A trio of Full Sail grads has developed a real time space exploration game that’s been picked up by the indie game distribution website Steam. Erica Holcomb, Cameron Bolinger, and Joeseph Arcidiacono met in the Game Design master’s program a few years back. Since then, they’ve run a successful Kickstarter to raise funds to support the development of the game, PeriAreion, which puts players in charge of a realistic Mars colony. They’ve also founded a studio, TBA Games, with the intention of developing more science and exploration themed games in the future.
The game started out as Erica’s project in Master Studio. During the course of the class, students are encouraged to help others out with various aspects of their final projects. Once the class ended, Erica, Cameron, and Joe decided to continue to work on the project.
“We got a lot of support from out professors, which was inspiring and quite useful,” says Erica. We ended up using a lot of skills we’d learned.” Surprisingly, one skill the team didn’t have much need for was production.
“Because of the size of the team, documentation and scheduling were kept to a minimum. We’re three producers, but there wasn’t much producing going on. Instead, we all ended up taking on different roles. Cameron did programming, Joe’s background is in business, so he ended up doing a lot of the marketing, and I ended up doing art. So we all learned a lot through that,” she says.
The game asks players to manage a mission to build the first sustainable Mars colony, with the ultimate goal of freeing the base from relying on any Earth-based resources. The team met with scientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to gather input about current technologies, including In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), the idea that you can use a planet or moon’s natural resources to create a permanent working base. The result is a game that’s technically science fiction but feels incredibly real and grounded in possibility.
“We’re all massive space nerds,” laughs Erica. “All of us keep up to date on the newest advances in space science. I think all of us have also always been drawn to sci-fi, so this is a fun way to combine those two things.”
Reactions to the game have been overwhelmingly positive. An early exhibition of the game at the industry based IndieNomicon Expo helped them build a name for themselves among the local Orlando game development community. A year later, TBA was able to more than double their initial Kickstarter goal of $3,000.
After achieving an impressive ranking of 92 out of 100, Steam greenlit the project last month. PeriAreon will make it’s Steam debut soon, and in the meantime it’s available for Mac and PC on the company’s website. The company also just launched a new mobile game, Pet Rock 2, which allows players to simulate and build planets.
For Erica, the success of PeriAreon and TBA lies deeply rooted in people’s fascination with exploration.
“That’s something I love in games,” she says. “I like staying grounded in realistic science, but I also like the themes in science fiction—especially the optimistic idea that we as a society can get better, and progress, and explore.”