Outer Wilds was inspired, in part, by roasting marshmallows

Outer Wilds was inspired, in part, by roasting marshmallows

Every time you start a new game in Mobius Digital’s time loop game Outer Wildlands, your character opens their blurry eyes to see a night sky, and you hear the faint crackle of a fire. In the game, you explore a solar system for 22 minutes at a time. At the end of each game, the solar system explodes and the game takes you back to your home planet. And when you restart, the game settles you back into its world with the heartwarming scene of a four-eyed alien donning a hipster costume and roasting a marshmallow over a fire.

Roasting marshmallows (or “mallows,” as some affectionately call them) is a centuries-old tradition in North America. Whether you’re camping or just hanging out around a fire in the summer, chances are someone will pull out a bag of the chewy candy at some point. Whether you prefer to eat them on their own or paired with chocolate and graham crackers like a s’more, you’d be hard pressed to find a food that better encapsulates the spirit of summer camp from the hot, gooey years of yore.

In Outer Wildlands, you can press a button to hold a stick over a fire and shake it to roast the mallow. If you hold the marshmallow the perfect distance from the fire for the right amount of time, you’ll end up with a golden crispy dessert that can heal some of your health. It’s a new respite from the cold death of space, and as creative director of Outer Wildlands Alex Beachum said in an interview with Polygon, it’s not just a cute, useless addition. It turns out that the concept was central to the creation of the game, even in its early days.

Beachum traces the origins of marshmallow roasting to a series of prototypes for his thesis project over 10 years ago. Before Outer Wildlands became the game it is today, Beachum had to figure out what the project was going to be. That’s when a friend suggested he create an “emotional prototype”, so he created a little game where you sit down and roast a marshmallow over a fire and the sun explodes above it, kind of like a “serene fireworks and then all the planets are destroyed,” he said. According to Beachum, though this wasn’t his first prototype to look like Outer Wildlandsit was the first to capture the “emotional tone” of the game he hoped to make.

“He’s always embodied the ‘camping’ part of camping and space aesthetics,” Beachum said. He didn’t want the sci-fi adventure to have a “middle hallway” feel common to the cold steel of other space adventures, and roasting a marshmallow brought a warmth to the game world. Beachum also hoped to use the campfire to emphasize the difference in scale between roasting a marshmallow and the universe exploding above you. “The whole game is about things like nature and forces and things collapsing out of your control. And then the marshmallow being like this, a little moment that you can control.

In an early version of the game, Beachum even attempted to force players to roast a marshmallow at first, but ended up lowering the requirement. The team continued to play with the idea, however, he said, because they felt invested in it.

“We loved the idea of ​​doing the most detailed simulation in this cosmic madness game,” he said with a laugh. “And it’s like, No, no, no, the marshmallow is actually the most complicated thing.” At some point, the team played to make the roasting system even more complicated than what we see in the final game. This was also cut, but the general idea remained.

It is also a deeply personal addition. As a child, Beachum grew up camping and sitting around the campfire at night with his family. “[The fire] is just this little beacon of light. A little place of safety and comfort in the middle of the big dark forest and, you know, the sky above,” Beachum said. “And Outer Wildlands is just the fantasy of this situation exactly.

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