Sci-fi survival horror explores the dangers of caffeine

In a world where every human alive is desperately addicted to caffeine, you must discover what became of the crew of an extraterrestrial mining ship.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

Dylan Browne

It's an alternate future. Humans have grown to love caffeine to the point where the entire population of Earth is addicted -- so much so that terrestrial sources of the drug are no longer sufficient. Mining ships are sent to the stars to find the minerals that can be used to create a synthetic version -- and you have woken up, alone and with no memory, on just such a vessel -- only it seems to be empty except for you.

This is the premise for Caffeine, a sci-fi, first-person survival horror currently seeking funding on Indiegogo -- the creation of indie first-time game developer Dylan Browne of Incandescent Imaging in Adelaide, Australia.

"I started off wanting to get into the Visual Effects industry," Browne told CNET, "And I am completely self-taught in many skills that transferred over to game development. At the beginning of this year, I decided to make the switch since I have always been an avid gamer. I enrolled in an online course, but I have gotten quite a bit ahead of that course now!"

After looking for positions with established developers -- and, unsurprisingly, having a hard time finding one -- Browne decided to strike out on his own. Caffeine is his first attempt at making a game.

"Originally, Caffeine started out as an example of a sci-fi level in the online course," he said. "But once people liked the look of it, I started to form an idea of a cool game around it. As a crazed coffee drinker, I thought it would be cool to have the story to be focused on caffeine as an addiction in the future; the rest fell into place, as I love to experience very atmospheric games."

Dylan Browne

As you explore the abandoned station, things start to happen. Browne was a bit cagey with the details -- revealing only that "the whole station is full of caffeine, and it is reacting with the station itself" -- since he wants the game to contain some surprises, but the potential is so enormous it almost hurts.

Judging from the gameplay demo, as you explore the empty vessel, you'll start to see movements in the distance. Are these real -- or merely the hallucinations of a caffeine-deprived mind? Just how far can you trust your own perception? Will you need to periodically locate coffee to keep yourself from going completely mad?

It's a fascinating concept, and looks superbly polished for a first game from a one-man studio. You can download a free playable demo from the Indiegogo page to check it out for yourself, where you can also reserve a copy of the game for a minimum pledge of $15, with an expected delivery date of Q2 next year on PC, Mac and Linux. You can also follow Browne's progress on his official blog.