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The site is in Japanese, but the program was in English for me.
Nordic Games talked about the creation of the Aquanox – a newly launched underwater shooter, based on a well-known video game franchise. The project is being created with the help of Digital Arrow. The team uses Unreal Engine 4 to build some of the best looking deep ocean shooters. Currently the game is going through the Kickstarter campaign.
The Teams Behind Aquanox
We have prior experience working with Nordic Games on SpellForce and MXvsATV. Roughly 2 years ago, we sat down to discuss the possibility of bringing back Aquanox, and started working on a prototype to examine various aspects of the design. The process involved a lot of back and forth discussions on how best to approach the new game, and many things are still very early in development.
Digital Arrow currently has a team of 25, but we already have the plan to expand as we move into heavier phases of production. Various developers have various approaches. We prefer a more modular approach to development, which gives us an advantage when working on larger things with a smaller team and also makes the development more secure from breaking parts of the game when things are debugged/edited.
The New Aquanox
Aquanox, for it’s time, was indeed a very strong visual attraction. But that’s not the only thing that makes it special. It had an atmosphere and immersion that for us, was one of the best and still stays amongst the top games, even today. Partly, this is why we established this collaboration with Nordic to bring the game back. We also think that Aquanox could appeal to a much wider audience than it did before. The deep sea setting is just very unique, and influences everything in the game, creating also unique gameplay.
There are various opinions on which of the old games was better, so we’ve examined a lot of the old feedback to pull the best things people liked the most, such is a blend of tactics and action, immersion, story depth, etc.
Further features that we are adding to expand on the game is the extensive vertical gameplay (going deeper or shallower in the ocean, explore caves, etc) , as well as the semi-open world, RPG elements and the complete ship customization for both the looks and the stats of your ship.
The game story doesn’t tie in directly with the original games, because the author of the original games Helmut Halfmann unfortunately died of a severe illness. So we decided give Aquanox a new beginning, but stay true to what made the originals stand out: a bleak dystopian vision you can really believe in, harsh, dark and full of believable unique characters;
Transition from UDK to UE4
When we initially started prototyping certain aspects of the game, UE4 was not available, and later, was very new to immediately switch to. Eventually however, we’ve started the shift. UE4 supports a PBR pipeline for example, thus a lot of our artwork needed to be converted to make full use of such. Additionally, UE4 does not support Unreal Script anymore, so a lot of things that we had scripted, had to be redone in UE4’s C++ and Bluperints. Additionally, UE4 no longer supports Kismet (which has been replaced with Bluperints), thus again we had to re-create a lot of our level logic using the new systems.
All in all however, I do not think that the transition is that big of a hurdle, since the end result is very much worth it. The new rendering and Blueprints are amazing!
Building An Underwater Experience
Creating the right feeling of being underwater is probably one of the hardest parts of designing Aquanox. It’s certainly a lot different than working on a space game.
Modern technologies aid us in a great deal to be able to create a larger game world, and it’s part of why we looking at creating a semi-open world for Aquanox. It’s a big challenge to create such however, as while in space, usually there is a lot of empty area around the player, or perhaps debris, we have expansive caves, terrain, flora, wrecks and more – and we don’t want these areas to feel half-hearted in any way.
Aquanox Deep Descent plays entirely from a ship perspective and this is what we focus on. The whole movement and weapon physics are vitally important, and we’ve spent quite a lot of time to find what feels good to play, and are still working on this. We’ve examined a lot of material on water physics as well as the old Aquanox games to come to the point where we are now. This applies to everything, from ships, to weapons, environments and more.
There is a system in place right now that takes into account water salinity, depth and temperature as well as the movement acceleration, shape of the ship and more to calculate certain hydrodynamic forces that are applied to the ship and projectiles.
I also had quite a few dives, with packed weights on myself to experience water effects on turning, experience the effects of underwater sight and to actually experience underwater exploration first hand. Obviously, this is not the same as if exploring multiple thousand meters in depth, but it still has contributed a great deal to inspiring us for the design.
We’ve just passed 50% of our funding goal by end of our second day. It’s good to see the support we get from the community. They are awesome! Steam is certainly in plan, and the consoles are part of our stretch goals that you can read more about on our Kickstarter page.
As far as the rewards go, we’ve come up with a lot of cool digital stuff, a lot of stuff where you can actually become part of the game – ranging from naming an NPC all the way to voicing an audio-diary that people can find hidden around the world (similar like in the BioShock games). We have two great physical editions, which are both only available during the campaign; the Limited Edition is a special treat, it will be modelled after antique diving helmet. Best just check out the campaign page, we sure have something for everyone.