Mars Frontier began in a Stanford dorm room as a “GSB 390 Individual Research Project” to create a fact-based educational game about interplanetary colonization. A video trailer and concept images were created to evaluate the commercial potential for the project.
ABOVE: Original trailer used to concept test Mars Frontier as an educational game, created for $50 using video actors from fiverr.com.
The market for science-based title suggested low adoption, so the title was changed into a science fiction war game. The original 3D models commissioned for the educational game were weaponized for the new title, and a story about how the new settlers of Mars used the “ancient” NASA designs for machines created to harvest resources on Mars.
The Mars Rovers
As the notoriety of Mars rose in 2012 with the arrival of NASA’s Curiosity rover on the red planet, a storyline arose in Mars Frontier about the replication of Curiosity design into a deadly war machine three hundred years in the future.
Buildings and Game Engine
In parallel with the development of story and art, a new game engine was built from scratch built on experimental new “HTML5” technology (whose standards would not be finalized for another two years).
After several generations of building refinements the structures began to define the game world, and set the context for the storylines and characters to be developed.
To align with the retrofitted NASA rovers, a new class of weaponized “Transport” vehicles was created to parallel the storyline around rovers being militarized versions of civilian vehicles. In the first release of the game neither rovers nor transports could resurrect after being destroyed, and the feature was added later after extensive testing and game balancing.
Our first character in Mars Frontier was the in-game narrator Valentina, named after Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space in 1969. Originally a sarcastic, dry-witted side-kick, the character evolved over time into a more edgy, unemotional space companion, bordering on robotic.
Since the release of Mars Frontier in 2012, two expansion packs have been released:
WAR STAR EMPIRE is set in the distant future where the sentient robots created by humans evolved exponentially into a series of all-powerful “Machine Lords” who dominate the galaxy and hunt human kind to the brink of extinction. In a cataclysmic battle, the humans destroy the Machine Lords motherships disabling their forces, but at the cost of losing nearly the entirety of the human forces. Survivors escape to the nearby world of Minoa, the birthplace of the Machine Lords, and the center of their incredible power. They fight for survival on the historic planet, which in ancient times had another name: “Mars”.
BATTLEFRONT MARS begins immediately after the original Mars Frontier story line, and before WAR STAR EMPIRE. It is set during a period of hyper colonization of Mars, where discovery of vast water reserves and terraforming technology brings a massive inflow of migrants from the dying world of Earth.