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ABZÛ is the upcoming game from Giant Squid Studios and 505 Games. It’s an underwater journey, which lets you explore the depths of the sea and meet underwater dwellers. The story of ABZÛ is pretty universal, so it should be understandable to all audiences. Plus the game looks incredible. 80.lv saw ABZÛ at E3 2016 and tried to figure out why this game is so relevant to game development.
Developed by ‘Journey’ Art Director
Giant Squid is an indie company, which is founded by Flower and Journey art director, Matt Nava (@matt_nava). Matt is an incredible artist, a true visionary. During his work at thatgamecompany and Sony Computer Entertainment America he worked on concept art, character design, 3D modeling and animation. Plus he helped with game and level design. Matt also works a lot on the story part of his games. He’s the one who developed a sizeable chunk of Journey’s game world history and narrative.
Obviously the developer of this caliber is bound to make something absolutely amazing. So far ABZÛ looks like his magnum opus, showing some amazing techniques and brave visual experiments.
Stylised Unreal Engine 4 Game
The game is using the latest version of Epic’s popular game technology. Unlike many other AAA-projects utilising this engine, Giant Squid is moving away from realistic design, using the power of UE4 to build a fully stylised environment. So, if you ever wondered how to make something similar to Journey, now we can definitely answer: Yes! You can.
One thing I’m excited about doing with this game, the environment is going to have so many colors. Light illuminates the water in such a way. It’s this very viscous medium. It takes on the color of any light in it. We can have blue environments, red environments, depending on what kind of light sources we create. The lighting and the fog and everything you see is going to be very useful for creating this emotional mood for the player.
In terms of game world size by the way, the game will be almost similar to Jounrey, so there’s a ton of neat places to see. Thanks to Unreal the developers can have hundreds of creatures on screen and not worry about the performance problems.
Music by Austin Wintory
Austin Wintory is a famous game and movie composer, who did some incredible work during his career. Probably one of his most interesting projects is the music for Journey, where Matt Nava served as an art director. So obviously these two are very close.
Other than that Austin created the impressive northern melodies for Banner Saga and the game’s sequel. And he also wrote stuff for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and a bunch of movies. His music for ABZÛ is bound to blow your mind.
While most underwater games today involve sharks and harpoons, blood and danger, ABZÛ gives the player a calm exploration experience. We wouldn’t compare it to the popular walking simulators like Fire Watch or Gone Home, but it’s definitely a nice change of pace for underwater games.
The lack of violence, doesn’t mean that the game has not enough action. It’s a joy to explore the environments and dwell in the depth among fish and underwater vegetation. ABZÛ has the same kind of peaceful and meaningful vibe that Journey had.
It’s inspired by the real world — all the fish in the game are based on real life creatures — but my feeling is that you can get at the essence of things more directly from an illustrated look because you can focus the user’s experience. Because the ocean is so unexplored, we can really take the narrative to surprising places.
Matt Nava (via techinsider.io)
Camera and Controls Done Right
This is probably one of the biggest achievements of ABZÛ. There’s a lot of underwater games out there and most of them feel very disorienting. Doing underwater stuff in Uncharted 4 also seems a bit off, compared to the rest of the game. So for ABZÛ the team spent a lot of time polishing these two aspects, so that the player could really enjoy underwater adventures. The developers actually used flight simulators as inspiration of great three-dimentional navigation.
One thing that’s really hard about making underwater levels is that the controls are fully 3D. So solving that 3D space, how you control a character in 3D space is a very tough problem. In “Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future” for example, released in 2000 for the Sega Dreamcast the camera rolls and goes crazy. Our rule for ‘ABZÛ’ is that the camera never rolls and it never goes upside down.
This gives the game a very nice feeling of control, that you don’t get in other titles.
Matt Nava (via techinsider.io)