Journey into outer space with Swinburne Graduates' Earthlight

Saturday 1 October 2016

An aerial shot of Wakefield Lawns

In summary

  • This article originally featured in Swinburne’s Venture magazine

Melbourne-based game developers had an out-of-this-world experience when they were invited to tour NASA’s Johnson Space Centre earlier this year.

Working as Opaque Media Group, founded by Swinburne graduates are the developers of virtual reality game Earthlight. It takes players on the journey of becoming an astronaut, then sends them on missions at the International Space Station. The game has gained international attention, and NASA was curious.

Swinburne Bachelor of Arts (Games and Interactivity) graduate Emre Deniz, the project lead for Earthlight, says the idea was simply to make a game about space.

“It was weird seeing private messages on Reddit from NASA, we didn’t expect it at all,” Mr Deniz says.

“It was a way to exchange expertise between our team and NASA’s laboratories. Finding out the intricate details to human space flight – for example the jiggling of tools on a space suit – these are all specifics we are putting into Earthlight.

“We want to create game-play artefacts that we can deploy in virtual reality. This will add sincerity to Earthlight and develop the perfect balance between game play and experience.”

The team showcased the latest version at the PAX West (Penny Arcade Expo) event in Seattle, which generated excitement and positive feedback from the media and developers.

“We demonstrated Earthlight in a closed-door private format,” Mr Deniz says. “We were being conservative; we should have really targeted a public demonstration as the feedback we got was highly useful. The team has already started implementing it into the game.”

The visit also built relationships with high-end tech partners, including Epic, HTC and Oculus. The team is working on other projects involving companies such as Microsoft and Google.

“There is an endless list of how you’re able to provide beneficial uses of putting a physical person into a visual environment, which is why this sector is so exciting and rapidly growing,” Mr Deniz says.

The team is hoping to have a version of Earthlight ready for play by the end of 2016, and a commercial release date for the game early in 2017.

With international success and interest continuing to flourish, Mr Deniz believes the future at Opaque Media is bright.

“We’re currently engaged in development for a variety of platforms. We’re working in virtual reality, augmented reality and a range of other devices to find innovative solutions to unconventional problems,” he says.