Everything takes time, especially when it comes to space exploration. Just the trip from Earth to Mars can take almost a year, although when it comes to rovers NASA isn’t particularly worried about making the fastest journey. The plucky little extraplanetary vehicles are built to last, after all, as evidenced by poor lost Opportunity’s ninety-day mission turning into a fifteen year epic of scientific discovery. As a rule, though, these machines aren’t expected to last millenia after mankind’s eventual disappearance from the universe, but unexpected durability seems to be a standard feature. Developing self awareness due to a sudden infusion of AI is right outside of all reasonable projections, though, but when a little rover on an asteroid in a far-flung sector of space realizes that it’s started thinking the only thing it can do is explore as best it can and try to figure out if there’s anything more to do than fulfill its preprogrammed functions.
Those functions are the key to survival, though, seeing as you’ve got a radar to search out deposits and a drill to dig them up with. The standard crafting cycle means you get bigger and better equipment to harvest better resources, but it’s all in service of finding out what to do with your newfound sentience. There are answers out there in a universe where machines have managed to keep going after mankind is almost forgotten, and a cute little mechanically-believable rover has the tools to discover them.
Gears of Eden has been coming along slowly for a while, releasing its first alpha back in 2107. Now the second alpha is available to all, with upgrades and changes across all aspects of the game. The asteroid has a few plants, there’s an NPC and lore items to find, more buildings, etc. You can sign up for access at the game’s web site, with the disclaimer that it takes a day or two for the access key to arrive. It’s a little rough around the edges, as alphas tend to be, but also a unique adventure that may not be hard sci-fi (the gravity of the asteroid being a prime example) but still close enough to feel right. Drive around the asteroid, top off your energy during the day with the solar panels while hanging out at charging stations when the asteroid revolves away from the sunlight, and mine all you can while finding the bits and pieces left behind that, in the eventual full game, may just lead you off this rock. The universe may be cold, dark, and infinite, but just because mankind couldn’t survive out there doesn’t mean we weren’t capable of building something that could.