A Sneak Peek at Morning Star Alpha

I’m pretty sure most of you are aware that I’m working on a video game with Industrial Toys, called Morning Star, and I’m pretty sure most of you also know — since I wrote about it here, after all — that I also wrote a graphic novel in the same universe, called Morning Star Alpha. What I’m not entirely sure that you folks know is all the very cool stuff that we’re doing with Morning Star Alpha. It’s a graphic novel, but it’s a graphic novel designed from the ground up to be digitally native — and to do interesting things in relation to the Morning Star video game.

Which is to say that the video game and the graphic novel talk to each other: things you do in the graphic novel will matter for the video game, and things you do in the video game will matter for the graphic novel. Both the video game and the graphic novel are complete experiences in themselves — but if you get both, you’ll see how the two of them work together for a wider and richer experience.

Industrial Toys has been adamant in making the point that Morning Star Alpha is not a “tie-in” to the video game, in the sense that it’s something bolted on as an afterthought or farmed out to others to whip up on the quick. I can certainly agree with that; the graphic novel idea has been part of this from day one, and the same folks who are putting together the game (me, artist Mike Choi, Alex Seropian, Tim Harris and the whole Industrial Toys team) are building the graphic novel. And it really is building: the backend of the graphic novel is some fairly impressive programming in itself. And of course, there’s the story and art as well, which, you know, took a bit of work.

But it’s one thing for me you tell you all this, it’s another for you to see a little bit of what we’ve been up to. So, below, check out this sneak preview video of Morning Star Alpha:

If you’re additionally curious about the process of making the graphic novel, and the thinking that went into it, IGN has an interview with Alex, Mike and me you can check out. There should be some more pieces up on Morning Star Alpha over the next couple of days; I’ll update here when I see them come out.

I’m not gonna lie — I think this is all some seriously nifty stuff, which is why I signed up for it in the first place. I’m also excited that my first professional foray into the graphic novel world is getting that much closer to release. I can’t wait for you all to see it. I think you’re really going to like it.

Update, 12:13pm: “Every video game should have a Morning Star Alpha,” says Kotaku.

26 thoughts on “A Sneak Peek at Morning Star Alpha

  1. As people will ask, Morning Star Alpha, like Morning Star the video game, has been developed as a mobile experience and will debut first for iOS. As I understand it, it will then migrate from that platform to other platforms. Please do not turn this comment thread into a gripe-fest about the game/graphic novel not being immediately available for your non-iOS platform. I thank you in advance for keeping such griping to yourself.

  2. So, is this an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of TV show/video game mix “Defiance”?

  3. I’ve been watching with interest some of the tablet stuff that graphic novels/comics have been doing, notably things like ‘Guided View’ that moves around a static comic page. But it’s still fundamentally a static page. Things like this with multiple layers moving in a parallaxy type way are very cool and quite cinematic, while obviously having lower production costs than full-blown animation or live action. Very cool indeed.

  4. I’m in negotiations with my girlfriend to borrow her iPad the moment this is available. Given the voracity with which she devoured your back catalogue, I may have to pay a heavy price… ;)

  5. This looks really really cool. I look forward to when it’ll be released on non-iOS. Here’s my only question (which is how you can tell I’m a social gamer) will the game itself be on iOS too or is it console/PC game with the graphic novel on the iOS?

  6. This looks so amazingly exciting that I’m going to be bouncing around like squirrel with ADHD hyped up on crack until it’s available for Android! I sort of like graphic novels, but the interactivity of this one — plus the writing of The Great Scalzi — will make it a MUST HAVE. I love the idea that the choices in the novel affect the game and vice versa. This is pure genius. My game playing life is limited to extremely exciting things like Sudoku and Solitaire… so to actually be looking forward to playing a FPS game says a lot about the game, the team and the unique presentation you’re giving Morning Star.

    Wow. Just… WOW!

  7. This is very interesting. My first thoughts:

    1. Despite the format, this strikes me as less a graphic novel than a substitute for something like the first fifteen minutes of Mass Effect. Sets the stage, introduces the universe and characters, lets you explore the world a bit–but this probably costs a LOT less than a traditional cinematic or interactive intro. And it’ll be free, apparently, so it’s something akin to a demo, except without letting the user sample gameplay.

    2. Or is it? This level of interactive decision making makes it look like a western RPG, but I understand the game is a FPS? There could be some genre whiplash if we get to the main game and discover an on-the-rails FPS after having this level of interactive decision making in the graphic novel. I guess it makes me wonder if this game is going to play more like HALO or more like Mass Effect…

    3. This seems to imply that this Charlie Campbell is the game’s protagonist. I hope that’s not true, or that at least we’re missing some content to make him stand out, because he’s awfully bland and whitebread as we see him in these panels. At least Master Chief’s helmet added mystery so we could imagine he wasn’t just another bland, taciturn, white guy protagonist.

    4. God help us, they’re still using Wright-Patterson as a base 120 years from now!

  8. Type to dust of my iPad (which is currently only used as a glorified remote for my TV) and prep it for the whole Morning Star enchilada. Can’t wait!

  9. Nifty! I’m especially intrigued by the interactive “Mass-Effect-y” kinds of reader/player choices and the way they integrate with the game. Very cool.

  10. Oh irony of ironies; it just took 10 minutes to stop-start my way through the preview on my iPad. Ok, it’s two years old but I’m hoping I’m not expected to buy a bigger, newer one to actually play the game…

  11. Stevie – I think you might actually be running up against the same YouTube issues that a lot of other people are. I doubt the game being introduced is using Flash (may it die a thousand deaths).

  12. If anything could make me buy an iPad, this would be it. Of course currently I couldn’t afford to buy a pad of paper, so it could be a while!

    But this is some seriously nifty stuff here!

    This is a trend, I think, and Defiance is part of the same thing (no, when two things are related that doesn’t mean one causes the other—remember science?): games are getting more like movies/TV, and movies/TV are getting more interactive. People who know more than I do about such things are saying the distinction may fade away entirely in our lifetime.

    Branching stories are nothing new, though of course electronic media make them much easier to use (I remember “if you try to open the box, turn to page 153″). I’ve always thought of them as a hybrid between a story and a game, especially if some paths lead to death and others to victory!

    So from the video this seems like a storygame that prepares for, and interacts with, a gamestory. Or maybe the other way around.

  13. I am a huge fan. The game and novel look great.
    I have just one serious issue. Do all the women in the story and game have extended bust lines? If they do, why?

  14. John, have you played any of the old-school Marathon games made by Bungie while Mr. Seropian was there? If not, I’d strongly recommend them. You can play them for free on Mac or PC: http://marathon.sourceforge.net and also download them for iOS.

    While the graphics are a bit dated at this point, the main draw has always been the story. It’s a really well done sci-fi tale. There’s even a website dedicated to the games, including the mysteries of the stories, that’s still being updated today: http://marathon.bungie.org/story/

    Looking forward to this game and graphic novel!

  15. I’m an ultra-casual gamer yet this looks appealing to me. The character design is great and the story is interesting. Of course there are the usual gaggle of 20-30-something looking hot chicks and no women over 40, which is the norm, I guess. Oh well, we’re not a giant gaming demographic just yet.

  16. Scalzi, ZOMG you’ve done it again. I am massively excited about this and can’t wait for it to come out.

  17. Looks very cool, I can only pray that my now ancient iPad 1 doesn’t choke on it. ;)

    @Nebbo, Gen X is in their 40’s and still gaming their asses off. We can shift that demographic if we make it clear that appeasing the dudebro market is less important than appeasing the adults with money market.

    Of course the downside is that we Gen X’ers pretty much invented internet piracy… ;(

  18. I’m pretty pumped for this thing to come out. I know we’re not allowed to gripe, so I’ll just say that I’m a sad panda because I’ll have to wait for it to come out on Android. *shrug* Oh well, I can wait a bit.

    I think the idea behind this whole gaming/comic symbiosis is kind of awesome. One of my biggest problems with mobile games is the lack of depth. SquareEnix seems to be the only company putting out super involved games with deep story-lines, and they are charging premium prices for those games. That’s great for them, but man, I’m hesitant about spending that much on a mobile app without first having access to a demo or something.

    That leads me to my suggestion! (I can tell you’re thrilled.) If this game comes out, and asks a premium price (anything about $10), please consider releasing a demo consisting of maybe the first level or so.

    Oh, and, for sequels, simultaneous platform roll-out would be pretty killer too. (that’s all I’m going to gripe, I promise)

    I’m really looking forward to giving this comic AND game a spin! :-)

  19. “Joplin” would have been a reasonable name for an oiler or similar supply vessel in the US Navy– they never actually used it, but they did have a “Wichita,” a “Laramie,” and several other towns in that size range. (For that matter, in the fifties… Laramie in the fifties would have been, what? Two houses and a gas station?… wait, no gas stations between Cheyenne and Little America iirc.)

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