Crash-landing on an uninhabited planet isn’t the best way to start your week. But for the Little Martian, it’s certainly the best way to start your adventure! Play as a stranded alien on a massive and mysterious planet in Little Martian, an exploration survival game from debuting developer Little Martian Games.
Collect resources, build your settlement and escape back to civilisation. Repair your ship by making use of the massive variety of environments and challenges on this uninhabited planet.
Little Martian is still in development and will release in Spring 2021, but if you’re itching to explore and build your base, the demo is out now.
“I’ve wanted to make a game as long as I can remember.”
Despite that statement, Craig Smith never intended to make this game. The website developer just wanted to spend some time with his children.
Charlie and Jack, aged 9 and 11, were off school during the first lockdown, and encouraged their dad to play some games with them.
“We were trying to find things for them to do at home, and one of those things was getting them used to a bit of coding like I did when I was young. That’s where Little Martian started.”
The family started off watching tutorials and slowly built up the game at home.
“The kids are into Minecraft so we wanted an open-world survival game, and I suggested the art style. I said if I’m going to be the one drawing all these things then I’ve got to like it!”
The games continued to grow as Craig’s children learned more about coding, and the game that would become Little Martian took shape.
“It was just a case of read a tutorial, play around, read another tutorial, play around some more, and just keep building elements in together.”
“It grew and grew to the point where I thought this might be something people would be interested in playing, so we kept going,” Craig said.
One of the most important features of the game is the biome-generating system. Each biome contains different resources and poses unique challenges to the player, and as the game is procedurally generated, each playthrough is a new experience.
“It comes down to this file which generates a bunch of values based on three criteria for an area: elevation, moisture and temperature.”
“So when it’s hot and dry you get a desert, when it’s hot and wet you get rainforest. Anything below a certain elevation is underwater, just above that is beach,” Craig added.
Little Martian’s Steam page went live last month, and Craig is optimistic about the game’s progress.
“Our testers have been playing each demo over and over, each time we put a new build out they jump on it which suggests that they seem very keen to see what will be added next.”
“It feels so surreal, I don’t think I’ve quite come to terms with actually having a Steam page for our little project,” Craig said.
“It’s exciting, and slightly terrifying at the same time.”
Little Martian is a labour of love, and Craig has had support from sound designer Major Bruno to help fully immerse players.
“I was just poking around on Twitter looking for cool projects and I stumbled upon Little Martian. I was just enjoying seeing the progress on the game as a fan, I wasn’t thinking of it as a potential business opportunity,” Major said.
“I was just in the right place at the right time and it’s been fun seeing behind the curtain,” he added.
Major Bruno has been creating Little Martian’s soundtrack and audio design, hoping to really capture the atmosphere of the new unexplored planet.
“My initial thoughts were to have distinct themes for each biome. But after I got to play the game, the biomes are quite seamlessly woven together, there’s no definite borders.”
Major instead based the music on the players activities, with more slow and welcoming tunes when resting at your base, changing to more fast-paced and exciting music when exploring.
“It’s definitely been a challenge trying to think more abstractly about how the music can reinforce the players journey when the game is so open-ended and non-linear,” he added.
Little Martian’s audio identity is very important to the team, and Major is determined to create a musical experience as well as a gaming one.
“We want enough music to accompany the player as they’re adventuring and make them excited about this new unexplored place, we want to show the excitement but also the emptiness,” he said.
Major added: “Craig described the game as feeling kind of empty and lonely but with this wry sense humour to it, it’s not depressing but it’s unknown and there’s a challenge to it.”
The audio design of a game is just as important as the soundtrack. This encompasses things like the sound of footsteps and interactions with items. It’s a core part of how players receive feedback and interact with the game, which is key to immersion and satisfying gameplay.
The developers are working hard to ensure that Little Martian feels audibly fleshed out for their players.
Major said: “every time we put audio in we would find all these other things that felt naked without any sounds.”
“Things like the menu needs something, and hearing a campfire crackling from a long way away, or when you craft something and you can hear it processing, It’s all so important when you interact with the game,” he added.
The team have also been keen on creating an atmosphere of content loneliness throughout the game, and were once again inspired by Craig’s kids favourite game.
“Minecraft was one of the examples we discussed, there are moments of silence in that game where it’s just you exploring and the sound design is pleasant and calm, the music seems to spontaneously come in and fades away again, it has a sparse ambient experience that we want to draw on,” said Major.
Major has a lot of original ideas to utilise audio to enhance the gaming experience, and hopefully we’ll see more of them as he works on more games.
He said: “now more than ever there’s a bunch of really creative ways to use music, whether it’s the traditional ‘in the background’ reinforcement of what’s happening on the screen or whether it’s this weird fourth-wall breaking music in-game.”
“We’re seeing a lot of innovation in what audio and music in games can do, since it’s in an interactive medium. People are getting really creative with how literally players interact with the sound.”
After talking with Little Martian’s devoted developers, the game will definitely be one to keep an eye on next year.