When ideas for Subnautica began percolating in Charlie’s head, a few principles came to the fore. One was that Subnautica would not be a game centered around combat, killing or violence. Instead, the game was to encourage exploration, care in interactions with the environment, and the passing of obstacles through other methods than the application of overwhelming force.
The scene in Lava Zone 2 is therefore not one of combat. Though the creatures appear threatening, and the player in the bipedal suit appears well equipped to defend themselves, this is a scene of nuanced play. Perhaps these creatures will defend this area, unless distracted by an environmental interaction elsewhere. Perhaps killing them destabilises the food chain of the surrounding biome, causing smaller lifeforms essential to player survival to die out.
The suit itself is quite a different vehicle to those we have presented in concept so far. In early prototypes, we have experimented with this suit as an alternative way of traversing the ocean floor. Perhaps it will be the vehicle of choice for navigating very tight, perilous environments like this lava chasm, where unpredictable currents and forceful lava eruptions could send a submersible crashing into the rock walls.
The environment in Lava Zone 2 also presents us with interesting questions: Are we able to proceduraly generate these kinds of complex geological formations? What proportion will need to be hand made, and how will those portions transition to procedural pieces? To what degree will lava flows add to the environment dynamically? Questions, questions…
Each week in December and January, we will release a new piece of concept art, and discuss that piece’s implication for Subnautica gameplay. You can chat to Charlie about gameplay, Steve about tech, and Cory about art on Twitter any time! See more concept art here.