Science sure is swell, isn’t it? It makes up the very fabric of our existence and yet it has never enjoyed the level of celebration readily heaped on pop culture icons. Luckily, Astrophysicist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson graciously stepped up to assume the mantle of science celebrity and internet meme. Now he’s hoping to leverage that celebrity status to create a scientifically accurate gaming experience he’s calling Space Odyssey. It sounds great in theory, until a cursory glance at the Space Odyssey Kickstarter reveals that ‘theory’ is pretty much all the project has going for it.
Seeking a staggering $314,159 on Kickstarter, Space Odyssey sells itself as “a unique opportunity for gamers and fans to build the game.” Any of you who’ve been Cliqist readers for a while will immediately recognize this as the developer equivalency of “We kinda have an idea, but not a solid plan so we’re hoping people will pay us and tell us what to do.”
This may come across as a rather harsh assessment, but in crowdfunding there is a stark difference between selling backers on a cool idea and selling an actual project that people want to support. And while Dr. Tyson’s affiliation has certainly been a huge draw, it doesn’t hide how little the campaign actually shows off.
Despite boasting a massive and impressive team behind the game’s development the Kickstarter video has zero gameplay on offer. Instead, random members of the team chime in with their thoughts about what the game might be like, or not. What kinds of missions or mechanics might show up, or not. It quickly begins to sound like this all-star team are actually envisioning very different games when they talk about Space Odyssey.
Now, the campaign does give us the main tenet of the game. Space Odyssey is all about encouraging exploration. Exploring both, actual scientific principles and player created solar systems. Players begin their journey as the Galactic Coalition’s newest Astro-Explorer. They must help build a new solar system for humanity’s galactic expansion.
A Scope As Limitless As Space Itself
This entails everything from creating a planet, to micromanaging the galactic trading posts that form through colonization efforts there. Meanwhile you’ll also be building spacecrafts and robots, hanging out with your AI in VR, and learning all the ins-and-outs of the laws of physics. Oh yeah, Space Odyssey is also an edutainment game that makes science hip for kids. Or at least, it’s what the game’s well-intentioned creators probably meant for it to be. Unfortunately, they’re so focused on this lofty goal that they’ve neglected to lay a foundation for core gameplay.
Space Odyssey is a high-school math teacher trying to teach you the quadratic formula by rapping the equation with his hat turned backwards. His intention is clearly pure and noble, but his execution makes it hard to take him seriously. Unless the Space Odyssey team gets some clear direction going forward, backers will just be throwing their money into the ever increasing crowdfunded games void.