The Expanse: A Telltale Series is an upcoming video game currently in development by Telltale Games and Deck Nine, adapted from the sci-fi show of the same name. The storyline centers around the character Camina Drummer, who holds the position of Executive Officer on the Artemis, a scavenging ship exploring the vast outer regions of the Belt in search of a promising venture.

Art Director Emerson Oaks and Lead Environmental Artist Tommy Spampinato recently sat down with Game Rant, shedding light on their creative process for The Expanse. One of the focal points discussed was the meticulous design of the characters’ suits and backpacks, which are beholden to but slightly different from the TV series. Oaks and Spampinato revealed the various ways in which they approached these designs, introducing fresh elements that set them apart while maintaining a cohesive and captivating visual experience for players.


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The Expanse is an American science fiction television series based on the book series by James S. A. Corey. Set in a future where humanity has colonized the Solar System, The Expanse TV series follows a diverse group of protagonists who unintentionally become central to a conspiracy that threatens the system’s fragile state of cold war. Simultaneously, they confront existential dilemmas arising from the discovery of alien technology. The series is lauded for its compelling storytelling, exploring themes of politics, intrigue, and existentialism.

A spaceship from Telltale Games' upcoming game The Expanse: A Telltale Series.

The upcoming game version of The Expanse takes place years before the TV show, serving as a thrilling prequel. Players will follow the character Camina Drummer, portrayed by Cara Gee, as they embark on a treacherous journey aboard The Artemis, exploring the perilous and unexplored regions of The Belt. From navigating zero-gravity wrecks to facing mutinies and battling formidable pirates, players will be tasked with making challenging decisions that will shape the game’s outcome.

As a prequel, the game offers developers significant artistic freedom to bring the world of The Expanse to life. Balancing authenticity with creative expression, the developers aimed to stay true to the essence of The Expanse IP since the time difference wasn’t too significant. Drawing inspiration from the show’s rich history, their design choices were guided by a desire for continuity. This approach allowed them to delve deeper into the characters’ journeys, adding layers of depth to their work. The result is a game that honors the established universe while offering fresh perspectives and imaginative storytelling.

During the discussion, Spampinato highlighted the significant impact of the TV show’s distinct visual styles on the team’s design approach. He emphasized how the different factions in The Expanse influenced their ship designs. Belter ships were crafted with exposed wires and a compact layout, evoking a sense of confinement. In contrast, UNN ships showcased a bulkier yet pristine appearance. Meanwhile, MCRN ships boasted a sleek and streamlined aesthetic. By faithfully representing each faction’s unique ship design, the team ensured that players could readily identify and differentiate the various types of ships they encountered, enhancing immersion and recognition within the game world.

telltale the expanse airlock

The interview provided insights into the iterative process behind designing the suits in The Expanse. Oaks revealed that numerous iterations were made, continually refining and adapting the character suits to align with the game’s evolving requirements. The trailer showcased Gee’s suit, featuring distinct elements such as industrial boots with red heel lights, a thigh holster with a sidearm, and a gray mesh body. The backpack design was also showcased, perfectly complementing the suit’s aesthetic. The backpack takes on a trapezoidal shape, with a digital screen displaying vital information such as oxygen levels and other illuminated indicators, adding to the immersive experience of the game.

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According to Oaks, the development of the suit and backpack design was an ever-changing process that was finalized with functionality in mind. In the final months of development, the team completely changed the backpack design to incorporate necessary functionality. This adaptability was a crucial part of the game design process, ensuring that the experience was seamless for players. Knowing the Backpack needed certain functionality in later episodes of The Expanse, Oaks added,

“We needed certain functionality on the backpack. We didn’t have the space for that then. We really had to go back to the drawing board and that take functionality into account, but that’s really just part of the game design process. We adapt as time goes on.”

In addition to designing a stream-lined suit and backpack, The Expanse team also took careful consideration when designing other aspects of the game like the setting. Creating a vast space environment was no small task, but the team at Telltale and Deck Nine saw it as an opportunity to really experiment. Spampinato expressed his enthusiasm for creating certain aspects of the setting, like sci-fi corridors and utilizing modular artwork. Spampinato explained that the setting definitely impacted the gameplay, influencing how the player interacts with the environment.

“They had to design a space that you can orient yourself in easily, and it had to have fun things to do like points of interest that kind of attract you to the different areas of gameplay.”

The Expanse gameplay trailer showing off its zero-G

Creating a space environment that accommodates zero gravity in The Expanse presented its own set of challenges. The team had to ensure smooth movement and avoid any obstacles that could impede the player’s progress. They experimented with color-coding surfaces but found it to be a patchwork solution. Ultimately, they relied on a HUD for landing and a reticle to guide players, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience. It was a challenge during Zero-G because you can’t allow the player to get hung up on stuff, but it has to flow smoothly,” Spampinato said, also adding how much fun and how much of a challenge it was to present players with wrecked space environments.

According to Oaks, the biggest challenge in developing The Expanse was making sure they were satisfying the massive fanbase and staying true to the original series.

“From my point of view, we knew that The Expanse fans are passionate because a lot of us are fans too. That passion comes with expectations that the game is excellent, so there’s excitement and anxiety together, hand in hand around that. That’s why we wanted to be so authentic, to show we’re as big of fans of The Expanse as any other.”

The Expanse is set to be released on July 27, 2023, and will be available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.

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