Return of the Obra Dinn and Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope has shared more gameplay details about his next project, Mars After Midnight. The creator updated patient fans on his progress in a recent devlog entry, giving them a thorough rundown on how development is coming along and when he expects it to be completed. Made exclusively for the crank-equipped handheld, Playdate, this small, quirky, procedurally generated game is looking to ditch the more serious tone of Return of the Obra Dinn in favor of a light-hearted alien adventure.
Mars After Midnight was announced in June 2021 as Pope’s next inventive video game. At the time, the Playdate project already seemed to have all of the creativity of his past projects. However, thanks to the device’s fun side crank, it was clear from the outset that it would be a bit more… unique than most games. Pope explains in today’s update that the idea for Mars After Midnight sprouted from his desire to utilize the crank in a fun way: What he came up with was a small window that can be cranked up to reveal procedurally generated Martians that are both hilarious and goofy.
“This window action was my original wafer-thin concept for using the Playdate’s crank in a novel way,” Pope explained. “I threw together the game code and procedural Martian generation pretty quickly almost two years (!) ago. Flipping the window open and seeing some random Martian is fun. Sometimes even funny.”
It’s cute, but Mars After Midnight is more than a quirky way to justify a Playdate purchase. The core loop is this: plan, open the hatch, clean, repeat. You see, Mars After Midnight sees players running an otherworldly community support center where Martians are invited to better themselves – with free refreshments, of course. Players start each day by planning out their center’s schedule. That means choosing a location, selecting an appropriate topic, and deciding what food will be served.
Creating a successfully inviting environment will bring Martians to your doorstep, where you’ll invite them in to make a mess of the food hall. From here, players are tasked with picking up after the attendees. You’ll be stacking plates and using the Playdate crank once again to activate a sweeper that mops up any leftover crumbs. Mars After Midnight is certainly novel, even if it is locked behind Playdate exclusivity.
Pope’s devlog dives deeper into his thought process behind these ideas while clarifying that any and all elements are subject to change, so check out the full post for a fascinating look at Mars After Midnight. Meanwhile, the creator said he expects to fill out more session topics, accessories, and foods in the months ahead but won’t be able to do so until first dealing with “some long-pending maintenance for Papers, Please and Return of the Obra Dinn.” Until then, you can see what Mars After Midnight looks like in a short Playdate gameplay video from 2021.