Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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A VR simulation of Mars turns you into a rover repairman

A VR simulation of Mars turns you into a rover repairman

We’ll probably never physically land on Mars within our lifetime. The chances of a Matt Damon doppelgänger getting abandoned on the planet—a la The Martian (2015)—are even slimmer. Yet, we’re still inching closer with every waking day, as NASA’s exploration rovers roam the desolate red planet in the meantime. Despite us never planting a human being on Mars, the rovers give us a sense for what setting foot on the planet might be like one day. With Steel Wool Studios’s upcoming VR simulation Mars Odyssey, the hope is to bring us one step closer.

In Mars Odyssey, the player is tasked as a space-bound repairman of sorts, where players roam the crimson lands of Mars in hopes to repair long dormant rovers. Rovers like Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity, which actually exist in reality. The positions of the inactive rovers in the virtual realm are based on where they actually reside in reality. With accurate likeness being an essential key in developing Mars Odyssey, the surface for Mars was orchestrated directly using NASA’s height map and terrain material.

Roam the crimson lands of Mars in hopes of repairing long dormant rovers

While Mars Odyssey is the first project under new funding, courtesy of the HTC Corporation, it’s not Steel Wool Studios’s first VR game. Back in April of this year, alongside the launch of the HTC Vive, Steel Wool Studios released Quar: Battle for Gate 18, a turn-based strategy game for VR. “After earning our stripes with Quar, we went all-in on creating content for VR, a medium we’ve been waiting for our whole lives,” said Andrew Dayton, co-founder of Steel Wool Studios.

Just another fixer-upper on good ol' Mars.
Just another fixer-upper on good ol’ Mars.

Mars Odyssey is the first experience in a new line of VR projects by Steel Wool Studios, the Oakland, California-based company comprised of veterans from Pixar Animation Studios, Telltale Games, and Lucasfilm. The exploration of Mars specifically is a passion project for its co-founder Joshua Qualtieri, who studied physics while attending university. It may be the latest in a lot of other space-bound VR games, but Mars Odyssey’s rooting in authentic NASA technology might set it apart.

Mars Odyssey will be launching on Steam on September 9th.

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