The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: 0rbitalis

Orbitalis 1
My partner, who has two years of a physics degree to my GCSE in Maths and A Level in Media Studies, describes gravitational orbit as “falling, while moving horizontally fast enough to miss the ground”. I’d turn that into a cute metaphor about how we are so deeply in love the same could be said of us, but I guarantee the outcome would be her calling me a nerd and my receiving a punch in the arm.

0RBITALIS (which might as well have the subtitle “no you spell it with a Zero not an O”), sees you controlling the launch of a satellite into orbit, needing to sustain itself long enough for a timer to count down, but challenging you to outlast a global leaderboard. It feels like a zen experience inspired by Super Meat Boy, with the same core of frustration and quick-resetting as you misjudge angles and need to restart, except here you relinquish all input after the first few moments and the results thereafter are beyond your control. All you can do is launch the satellite, hope you get the orbit right, try again when you mess up.

I don’t really do drugs any more. And if you’re a cop or a future employer I never have. I can’t figure out what drugs 0RBITALIS would pair well with. The obvious answer would be something dissociative, that would help you further enjoy the lovely wishy-washy patterns the satellite’s trail makes as it loops around stars and moons and later on some horrid blue things that deflect orbits rather than attracting anything to it. I might have to ask my partner if those are a real thing. I bet they aren’t, but as I’ve said, the limit of my education is being able to critically examine the use of lighting in Film Noir.

Then again, maybe that’s the wrong kind of drug entirely. It’s a game with a leaderboard after every level. It has high scores. That’s the international video game language for an experience needing to be fucking conquered. You need bare-knuckled teeth-gritting staying power. You need the kind of stuff that truckers are snorting for a trip across Route 66.

Orbitalis 2That’s a design confusion. It’s half a relaxing visual experiment and half a combative attempt to see which person in the world can be the best. So really it’s neither, because it’s not possible to battle to see which person is the most relaxed. What I’m saying here is, you really shouldn’t mix your drugs, you’ll dehydrate.

At Rezzed a few weeks ago the game was being shown off with a purpose made controller which replaced the regular mouse control. It was a circle which rotated around 90 degrees and could be pushed in and out in order to change the amount of force exerted. It made 0RBITALIS feel like much more of an installation, something you’d put in a science museum to make orbits fun to learn about. It’d make a great educational tool. Maybe show it to your kids. Don’t let them read this, though. I’ve said the F word and told them that drugs are good.

We also have a video interview with Alan Zucconi, creator of 0rbitalis, from Inside BAFTA in March.