Lost Orbit Hits PS4 on May 12th, Re-designs Game Death

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Lost Orbit Hits PS4 on May 12th, Re-designs Game Death

While working on Lost Orbit, we were faced with two seemingly opposing ideas. We wanted to create a lonely, unforgiving universe that followed the journey of a doomed astronaut. At the same time, as designers, we wanted to entertain and reward our players with sound mechanics and positive reinforcement. We wanted players to have fun.

Trying to reconcile these two different elements of Lost Orbit was challenging. How can a player experience feelings of hopelessness, while enjoying their time in the game? The solution was a twisted and dark sense of humor, where tragedy and comedy merge using the design, narrative, and visual elements of death.

Designing Death

It is a difficult line between challenging a player and frustrating them. In Lost Orbit, it was clear that the game was most fun when played quickly. The ability to blast through levels is addictive, and is positively reinforced through upgrading your equipment.

We found by raising the stakes, we were able to amplify the sense of speed in the game. Harrison is little more than a fragile sack of organs. Players will discover this all too quickly with one poorly timed turn or barrel roll. It’s in knowing that death comes instantly that successfully navigating any given level is so rewarding. You must be perfect in your efforts, and knowing what’s at risk makes every moment more intense.

The speed and the stakes combine to challenge your reaction times. Often, you’ll barely have a moment to scream something unintelligible before you paint an asteroid with your guts, and therein lays the sick sense of humor.

Lost Orbit

Narrating Death

Good designers want to immerse players in a world of their creation without boring them with endless cutscenes and backstories. The universe of Lost Orbit couples beautiful environments with the hopelessness of being stranded in space. It would have been easy for the game to take on a monotonously dark tone, but all too often games that take themselves too seriously end up being the biggest jokes.

Max Payne, Total Recall (Starship Troopers, Robocop if you prefer…), Road Runner, and Monty Python have all mastered the art of fusing dark themes with comedy. We were inspired to do the same.

In Lost Orbit, no one expects you to live. Light Spans away from nowhere, without equipment, support, food, or even a convenient way to go to the bathroom, you’re essentially doomed. Even your side-kick Atley, an alien space Probe, reminds you of this on a regular basis.

Desperate to prove you’re talented enough to make it through, you’ll press on. When the split second juicy explosion abruptly ends your story and ambitions, you can’t help but laugh. It pulls you back to the reality of the situation: you barely had a chance to begin with.

Illustrating Death

When we decided Lost Orbit was going to be a challenging game with insta-death, it became apparent that we were going to have to make death entertaining or risk a ton of invoices over broken gamepads and HDTVs.

The inspiration behind the visual effects came from sources like Army of Darkness, Looney Toons, and Itchy & Scratchy. Harrison has packed inside his little suit, not only a skeleton, but all of his major organs, modelled and rigged with physics so they plop around the screen when released. In addition, he is crammed with so much blood, that in an instant, you’ll leave a lasting mark on any asteroid you meet.

Lost Orbit

There are dozens of specific custom death sequences that we built in effort to keep losing fresh enough that it challenges you without becoming frustrating. “Good Frustration”, we call it. It is some consolation that if you must die, you can at least make a big mess.

In the end, the fragility of your life in Lost Orbit not only adds to the risk, and sense of speed in the game, but also sets up the potential for a well-timed laugh at your expense. It’s a strange way of diffusing the frustration that a challenging game presents, but it works in our case. Sometimes, even death can be a reward, if not for you, at least for the people pointing and laughing.

Lost Orbit will launch on May 12th for PS4. We hope you’ll all enjoy our morbid little game.

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15 Comments

13 Author Replies

  • Good Frustration is GOOD! I’m looking forward to it!

    • Chris Iacobucci

      Thanks Amnalehu!

      I agree, having a game slap you around a bit just makes you want to beat it even more. If you’re down with that kind of challenge, speed running LOST ORBIT will be right up your alley.

  • sweet can’t wait great game

  • BRING ON THE PAIN!!!!!!!!

  • No vita?

    • Chris Iacobucci

      Whoops, sorry I missed your question. No plans for Vita at this point, but we’re keeping it in mind for the future.

  • Chris Iacobucci

    If you haven’t had a chance already, check out our Dodge ’em Up trailer for LOST ORBIT. It gives a good sense of the action and death in the game!

    https://youtu.be/4A-3nhfq3ZU

  • why does the character in the first image look like Master Chief from Halo ?

  • Damn this game looks so good,I’m really looking forward to play it ha this sense of danger and tension that forces you to be perfect and master the game was a fantastic idea.Ha I love challenging games…and Lost Orbit has the right challenging aspect…plus I’m the kind of people that the more I fail the more I want to succeed.I’ve played similar games before and I know this is gonna be a helluva fun.

    • Chris Iacobucci

      Glad you like it so far, sounds like the game will be right up your alley! Thanks for commenting.

  • Looks good. Seems like a buy for me.

  • This looks sweet please ps+ his badboy

  • Blunt_Whisperer

    Any word on price?

  • Oh, MAN! I played this with you folks at the PSX in December. It was a blast even though I sucked! Definitely going to be downloading this!

  • Chris Iacobucci

    PSX was a great event, glad you got to try it out! If you can have fun losing, we’ve done something right!

  • Ohhhh man I can’t wait! And dat soundtrack… I’m get me some of that action for when I’m working out yo! #HarrisonForPrimeMinister

  • So, no cutscenes and backstories? But that is usually my favorite part, I want a reason to want to play the game. Is death the end goal here? Does your character eventually get some type of an ending?

    • Chris Iacobucci

      Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is a back story and there are cut scenes, the game focuses on Harrison’s struggle to make it home. We just do our best to inject that story into game play instead of drawn out cut scenes. if it was nothing but story, we would have made a film. There is an ending, and I won’t tell you a thing about it. :)

  • Still have about $15 after ground zeroes. Thinking about giving this a chance.

  • Nice work. Which game engine did you use?

  • iamtylerdurden1

    Insta-buy if it were on Vita. Love the visual style, it reminds me of Borderlands with cell shading and color palette.

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