Subnautica Dev Update 3: Early Access?!

Posted by acedude 9 years ago

Following development of Subnautica will give you two things. The first is a rollicking roller-coaster ride of game development fun, in which you will see an underwater adventure game go from puddle of pixels to Game Of The Year 2027. The second is a deep, intimate, perhaps inappropriately thorough understanding of a production tool called Trello. Back to that in a moment.

Up until this week, we have defined our development progress in terms of weekly builds. Deepsea Challenger, Blue Hole, Molchanov, and so forth. This week, we have shifted to defining our progress against an upcoming target: December 16th. This is the date on which we would like to release Subnautica for sale on the Steam Store, as an ‘Early Access’ game. “But what?!” I hear you say, “isn’t Early Access where games go to DIE!?”


Fun fact: Ramming a Seamoth into a cliff turns you into a bulldozer

Well, evidently yes. Quite a few games seem to wither and die horrible deaths in Early Access. Developers overcommit, overpromise, don’t regularly update their customers, don’t tell anyone what they are doing, run out of money, and then make people very upset by abruptly cancelling further development or just leaving the game on Early Access permanently. That sucks.

What you’re expecting Unknown Worlds to do right now is to promise to update you regularly, to tell you what we’re doing, to not spend all our money, and not abruptly cancel development. But surprise! I’m not going to do that. Why? Because we’ve walked the walk before talking the talk. We’ve put our money where our mouth is. We’ve danced the dance… Or something. Before going on Early Access, we’ve ensured:

But wait, there’s more! We make regular development posts here on the blog (43 of them already), we regularly reply both here in our own forums and on the Steam forums, we don’t delete negative forum threads (Yes, it seems some Early Access devs actually do this…). Last, but not least, we’ve been doing Early Access before Early Access even existed. Natural Selection 2 was distributed on Steam throughout its development life, and over the course of several years we built it up piece by piece. We never abandoned it, and even today, two years after release, we support a Community Development Team as they make regular updates to the game.

We take Early Access seriously. By releasing Subnautica in ‘Earliest Access’ form on October 31st, we’ve tested ourselves against the standards we would expect of a developer if we were buying an Early Access game. Do we update the game enough? Are we open enough? Are we responsive? Do we take criticism? Yes, I think we do, and over the last month we have proved it.

What does Trello have to do with all of this? We’ve made some changes, so you can see our progress towards Steam Early Access. We call it SEA, and believe it or not, the nautical pun was accidental. You can see what SEA will contain, and what our plans are, by clicking through these Trello tasks (link in caption of each image). Here’s the top level task:


Inside it are all the primary objectives for SEA. For example, Charlie is very keen for Caves to be creepy, exciting, and interesting. So we have an objective called ‘Creepy Caves.’


Lots of things need to happen to make Creepy Caves happen. New creatures, mechanics, and things for players to do. One component that you can click through to is the Flare:


To make a flare, all sorts of things need be done by different people: Concept artists, animators, engineers, designers, and so forth. All their tasks can be seen inside Flare. Here’s an example:


These basic rules apply to everything we are doing to SEA. So you can perve on the whole process, end to end. The really fun part will probably be telling us what we’ve messed up: For example, we might think we have finished the Flare, but one of you will try it in game and find that it is completely busted. Not that there are ever any bugs in Subnautica. At Unknown Worlds, we have banned all development bugs.

That’s just about enough explanation of Early Access plans. Did we do anything except sit around and plan this week? Yes! You might have noticed that the Crashed Ship has started damaging you if you get too close. Andi has started implementing a radiation barrier between you and it’s shiny, seductive hull. Watch out.


We hope you can understand this map, because we sure can’t!

Here’s a model for the Hanging Stingers that you might be running into inside cave systems soon, courtesy of Sergey.


Care for some stinger with your swimsuit?

Charlie and company have been going nuts with little creatures called ‘Floaters.’ These critters can be attached to just about anything, with sometimes hilarious results. Here’s the concept:


It’s physics, bro.

And here’s Michael trying to stand on a rock he floated to the surface:


Charlie posted an indecipherable notepad doodle on Trello:



Can someone help us work out what this means?

Of course, that’s not all of it. But if I keep going with this stuff, Unknown Worlds is going to fire me for using too much bandwidth. To see more Subnautica development, subscribe to the development update list, visit the Trello board, and stalk our checkin message feed. Until next time, keep your tanks topped up and stay away from cute little red things hiding in caves.



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