Sensing your surroundings in Heavenly Bodies, coming in 2021

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Sensing your surroundings in Heavenly Bodies, coming in 2021

How we’re using PS5 features to create a juicy, tactile experience up in the stars.

Hello! Alex here, I’m a designer and the technical lead at 2pt Interactive. As many of you may know, we’re the little indie studio making the challenging, physics-based game Heavenly Bodies.

Ahead of our fast-approaching 2021 release (put it in your diaries, folks), I wanted to take some time to share why we’re so excited to be working with the PS5 to make our passion project.

A quick refresher

For those who aren’t as familiar with it, Heavenly Bodies is a game about cosmonauts, the body, and the absence of gravity. You move the limbs of a weightless, physically simulated space engineer (or two, in local co-op) to assemble and maintain structures and systems aboard a rickety space station. Your assigned tasks will often appear straightforward, but without gravity to keep you grounded, even the most mundane requests will require wit and willful coordination to perform.

Make sense? Okay, Welcome aboard.

Why we love using the DualSense wireless controller

At its heart, Heavenly Bodies has been created with the love for rich detail, physicality, and tactility. We’ve engineered a uniquely challenging movement scheme which lets you manipulate each limb of your weightless body. While (very) tricky at first, these flexible controls paired with physically simulated environments make for a world that begs to be tinkered with.

With a game that quite literally requires you to feel your way through the environments, you can only imagine our excitement with the opportunity to use the features of the DualSense controller. With the triggers used to grasp your cosmonaut’s hands and a chaotic, zero-g environment where bumps and thumps are inevitable, it made so much sense for us to use the adaptive triggers and haptic functions to transport you into the floppy suit you see on screen.

Feel the palms of your hands… at your fingertips

The best way to play Heavenly Bodies is by using your cosmonaut’s hands. You’ll need to grip with the triggers to grab onto objects and to push yourself off walls. The DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers are remarkable at communicating what objects and surfaces are within your cosmonaut’s grasp.

For example, when doing some weeding in the oxygen garden, you’ll feel the delicate stalkiness of dry plants compared to the thick, hard metal framework of the station.

And this scrunchy piece of paper? You can bet it feels scrunchy.

What’s really cool, and somewhat terrifying, is sensing objects and surfaces ripped from your grasp when your hands can’t quite hang on.

Sensing the bumps and thumps of the job through your suit

A whole new sensory dimension is added from the DualSense controller haptics. To support the physicality of movement, it’s important to us that you can feel all the bumps and thumps of your body up against surfaces and objects. You can only imagine what being trapped in a soil centrifuge would feel like, but soon you won’t have to:

We’ve also designed a system which allows vibrations from around the station to transmit across surfaces and into your arms. You’ll be able to feel equipment buzzing through the walls, or pressurised fizzy drink cans blasting like small rockets:

The sounds of space, in 3D

While space aficionados will rightly tell you that there’s no sound in space, we’ve taken some guilty pleasure in filling our environments (air-pressurised, or otherwise) with the rich sounds of space station equipment. 

The PS5’s impressive 3D audio works to envelope you in the buzzes, beeps and groans emanating from around the station. A particular highlight for us is when you’re tasked to navigate a mineral extraction pod through a dense asteroid field. The violent, metallic thumps of the asteroid rocks bashing against the pod always leaves a grin on our faces.

That’s all we have for today! Remember, Heavenly Bodies is coming in 2021, so keep your eyes peeled for release announcements soon!

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