Part-survival game, part-Elon Musk simulator
“it was a retro-future style. But we had to make it more practical”
Mars, our dusty red neighbor, is in vogue at the moment, which might explain why Haemimont Games is leaving the banana republics of Tropico behind and heading off-world. SurvivingMars is a city-builder with a survival bent, where managing colonists’ sanity is as important as keeping their habitable domes in tiptop shape. Despite a lighthearted announcement trailer, Haemimont CEO Gabriel Dobrev is quick to distance SurvivingMars from the studio’s jocular Caribbean property. “This is not Tropico,” he emphasizes. Though it’s inspired by sci-fi and retro-futurism— most keenly felt in the habitats that evoke a ’60s take on colonising the stars—it’s taking a more grounded, serious approach to city-building.
“Our initial inspiration was from old-school movies,” he clarifies. “So it was a retro-future style. But we had to make it more practical. What we went for is reminiscent of those things, but at the same time it’s a modern take on them.”
The ostensible objective is to grow a colony from one full of drones and unmanned vehicles to one that maintains a sizable population of humans capable of sustaining themselves, spread across the entire map. It’s a sandbox, though, with goals sitting next to player-created milestones. The first order of business, however, is to actually get to Mars.
Colony managers will choose a sponsor that provides particular benefits along with their own set of missions—get a certain number of people on Mars, send lots of resources back to Earth—and then fill the rocket with essentials. Prefabricated buildings, vehicles and resources can all be crammed inside, ready to give the first colonists a head start. Finally, a site has to be picked from a selection that includes landmarks, like the landing site of the Curiosity Rover.
To keep it ticking over, a colony needs raw materials to construct buildings, all the while researching new tech and Martian anomalies. That last part is going to become a priority. What might be found on Mars is as important as learning to survive on it. “There will be, later in the game, things starting to get weird,” Dobrev explains. “And you will be discovering very interesting natural phenomenon, and trying to understand what they are.”
The survival element comes from the colonists themselves, with their needs and desires, health meters, and personality traits that define how they’re going to act. “Every single person on Mars has their own personality,” says Dobrev. “When morale drops, people will start to become renegades, and they will start looking out for their own interests instead of those of the colony.” When things get bad, colonists can die, leave, or disrupt things.
Dobrev notes that this means we’ll also be able to dabble in some social engineering. What happens if you put all the hedonists in a single dome? What about the workaholics? It’s even possible to manipulate colonists through the environment, enhancing their comfort to increase the chances of them knocking boots and filling the colony with babies.
Like other Paradox Interactive games, Haemimont intends to make Surviving Mars a living game via updates. “We want to keep the game up to date with what is going to happen when we go there,” Dobrev says. Expect modding support, too. “Our target is to invite people and change and add to whatever we are doing. I imagine there will be a lot of people with a lot of ideas about what problems we will face when we’re on Mars.” You can set foot on the Red Planet in 2018. Fraser Brown
Even on Mars we can’t escape phallic architecture.
One of the Curiosity Rover’s grandkids.