Damaged Satellite
Rescue, Part 1
Rescue, Part 2
Oxygen Garden
EVA Prep

Mysterious Vessel: Rescue, Part 1

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Unfamiliar Surroundings

The player's first look at an intentionally-unfamiliar environment is a crucial one.  Visually, it needs to be compelling, but it should also tantalize.  What's that glowy bit on the far wall?  And what about that cylindar shape... is that something I can interact with?




Though the player has complete freedom to explore as he wishes, the hope is that the first object to draw his eye is the one straight ahead, which he quickly learns is an "Induction Panel" device.  These recharge Jack's shields, and although the player will be familiar with the station version of this interact, the look and operation of this type is intended to feel "alien."




Similarly unfamiliar is this large tank on the right side of the room.  Jack can touch the glowing disc and learn that not only is this a cabinet-like object, but the "puck"-type element used to open it is a standard mechanical interface aboard the ship (similar to how the airlock doors and Induction Panel use a unified style of holographic interface).




Dominating the center of the room is another puck-driven interact, discovered to be a 3-output power junction similar to those seen earlier in the game.  Glowing holographic strips provide visualization of the power flow from the junction to whatever objects it's currently powering.




One set of objects which can be powered by the junction are these pods, roughly person-sized.  Though empty, Jack theorizes based on their proximity to the airlock that they might be storage pods for EVA suits, just like the ones on the Kronos-II station.

But if these are EVA suit pods, where are all the suits?  Are the ship's occupants—of which Jack has so far seen no sign—using all of them?




The center output of the junction powers two types of doors.

At the far end of the room, a large door that would open onto a passageway appears to be held shut by Bio Mass clusters.  Interacting with the holographic controls confirms Jack's suspicion that the Bio Threat has rendered the door inoperable.

Instead, Jack's only means of progressing further into the ship comes by way of entering the ventilation ducts above.




   
INTENT

By necessity, several of the interacts in this room are noticeably similar to ones the player has encountered earlier in the game.

The Induction Panel has to exist in these spaces—being the only way for the player to recharge his shields (something that will become more frequent as the challenge of the game continues to increase).




The Junction is introduced here both because the player will see it later in the level (and need to recognize and understand it) and to help this space reflect earlier sequences of the game where there wasn't enough power to keep everything online (Oxygen Garden, Depleted Dig Site)...  this area of the ship is "running on reserve power" just like those were, although the player wouldn't recognize that yet since he hasn't yet seen an area under "full power."  Incidentally, that's also why the airlock needed batteries to be socketed before it could be opened—it too was operating on backup power systems.




The trick here was to create versions of these interacts whose operation was similar enough to be recognizable (to let players build off understanding they had already developed) but remain "alien" enough to keep the mystery going:  Who built this ship?  How can the technology so unfamiliar?

So the Induction panel still uses the "grab and pull toward yourself" motions, and the Junction is still essentially a handle that gets rotated to face one of three directions...  all of which makes more sense later in the context of whose ship it actually is...


GAMEPLAY VIDEO




A New Bio Threat

On opening the vent doors, Jack encounters a new form of the Bio Threat hazard—tiny, airborne particles which damage his shield if touched.  Where avoiding Bio Mass clusters (large but unmoving) may have already become second nature, these "Bio Spores" can be fast-moving and add a layer of complexity to navigating safely:  requiring quick reactions by the player as the Spores bounce unpredictably around a space.

These first Bio Spores are stationary, to allow the player to take them at his own pace and make it easier to experiment with tools like the Scanner or Cutter.  (Spores pop when hit with the Cutter.)




 
DEVELOPMENT

From the earliest conversations about adding the Bio Threat mechanics, we knew that a non-moving "surface denial" feature (the Bio Mass) wouldn't do enough by itself to keep our navigation challenges feeling fresh over the course of the adventure.

The Bio Spores provide a perfect counterpoint to the Bio Mass by representing the part of the equation which is different every time the player enounters a space. (Even after dying and respawning, the arrangement is different the next time, so the player can't just create an optimal path through a space—they have to react.)

Plus, as you'll soon see, the Spores flesh out the life cycle of the Bio Threat, while simultaneously explaning how the Bio Mass is able to appear in areas not directly connected to other clusters the surface-covering form.  The Spores drift into these new areas, then settle on a surface once their momentum is too low to bounce away again and become the starting point for a new cluster of Bio Mass.



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