James mielke tells us about his first project and new stu­dio

Games TM - - ACCESS -

for­mat: ps4 | pub­lisher: tigertron, inc. | De­vel­oper: in-house | re­lease: TBC 2018 | play­ers: 1


There’s a bur­geon­ing style of game that we’re in­creas­ingly be­ing drawn to, one that pro­motes im­mer­sion and at­mos­phere over me­chan­ics and wants to open minds more than chal­lenge fin­gers. We’ve been re­fer­ring to them as Sun­day af­ter­noon games and Jupiter & Mars is look­ing like a won­der­ful ex­am­ple of the form.

“One of the things I set out to do when we started de­sign­ing this game is that we wanted to ac­com­mo­date a va­ri­ety of play­ers,” cre­ative di­rec­tor James Mielke tells us. “I would say that it’s easy to swim around and sort of ex­plore and look around, but it’s also de­signed so that if you want to be the speed-run guy or you’re just in­ter­ested in the story and see­ing what hap­pens, you can also power through it and stay on the crit­i­cal path. We do recog­nise that there are go­ing to be a lot of play­ers who prob­a­bly just dive in for that re­lax­ing, zen el­e­ment to it.”

You may re­mem­ber Mielke from pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances in games™ from back in his Q En­ter­tain­ment days work­ing on Child Of Eden, Lu­mines: Elec­tronic Sym­phony and the Pix­eljunk se­ries or per­haps even as a for­mer colum­nist in th­ese very pages with his Kongetsu pieces. Ei­ther way, Mielke’s lat­est com­bines a lot of his game-pro­duc­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as well as is per­sonal pas­sions. You play as Jupiter, a dol­phin in the ex­panded oceans of a fu­ture Earth where hu­man­ity has been lost in the course of a cat­a­strophic global warm­ing event. You are ac­com­pa­nied by Mars, your com­pan­ion dol­phin and AI con­trolled coun­ter­part through the game. Playable in both VR and as a straight­for­ward first-per­son ex­plorer, Jupiter & Mars brings the ocean to life with iri­des­cent light and wildlife.

“As Jupiter you use echo lo­ca­tion, you’re ba­si­cally the in­quis­i­tive, in­tel­li­gent, think­ing dol­phin,” ex­plains Mielke. “You’re us­ing echo lo­ca­tion to light up the area to see what’s in­ter­ac­tive in the en­vi­ron­ment based on the way things out­line. When you see some­thing that’s in­ter­ac­tive you press the ap­pro­pri­ate but­ton and then Mars will ram a bar­rier to open a path for you to swim through or he might ram a trea­sure shell that will con­tain some kind of arte­fact from mankind’s past to add to your col­lec­tion.”

A key point for Mielke, how­ever, was that the dol­phins shouldn’t be be­hav­ing in a way too far re­moved from things dol­phins can re­ally do (oth­er­wise you might as well be play­ing as a hu­man be­ing). Echo lo­ca­tion is sim­i­lar to ping­ing a de­tec­tive mode in other games, ex­cept this brings the world around you to life in an amaz­ing way. “We cer­tainly want peo­ple to en­joy that be­cause that’s the num­ber one, most im­por­tant me­chanic of the game,” he tells us. “You need to use echo every­where in or­der to beat the game. It ba­si­cally lights up all of the clues, all the in­ter­ac­tive things in the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s just as in­te­gral to Jupiter & Mars as jump­ing is in Mario.”

Mielke’s own in­ter­est in dol­phins and the en­vi­ron­ment have also been a driv­ing force be­hind not only this new game, but this new chap­ter in his ca­reer. “I’ve been a scuba diver since I was 15-years old and that’s about 33 years ago. I wouldn’t say that my in­ter­est in dol­phins has been aca­demic this en­tire time. I’ve cer­tainly ed­u­cated my­self a lot more since be­gin­ning work on the con­cept of this game.” That started a lit­tle after watch­ing the award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary The Cove and its heart­break­ing de­pic­tion of the threats dol­phins face from hunt­ing.

“Watch­ing that doc­u­men­tary, I was in tears be­cause I was ter­ri­fied,” Mielke re­veals. “This is not the world I want to leave be­hind for my kids. So, that’s why we formed Tigertron in the first place be­cause it was ei­ther that or leave gam­ing en­tirely and we felt we had a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to show or to raise aware­ness by shar­ing this kind of world with gamers.”

But the game won’t be hit­ting you around the head with its eco­log­i­cal mes­sages, Mielke in­sists. “We try to make an en­ter­tain­ing game first and fore­most, but we also part­nered with or­gan­i­sa­tions like Sea Legacy or the Ocean Foun­da­tion to imbed their mes­sage into our game so that peo­ple have at least a lit­tle bit of a gate­way of, ‘Hey, I just played by this game. I’m deeply af­fected by it. I would like to know a lit­tle bit more’, and it’s al­ready in the game.” The con­cept is look­ing very ex­cit­ing and the prom­ise in VR is im­mense.

Above: In this world, chem­i­cals and heavy met­als have lead to the de­vel­op­ment of go­liath species, larger than life ver­sions of crea­tures you might typ­i­cally find in the ocean that can of­ten be called upon for as­sis­tance if you do the right things, like herd­ing krill to at­tract a whale. Be­low: since Jupiter & Mars is a first-per­son ex­pe­ri­ence and has been op­ti­mised for vr, most of the im­ages you see are ac­tu­ally show­ing mars from Jupiter's point of view. this is re­ally what you’ll be see­ing when you play the game for your­self later this year.

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