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Developing Chernobyl-Inspired Survival Game in Unreal Engine

Tevfik Emre Efendioğlu shared the details of the upcoming survival game Nowhere: Mysterious Artifacts, talked about its dynamic weather system, and explained why Unreal Engine was used for the development.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Tevfik Emre Efendioğlu, I'm the founder of EFNSOFT and creator of Nowhere: Mysterious Artifacts. The profession I studied is completely different from the job I am doing now. I studied International Trade and Logistics. I have worked with more than 10 studios in Turkey and abroad, some of them in the video game industry and some in the film industry. 

My start in the game industry was graduating from university and holding one end of this business, and the profession I had always loved and could do best was music composition and sound design. I have received an award for Best Sound and Music at Crystal Pixel in Turkey 2017-2021 twice.

My awarded titles:

  • 2017: No70 Eye of Basir – Best Sound and Music 
    2021: HauntChaser – Best Sound and Music

There are about 7 people in our team, including freelancers, we can say that this number changes from month to month, but in the current situation, our main team is exactly three people.

Korhan Sonbahar is the other developer of our game, he has been with us for about a year, supported us in every area that I could not reach in our game, and took new gameplay features or existing substructure further.

Buse Ergen is the newest member of our team and will be the architect of many 3D objects in our game.

Apart from this, there are Şule Yapıcı (our concept illustrator) and Amy Komili (our technical animator).

I'm responsible for everything else, including level, environment, and game design, sound and music, finance, and all the other essentials.

Nowhere: Mysterious Artifacts

First of all, I'm a very good gamer, I'm a serious lover of video games, to paint the whole picture. This desire and passion have led me to my 8 years in the gaming industry.

Initially, Nowhere, in all game development documents, was going to be a classic single-player survival horror game. But in the current conjuncture, no matter how much I loved these games, I was aware that people were now looking for a new taste and texture because I am a gamer and would find myself constantly looking for new games to play with my friends. Nowhere's first starting point was actually this simple idea: could we put it into a formula that we could play with our friends? On the axis of this question mark, I decided to revisit the game last year and I can underline that something really different came out. 

Nowhere took its current form without moving too far away from that first story in its essence, but the main inspiration for the Nowhere theme was my passion for Chernobyl, the fact that I still open it and play S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is one of the biggest examples of this. That environment and what it made me feel were fascinating and mysterious, and if you pay attention, these two things are at the core of all survival horror classic games: mystery and curiosity. Is this a conspiracy theory or is it all part of an experiment? When all of these things came together, the idea of creating a new fictional universe came to my mind, and Nowhere was the first inspiration to merge with the classic survival horror genre that I have been a fan of since I was a little kid. 

We also wanted people to experience our game with their friends, and we decided that the most appropriate structure for this was the survival games of today.

The Story

Our game is a story where four adventurous friends come to learn the secret of this conspiracy theory called the ROOT experiment in September 1993, but these friends are not ordinary adventurers. For one thing, they all have military backgrounds and have served in different fields in their countries, they are very educated and well-equipped people, one of them is good at weapons, another is very successful in exploration, one is a very good medical specialist, and the other is a friend with very advanced craftsmanship. You will learn more about these people when you play the game.

What they are really looking for are the artifacts discovered in the ROOT experiment, which is the main reason why they started this adventure. We basically call them artifact hunters.

The world of our game is unquestionably dark because we are talking about a half-island that has been subjected to experimentation. In our game, players will encounter various anomalies and some creatures in limbo that we can't even call zombies. But there is also living nature and living creatures trying to survive in it: wolves, deer, rabbits, many different plant species, etc.

Exclusively for 80 Level: there won't be just one adventure in our game. The Root experiment will be the first part of our game, and our artifact hunters will be going on many adventures after that, and all of this incoming content will be offered to our players for free.

Unreal Engine

Every significant part of my 8 years of experience started almost right after Unreal Engine was released with the subscription system (we always loved that blue mannequin, those who understood it have already gone back in time.)

Unreal Engine has attracted us since the first day it was released with its policy of constantly improving itself and protecting developers. Apart from that, the fact that everything is almost real-time, we can see the results in a very short time, and with the ease of optimization, Unreal is a game development paradise and I am only proud to be a part of this ecosystem. As a result, it was inevitable to develop Nowhere on Unreal.

Unreal Engine offers unique freedom, to give a very simple example, it is possible to fit the entire level into a static mesh if we wish, but it is obvious that this is not very practical, we have many levels within the level and this actually organizes us much better. For example, the prop assets of a region or the levels of obtainable objects are stored at different levels, which gives us great comfort when optimizing.

We are currently concentrating on the artificial intelligence system of our game and there is also a mission system that we want to add. It's best for those who want to follow other upcoming developments to follow us on Discord, Twitter, and Instagram.

Survival games should leave a different taste in each player, whether they play alone or with friends, their experiences should be unique. That's why we changed the first foundations of our game a little bit, while our first game prototype progressed in a much more linear storyline, the current version is decorated with different background stories and extending to completely different branches.  

We will only leave the players a world with certain rules and conditions and let them discover all the remaining story in this world we have created.

Game World Production

This is actually a very difficult and complex situation, the biggest problem in open-world games. 

We are in favor of approaching this problem from another perspective: what people like and don't like. As a gamer myself, I can say that open-world games should be open for exploration and new things, and I think one of the biggest elements is that the players discover them and the feeling of success that this gives. Now we can say that we have built all the content of our game based on this concept.

We don't want to keep the world of our game too big because we think it kills the whole feeling of exploration. However, I can say that there will be no fast traveling in our game, this would give too many clues to our players. They will play a survival game based on more exploration and story, and we do our best to tell the story, with every new object we add to the game.

Dynamic Weather System

The dynamic weather system was one of the most time-consuming R&D of our game. We can say that the functions we wrote for this and the way it works in the game tired us a lot.

It is possible to say that there is only one function that manages all of them, and the game world defines the correct conditions in all textures and material data in our game. But sometimes it can change existing conditions with events that players interact with.

Conclusion

We are focusing on the development and will share more game progress later. We will transparently disclose it to our players and followers, either biweekly or weekly (depending on the development speed). According to our current plans and calculations, our game will be released without seeing 2023. 

We would like to thank the whole 80 Level family for their interest and concern. You can follow us on Discord, Twitter, and Instagram and wishlist the game on Steam.

Tevfik Emre Efendioğlu, Founder of EFNSOFT

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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