The Future of Below Zero’s Story

Posted by david 3 weeks ago

Hey Subnautica fans!

I hope you’re having fun with Below Zero! I’m writing this blog for a few reasons:

1. To update you on development, as we get ready to drop another Early Access release.
2. To inform you about changes that are coming to the Below Zero story.
3. To enthusiastically introduce you to our new writer, Jill Murray!

Our 7th Early Access update – “Deep Dive” – is coming very soon, and it’s a big one! The team worked super hard to get us to this release, and I’m really proud of our effort in pulling everything together. Except for the endgame, the entire Below Zero experience should be playable; the world is all there for you to explore, all the new features and tools and creatures are present. Everything’s in place, but that doesn’t mean it all quite works in harmony. It will take a fair bit of iteration and polish and careful attention to what’s currently there to pull everything together and make the final game feel truly special.

Despite our best efforts, we’re not exactly where we want to be, particularly when it comes to the story. When we decided to make another Subnautica game, we agreed that making a game with a “living” story – featuring a speaking protagonist and other active speaking characters – would be a really interesting way to differentiate Below Zero from the original game.

Our initial attempts at nailing down a living story about a scientist who meets a sentient alien – in the context of a game that was built around survival mechanics – have been a bit messy. We like doing things that are big and ambitious at Unknown Worlds, but we managed to get a bit stuck. We’ve had trouble defining our characters’ motivations clearly and building key relationships. We want our players to care about the characters and what happens to them. Based on feedback from the community and playing the game ourselves, we realized that some changes to the story needed to happen.

As some of our dedicated fans may have noticed, our writer Tom Jubert recently left Below Zero to pursue other projects. Tom’s brain was responsible for much of what fans know and love about the Subnautica universe fiction and lore, and we will miss having him around. The Subnautica universe will always carry a bit of Tom’s spirit, humor, and imagination.

With adjustments and changes still required on Below Zero’s story, we found an amazing new writer/narrative designer to join the team: Jill Murray. Jill has done award-winning work on franchises like Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed; she’s worked on a wide-range of projects, from dating sims to indie RPGs; she’s even written YA novels about breakdancing teenagers! In a short period of time, I’ve found Jill to be a terrific, imaginative collaborator with a keen sense for character and story.

And so, after a lot of internal discussion and reflection, we’ve decided to change directions. The upcoming “Deep Dive” release represents the last version of the current story that we’ll be shipping to the public. We’re going to be delivering a new story next year.

In deciding to change up the story, we knew we had to work within the constraints of the current world. Sector Zero of 4546B – from Twisty Bridges to Crystal Caverns; from the Arctic Spires to the Deep Lily Pads – is going to stay largely the same. If anything, we will have more time to really work on the detail of the world, to develop the biomes into richer, more beautiful spaces to explore.

Also, when we sense that there’s true love for certain things from the community, we’ll look to preserve – or better yet, improve – those parts of the game. We know that players are responding positively to Marguerit and Al-An, for example – these characters will continue to exist in the new story, and we’re going to look to develop them further. Beyond that… I don’t want to spoil anything. Not yet, anyway!

If you love Subnautica, and you like seeing how things evolve, I hope you’ll still tuck into this version. There’s a lot of really good stuff that is still taking shape, and we’d love to hear what you think. Fair warning though: saved progress in the current version of the game will be lost when we ship the new story.

I’m super excited about the changes that are coming to Below Zero, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

And as always, thanks for playing! We couldn’t do it without you.

Yours,
David Kalina
Project Lead – Subnautica: Below Zero