Below Zero Roadmap Rebooted & Release Timeline

Posted by david 1 week ago

What’s up with the roadmap?

If you’ve been following Below Zero’s development on Favro closely, you may have noticed that the Project Roadmap has changed a touch.

We’ve decided to try something a little different.  For years, we’ve used the roadmap as a way to try and plan a path forward with Subnautica.  Implicit in the roadmap is a hedge – that we don’t really know where we’re going and that we can change our minds as we go.  In spite of that uncertainty, we still try to plan as far out into the future as possible, and we have tried to include every individual feature – big or small, meaningful or trivial – on the roadmap.

In spite of our best laid plans, the roadmap has turned into something of a tyrant.  Every column would be positively stacked with features, creatures, and biomes and the majority of the team has often felt a lot of pressure to deliver reasonably complete implementations of every single item scheduled for a release, even if those items weren’t critically important.  As a result, we’ve occasionally lost sight of the bigger picture – losing the forest for the (underwater) trees.  We could look out ahead for months and see piles and piles of work, but it wasn’t always clear where the game was.  On top of all that, some people on our team ended up crunching every six weeks or so!  Something needed to change.

Moving forward, the plan is to use the Roadmap primarily to plan only what is highlighted for a release.  If you look forward to EA6, you’ll see that we’re currently only highlighting the Ice Worm and Arctic Spires at the moment.  A small portion of the team is laser focused on delivering a great experience in that part of the world, and as we get closer to release, we may choose to highlight other features that are ready to show.  But instead of trying to guess, months in advance, and forcing features to be ready – whether they are important or useful or not – the new plan is to add things to that column as they become ready to show.  Meanwhile, the majority of the team will be focused on big picture issues – answering key story questions, producing the big moments, building out the rest of the world.  Pulling it all together and finishing the game!

In other words, we’ll look to structure our releases around the game, rather than trying to structure the game around the releases.  Hopefully this will help us really focus on what matters, while also maintaining our health and sanity.

So how does this affect our release date?

Right now, we’re in the back half of Below Zero production.  Our next big internal milestone is Content Complete on October 31, 2019 – just under four months away.

When we hit Content Complete, the game should have everything present that we intend to ship – every feature, every location, every creature.  It won’t necessarily be great, yet!  But at that point, our focus shifts to polishing what we have – tuning, performance optimization, fixing bugs – and we will do that until the game is ready.

We will only release the game when we are proud of the total package and the game is up to our very high standards.  Also, we are working hard to find ways to release Below Zero on consoles as close to the PC release as possible. We’ll share more information on our console plan when we have it!

All that said, we don’t intend to work on Below Zero forever – we have other worlds to explore after all – so our current goal is to ship 1.0 in early 2020. Yes, we’re being intentionally vague! We’re doing our best to finish as soon as we can; our commitment is to releasing a great game, not an arbitrary date on the calendar.

Thanks for coming along for the Early Access ride; We couldn’t do it without your support!

David Kalina
Project Lead / Subnautica: Below Zero