Alex Beachum is the creative designer of the highly-anticipated space exploration game "Outer Wilds," which won the Grand Prize at the 2015 Independent Games Festival.
Outer Wilds is an open world exploration indie video game. In the game, the player-character finds themselves on a planet with only 20 minutes before the local sun goes supernova and kills them; the player continually repeats this 20-minute cycle but learning details that can help alter the outcome on later playthroughs. The game won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and Excellence in Design at the 2015 Independent Games Festival Awards.
Outer Wilds began as Alex Beachum's USC Interactive Media & Games Division master's thesis and grew into a full-production commercial release. He started the project in late 2012 for his yearlong thesis and "Advanced Game Project" assignment. Beachum had previously made a three-dimensional platformer out of Lego bricks as a kid, and was uninterested in a career in games until applying to the Interactive Media program. The original team members were University of Southern California, Laguna College of Art and Design, and Atlantic University College students.
Beachum's original ideas were to recreate the Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey "spirit of space exploration" in an uncontrollable environment, and to make an objective-less open world game where exploration would satiate the player's questions without feeling "aimless". Beachum took cues from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker's non-player characters that would tell tales of distant lands as to entice the player to explore those areas for themselves. The game also uses the camping motif heavily, as Beachum himself is an avid backpacker, while also emphasizing that the player-character is far from his home and alone in this galaxy. Journalists have positively compared Outer Wilds's time loop mechanics to that of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask; Beachum notes that in contrast to Majora's Mask the gameplay in Outer Wilds is less about trying to alter the causality of events, but instead to use the time loop in a diegetic manner on larger dynamic systems.
Beachum's team started by working with "paper prototypes" and a "tabletop role-playing session" to brainstorm a narrative. The team built the game in the Unity3D game engine. They later wrote the game as a text adventure in Processing. After Beachum's graduation, the project hired members full-time to work towards a commercial release, with Beachum as creative director.
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