Can a comic book-style space exploration game encompass the state of humanity in the universe? It sounds absurd, but you might change your mind once you play Out There. It was one of our favorite games of 2014 and it recently received a major update that adds a new ending, ships, encounters, not to mention a spectacular graphics update. All of these things are welcome additions, but none are essential features of this game because Out There does something we’ve come to expect from good sci-fi – makes us consider our place in the universe. It realistically simulates how insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things.
At the start of the story, your character is in cryonic sleep while on a mission to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. The plot takes place in the future, but humans have not yet understood interstellar travel. Trapped in the solar system with limited resources, the species seems ripe for extinction. But when your character wakes up, they find themselves in an unknown part of space far from our solar system. He has no idea how he got there and how his ship is suddenly equipped with technology for interstellar travel. Desperate to save humanity, he sets out to return to the solar system which is hundreds of light years away.
Although there is no combat in this game, you are constantly struggling to reach the next planet or star system. A lack of storage space on most ships means you can only carry a limited amount of fuel, oxygen. and iron (to repair the ship). Adding any tech to the ship takes up valuable storage space, so you constantly have to juggle fuel and other raw materials, as well as the tech you need to get home.
This brings us to the biggest complaint people have against Out There – it’s unfair. Many players complain that this game has more to do with luck than skill. But that’s really how the Universe works. We are far from making the technological breakthrough to reach even the closest star – Proxima Centauri – in a reasonable time. The scale of the universe makes it almost impossible to reach even our celestial neighbors. It will take a major stroke of luck – a miracle, in fact – to solve this problem. But it is difficult to understand this without demonstration. Take a look at the video below, which puts you in the proverbial shoes of a photon emitted by the sun.
The photon travels at the incredible speed of light (300,000 km per second) and yet it takes 45 minutes to reach Jupiter. Even at this speed, it would take us over four years to reach Proxima Centauri. We are, in cosmic terms, facing a great challenge to reach the nearest star.
Good science fiction is often based on established facts and science, and these celestial bodies really are so far away. We know of no other species to assist us in interstellar travel. We are constantly struggling with a limited pool of resources and technology as we take our baby steps into the universe. That’s exactly how Out There is. If you ever need a refresher on the challenge scientists face, just play this game.
Without spoiling the game, we can tell you that none of the endings of Out There will make you very happy. This is another way the game reflects reality. Chances are humans won’t have a happy ending waiting for us in the future. A fantastic article on Wait But Why explains the Fermi Paradox. Physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael Hart have hypothesized that since the Sun is only one of billions of stars, there is a very high probability that Earth-like planets exist in other solar systems. . This brings us to a high probability of the existence of life on these planets. We only have speculative answers to the Fermi Paradox because we have yet to find any signs of intelligent life outside of our own planet. Out There assumes that the Fermi Paradox has merit and introduces the player to several alien races, some much more advanced than others.
If we were to assume that we are the only intelligent species in the galaxy (as we currently are with our limited knowledge), then we have some interesting questions to answer. Is there a great evolutionary wall preventing most life forms from reaching the stage where they invent space travel? It could be an extinction-level event such as the meteor hit that wiped out Earth’s dinosaurs. If this is true, then we can consider ourselves lucky because our destiny is in our hands. The other possibility is that this evolutionary wall will appear at some point in the future, in which case humanity is doomed – as becomes evident in Out There. Very few species cross this wall in the game, and the hero’s quest to save his own species highlights the dire straits we could be heading towards.
Breaking through this wall would mean that we would become a superior civilization, but there are so many obstacles to that – lack of technology or resources – that right now it would take a miracle. If you think the Out There game is unfair, think how far humans are from colonizing any planet other than Earth. The stroke of luck in the game is the mysterious discovery of the hero of interstellar travel and his failure there. Humans need this lucky break to survive the unjust universe. The big question is – what will be our miracle?