Working on the concept of the Last Oasis game
The kinetic structures came first. We discovered that the heart of the game was riding on walkers with other players. This was a lot of fun! Ships, but on land. This creates so many interesting scenarios, with the temptations and resistance of the land being one thing, and the enemy walkers being another one. Hence, the walkers are the stars of the game, but in order to encourage movement, we need to have an interesting world that doesn’t give you everything in one place. Pursuing this, we generate more procedural landscapes and maps/oases than any other game in the genre. Technically, we are based on a heavily modified version of Unreal Engine 4 that supports better net code, dynamic weather, better physics, and many other features.
The Art Direction
For the art direction, we drew on two ideas: extrapolating the kinetic sculptures to other technical contraptions and machines, as well as letting these affect the Lore itself. We worked through many iterations of the game world, and we found that the scenario, where the Earth had stopped rotating perfectly fits our ideas about a constantly moving Humanity in the future, where most common resources are long depleted or buried. Humanity hasn’t forgotten about all technical inventions, there simply aren’t any resources left to create modern machines from metal, nor any easily utilized power sources other than wind.
We allowed ourselves to use any interesting mechanical mechanism we could find, as long as we could reasonably adapt it to be created from mostly wood. When it came to the landscapes, we were torn between sticking to a more widespread approach of handcrafting our maps and generating them randomly. We decided to compromise with the creative use of assets and the Unreal foliage tool to design environments by hand and quickly create variations of them. Moving forward, we are working hard to deliver more unique, extreme and memorable environments in line with game Lore.
Working on the Animation
We had the first animated prototype made in Blender in a day or two. It’s baked kinematics, and it looks much more complex than it really is - thanks to our artists.
Walkers use simulated physics for their movement, legs on the left and right sides are calculated separately taking sizes of walkers into account, their mass, and many other physical parameters.
One of the core ideas about our game design is a continuously moving “green zone”, where maps/oases come in from the snow and slowly become deserts. This means that maps are not habitable forever. Instead of manually creating maps, we decided to go semi-procedural. We can generate maps on the fly and also import and set them up in Unreal Editor with our own importer. Until now, we have been working in World Machine because of its flexible graph system and high-quality erosions, but we’re looking into moving everything or parts of the system to Houdini to gain more control over the details in the future. Our end goal is to deliver new maps to players on a frequent basis. We want players to race in, explore and exploit brand new areas as they are opened up in the world. We can also let less interesting or unbalanced maps simply drift into the desert, never to be seen again...
We wanted to get started with a prototype for a multiplayer game, and UE4 lets you do it very quickly with many of the basic ingredients already built-in. For the Art team, Unreal Editor is easy to work with, and landscapes are also quick to get into. Unreal also provides full source code access, so it's easy for us to make changes that we need and fix issues that we encounter.
The Game Release
The game is planned to be released during the first quarter of 2020 on Steam. We’ve been receiving quite a lot of questions about a console release, and we’ll definitely be looking into other stores and platforms in the future. Early Access will be available for purchase, but at the moment, there is a closed beta anyone can sign up for on our Discord.