Subnautica Concept: Exterior Sketch

Posted by acedude 10 years ago

One week ago, we revealed that Unknown Worlds is working on a new game: Subnautica. We want to share Subnautica with you from its earliest moments, bringing you concept art, early design thinking, and more.

Today we are following up on the original three concepts with Exterior Sketch. This concept was only the second ever to be created for Subnautica, penned by Cory after he completed Interior Hallway (We’ll show you that one later!)


Exterior Sketch was the first attempt to give form to an idea that is central to Subnautica: That players would interact with substantial underwater vehicles. These submarines would enable exploration and discovery by providing protection, mobility, and utility below the ocean surface.

Since this art was created, we have evolved the style and theme of Subnautica’s submarines. However, this original piece does represent some of the core aesthetic cues that we hope to achieve in the final designs. In Cory’s words:

“Simple silhouettes, very smooth, round shapes that flow into one another, high tech clean surfaces, slightly stylized proportions, and bright colors. The large glass bubble navigation bridge was designed with gameplay in mind, to allow the player to better see the world they are exploring and easier to pilot the sub.”

Unknown Worlds

Charlie & Brian discussing potential interior layout systems

Exterior Sketch ties in nicely to Control Room, a concept piece we released last week. The Control Room is a representation of the interior of the glass bubble you can see in Exterior Sketch. These bubbles are likely to be a common feature of Subnautica’s submarines. While real submarines are usually closed for pressure protection, with only very small portholes (if any), we believe such realism might not produce the most interesting gameplay.


Download as wallpaper: Large | Medium | Small

The small submarine you can see in the lower left corner is also intended to be player-controlled. Launching from the a larger submarine, smaller vehicles (submersibles?) could allow exploration and activity in areas inaccessible to the ‘mothership,’ and too deep or dangerous for adventures wearing only a dive suit.

These smaller vehicles also represent our thinking about how larger submarines will be constructed. A player could modify a submarine too add the capacity to deploy submersibles, but perhaps at the cost of other capabilities? There is much to ponder as we descend into the depths of Subnautica design…

Each week in December and January, we will release a new piece of concept art, and discuss that piece’s implication for Subnautica gameplay. What do you think about Exterior Sketch? Let us know how you think submarine gameplay could play out in the comments below. You can also chat to Charlie about gameplay, Steve about tech, and Cory about art on Twitter any time! See more concept art here.

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