Routine

In late 2012, a sci-fi survival horror game named Routine became one of the first projects to ever be approved as part of Steam’s then-new Greenlight program. Thanks to its entrancing atmosphere and HUD-less, non-linear gameplay, the title attracted an enormous fanbase that remains passionate to this day. However, Routine has been beset by delays, missing multiple projected release dates across the last six years, and more than 18 months have now passed since the last substantial update.

WHAT IS ROUTINE?

In its intention to cast players as an outsider sent to investigate the mysterious sudden silence from a Lunar Research Station, Routine’s premise is a kind of precursor to the likes of Tacoma, The Station, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Where the game differs is in its structure. Routine was never planned as a ‘walking simulator’. Instead, the project would be a survival-horror experience set in an open-world environment, with permadeath and multiple endings as some of its key features.

Similarly to the Alien franchise, the game would adopt a retrofuture aesthetic, characterised by boxy CRT displays, old-school computer interfaces, and dingy, off-white environments and appliances. Coupled with the look was a brilliant audio design crafted by Mick Gordon, an Australian composer who has scored the likes of the DOOM, Prey, and Wolfenstein reboots.

Routine

WHEN WAS IT SUPPOSED TO RELEASE?

The earliest projected release date for Routine was April 2013, little more than six months after it was successfully greenlit. Nonetheless, at the end of March 2013, lead developer Aaron Foster announced that the project had expanded beyond its original scope, forcing a delay of the launch, though it was still expected in that same year.

June 2013 brought the next update and first gameplay trailer, though Lunar Software was then unwilling to settle on a firm release window. The sporadic nature of the updates was even then concerning some fans, and in a September 2013 update, Foster explained the long silences by saying that, considering the small size of the team, substantial updates take up a lot of time that would be more fruitfully spent on development.

While another release date remained elusive, the development team continued to provide small, roughly biannual updates throughout 2014 and 2015.

Finally, in October 2016, after ten months of silence, Lunar Software released a new trailer promising that Routine would arrive in March 2017.

WHERE IS IT?

Instead of the game, that month brought another update, saying that one of the two paths through the game was weaker than the other, and that more time was needed to shore that up and ensure a standard of quality that the fans deserved. The team said that the latest delay would not be of more than a month or two, yet that was the last substantial update of any kind to date. Both the team’s and the game’s homepages have not been updated, and nor has the game’s official Twitter account. Furthermore, the social media accounts of Foster’s collaborators, Jemma Hughes and Peter Dissler, have also gone dark.

Routine

Nonetheless, in February 2018, Waypoint reached out to Lunar Software, receiving a statement that progress was ongoing, but had been slowed because “things have been a bit rough on the personal side.” Furthermore, for fear of disappointing its fans again, the team made the decision not to say anything more until the game was all but ready to release.

The latest public piece of content from Foster came in May, when he posted a piece of Fortnite fan art and montage video to his personal accounts, suggesting that he may be taking some much-needed downtime.

However, more recent claims do cast doubt on the likelihood of Routine’s eventual release. A poster on Reddit claiming to be an investor and personal friend of Foster and the team wrote that Lunar Software “became extremely strapped for cash,” even being unable to replace office furniture. According to the poster, Foster refused any external support and eventually cut all contact:

“[W]e believe it got too much for him, too many issues, not enough development experience and he completely stopped development.”

Numerous users have taken to Reddit and the game’s Steam profile asking for—and some even demanding—answers, only to receive no response. Such fans are angry, but Foster and the rest of the Lunar Software team do not owe answers. Unlike many failed projects, Routine has never been the subject of a crowdfunding campaign or sought any other external assistance. Those outsiders who are passionate about the game can only wait and hope for some form of response, which, hopefully, will be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

OnlySP reached out to Lunar Software for comment, but the team did not respond. Routine currently seems unlikely to release, but the continued registration of both the game’s and Lunar Software’s website is encouraging. Hopefully Foster and the team are able to overcome whatever issues they are facing, because many people—OnlySP’s staff members included—believe they are destined for success.

For more lost and forgotten games from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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