Mars Underground is an award wining indie game from Moloch Media. It was part of the PAX AUS 2018 Official Indie Showcase and won Octopix for the Best Independent Video Game at the Strasbourg Fantastic Film Festival 2016. Gamers Classified recently played Mars Underground and found it to be an intriguing text based open sandbox game. Read our review here. Mars Underground Developer, Matt Sanderson, spoke with Gamers Classified about his inspiration for the game.
GC: How did you come up with the idea for Mars Underground?
MS: When I began the game (2015) the only time loop game I knew of was Majora’s Mask. I always loved the idea of that game more than I enjoyed playing it if I’m honest. Then there was a video of a fictional ‘Donnie Darko’ game created by 8 Bit Cinema which I found inspirational. I’ve also played and replayed all the LucasArts adventure games more times than I can count.
I’ve thought a lot about adventure games, what I like, what I don’t like, different ways they could be designed. I’ve thought a lot about how games work in general, about the endless deaths and repeats your character has to endure, about the limitations of their world and about the illusion of freedom games create. I’ve thought and thought about games over the years until it made me sick and I vomited out Mars Underground.
GC: Mars Underground was developed by Moloch Media, and there’s a company called Moloch Media in the game. Am I living in a simulation?
MS: Simulation hypothesis is big these days. As technology continues to progress it does feel more and more like a simulated universe is something that could be created. And if that’s possible then of course it’s highly likely that you exist in a simulation, not the original world. So then, are you real? Does anything matter? Why does this world exist? What I find funny about simulation hypothesis is that all this new technology, all the scientific discoveries and Quantum Physics just lead us back to these same old questions we’ve been pondering since the beginning.
But to answer your question, yes. This is a simulation you are living in. The universe you exist in was created to host Mars Underground. It’s a test environment. Those that play the game are collecting valuable marketing research and are flagged as essential by the master AI. They will not face deletion at the end of the current session or if memory resources run low. So you’d better play the game.
GC: In the library, Mars is able to pick up several books by different authors. Are these authors people you know personally?
MS: These are Kickstarter backers.
GC: If you had to re-develop Mars Underground today, is there anything you would do differently?
MS: If I started over I would more clearly define the scope of the project and stick to those boundaries. I would spend more time on the design document. I think everyone says that at the end of every project though!
Mars Underground was created in RPG Maker MV. I used the eventing system to keep track of what’s going on in the world, where people are, what the player has done. This is all accomplished with very rudimentary switches and variables. While this simplicity let me get things happening very quickly it created headaches as the game grew. If I started over I would either write plugins to keep track of all these things or use a different engine.