Tartarus: Text-based Adventure with UE4
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Tartarus: Text-based Adventure with UE4
9 January, 2017
Interview
Developers from a Turkish company Abyss GameWorks discussed the production of their new adventure game Tartarus, which unites some very unusual elements.

Introduction

We are Abyss GameWorks and we are an independent company based in Istanbul, Turkey.

We have 7 members in our team:

  • Kemal Günel (3D Artist). I’ve be working as a 2D and 3D artist for almost 10 years. I’ve worked on short movies and full feature films as well as small game projects.
  • Hüsamettin Yüzer (Marketing). I’ve been working in marketing for almost 3 years. I’ve worked for at a few technology firms and on some game projects as a Digital Marketing Specialist.
  • Sertac Ogan (Lead Programmer). I’ve been working with programming for almost 6 years. During this time, I’ve worked on fuzzy logic, parallel computing, VR and game development.
  • Mert Küçükaksoy (Audio Engineer). I graduated from Conservatory with a focus on Audio Engineering. I have been doing album recording and live performance work for 25 years in Turkey.
  • Berk Taşkın (Programmer). I have a Computer Engineering degree. I’ve worked on robotic, AI and machine learning projects.
  • Tolga Öztürk (Business Development). I’ve worked with Riot Games TR as a volunteer tournament organizer at the university campus. I am also a member of the “Dijital Sporlar” eSport organization in Turkey.
  • Ahmethan Demir (Player Relations). I’m quite new at player relations, I’ve worked on other game projects for 8 months.

TARTARUS

TARTARUS is a first person action/adventure game combined with text input and developed using Unreal Engine 4. Let’s start with the meaning of TARTARUS. It’s a God name and a place name at the same time in Greek mythology. The other meaning of TARTARUS is “Hell”, again in Greek mythology. We thought it’s perfect for the game. The main features of TARTARUS are puzzle elements, advanced text input and immersive storytelling. I’ve always loved the space and wanted to do something related to it. I think I started watching science fiction movies when I was 6-7 years old. At that time we had a VHS player. The television was black and white and there were not too many film shows. We were inspired by classic movies like Alien (1979), Terminator and many other things. And we always wanted our story to be realistic. So we started writing TARTARUS. We wanted to keep it simple but fun.

Art Direction

We don’t have a huge team. When I started designing spaceship, I wanted it really stuffy because it’s a mining ship. There is not too much comfort and the personal space is so limited – that was the first step. And the second step was the history of the ship. I wanted it to be old, rusty, oily, clammy… Maybe it’s its last voyage beyond planets. I wanted to tell all these things with metal walls and corridors of the ship.

Environments

It’s a really big challenge for me, because I am the only designer in the team. I wanted the environment to be a little messy. It was a long journey for crew, maybe everybody was frustrated in that metal box. You can see so many pipes, cables, maintenance tools, system monitors. And all that things really help us to create the atmosphere we want. Being the only designer is making me blind sometimes. If you do the something constantly, you slowly start to miss the details. And then the team comes up with help. Hey, this is wrong, let’s give it a break, OK? Or “Hey, I have an idea, let’s put something like this…”

Assets

The asset production has two sides for me. On one side, it has to be done in short time because we have a deadline but it’s not too big of a deal for me as I am experienced. But on the other side, all the assets have to follow the same style. For example, if you have retro CRT system monitors, you cannot have a super hi-tech holographic monitor next to it. In short, the hardest part is keeping everything in specific style. For asset creation I use LightWave 3D. I know it’s not common in gaming industry, but it’s super fast for me. I really feel comfortable with it. For every main asset, like bridge, system monitors, terminals and corridors I draw concepts, rough shapes to keep them in mind. Then I model them in LightWave 3D, giving their surface names, opening UVs for texturing. Keeping the polycount as low as possible, dueling with quality and performance. And I prepare a block level in LightWave 3D to see the composition. Is it looking good or not, what about the scales, what about the general lighting? I do that before importing them in Unreal Engine 4 as if there is a mistake, I can fix it easily and check it again. When everything is done, I start creating a level in Unreal Engine 4. And everything fits perfectly. For other assets Unreal Market helped a bit.

Materials

Working on materials was hard at first. My old experience was built on procedural texturing. And there were not so many UV jobs done in my old projects. Each surface had its own ID, I just dragged and dropped the procedural material and rendered it. But you can’t follow the same way if you are making a game. First, I learned what the hell PBR is. Second, how to create Physically Based Materials. There are so many other artists who are amazing at it. I follow their tricks too. I am creating everything in Photoshop. Working on various hard surface material needs an experienced eye I think. You have to understand the material’s behavior. How it reflects the light, how rough it is, how it reacts when it’s wet… And what you need to adjust to support your environment. It’s all related to your environment. It was hard to adjust every material in the level. There is plastic, metal, glass, half translucent plastic, half metal-half plastic… I have a list. I separated the list in two. Generic and specific. And these two main groups have their own sub groups like, metal, plastic… In short I know every characteristic of object before I prepare a material for it. 

Lighting

Lighting is the key to creating mood and atmosphere. And I think if it’s missing it does not matter how good your models or materials are. I like playing with light. Even found the opportunity to work on a film as a lighting artist. I used two main colors in TARTARUS. Let’s say orange and blue. Orange lights give us a warm feeling, in that specific area. And the blue lights are doing the opposite. Combining them gives us a contrast. Playing with intensity, range and shadow gives us depth. Unreal Engine 4 is so amazing with lighting. It’s beyond my expectations. But again I am still learning. Choosing the position of light source is also important. You don’t want to create weird shadows or illuminated areas. And you have to do it in optimal way for better performance. I use my own way.

UE4

Well, working with Unreal Engine 4 is so smooth. I think it is easy to learn and there is so much documentation, almost about everything. I’ve been using Unreal Engine 4 for almost 1 year but I feel like I’ve been using it years. I really like the interface, colors… It’s user-friendly and comfortable for me. I think one of the advantages of this tech is its really active community. There are so many talented artists and programmers who can help you. And the Engine is so fast to catch current technologies such as VR or new API’s. It allows us to build our game faster, as we feel comfortable.

Plans

We don’t want to say soon but it’s soon. Let’s say 2017. We are going to publish our game on Steam and planning to release it for Windows and MacOS.

The Team of Abyss GameWorks

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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1 Comment on "Tartarus: Text-based Adventure with UE4"

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Okan
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Okan

TARTARUS you should definitely try because you easily put yourself in the atmosfere, so you live the game. I hope TARTARUS comes in summer.

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