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    Adrift: how To save a life

    Here lies the tale of an astronaut who wakes on a space station following a catastrophe. Her friends dead, her memories blank. By scavenging parts, collecting oxygen canisters, and using the sort of improvised engineering know-how that would impress Tony Stark, she’ll attempt to forge a path back to terra firma.

    That’s the plot of Adrift, but the story behind it is just as interesting. Born from a social media mishap that last year turned Adam Orth’s world upside down, it functions as a very personal metaphor, the veteran developer using a level of auteurship almost unheard of in game design. Ok, so Orth’s never been to space, but that’s not the point. There’s a relatable truth to Adrift’s central dilemma: you wake up and your life’s over what now?


    Star child
    It may take place in a vacuum, but it wasn’t made in one. This is a collaboration by people discontent with the industry. “Everyone was kinda burnt on working with big companies and everyone really wants to do something special and take a risk,” says Orth. “We are really focused on making first-person experiences and being as non-violent as we can. It’s been challenging trying to think of things to do without a gun or without interacting with another human.”

    So no combat, no characters what exactly do you do? Well, this is a partially open-world adventure, and while our short demo involves little more than floating through a chamber and out into space for a gawp, parts of the ship are likely off-limits until you craft the appropriate apparatus.

    Space oddity
    Then there’s the matter of narrative, sometimes delivered visually or through audio, but always in real-time. There are no cutscenes in Adrift, and there’s an absolute ban on text. For Orth “there’s nothing more boring than reading text on a screen. That’s not why I play games.”

    Adrift is a three-hour-long explorative experience with no conflict. The big question is how Orth intends to sell it. “I don't care about that, honestly. I’m a firm believer in ‘if you build it they will come.’ Whether that’s smart business-wise remains to be seen. We’re just going to make the thing we want to make the most.”

    -  Adrift is a self-reflective first-person adventure completely devoid of human life. But you can delve into deceased crewmates’ backstories and learn about them as you bob around.

    -  The game takes on a whole new level of immersion thanks to Oculus Rift support. Looking up to see the world gently spinning above you is a humbling, awe-inspiring sight.

    -  Don’t expect any COD-style zero-G shootouts with space terrorists here; Adrift is a solitary and strictly non-violent experience. Besides, astronauts don’t tend to carry guns.

    -  All the spinning debris and white-hot sparks owe their existence to Unreal Engine 4. Adrift will be among the first games released on the über-powerful engine when it launches in summer 2015.

    -  Adam Orth is not letting reality get in the way of proceedings. “It’s not a sim. It’s an experience and it’s fun and I don’t think the game would stand up too well to scientists.”

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