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Really Great Game! Really bad science...

  • pianotm
  • 04/08/2018 01:30 AM
Name: Ouroborus

Developer: OnslaughtSupply

Story: You are Julie, a programmer hired by someone you vaguely guess is involved in law enforcement to investigate an off-the-books government project. The moment you get there, things get screwy fast. Before you even go on duty, there's a suicide, and people are talking about strange things. The captain tells you his dream of a warp capable ship and how they've already successfully sent unmanned vehicles. Go to bed after your depressing day and wake up to an emergency situation. Get put in stasis, survive a nightmare, and wake up two years later to find yourself in the Twilight Zone.

Fuzzy pixel is 2080s chic.

Writing: The story is very interesting and reminds me a bit of Event Horizon. There are some very interesting sci-fi elements that I would like seeing explored. It's not without its issues, though. There's a real problem with my old nemesis, excessive exposition. There's a great setup, but the scenes tend to drag, and there's one point where the exposition simply can't be excused. I mean, seriously. We're all about to suffer a fate worse than death. We don't need a science lecture to convince us to get in the damned pod! There seem to be a number of minor typoes throughout the work. Numerous misspellings throughout that really needed someone to take a few hours to go through and proofread. The science that drives this story is also quite bad.

Time Dilation: This is a neat idea and would be a great subject for a horror story. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in this context. Time dilation cannot occur in the Alcubierre-White effect. Problem: moving at the speed of light increases an object's mass to infinite proportions meaning that infinite energy is required to maintain speed. The Alcubierre-White solution: Keep the object stationary and move space around it. The problem is, this would still require the energy of several galaxies. So, there's another potential solution: it could be possible to generate the Alcubierre-White effect using dark matter, but an amount equivalent to the mass of Jupiter would be required. This sounds impossible at first glance, but if you think about it, it's significantly less impossible than the energy of multiple galaxies. So much less impossible that it actually seems possible. So, what's so neat about the Alcubierre-White effect? It works by compressing space behind the ship and expanding space in front of it; literally, like squeezing toothpaste through a tube. The problem we run into is that space is moving and the ship is stationary, meaning that time dilation cannot occur. The Alcubierre-White effect completely bypasses time dilation. Think of it as the quantum physics version of "You can't tell mom, because I'm not touching you!" Unfortunately, the way the Alcubierre-White effect works, there's also no way out of the bubble, meaning once you create your space bubble, there's no way out--forever. The ship just keeps going until it runs into something. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't a terrible example of bad science.

Stacey Elliot's suicide: This is a much more immediate and worse example of bad science. Stacey Elliot goes nuts and blows herself out an airlock. This is a perfectly fine way to kill yourself. Unfortunately, the way it's presented in the game and the way the medical log characterizes her ultimate demise, not only was it not fatal, she wouldn't have even sustained injury. Elliot is portrayed spacing herself, and a guard in a full space suit being blown out with her. To the player, it seems he brings her corpse in seconds later. The medical log confirms she was only out there a few seconds. The medical log lists cause of death as frostbite, explosive decompression, and asphyxiation. The average core body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Believe it or not, even with the absolute zero of space, your core body temperature will prevent freezing for several minutes. Moisture on the surface of the body would freeze, but this would just cause skin irritation. Actual damage would take several minutes to occur at a bare minimum. Explosive decompression in space isn't fatal, and it doesn't even cause significant injury. At worst, it causes moderate bruising. You're only going through one atmosphere of decompression. Fatal explosive decompression doesn't occur until you go through several atmospheres of depressurization. This IS a problem with deep-sea operations. Gradual depressurization is necessary to make sure nobody is hurt. This is where this myth of explosive depress in space comes from. I don't think I really need to explain why you're not going to asphyxiate in a few seconds. The only real danger presented here is if she was holding her breath, the pressure from space could force the oxygen to bleed through her lungs into her bloodstream. However, this is unlikely as the moment she opened the door, the air would be pushed right out of her lungs by the path of least resistance unless she was actually trying to hold her breath. Death by asphyxiation takes a minimum of two minutes in space. Longest, according to NASA, is three minutes. A more believable way to do this is to simply have the security guard fail to recover her.

Beyond this, the atmosphere is really fantastic. The story does an excellent job of building suspense. I'm not sure I feel about the characterizations. I started off finding Julie very unlikeable, but when she had her dream sequence, I started to really like her. I also feel like she's coming to personal revelations a little too quickly. Other characters, namely Philips and Captain Marshall are very unlikeable. I can't come up with a voice for either of them that isn't totally creepy. Outside of Julie, the only other character I like is her handler that Philip assigns to her, and we really don't see enough of him.

Gameplay: Kind of hard to get a handle on. So far, I haven't been able to attack enemies, but they sure do come at me. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. I can understand games where people can't attack the enemies, but this strikes me as the kind of game where the player character should have some sort of means of self-defense. Maybe I'm missing something or I haven't gotten far enough into the game. The puzzles are nicely presented, largely exploration based and it isn't too hard to find the solutions to them.

Graphics: Pioneer Valley Games. I see Mythos, Science Fiction, and Wild Steam sets in use. The dev doesn't change Julie into her "Starfleet" uniform (I call them that because they are very clearly Starfleet uniforms) and it's immediately evident why. The character sprite he used to show her trying to change into her uniform clearly doesn't match the main character sprite. There were probably a few ways to avoid this. He could have recolored the hair on the uniformed version (though he's using one of the 8-directional, 8-framed charsets so I don't blame him for not doing that), or he could have simply used a different character sprite for Julie from the beginning. This is actually used pretty well, though. It's a much better use of PVG than I've been seeing. My one issue is the busts. As you can see from the above screenshots, they're quite indistinct from what looks like enlarging.

Sound: He uses RTP sounds in a few places they aren't entirely appropriate, and I think that's probably due to time constraints. The music starts as nice, sci-fi/fantasy style etherial and uplifting, and when we get to the meat of the game switches to dark, industrial tones. The music goes with everything quite well.

Conclusion: I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I am a fan of sci-fi, and there are some really neat ideas here. The game needs some significant refinement, but as it stands, it's already engrossing and imaginative. If this were a full game, I'd give it 3.5 or 4 stars. Streamlining the writing, cutting back on the exposition, and doing some general proofreading would raise my rating of this probably all the way.


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Hey thanks for the review! Sorry for the late reply, I'm not as active here as I should be. I am in the middle of a rewrite of the heavy exposition and adding in lore spots instead. The spacing sequence was made that way because Hollywood has made people assume that is how you die in space. Might change that but Gentry has to find her because towards the end of the demo you have a chance to see her again. The full game actually will address the Alcubierre drive concerns you mentioned. Don't forget Julie's a reporter and that is a purposeful "oversight". The crew sprites are changing and they will have busts. Speaking of busts, there's been no upscaling. What you see is an effect to give it a more drawn, cell shaded and unique look than the rendered look. All other pictures have the same filters for consistency. Further in the game but not the demo, you will find use for the bullets found and you might have to reprogram a robot to aid you...

Thanks for checking the demo out
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