Grow up to be a xenofauna rancher, a roboticist, or a rebel with a cause in I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, a card-battling narrative RPG where you live (and die, and re-live) your torrid teenage years in humanity’s first extrasolar colony.
One of the themes of I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is exploration and discovery. Both exploring the possibilities of your own life and identity as you grow up and decide who you will be, and exploring a lush and wild alien planet. So I knew from early on in development that the art should be beautiful, and that we needed a strong palette color-coded to the planet Vertumna’s changing seasons.
I met concept artist Sarah Webb at an arts festival where she was showing her comic Kochab, inspired by the beauty of nature in her home of Alaska. Her watercolor style perfectly fit the feel I wanted, to tell the story of people leaving an industrialized Earth behind to return to nature. Artists Meilee Chao, Eduardo Vargas and others deftly picked up this style and brought it to life in the game.
As the narrative expanded and writer Lindsay Ishihiro joined the team (they also drew the creatures!), it was clear that the character art would be key. Romance was an option after all, so these needed to be characters you could imagine like-liking and eventually falling in love with. Mei knocked the character design out of the park, creating an entire culture for the exocolony with clothing that is a mix of space-age and homespun materials.
I want to own all of their outfits so badly in real life!
Since the game takes place over 10 years, your childhood friends needed to age up with you. Although there is a plenty of innocent fun in the early years, Vertumna is a dangerous place, and the colony’s adults can only shield you from that fact for so long. As you get older, difficult and sometimes traumatic events will change both your friends’ personalities and their appearances.
As you decide what to study or where to work, who to befriend, and whether to help the colony, rebel, or find your own way, your memories take the form of cards in the deckbuilding part of the game. Everything from taking a biology test to battling monstrous xenofauna (or running the heck away from them!) is resolved by choosing up to 5 cards to place in order, with bonuses for adjacent matching colors or numbers.
I’m a big fan of the art in collectible card games like Magic the Gathering, so to add variety we worked with 100 different artists to illustrate over 250 cards. It’s been a ton of fun to see our world and characters through the eyes of all these different artists in their own styles.
Exocolonist’s massive dynamic narrative means you won’t see everything in one life, or even in four or five. And every playthrough will change a little, as memories from past lives trickle in to help or hinder you. Mei has endeavored to illustrate many of the major scenes that could play out, and all the different endings you can reach.
No matter where you end up in the game, we hope you have fun! I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is coming to Steam (and Itch, and other stores), PS4 and PS5 on August 25th, 2022. Wishlist it today!