In front of you is a huge pink sky and a teeming alien planet. Your copilot, Isao, asks you to cut into the engine of the plane. He will enjoy this moment: your first glimpse of a whole new world.
Jett: The Far Shore train you with this short exchange. It asks you to take your time, not just to enjoy its beautiful views, but because part of your mission to this alien planet is to observe and collect data about the planet’s original wildlife, just like an actual astrobiologist. The game’s ethos can not quite be summed up as “leaving no trace” (this is, after all, a space colonization), but it does ask you to tread lightly in almost every turn.
The idea for the game went through for a long time. Jettdesigner Craig Adams and programmer Patrick McAllister trace its roots back to 2007, but an environmental ethos has been a part of the duo’s life for many more years. In the late ’90s, Adams enrolled in a university course on climate science before switching to art school (“flaking out,” as he describes it over a Zoom call). McAllister was an avid scout growing up. He describes a formative moment canoeing on the border of Minnesota and Ontario. On the American side lay garbage for what should have been an idyll; on the Canadian side, a pristine wilderness.
IN Jett: The Far Shore, there is nothing but untouched nature – but only when you migrate to the extraterrestrial planet. Introducing the game from the protagonist Mei’s first-person perspective gives you an indication of what’s going on at home. Factories spit fumes into the atmosphere, citizens stand with gas masks covering their faces. The mood is oppressive in every sense. Is this a kind of extermination event?
As you enter the body of the game, the tone brightens. From screenshots, you may notice how small the aircraft you are piloting is. The camera is pulled back so far that it makes you a stain in the environment. You gracefully foam over it and change direction with a well-timed parking brake swing, all the while handling the heat from your thrusters. There are plants called ghokebloom that, if you hit your booster at just the right time, not only catapult you into the sky, but break out into flowers that sparkle above the ground. Adams explains that this organism is inspired by the fungal networks found under forests, a discovery made by the renowned scientist Suzanne Simard in the 1990s. She found that the fungi move nutrients to areas that need it most, so that symbiotic health is maintained with the trees above, a kind of emotional intelligence.
Decolonization of space colonization
Jett: The Far ShoreAttitude towards the environment is different from most video games. IN No man’s heavenfor example, once you land on one of its procedurally generated planets, it is never long before you start mining resources to level up your base or your ship. Jett: The Far Shore does not portray this kind of extractive gameplay, partly because people in the game have already messed up their home planet and can not afford to do it again, and partly because it is simply not the kind of sci-fi story Adams will tell. “On one level or another, the wonders of the universe are just bad for the mill,” he says.
“If you end up with a design where you just commit to eternal conquest and conflict, just repeatedly killing things and collecting them, it will distort many things,” he continues. “It’s going to distort tone and meaning, and even at a pretty atomic level it’s going to distort your characters. We had an interest in having characters that the player might like company with and that they might want to mess with. We wanted these characters to feel like they were living the events of the story with you. ”