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Project Aura: Lead a Colony of Climate Disaster Survivors

By on March 5th, 2014 12:20 pm

Project Aura | Sci-fi strategy/simulation game for the PC by Pixel Quality Games

Recently, I was contacted by Pixel Quality Games, an indie game studio currently developing Project Aura, a single-player sci-fi strategy/simulation game for the PC that is currently in Alpha stage.

They have already been greenlit, which means that if all goes according to plan they should be able to release their game on Steam somewhere this year.

Now, what is Project Aura? From what I understand, Project Aura is about developing a colony and surviving on a post-apocalyptic Earth. The colony stands on the ocean and is sealed from the hazardous environment by a protective dome. The idea is that you start from scratch and then grow and expand your colony. You’re supposed to increase your population, construct buildings and research new technologies while managing an economic simulation of some sort involving resources processing and transportation of goods and people to and from the outside world.

I was intrigued by the game’s scope but couldn’t find any information on what you’re actually supposed to do in order to win. So, I contacted the devs for further info.  Here’s what the studio’s CEO had to say:

In Project Aura you don’t necessarily have a goal. However, we want to turn this optional, so you can set goals on game start. For example, one of the things we advertise in our trailer is to “investigate and discover the consequences of the disaster”; this would be one of the things which you could make to win a game where you need to develop many technology branches and there is a big mission associated to it, etc. -Pixel Quality Games

Other possibilities for game goals seem to include “becoming an expansionist”, if you manage to expand your colony to a certain level. Another possibility the devs mentioned is to let the player set “colony goals” which would be something like special challenges. But, apparently you could also go with a “no-target sandbox mode”, which lets you play with no goals at all.

Project Aura | Sci-fi strategy/simulation game for the PC by Pixel Quality Games

Then, at some point in their Greenlight pitch they say this: “Get ready to discover a new formula of innovative gameplay!”. Questioned about it, the devs replied with the following:

Well, in general we are trying to bring some new game-play concepts. For this reason, we are exploring new game mechanics for central aspects like the micromanagement. We don’t know about any other game implementing such mechanism and it will be under heavy testing, but we are convinced it will work pretty good and provide a lot of freedom and possibilities to the player never seen in the genre.

They’re currently at Alpha and have pre-orders already up. They plan to give game access to the pre-orderers when they reach Beta and have plans to release a playable demo by April/May. Looking forward to see how Project Aura develops.

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  1. Lens Flares Suck says:

    Global warming? Really? Pass.

    • ramdy says:

      Well, this is something totally irrelevant for the gameplay. The only reason we used that argument is to give the product a social add value.
      Why not doing it in something with such a big work behind? For this reason we decided also to be coherent and returns a 2% of our incomes to an environmental cause.

    • Inca says:

      Angry because a game actually use the (ongoing in our times) problem of Global Warming? Really? First Chill off dude, and then, go check your facts…

      I for one, find this initiative interesting.

    • TheSage says:

      I, for one, tend to agree with LFS. I’m tired of having Politics in my entertainment. I go to these places to escape.

      • McyD says:

        Don’t really know how global warming is politics, unless you yourself are putting a political spin on it… More of a science and issue that needs to be dealt with.

        • Ryder says:

          Are you kidding? It’s practically all politics and money. Have you not noticed? Massive carbon taxes, third world governments seeking payments for supposed “damages”…

          The politics of money… and science is out the door. None of the climate models worked… so they are out. No climate catastrophes… just the same storms we’ve always had. Average global temperatures have not risen for nearly 20 years. Record Antarctica ice extent, and the N. Polar ice has become far from ice free… it’s shown GAINS in the last several years.

          Nope… just rather normal weather fluctuations, scheming politics, money chasing… and science with no explanation for where they went wrong…

          You really should keep up on current events…

    • Ryder says:

      Agreed. I am specifically NOT getting this game, because of the global warming crap that I am SO tired of hearing.

      Want a catastrophe to model a game around? How about a MASSIVE solar event, like the one in 2012 that narrowly missed the earth… and would have shut down every modern economy in an instant.

      That’s a real threat… not this “hotter by two one-hundredths of a degree” over 50 years crap.

  2. Adam C says:

    Interesting, but i think most consumers post-kickstarter-early access games days are going to question. What state will it arrive in? How long will it take to finish? Will it finish with half a game?

    Myself and many other like minded people will question this, whilst I can admire the storytelling and the crux of it. Show us the goods! Dont be another Simcity of Legends of Pegasus, End of Nations, etc!

    Right now the tell tell signs of it not being a good game, is the graphics (but there is a twist!) Whilst the graphics seem good. It means that it also looks expensive to make, so did they have any money to build any other substantive feature… I truly doubt that and I hope im proven wrong.

    I would kill for a feature rich game with simple graphics (cough distant worlds cough)

    • ramdy says:

      >>Interesting, but i think most consumers post-kickstarter-early access games days are going to question. What state will it arrive in? How long will it take to finish? Will it finish with half a game?

      Hi Adam, we prepared a timeline graph to answer about project status in a brief look:

      >>Dont be another Simcity of Legends of Pegasus, End of Nations, etc!

      We really wouldn’t like so, the last thing we want is to become a “cheap” version of some AAA title, so we have clear we need to do something different.

      >>Right now the tell tell signs of it not being a good game, is the graphics (but there is a twist!) Whilst the graphics seem good. It means that it also looks expensive to make, so did they have any money to build any other substantive feature… I truly doubt that and I hope im proven wrong.

      Have to say, in the good sense, this last comment made me laugh :D. You can see it from the opposite point of view: These guys already have decent graphics and almost 1 year ahead to dedicate to implement substantive features… :)

      >>I would kill for a feature rich game with simple graphics (cough distant worlds cough)
      Suggest them! :) We have recently created a forum just for this reason, and this is a reason why we are going Steam Early Access.

      Greetings ;)

  3. Florian says:

    I don´t like the idea of early access anymore. Too many bad experiences with that. Especially when developers threw out a half finished game because they received the money and then start a new project.

    • harley9699 says:

      Even Triple A’s like Kalypso do that. Of course, I’ve backed some and received no game as well.

      • Noldor says:

        Tripe A doesn’t mean quality these days. It just means that they have some budget to work with by default.

        Often AAA means that the games are rushed and need lots of post-patching.

  4. Marc says:

    Oooo this is new and very interesting may have to splash some cash on this always up for helping indie devs who want to make a serious game and this definitely fits the bill I think.

  5. harley9699 says:

    Is the world, each time, randomly generated or is it the same world every time?
    RTS? Didn’t really look turn based. (?)
    Disasters? If so, are they optional?

    • ramdy says:

      The world is divided in 24 sectors and each one has charactersitics of the style: meteorology, market prices, human defrost cost/availability, profiles, etc.
      Once you activate a colony, you will do always from scracth, development 0; and the surrounding map is randomly generated.

      The simulation (which is the game strong part) inside colony, is RT. For the outside map (strategy/ships) we still have a discussion, but it seems we are going for a pseudo turn based. This is one of the things we will search for feedback when in a presentable status.

      Disasters are not SimCity-like at all. Instead a continuous climate factor, unstability, storms… for what we have a dome to protect city and you may ensure you have enough energy/resources to deal with.

  6. Noldor says:

    So what is it, like Simcity but more futuristic?

    • ramdy says:

      We aren’t going for a clone or cheaper version of any other game. Let’s say both games are into same genre :)

      • csebal says:

        You can paint stripes on a horse, it wont turn into a zebra.

        City (settlement) building / management games are a very narrow genre of strategy games. Unless you have some grand feature that raises it above the other titles in that genre, I do not see how you can avoid being shoehorned into the “SimCity clone #72” box.

        Let me put it this way:
        What would be the 3 key features that you think makes your game unique and worth playing?

        • ramdy says:

          Some aspects difference ProjectAura from SimCIty: Crafting, market, disputed resources, deep micromanagement, … It all designed always with freedom in mind.

          To talk about some features:

          In Project Aura buildings are not “static”, instead, they are composed by modules. The player selects which ones to use and its physical disposition and create building templates. These templates is what player may place in map.
          There can be unlimited versions of a building type. And why is this for? The player can “micro” specialize this way; or just to give an answer to specific characteristics of the map he/she is in: Imagine you are in a zone plenty of a given resource and energy is very expensive, so you are not willing to process it all, you prefer to process a part of it (or even none) and just store and sell. With a static building type, you would be forced to do it all. Another advantage is, if you already built your modules, you can decide things like go full speed with a module and slow others, etc.
          Now you can say… oh well, you are calling module what really is a building; but this is not the case; since a building requires also from other infrastructure modules.
          *At programming level, this give us a nice flexibility, since it allows to easily expand existing buildings by bringing new modules available for it (for new or more specialized tasks).

          Coming back to specialization, humans -who according to game context are waiting to be awakened from their cryogenization state- have a: name, profile, rank. What does it means…? if I have a ship I need a pilot or it won’t fly? No. You can place any profile at any position; again following our freedom design principle. Of course, you will have to pay some consequences :), for this, we thought in a “profile affinity” factor, so each work has a good/med/bad profile affinity. If you assign a pilot profile to pilot a ship you have a positive profile affinity; if you assign that pilot to operate a radar or a scanner you will have a med profile affinity and, if you assign that pilot to cultivate algae you will have a bad profile affinity which will make that char morale lower from time to time.

          Maybe, another question arising is… how to assign a colonist in a given position? And this is something I personally always missed from all games of the genre I played. It is possible to access each building organization chart and place your colonists wherever you estimate. From a director position to a line worker, technician, etc.

          *For our scheduled demo, we are focusing in showing in a tutorial way, these described -and other- features. We hope to make those who try it to like and get interested to play Project Aura.

        • csebal says:

          This ain’t a sales pitch to some corporate suits. We are all strategy game enthusiasts here (or so I would think). General buzzwords like “crafting”, “market”, “deep micromanagement” carry no real value in this conversation in my opinion.

          Also, I asked you to name the 3 features that you think can make your game raise from the otherwise bland dump of games we get served on a daily basis.

          Imagine the following (not entirely) hypothetical scenario:

          You are on a game convention and I happen to stop at your booth. You see that I am not particularly impressed by your game, and while I will stick with you to engage in some friendly banter, I will also use the first opportunity to walk away and look for a more promising title to drool at.

          You have time for about three arguments to make a case for your game, with which you might be able to change my mind. What would those three arguments be? What do you think are the three strengths of your game, that could pique the interest of a hesitant gamer enough for him to want to learn more?

        • ramdy says:

          csebal, Im sorry to go the “easy” answer here: :)

          In such an hypothetical scenario I would tell you:
          “hey, our main goal is to develop a great game, and we are very interested in listening about suggestions and feedback, specially those coming from strategy game enthusiasts. So… what are the 3 reasons that make you prefer the game in the other stand? We promise to listen and study in deep”

      • csebal says:

        The point of this exercise is not just to convince a single person. That would also be an important point from where you are standing, but more importantly:

        If you cannot summarize your game’s strengths in a few well formulated sentences, then you are on the wrong track as you yourselves are not aware of what you are making and why.

        Just some food for thought.

        As for your “easy” answer, my reaction to that in the “not so” hypothetical scenario would be as follows:
        “I do not know what the game on the next stand can offer, but since yours does not seem to be interesting enough, I will soon find out. It was nice meeting you, good luck with your game.”

        • ramdy says:

          Now, to summarize game essence into the 3 sentences you asked:
          In Project Aura you “lead a colony of climate disaster survivors” on a hostile and unknown Earth in future.
          It is based in a realistic and detailed simulation with a specific management mechanics implemented to provide with in-deep possibilities.
          It is a sandbox where it is totally up to you to decide your strategies to stand up.

          It all designed with a single word in mind: Freedom

      • csebal says:

        Thanks for your answers.

        Just to be fair, here are the three points why I will pass on following your title more closely:
        1) Emphasis on freedom. 75% of the time its total and utter BS that tends to stand for a lack of decent story / atmosphere and overall bland gameplay. It is in essence a buzzword used as a lure for the less experienced fish in the pond.

        2) You seem to not have a clear vision of what your game will do and why. It might just be your inability to express yourself clearly or in detail (I can tell english is not your native language), but that does not change the end result, in which you answers were not particularly convincing.

        3) I have doubts you will manage to keep to your timeline without compromising quality… beta stage looks awfully short in my eyes.

        Either way, best of luck with your project. If it turns out good and defies my expectations, then I will surely hear about you guys in the future as well.

        Look at it this way: with the bar of my expectations being set so low, you cannot really disappoint me, but you can still cause a pleasant surprise.

        • ramdy says:

          >>1)Freedom is the price for realism. How do you win a game is like: what is the sense of your life? :)

          >>2)Nobody knows how it will be in the end when you plan for an original formula and listen and open development to users (i.e.: via early access). Also, few features in mind need polishing, heavy testing, balancing…

          >>3)I wonder what is the source of that info :), in any case, time will say. I can tell you I would prefer a delay than releasing game unfinished. Timeline prior to today are facts, and after it, are estimations.

          Thanks for your luck wishes and interesting conversation ;)

  7. Draba says:

    The playable demo on the timeline is a very good sign. Shows that the devs actually think the game is good/will progress in a decent pace.

    Still, I’m a bit disappointed with crowdfunded games(hell, even biggish studios tend to fk up). Definitely won’t put money/effort in testing a game only to get something unfinished or just plain bad(for unfinished look at Stardrive/SotS2, bad AND unfinished X Rebirth/Jagged Alliance remake).

    Will be checkking after the release though, the trailer looks promising.

    • ramdy says:

      Hi Draba, we didn’t go the crowdfunding way, the project already have the funds to get finished as it has been announced.

      We are using preorder mechanism as a way to let those who, for one or other reason, are willing to support us from this early stage. In exchange we are offering a lower price, soundtrack, beta invites… and our gratitude to them.

      And, of course, we have also improvements and additional features in mind, which we may start developing while getting enough support.

      • Draba says:

        Sorry, chosen the wrong word. Was thinking of early access/public alpha/public beta games(those just happen to often go hand-in-hand with crowdsourcing).
        Meant to say that while your game does look great at a glance, for the foreseeable future I’m only getting titles that are officially “done”. Just commented because it seems like a sentiment shared by many at this point.

        Good luck with the development, looking forward to the release later this year!

        • ramdy says:

          Of course yours is a very reasonable option and we are glad you could be interested in Project Aura, in whatever stage :).

  8. Adam C says:

    @ramdy thanks for the replies, i really dropped a nuke on your lap sorry, i have these burning questions

    i hope you guys do well, the make or break decision for me will be viewing a stream of a 20min gameplay.

    this does look like the type of game i would very much want to enjoy


    • ramdy says:

      We are prioritizing a playable demo by late April, where we may have available few weeks before another video regarding the colony process activation.

      >>this does look like the type of game i would very much want to enjoy
      We hope to ;)

  9. stormcloud says:

    Global warming? Hazardous enviroment?(really?) Need a protective dome? (huh??) Ughhh. Sorry, the base story sounds like a corny B-grade movie script, not convincing enough.

    If that was nuclear winter from a massive asteroid strike, then yes, I’ll perk and listen. If that was an aftermath of WW3 mutual annihilation, yup, I don’t have problem with the scenario. If that was from some sort of an alien disease which wipes out 99% of the world’s population and animals, it’s still somewhat plausible to swallow.

    If they wanted to stick to the global warming theme, changing the story to mention like 80% of earth’s land mass is lost to the sea and food crises is enough for plausability. If they can’t get a simple background story right, then it puts doubt on their ability to design or even finish the game right.

    Look at Maia. Low key, no flashy graphics trailer. Heavy interest from players. Not the only example, but best one that pops out of my head.

    • ramdy says:

      While in the personal like context, as I mentioned in first post reply we want to give a social add value to the product. You can explore and get to know it in game, through an optional quest branch, or totally ignore it.

      Goat simulator got a heavy interest from players also, but hey, each company should go its own style :D

      • stormcloud says:

        I’m not sure how to reply this. Social value? If you mean the the 2% pledge for donation, then I would treat that as a gimmick. It has no bearings whatsoever to the end product i.e. the game.

        Keep in mind, all the public have seen right now is that trailer. I _was not_ impressed. There is very little concrete information on how the game would play like. Your website has almost zero useful information. Your forum is in the same state. Though my original comments may have sounded somewhat harsh, it reflects the skeptiscm built from seeing lots of game devs/software houses pander through various devious marketing tactics to hawk a mediocre or even fail products. While I’m not accusing Project Aura as such (at this point in time), tell tale signs tripped a few red flags.

        If the game does well during beta and after more information has been released, then I may change the above stance.

        I agree each company will present their games accordingly to their own preferred styles and resources that allow it. One thing I’d like to point out however, if you have missed it, is that the current breed of players/consumers appreciate candidness and honesty. The guy at Maia maybe poor compared to well funded outfits, but read his blogs and you will understand his character to a degree. The same goes to guy that did Banished. It’s not 100% coincidence that they just happen to be successful with their endeavours. This aspect is one of the first thing I look for when I see a new game pop out. Too many of the KS games turned out as mediocre that players/consumers shifting to adapt … at least those that cared.

        • ramdy says:

          If you notice, it all is “days old”, our forum was launched 10 days ago and it starts growing slow; and well, that’s why we came here to introduce our videogame project and start getting feedback. Good and bad, is really valuable for us and appreciated ;)

          If you argue: “2% pledge for donation is a gimmick”, your feedback is: you need to explain it better; and so on, so really thank and I hope to change your mind to the positive about our project ;)

  10. Adam Solo says:

    I think we could cut the devs some slack. They have some kind of demo coming out soon. April/May, apparently. So, we’ll see.

    We all know how aggressive marketing can be at times. Exploring nostalgia and expectations with beautiful visuals and great promises. Trailers can be very dangerous to the wallet :)

    Pre-orders are a big mess, we all know that, but they can be useful sometimes, especially for the indies. It all comes down to what the consumer decides to do. Why not apply a rule every time you see a trailer associated with a pre-order these days: like a 3 days rule. If in 3 days after watching the trailer you still want to pre-order the game in question (after reading some more about it or whatever) then by all means.

    New ideas are welcome, even if sometimes they are not easy to grasp at first, which I think it’s the case here. Everybody knows what a game sequel means, or a game inside a very particular genre. But, it can be very hard to explain a concept of something new, something that is not a “dungeon keeper in space”, or a space 4X game, or a space shooter, or a space sim.

    The way I see it this seems like a Simcity kind of game set in a post-apocalyptic setting but with a tech progression system and an economic/trade system of some kind. There are no real goals in Simcity either, and we all love it. But, Simcity is a simulation game.

    I also have my (big) share of doubts on what the gameplay really is about. So, I’ll wait for the demo before I make any kind of judgement.

    • ramdy says:

      Hello Adam, you are right, we hope to have our demo ready by April/May (pushing hard actually to have it ready for late April).

  11. Christopher Cuffaro says:

    Well, I, for one, am intrigued. It sounds somewhat similar to Anno 2070, except that you’re building your colony on an artificial island or naval complex instead of actual land. The concept is intriguing, even if, realistically, both this game and Anno 2070 had rather…exaggerated impacts of climate change compared to what realistically would happen.

    That being said, it’s all backstory, and I’ve ignored realism for a good story, and there is something interesting here. An extreme climate disaster sends humanity into stasis on artificial ships to continue our survival. Salvage from ruins for tech and resources, and try to figure out how things went so wrong.

    The game looks quite pretty, and we’ll have to see how the gameplay is with the demo. No idea yet, and the game doesn’t show much “gameplay” that we can see and analyze.

    I think my biggest concern is that this will be overly preachy. Anno 2070 did it well, with making climate change and such just the background story, while not really making climate change a huge deal within the game. Sure there is a balance between industry and environmental progress, but, that’s fine. (Haven’t played in a while, but the industrial faction was more efficient but dirty, and vice versa for the ecological faction). The disaster happened. Make it about survival, and rebirth, not trying to deliver a message to early 21st century consumers.

  12. UncaJoe says:

    OK, well, it does sound interesting. I like sim games, mostly. The global warming background is fine – it’s a GAME, folks, and it’s SciFi. OK?
    Couple of questions. What are the requirements for my computer. I don’t have the latest and greatest, so what is recommended? And, will I be able to slow “time” down? I have poor hand-eye coordination so RT is not high in my favor. On that note, will I be able to do things while the game is paused – start construction, give orders, etc.?

    • ramdy says:

      Hello, UncaJoe

      We have set a minimal requirements specs for our current deferred render, where it may vary slightly at release:

      Minimal Requirements
      • CPU: 2 GHz
      • Memory: 1 Gb
      • NVIDIA GeForce 8600
      • ATI Radeon HD2600
      • Video memory: 512 Mb
      • Sound card: any OpenAL compatible
      • Disk space: 1 Gb
      • Windows XP, Vista, 7

      *We use internally another render version thought for “very” low specs computers, however, we aren’t sure to release it since the quality lose is quite big.

      • UncaJoe says:

        Thanks for the quick reply Ramdy. That helps; my machine exceeds those requirements. Could you respond to the other question also? Thanks!

        • ramdy says:

          Hi, UncaJoe

          It is scheduled to be at least 3 time speeds. About what you can do with game paused, gameplay tests will say, where I can’t foresee any inconvenient about letting issue orders while game is paused (I would say it can be useful for big colonies and/or “stress” situations).

  13. UncaJoe says:

    Indeed. Thanks!

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