"I would like to believe that Astronautics has a large and bright future ahead," says rocket engineer Aleksander Zheleznyakov. "Humanity, in the middle of the twentieth century, was able to break free from the shackles of gravity and venture out into space. Our kind will not stop at where we are right now — I think that we will continue to expand our reach within the greater cosmos; but it will be a long and arduous journey ahead."
Real-world, manned space exploration has been all but forgotten since the golden era of the 1960s; but a group of Russian cosmonauts and game developers have teamed up to continue its legacy in a digital outlet.
Space sim meets real-time strategy game Space Pioneer, a combination of colony-building strategy gaming and extensive real-world science, is the result of a partnership between Nevada studio Space Enigma Studios and science fiction writer Anton Pervushin, himself a member of the Federation of Cosmonauts.
Pervushin would go on to connect the game studio with famed Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Lazutkin, Sergei Krikalev and Sergei Avdeyev, studio director Maximillian Kovtun tells Polygon.
"Cosmonauts are incredibly qualified when it comes to making space sims," he tells us, "as they are the only ones who have actually been to space."
One such cosmonaut, Lazutkin, spent a total of 184 days, 22 hours and seven minutes in space and would go on to play a role in saving the lives of his crewmates and the Mir Space Station after its hull was punched. The real-world experiences, along with cooperation from NASA and other space organizations will form the backbone of the game, he says.
"What we are doing with Space Pioneer is incorporating real world science and our knowledge of space in a way that does not impede on gameplay," Lazutkin tells us. "Planets and star systems correspond to their real world counterparts, you can make use of scientific concepts such as the warp drive and you will have access to a virtual database that includes information on most things that relate to space."
Space Pioneer will tell the story of a cadet in the Academy of Astronauts as he or she takes part in a routine training expedition to the desert-like planet of Gliese 581 D.
The game will feature full exploration of a virtual universe, an upgradeable and customizable ship, as well as the ability to colonize other planets using real-time strategy mechanics and switch to a third-person view to command your ship.The game will allow players to coordinate small excursions into rival territories, with the option of conducting massive interplanetary battles with rival civilizations. Trade routes can be established with alien societies, or alternatively players can act more aggressively.
Space Pioneer will have both a single player and multiplayer mode. The former features a lengthy campaign with an extensive amount of lore, while its multiplayer campaign will see players compete against one another for dominance in the universe. Players will start out with just a ship at a random point in the cosmos where they can begin to expand. This free-roaming mode will allow up to 128 other players, the studio says.
The team also refers to a "virtual interactive platform" — a database containing information about humanity's history as a civilization, along with an assortment of images and videos takes from the studio's extensive cooperation with NASA, the Memorial Museum of Space Exploration and the Getty Museum among others.
The result is a glimpse at what could be for space exploration if real-world funding was present, says Kovtun. The team hopes to earn funding itself for the development of what they acknowledge to be an ambitious project. Space Enigma has taken to Kickstarter with a $150,000 funding goal to aid in the development of the game. As of press time the studio has received $34,710 in pledges.
"I've talked to many people who work at NASA, ESA and Roscosmos, and they all say that they aren't getting the funding that they need," he tells us. "Technologically; we are capable of much more than what is currently being done. The situation right now in Russia is incredibly strange — they are now almost last in the space race, whereas they used to be ahead of the pack — even China is overtaking them!
'If even a fraction of [Sochi funding] was used for astronautics, then I think that we could realistically send Putin to Mars and back'
"Think about the amount of money that was spent on Sochi, and the amount of money that was blatantly embezzled — heir official budget is around 50 billion U.S. dollars! If even a fraction of that was used for astronautics, then I think that we could realistically send Putin to Mars and back! I think that it's incredibly important that we have an outlet wherein we can express our desire to venture out into space. Especially when government agencies are giving less and less funds towards space exploration."