolding me for the few … ahem… “improvements” I had administered to the laws of physics. 🙃 Sorry about that. I just had to add a touch of my own, I guess…
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So there you were, lost in space. In a tiny, badly damaged shuttle, looking at the burning debris of what used to be your mothership. Running out of food, running out of fuel. Your only companion, the cold voice of your shuttles board computer…
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As you stumble along, new features would unlock, like when you finally manage to repair the map module and get to zoom out to get a better overview of the immediate surroundings…
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And after you manage to bring your map into alignment with the solar system, you finally realize how damn far from home you are and how slim your chances are of ever making it back on your own…
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But it’s the friends you make along the way… Except, very few of the unpleasant but - admittedly - interesting characters you meet are really “friend material”. Take good old Samson for example: ”Ah, watching you struggle is so much more fun than squashing you right there and then” - At one point I was making plans for a spin-off all about people trying to survive his evil contraptions…
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Here’s a walkthrough of Mission 007, the one with the tricky bits…
Video preview
I loved that overlay console with its automated rattling- and keyboard-press-sounds.
Video preview
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I wrote and recorded a pretty decent outro song for the game, I think. You can listen to it on Spotify: ▶️ All on my own 🎵
The menu system of the game was the menu system I had releases as “GUIKit001”. All done in IMGUI, using my SwipeControl component.
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To make the subtitles match up with the voice-over, I built a little editor window that I could dock underneath the inspector so the waveform of the selected clip would match up with the timings.
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Voice-over recording took a good while for each mission. Almost all of it is just me, so I tried to learn some accents and tweak all kinds of plugin settings to make it sound like not-just-me. My wife and then-newborn son also make appearances.
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