|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One|
|Genre(s)||Open world exploration|
Outer Wilds is an open world exploration indie video game. In the game, the player-character finds themselves on a planet with only 20 minutes before the local sun goes supernova and kills them; the player continually repeats this 20-minute cycle but learning details that can help alter the outcome on later playthroughs. The game won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design at the 2015 Independent Games Festival Awards. It was originally developed by Team Outer Wilds, but is now being developed by actor Masi Oka's studio Mobius Digital with the members of Team Outer Wilds being hired into the studio. It is in development for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and Xbox One with expected release in 2018.
In Outer Wilds, the player-character is an astronaut that starts out camping on a planet near his rocket. Within 20 minutes of game time, the local sun will go supernova, ending the game, though the game will restart at the same point. Thus, the player is encouraged to explore the "quirky and condensed galaxy" to learn how the astronaut got there, why the sun will go nova, the secrets of the Nomai, the alien race that had built this galaxy, and other information and secrets that can be used on the subsequent replays of the game to explore further. For example, in order to use the rocket, the player must guide the astronaut to a local observatory, where the launch codes are located. Once the player has done this once in one playthrough, that information will not change in subsequent ones, so on the next playthrough, the player can bypass the observatory and immediately launch the rocket with the known codes. Though the galaxy repeats the same 20 minutes each time the player starts the game, the galaxy will change over the course over that period, making some parts of planets accessible only at certain times; one example is a pair of planets orbiting so close to each other that sand from one planet is funneled over to cover the other planet, making its surface inaccessible later in the 20 minute period.
The player-character has health and oxygen meters, which are replenished when the character returns to the rocket. If the character's health or oxygen should run out, they will die but respawn back on the home planet.
Outer Wilds began as Alex Beachum's USC Interactive Media & Games Division master's thesis and grew into a full-production commercial release. He started the project in late 2012 for his yearlong thesis and "Advanced Game Project" assignment. Beachum had previously made a three-dimensional platformer out of Lego bricks as a kid, and was uninterested in a career in games until applying to the Interactive Media program. The original team members were University of Southern California, Laguna College of Art and Design, and Atlantic University College students.
Beachum's original ideas were to recreate the Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey "spirit of space exploration" in an uncontrollable environment, and to make an objective-less open world game where exploration would satiate the player's questions without feeling "aimless". Beachum took cues from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker's non-player characters that would tell tales of distant lands as to entice the player to explore those areas for themselves. The game also uses the camping motif heavily, as Beachum himself is an avid backpacker, while also emphasizing that the player-character is far from his home and alone in this galaxy. Journalists have positively compared Outer Wilds's time loop mechanics to that of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask; Beachum notes that in contrast to Majora's Mask the gameplay in Outer Wilds is less about trying to alter the causality of events, but instead to use the time loop in a diegetic manner on larger dynamic systems.
Beachum's team started by working with "paper prototypes" and a "tabletop role-playing session" to brainstorm a narrative. The team built the game in the Unity3D game engine. They later wrote the game as a text adventure in Processing. After Beachum's graduation, the project hired members full-time to work towards a commercial release, with Beachum as creative director.
As of March 2015, the game was in alpha release and available for free download from the developer's site. The development team were writing a central conceit into the game. No release date has been announced.
Actor Masi Oka, who has had previous experience as a programmer and started the studio Mobius Digital to develop mobile games, had seen the demo of Outer Wilds during a demo day for the USC Interactive Media & Games groups. Oka saw the opportunity to expand his team and hired the entire team behind the game into his studio to help bring the title to development. The game became the first title to be supported on the new video game-centric crowdfunding site, Fig, launched in August 2015.
In March 2018, Mobius announced it has received funding support from publisher Annapurna Interactive, and that the game was planned for release in 2018. Annapurna bought out the investment and rights from Fig, which ended up providing those investors a 220% return on their investment. In June 2018, Mobius also stated plans to release the game at launch for the Xbox One alongside the computer platforms.
At the 2015 GDC Independent Games Festival, Outer Wilds won in the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design categories. It was an honorable mention in the Excellence in Narrative and Nuovo Award categories. The game was still in alpha release at this point.
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Media related to Outer Wilds at Wikimedia Commons