Epoch: Returns - a game inspired by Mass Effect 1's planetary exploration

UPDATE: The Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled.

UPDATE 17/03 4.30PM GMT: The Epoch: Return Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. It failed to gather enough fundraising momentum, making only $26,158 of its $150,000 goal.

"There are a lot of little things we'd like to change about our campaign, but at the heart of it all, we failed to make people fall in love with our idea the same way we love it," explained project lead, Nathan Moller.

"For that reason, we are going to end this Kickstarter campaign immediately. We are unhappy with the way we represented the game, and are going back to the drawing board. It was a hard decision to make, but we are confident it is the right one."

UPDATE 12/03 2PM GMT: The Epoch: Return (no "s" now) Kickstarter campaign has begun. Creator Nathan Moller seeks $150,000.

ORIGINAL STORY 07/03 11AM GMT: What did you like about Mass Effect? Exploring uncharted worlds?

What did you like about Skyrim? Seeing that horizon as you walked out of that cave for the first time?

How about Crackdown? Leaping like The Hulk around a giant playground?

You did? To all three?

Read on.

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A game called Epoch: Returns, which will launch on Kickstarter early next week asking for "just into six figures", hopes to capture all of that, particularly the Mass Effect parts, because the man in charge helped build it.

Nathan Moller was a cinematic designer at BioWare, crafting the scenes BioWare's games are famed for, particularly Mass Effect. And although he worked on Dragon Age: Origins and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and even the colossal production Halo 4, it's BioWare's space opera he feels closest to.

"My resume is basically built around Mass Effect [1 & 2]. I've worked on some amazing other games but that's the one that everyone always really ties me to, and that's the one I spent the most time on and most identify with," he told me.

"I did the first conversations with the Illusive Man, the first conversations with Mordin Solus, worked with Tali and all these great characters."

"My resume is basically built around Mass Effect"

Nathan Moller

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(Did you know that there were 25 hours of cinematic sequences in Mass Effect? Did you know there were 24 hours of conversations? Did you know there was a wing of a space station near the end of Halo 4 named after him - the Moller Wing?)

It should come as no surprise, then, that the other strong theme in Epoch: Returns is the relationship between characters, two of them - a husband and wife team of interstellar treasure hunters.

"Married couples in games are very rare, and even when they are there they're usually background, or one of them has been kidnapped or one of them has been murdered and revenge is sought," said Moller. "We're building a real couple. It hasn't really been done much in games, at least not in any of the games I've played."

A reading they take from an asteroid makes it look like they've hit their own kind of jackpot, but turns out to be a Bermuda Triangle of a location and they crash. The parts the wife needs to repair the ship the husband will have to explore to find.

"One thing that was very underrated about the first Mass Effect was exploring the uncharted worlds," he believes, "all the little planets you could land on and drive around the Mako on. I love that stuff.

"Start with that, except we're giving you just one of the worlds - except it's much bigger and you're on foot. But you've got this suit that allows you basically to make big leaps."

Not low-gravity leaps that take seconds to return to the ground from; leaps like The Incredible Hulk, like in Crackdown, with a bit of Tribes sliding mixed in.

"We're giving you this jagged, ruined world and we're gonna make it fun for you to take off in any direction you want and just explore it and jump around and bounce off the walls."

"The challenge won't be in, 'Can I get over that hill?' It's more like, 'OK what's the fastest way over that hill?' Like, slide this slope, pick up momentum, bounce off this other cliff face, bounce off of that up over the hill."

Or walk around it like a dawdling sightseer - it's up to you.

"We're not going to hold your hand, telling you what to do"

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No waypoints, no meters to fill up, no objectives to fulfil. "We're not going to hold your hand, telling you what to do. We'll give you little hints, but it's up to you to go out in this world and explore it."

In other words, no mechanics or plot distracting you from the purity of exploration.

There will be a threat, some danger, in the background, although Moller doesn't want to give too much away.

"But you're on a chunk of rock so there's plenty of ways... Maybe you're hurtling towards a... There's a lot of things that could be wrong." Solar flares, for instance, or other asteroids crashing into your asteroid, or other ships stranded as you are.

Discovering the why while discovering the characters is the game, and how you play it will affect how the story unfolds.

There will be no combat whatsoever.

Moller's company is called Innate Games, and there are several people working on the game, although only two of them - Moller and an artist-slash-mathematician - full time.

Another name you may recognise is Cookie Hiponia Everman, who was the editor of BioWare's writing department. She's taking control of the story.

Moller has been working on Epoch: Returns for a year, and it's spent a long time in pre-production.

The scope of the final game will depend on the amount raised on Kickstarter, as will which platforms it will be built on besides PC first and foremost.

It's unlikely anything will be released this year; Q1 2015 is his best guess right now.

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