Lucas Pope’s new game The Sea Has No Claim searches through an airplane’s wreckage

Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope’s entry into the Ludum Dare 29 game jam—The Sea Has No Claim—touches on a highly topical subject: search and rescue for recent shipwrecks and the survivors onboard.

If you keep up with the news, you shouldn’t need reminding that flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was carrying 239 passengers when it disappeared off radar on March 8th. The search is still being conducted for any sign of the ship in the deep waters of the South China Sea. The relatives of those on the flight when it went missing are still holding hope for the return of their loved ones.

it’s an upsetting victory. 

While we all watch the news broadcasts about MH370, unable to do anything from many miles away, Pope’s The Sea Has No Claim enables us to simulate the rescue effort from start to finish. But the conclusions are often not worth celebrating. Even if you’re able to find the missing ships, not being fast enough might mean that you weren’t able to rescue the passengers—it’s an upsetting victory.

The first choice you have to make is which search and rescue mission you want to coordinate. The variables include the number of shipwrecks to find, survivors onboard, and the size of the sea they’re lost in. Each mission gives you an allocated time to find the shipwreck with the minimum being 60 seconds.

What you can’t see from that menu, however, is the technology you have access to—it’s this that truly determines the difficulty of the operation. More gadgets and high-tech tools are added with each increase in size of the searchable area. You start with just a few sonic buoys and the submersible that’s required to perform the rescue when the target is found. By the last mission you have GPS scanners, pathfinding computers, rescue boats, fly-by planes, and Steve with his “Killer binocs and sweet-ass boat”.

I found that having access to all of this technology makes the later levels surprisingly easy, while the very first mission is the most difficult—it’s the difference between precise interrogations and rough guess work.

The Sea Has No Claim posits that technology ensures that finding wreckages in the middle of a sea of any size is without too much hassle, then. Indeed, the missing black box of the MH370, which transmits a signal for rescue parties to track, is being pointed to by experts and governments as the reason why the airplane hasn’t been found yet.

No matter the reason, the time it’s taking to find MH370 would suggest that one of The Sea Has No Claim‘s upsetting victories is due if and when it is eventually found.  

You can play The Sea Will Claim Everything in your browser right here