Developer KeokeN Interactive just launched Deliver Us Mars together with Frontier Foundry, which we reviewed on the PlayStation 5. We also got in touch with Koen Deetman, Game Director for Deliver Us Mars at KeokeN. We looked back at the development of the game, and how the team have experienced the launch window.
When did development on the game start and how did the core ideas come about?
We started planning in late 2019 / early 2020, right after the re-release of Deliver Us Mars’ predecessor Deliver Us The Moon, and we were having conversations about how we could take the series further. We started full development of the game around the second half of 2020.
The core idea was, of course, inherited from Deliver Us The Moon and was born out of our passion for space travel, which is something Paul and I grew up loving, since our granddad was a telescope builder. The plot for Deliver Us Mars was carefully constructed with the team and we had a goal to tell a story that was close to our hearts, coupled with the hard truths of being an astronaut. Mars, meanwhile, gave us a distinctive setting with more potential variety in terms of visuals than the Moon.
What were some of the takeaways from the development of Deliver Us The Moon that you took with you for this game?
Deliver Us The Moon was our debut in the industry, but it didn’t totally go as we had planned at first. It was a rocky road, fuelled by persistence – eventually we brought the game to market in its finished form, which we were very proud of. The planning and structure we had in the studio was something that was extremely important to us, in conjunction with a good work-life-balance.
For the game itself, we really wanted to ‘amp up’ the narrative delivery. The ability to do performance capture with real actors was a new but welcome challenge to tackle. Besides that, we set out to improve the gameplay experience with new puzzles and new platforming mechanics – adding these thrilling elements to the game that aren’t reliant on simple conflict resolution mechanics, like you might find in a shooter. Then, of course, there’s our never-ending pursuit for realistic graphics with even more detailed sound and music. We raised the bar in every aspect the experience has to offer.
For those who played the first game, how does Deliver Us Mars feel different in terms of gameplay?
The most obvious difference is the way we evoke thrills and have players battle the verticality in our game with the new climbing mechanics. It will definitely ask you to put some work in to keep Kathy safe, though for accessibility reasons, we’ve made sure there are optional settings you can tweak to make it simpler to play. This platforming adds a skill curve to the game, and a real sense of drama.
The puzzles have evolved from one-off set pieces to an intricate system that grows in difficulty over time – you’ll learn how the puzzles work on a basic level, then we’ll step it up in complexity over the course of the story. Certainly the scope of the game is larger because we take you to more types of environments, and every inch of Deliver Us Mars has been handcrafted.
Space is often seen as vast and empty – how did you ensure that Deliver Us Mars has a visual identity of its own?
You are right, and honestly it wasn’t too hard for us to do, as Deliver Us The Moon was very ‘grey’ and as a team we really needed a break from this. Deliver Us Mars not only gives players different locations on both Earth and Mars, but also not many people know that besides the recognizable ‘Red Planet’, Mars can look very blueish in the nights, or that there is a patch of dry-ice on the poles. The colour palette in the game is much more versatile than Deliver Us The Moon was – the game absolutely stands out in that respect.
The plot for Deliver Us Mars isn’t as shrouded in mystery as the first game – what can you tell us about the writing process?
In the first game, Deliver Us The Moon, it was necessary to be creative with our narrative as we didn’t have many methods for deeper character expression. It did, however, have an extensive VO cast that we used to bring out the humanity in these characters wherever we could.
When you have the backing of a publisher like Frontier Foundry to build upon the ambition that we had, this allowed us to open up the opportunity to bring in a full voice cast and performance capture – this meant we could tell a dramatic story in the present, and get deeper into the characters by showing them interacting with each other. Perhaps this makes the story less mysterious, but it’s a really engaging way to offer that direct narrative experience to players.
The initial plot for Deliver Us Mars isn’t as shrouded in mystery, then, but once you get to Mars, the fate of Outward is certainly something we want players to enjoy the journey of unravelling. The ending of the game too, is designed to provoke ambiguity. We wanted to leave our players thinking about the finale of the game and whether or not they think the decisions made by the characters were right or wrong.
How do you feel about the critical and player response to the game thus far?
We are delighted with the response to the game so far! We are seeing a lot of positivity from players who are new to the series, as well as those who were already in our fan base and enjoyed Deliver Us The Moon. We are enjoying seeing players and streamers play the game and we’ve been having conversations with them during their adventures. We’ve had a huge amount of lovely comments that we’re receiving every day – we really appreciate all the love that we’re seeing. It’s amazing that the story and characters are truly striking a chord – we pay close attention to what the critics are saying, too, and it’s fascinating to see the response from all corners of the internet after working on the game for so long.
What are the post-launch plans for Deliver Us Mars?
We are currently working on updates to the game, and just released v1.01 for all platforms as we tweak Deliver Us Mars post-release – we’ll have more news on any further updates as they’re ready. It’s important to us as a studio that we continue to provide the best possible experience for players, so we’re paying close attention to what players are telling us. Like Deliver Us The Moon, we expect players to discover this game for years to come!