clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Control real drones fighting for their mechanical lives on Twitch tonight

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Tonight the team behind Duskers, the keyboard-controlled roguelike set aboard derelicts in space, takes to Twitch for some Halloween fun. With the help of a company called Let's Robot, it will let viewers take direct control of real robots on a set designed to look just like the video game.

In Duskers, a game that Polygon had a ton of fun with on our Friday livestream a few months back, players take control of a team of remotely operated drones and try to loot abandoned spaceships and remote outposts before their mother ship runs out of fuel. Along the way, they'll meet with all sorts of disasters, including but not limited to radiation, decompression, malevolent AI and Alien-style exomorphs.

In developing the game, Tim Keenan sought the advice of Jillian Ogle, the owner of Let's Robot. The company regularly hosts live let's plays on Twitch where the audience takes control of robots and attempts to navigate a custom-built obstacle course.

Each robot has a live video camera, as well as a few other bells and whistles like an ultrasonic rangefinder and a gripping arm. In the past they've built real, physical mechanical challenges and even boss fights, all with whatever they can find laying around — cardboard, duct tape, popsicle sticks and lots and lots of Legos.

It made perfect sense to bring their collaboration full circle, applying a Duskers theme to a Let's Robot set and letting Twitch take the controls.

"About a year or so ago before starting this project I was helping Tim with the initial visual development of Duskers," Ogle wrote Polygon via email. "I am a game designer with a pretty strong background in art, and was pretty interested in machine vision systems, so it was a good fit.

"After making the robots, me and Tim always joked about how we could do a real life version of Duskers with them. Since I wanted to do a Halloween haunted house stream and Duskers' modus operandi kinda fit the creepy vibe and the play style, it seemed like a good time to do it."

Duskers itself is unique in that the only input players have to control their robots on screen is through a series of typed commands. For instance, typing "navigate 1 to r2" in the game interface would move drone number one to room number two. A similar system is in place on Twitch tonight.

A few of the commands will require a little more direct input from the team, however.

"If they have to teleport," Keenan said, "I'll just have to pick the robot up and move it."

The Twitch stream goes live tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.