Who better to make a game about Mars than one that partners up with NASA? Fusion Media Group Labs kicked off their freshman VR effort by taking us to Mars with the help of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, NASA’s Langley Research Center, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and MIT’s AeroAstro Lab, just to name a few. Modeling over 40km of Martian landscape with real NASA footage, the team has built what has to be the most realistic Mars VR experience ever. Here’s a little bit about the technology behind the project:
Built to be the most realistic Mars VR experience to date, Mars 2030 includes a range of features designed to blur the line between science, engineering and entertainment. Developed with NASA under the Space Act Agreement, the experience was created using actual data from the leading experts on Mars human mission planning to deliver the most authentic experience possible, users will take a virtual journey to the Red Planet that includes 15 square miles (40 square kilometers) of Martian landscape accurately mapped and modeled from real Mars orbital satellite data
Terrain is modeled from a custom HI-RISE conversion, integrating real-world Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data into the Unreal Engine 4 3D graphics engine for crisp framerates and up to 8K resolution. Immersion is the primary focus, with graphics and sound that draws the user into Mars’ haunting red beauty. The experience utilizes ambisonic audio filtered to match Mars’ atmospheric pressure and sound propagation, alongside an original score from the London Symphony Orchestra that features situational music cues designed to heighten the emotion of exploring the Red Planet.
More than just a passive experience, the game is an interactive trip to the red planet, asking players to execute the day-to-day work that might be expected of a Mars Astronaut. Here’s a little bit about the storytelling and interaction in Mars 2030:
- Navigate the expansive and beautiful Martian landscape and collect rock samples while observing the wondrous Planetary Protection Zones
- Analyze findings in the Geolab workstation’s VR Microscope and discover the planet’s hidden secrets
- Explore the Habitat base, which has been modeled after actual NASA concept designs for Mars habitats, including the VR Communications Center for reaching out to “Houston” and family members back home
- Get a first-hand, realistic look at many of the technologies and equipment considered for missions to Mars and explore the Haley Simulations that provide a glimpse of Mars as it existed 4 billion years ago
The team at FMG Studios have taken an educated guess on how augmented reality might influence their future space missions, helping identify valuable minerals, set waypoints in the environment, as well as to show crucial data in their suit HUD. What they are presenting here can’t be far off, as much of these technologies already exist at the consumer level, meaning it’s not much of a stretch to see a more commercial use.
Key features include:
- Geolab workstation equipped with a VR Microscope to study collected samples
- A habitat base, modeled after the design from NASA Langley’s Evolvable Mars Campaign
- Interactive VR music, performed and recorded by the London Symphonic Orchestra
- Ambisonic sound covers audio sources from every direction
- Full support of motion controls to operate equipment and Mars rover, and navigate the terrain
- Custom-built Unreal 4 game engine capable of producing the large scale environment at optimal frame rates
- Mars 2030 was developed by FMG Labs, a division of Fusion Media Group.
The game is immediately available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, with PlayStation VR coming “soon”. The game will debut at $14.99 to experience the red planet, with the game also supporting non-VR play as well. Check it out for yourself!
UPDATE: We mistakenly reported Rift and PSVR as coming soon – Rift is also out today.