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

Damaged Sensor Satellite

Section 1 |  2 


Unknown Substance

HERA sends Jack to a damaged sensor satellite with instructions to repair it so she can scan for the transport Liv took when she left the station.

Jack easily reaches the satellite, but bringing it back online may prove a bigger task—several of its solar panels have been taken out of commission by the impact of debris pieces, presumably broken off from the mysterious vessel when it arrived.





Further complicating matters, an unknown, apparently-biological substance seems to have spread from the debris to the satellite.  HERA asks Jack to investigate.

From the outset, the signs are ominous... Jack locates a Labor Unit (a less-advanced type of robot used at the dig sites) that seems to have gotten stuck in and been partially consumed by the substance.




When HERA suggests trying to cut off a sample of the substance for study, a surprising quality is revealed—these "Biological Threat" masses appear to feed on energy output!  If Jack happens to be touching one of the masses when it "activates," he learns the hard way just how dangerous the "Bio Threat" is (as it traps and "kills" him)!






 
DEVELOPMENT

More than anything else, the purpose of the satellite mission is to ensure that the player understands the properties of the Bio Mass mechanic before proceeding to the vessel.

The Bio Threat becomes an increasingly-important factor in both gameplay and the narrative of the rescue mission, so we had to be sure to "gate" the player from moving on until each of the qualities of Bio Mass has been investigated and reinforced by dialogue.

  • Biological - important for later reveals about its origins and methods of spreading

  • Has a "Dormant" state and an "Active" state, distinguishable visually

  • Safe to touch when Dormant

  • Becomes Active in the presence of power emissions (through invisible fields surrounding power sources and objects receiving power)

It isn't actually required that the player learn that touching Bio Mass will kill them—so long as they have a sufficient apprehension about touching it in its active state based on its appearance.


SATELLITE GAMEPLAY VIDEO





Satellite Repairs

The steps to repair the satellite are simple.  With the solar panels out of commission, Jack only needs to insert a battery into the auxiliary power feed at one end of the satellite, then throw a switch on the main computer to set its input to draw from the battery backup.

(Because manipulating things in VR is fun, the handle seen here can be used to rotate the intact solar panels.)




 
INTENT

Bio Mass can be touched safely when dormant, but in its active state it acts as deadly "hands off" areas.  It's crucial (for later gameplay to be successful) that the player understand both this distinction (dormant / active) and what causes that transition—power sources and power lines—so I devised this sequence to put an example of that right in the player's face.

Once the battery is inserted, it activates a "relay" of capacitors inside the satellite to give the player time to see the power "wake up" Bio Mass clusters in sequence along the length of the satellite.   See the upper portion of the GIF to see watch the clusters activate.





As an added bonus, the Bio Mass trail is accompanied by lights which flash in sequence (airport runway-style) in the direction of the power-input switch, leading players who may not have already found it to their next destination.



Analysis

I really like how this bit of gameplay turned out.  Taken with the "ship arrival" and "station emergency" sections that precede it, I think it does an excellent job of re-calibrating the tone for the sections to come:  this is still a game about poking around things and talking about them, but between the deadly radiation (just outside the safety bubble) and the Bio Mass, it's clear that the overall level of tension has been ratcheted up and won't be going back down anytime soon.

There are a lot of little things I would love to improve.  The Radiation Dampener field doesn't quite cover the whole play-space (for "reasons"), which disincentivizes players checking out the Unknown Debris piece as much as they might like.  I'd love to clear up the relationship between certain individual components of the satellite.  And we're missing a nice, clear, wide shot of the satellite in its operational form as a way to say "good job, you made that happen"...  but given its role as a gateway to something even more important and complex to manage, I'd say it's a pretty good sequence where it stands.



Section 1 |  2