Extrasolar Channels the Explorer in All of Us

There’s also more to Extrasolar than photos; the game also delivers a narrative through a number of means, slowly unfolding a tale of intrigue through emails, videos, photos, hidden data, and even information gathered from the planet itself. While the science is compelling and the sense of exploration has a draw all its own, slowly discovering strange bits of information, which XRI then classifies or tries to direct players away from, adds a whole new layer to the experience.

There are a pair of plots running in Extrasolar, one of a clandestine nature and involving intrigue about what the company is up to and how it got the capabilities to send a ship to Epsilon Prime in the first place, and the other about the simple exploration of the planet and the weird things there. Suffice it to say, there’s more than rocks and microbes to be found in Extrasolar.

In fact, Jagnow said that over the course of creating Extrasolar, Lazy 8 realized that the thing the game really had going for it was the mystery and intrigue created with the plot — and that actually led to changes in how the game was developed. Originally, for example, Jagnow said Extrasolar would have been a more multiplayer experience, rather than the single-player one currently available to players.

“That’s actually how the game was originally designed — more like an MMO where players interacted with each other,” he said. “But the more we developed the project, the more we realized that the story was the real gem at the heart of Extrasolar and the social mechanics damaged that experience.”

The ARG nature of the story, like the science, helps to make Extrasolar feel expansive and real. The in-game story is delivered through things like emails and videos, as well as documents supposedly hacked from the XRI databases. Much of the narrative is also delivered through other communications with fictional characters, is bolstered by peripheral stuff, such as blog posts by Van Susteren on the XRI website.

The nature of the ARG storytelling means that real life can sometimes also play into the fiction, Jagnow said.

“It’s fun to experience a story where the boundaries aren’t exactly clear,” he said. “In fact, you may at times find yourself linking to highly regarded news sources that tie into the story. It makes it easy to suspend disbelief and feel like you really are a central character in a sweeping story that’s taking place all around you.”

Extrasolar is currently in a closed beta with about 700 testers, Jagnow said. Interested players can sign up at extrasolar.com.

Phil Hornshaw is deputy editor at Game Front. Read more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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