In 2132, Charlie Campbell boards the MSRV-Joplin, an interplanetary research vessel outfitted with modern military equipment, to investigate a signal emanating from Saturn's largest moon, Titan. His team reaches the signal and discovers an alien artifact distributing an SOS call – but it's more than a cry for help. It's a powerful portal. The artifact transports Charlie and his crew to Oberon, a barren, devastated planet wrecked by war and lorded over by the Dust, an evil, vicious race responsible for the surrounding destruction and bent on slaughtering everyone in sight. And then:
"Some bad shit happens," Industrial Toys co-founder Tim Harris tells Joystiq. "Awful, awful shit goes down."
Awful shit, such as Charlie's entire crew dying and the artifact causing the sun to implode, instantly incinerating the Earth and every human on it. The Dust, it turns out, have sabotaged the portal to destroy the system of the creature that finds it – though perhaps not permanently.
It's an alien artifact, an SOS signal, a portal, a remote killswitch, and, apparently, a time machine, potentially allowing Charlie to undo what the Dust have done. In the battle for humanity's survival, Charlie is our only hope, and Industrial Toys is pulling his strings.
The boys from Industrial Toys don't pitch Morning Star as if it's a mobile game.
Alex Seropian and Tim Harris, founders of Industrial Toys, describe Morning Star as if it's a AAA console blockbuster from a mainstream, established studio, on par with the Call of Halos and serial Assassin's flooding our holiday launch guides. It makes sense – Seropian founded Bungie and created Halo, and Harris began online multiplayer studio Seven Lights. They're used to the big games and the major pitches. Nonetheless, this is a touchscreen FPS from their unproven start-up in Pasadena, California. It's a mobile game.
"You've heard us dump on virtual joysticks and other things that have been ported over from console gaming to touch, and we've eschewed that completely."Tim Harris, Industrial Toys
The first video and screenshots of Morning Star, along with details of an interstellar, time-paradoxical story and a devastating war, seem to justify Industrial Toys' bold pitch, promising a fresh approach to mobile gaming in more than just PR BS.
"We spent the last six or seven months in heavy R&D, in lab coats, figuring out how to create a control system that felt right," Harris says. "You've heard us dump on virtual joysticks and other things that have been ported over from console gaming to touch, and we've eschewed that completely.
"Once we got that right, we saw a whole bunch of cascading effects of that control scheme, into every aspect of the game: from the way we build encounters and levels, to the way we create our guns and bad guys. So the control scheme will be a big thing."
Seropian and Harris aren't disclosing the secret sauce that composes their new control scheme, but the teaser trailer features a Dust creature outlined with a "signature weak-spot targeting system." We should get more details about that soon.
Morning Star is built in Unreal, and it will include multiplayer content and robust, integrated community features, all distributed in an episodic format. It's also the "first mobile shooter AI," Harris says.
"It's going to be an actual AI. We're going to see a bunch of emergent behavior. The players will have a different experience every time they play the game."
Industrial Toys embraces the mobile format, taking the console experience and molding it into a chaptered, touchscreen game that you can play "forever."
"We're trying to build a universe with depth, with white space, in a way that makes sense for mobile," Seropian says. "Something you can consume in short bursts. The scope is not about building 100 hours of single-use content."
Seropian and Harris have a crack team of nerd industry veterans, including author John Scalzi, who helped write the script and design the world, and Marvel and DC comic artists Mike Choi and Phil Tan to make it all come to life. The game's site, for now hosting the first teaser trailer, will soon accept applications for early looks (and touches).
Morning Star is scheduled for a launch on iOS devices in spring 2013, though it's not exclusive to Apple platforms and Android is still on the table. Though the table is on a space ship and the space ship is nose-deep in an alien planet, in the middle of a vicious war for the existence of humanity itself, so take that as you will.