As one of the earliest groups promoting DIVERSITY in manga comics, Saturday AM has long accepted our role as a RESPONSIBLE CONTENT PRODUCER. Whether it’s equality or representation, Saturday AM’s commitment to PROGRESS is a core part of our being. The subject of climate change is a growing concern and due to government negligence and corporate misinformation worldwide, there is a rising number of people who understand that we MUST take the threat seriously. So the amazingly talented members of game developer TIGERTRON decided to do something about it and Saturday AM was all to excited to cover it— on EARTH DAY 2019, no less!
TIGERTRON releases Jupiter and Mars on Earth Day for Playstation 4.
Inspired after watching the acclaimed documentary, The Cove, James Mielke, and his team at Tigertron created JUPITER & MARS, a BEAUTIFUL and alluring undersea adventure game where players will get to play as a pair of dolphins and experience the undersea future of our planet.
Saturday A.M: From what I have read, Tigertron is a relatively new game developer. How did the company begin?
James Mielke (JM): I first started to get the idea of forming a development team when I realized I wanted my work to represent something more than just another shooter, or platformer, or puzzle game. I thought the game medium could be leveraged to accomplish so much more, based on how many people in the world play games, and so my wife encouraged me to take the chance and do something new. This concern, combined with my natural interest in the environment—especially now that I have kids—was the start of Tigertron.
Saturday A.M: Could you tell us about your upcoming debut game, Jupiter & Mars?
JM: Jupiter & Mars is a single-player undersea adventure game, where you control two dolphins (Jupiter and Mars) who find themselves engaging with the environment disrupting the machinery of humankind’s past. In this future Earth, the sea levels have risen, coastal cities and islands are all submerged underwater, and humans are nowhere to be found. Seeing familiar environments, like London, New York, and Greece, all drowned beneath the ocean hopefully creates a new and haunting effect.
Saturday A.M: It isn’t often that we come across deep sea-based video games. Let alone games set in a post-apocalyptic ocean. What motivated you to create the game? ( I read that the 2009 documentary the COVE had some influence).
JM: Yeah, The Cove had a big impact on my thought process around the time I first designed the game, which was back in 2011 or so. It’s hard to watch The Cove and not feel moved to do something about things that happen in our world that we could prevent or improve. So, with dolphins on my mind, and some musical inspiration in my headphones, I began to sketch out what a game would be like with two companion characters who just happened to be dolphins. My friend Fumito Ueda’s game Ico was a BIG influence on me.
Saturday A.M: The videogame looks GORGEOUS. How long have you guys been working on JUPITER and MARS? Moreover, how much research went into creating the world?
JM: Thank you. I appreciate hearing that. If you’re counting the time actively spent developing the game, we've been working about two years in total. The concept predates the development, but two years is how long it took us, although if we had money, we could easily have spent twice as long working on it. It’s not easy to create five distinct environments, each with their own architectural and geographical styles, and unique lighting and coloring moods.
When you’re beneath the water, it’d be easy to assume that “well, everything’s going to be blue.” However, there is so much more that affects the visibility, color, and feel of a body of water. So we put much work into making each area feel distinct and memorable. As for research, we put much research into the various science-related things in the ocean, such as AHDs (acoustic harassment devices) which are real-world, non-invasive devices that send out uncomfortable audio pulses designed to deter sealife from approaching an area. These are generally not harmful, as they’re designed to keep, say, orcas from visiting their natural feeding grounds when scientists are researching the area. Other forms of noise pollution, like percussive sounds from underwater drilling and rigs, can be fatal to sea creatures. It’s theorized that one reason that we see an increase in beached whales is that these noises disrupt their internal equilibrium, driving them towards the beaches.
Saturday A.M: From what I understand, the game takes place in the not so distant future, ounce humanity becomes extinct. Aside from humanity’s disappearance, how has the world changed?
JM: As a gamer myself, I’ve of course played a lot of games set in fictional universes, alternate realities, in space, etc. But for Tigertron’s games, I feel there is so much about this world of ours that is fascinating enough—especially viewed through the distorted lens of the future—that we can create eye-popping worlds set right here on Earth. The future Earth of Jupiter & Mars is one where, post-mankind, the world has begun to reclaim itself, growing over with plant life, and with even extinct animals returning to life. I want it to be optimistic in some ways, and not post-apocalyptic” as we see so much in fiction. Books like “The World Without Us” and TV shows like “Life After People” played a significant role in the way we’ve designed our world. Of course our game is underwater, so you won’t see the plant life, but the idea is that the reefs are actually making a comeback, but in areas where these AHDs are still active, thanks to the self-perpetuating technology of man’s devising, it’s creating these dead zones where sea life can’t propagate. It’s up to Jupiter and Mars to fix this.
Saturday A.M: People have often described your game as a mix between classic Sega game Eco the Dolphin and the early 80s film Tron. Did either of those properties influence the production or mechanics of the game?
JM: Tron certainly did, thanks to the neon shades we use all over the game and our heavily electronic soundtrack. There’s no denying that influence. Ironically Ecco did not influence our game at all. I’ve only ever tried the first one, and it was very difficult for me, so I put it down, and that was it. The games that impacted how I approached the design of Jupiter & Mars are less predictable than that. Super Metroid (gated areas and power-ups), Ico (AI partner), Panzer Dragoon Zwei (level progression), and a little-known game called Sub-Rebellion (sonar/echolocation) all influenced what Jupiter & Mars became. I think our game, despite these influences, is very much its own thing, but it’s natural to reference other games that offered inspiration, and I’ve always wanted to make something that stays with me even after I’ve finished playing, just like those games have.
Saturday A.M: Could you tell us a little bit about the gameplay?
JM: You play from the perspective of Jupiter, which is why you often only see Mars in the screenshots. People often think it’s just a single character, but you’re in first-person, while Mars is your companion at your side. It was determined early on that this would be single-player, due to the confusion that would occur if someone took Mars offscreen and out of view. Also, since this game was designed to support Sony’s PSVR, and considering how intimidating it can feel to be “underwater” deep in the ocean, we wanted players to have a companion. Mars is the action-button that also keeps you company, and that’s a good feeling to have.The controls go like this: Jupiter uses echolocation to light up and scan the area. Echo will highlight any interactive targets. Interactive targets, like gates or goliath oyster shells, can be shattered using Mars’ “ram” attack. Jupiter, however, can use “vortex rings” to gently interact with things that don’t require the brute force of Mars. Freeing turtles from plastic soda can rings, or blowing the oil off a manta ray, or interacting with a puffer fish can be done directly by Jupiter. It’s a pretty simple control scheme that has much use in our various biomes. Of course, there are also some simple “puzzles” that find our dolphins interacting with other creatures to solve. These puzzles are designed to be easy enough to do by all age ranges. Also, we wanted to make sure these challenges were organic and straightforward enough to perform, and not have Jupiter or Mars have to do things like push levers or perform complicated things a dolphin wouldn’t normally do.
Saturday A.M: Could you tell us a little bit about the gameplay?
JM: You play from the perspective of Jupiter, which is why you often only see Mars in the screenshots. People often think it’s just a single character, but you’re in first-person, while Mars is your companion at your side. It was determined early on that this would be single-player, due to the confusion that would occur if someone took Mars offscreen and out of view. Also, since this game was designed to support Sony’s PSVR, and considering how intimidating it can feel to be “underwater” deep in the ocean, we wanted players to have a companion. Mars is the action-button that also keeps you company, and that’s a good feeling to have.
The controls go like this: Jupiter uses echolocation to light up and scan the area. Echo will highlight any interactive targets. Interactive targets, like gates or goliath oyster shells, can be shattered using Mars’ “ram” attack. Jupiter, however, can use “vortex rings” to gently interact with things that don’t require the brute force of Mars. Freeing turtles from plastic soda can rings, or blowing the oil off a manta ray, or interacting with a puffer fish can be done directly by Jupiter. It’s a pretty simple control scheme that has much use in our various biomes. Of course, there are also some simple “puzzles” that find our dolphins interacting with other creatures to solve. These puzzles are designed to be easy enough to do by all age ranges. Also, we wanted to make sure these challenges were organic and straightforward enough to perform, and not have Jupiter or Mars have to do things like push levers or perform complicated things a dolphin wouldn’t normally do.
Saturday A.M: While reading your website’s description of the game I noticed that, among other things, players would be tasked to “shut down the remnants of mankind's legacy.” Care to elaborate?
JM: The AHDs are the main problem for most of the affected areas, and a global network of whales called the Elders will warp you around the world on ocean currents with a great sweep of their tails to fast-travel to each area. In these affected hotspots are AHDs, floating mines, and power generators that need to be shut down. The trick is getting past the expanding audio waves designed to deter you. The punishment of getting hit by one of these waves isn’t severe, but it’s enough to make you think about how to approach or disable these devices. Usually,y it’s best to try and find the generator and destroy it with Mars. Once you’ve achieved this, you can enter the nearby underwater station and shut down the main console, thus restoring life to the area.
Saturday A.M: What kind of environments can the players expect to experience in the game?
JM: We based each area on real-world areas that might have either high population densities, like New York City or London, and other areas that lent themselves to aquatic adventures, like Mykonos, and Asian islands where garbage pollution is at its most extreme. Of course, most dolphins tend to stay within 30 feet of the surface, but in Jupiter and Mars’ world, they earn power-ups that allow them to travel deeper. So in addition to a global adventure, it is also a very vertical game, which takes you to some very dark places.
Saturday A.M: Jupiter & Mars will be released in both PS4 and PS VR. Is PS VR the optimal medium for the game? If so why?
JM: It is playable on PSVR and without VR. It still looks beautiful without VR, since we only have to render half the frames, thus leading to a higher frame rate and resolution. However, if you have PSVR, it is the ideal way to play since it was designed for VR from the ground up. Being able to exist underwater in these vast, fantastic environments is something to be seen in VR. Where else are you going to swim through London? So, to answer your question, VR is certainly going to offer a more sensory experience (use headphones if you have them!), but there are benefits to playing both ways.
Saturday A.M: From what I have read, you intend to release your game on April 22, Earth Day. Do you believe your game will help raise environmental awareness?
JM: Releasing the game on Earth Day can only help as far as awareness is concerned. The very fact that you asked me this question already brings a smile to my face, because anyone reading this will have learned about our game, and this is precisely what we hoped would happen. So thank you for this.
Saturday A.M: In your opinion, why is it important to educate people regarding the effects of human-caused climate change?
JM: Because even though the old bureaucrats of the world are doing—burning up our last remaining resources like there’s no tomorrow—our responsibility is towards our children, and what our children are genuinely going to inherit is a toxic planet that’s unsuitable for sustaining life. We cannot continue living like what we’re doing doesn’t have consequences. That’s just laziness and denial. So if Jupiter & Mars fascinates anyone enough to cause them to look up some stuff on Wikipedia, and learn a little bit more about where we’re heading, then that’s a beautiful thing. If they become a passionate defender of the planet, who could ask for more? I recommend the movie ‘Racing Extinction’ to anyone who’s been thinking about this stuff. It’s a multimedia, environmental thriller that is as exciting and interesting as a James Bond film. That and The Cove (both made by the same folks) inspired me to take action with Tigertron.
Saturday A.M: Where can our readers obtain a copy of the game?
JM: They can find the game on the PlayStation Network in every region where PlayStations are sold. Thank you so much for your time.