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Dive Into a New Genre of Video Games

Dive Into a New Genre of Video Games Unknown Worlds Ent

Unknown Worlds Ent

Eugene Gan - published on 12/23/13

Forget about just playing games (as fun as that is). Do you want to help make them, too?

We’re going to talk briefly about a video game, but before you roll your eyes, know that this is not in the same genre as Grand Theft Auto. In case you’ve somehow forgone all media recently, Grand Theft Auto V generated $1 billion in global retail sales in just three days. This far surpasses any media entertainment sales in recorded history, including the current reigning all-time box office hit, Marvel’s The Avengers – a scary thought given the head-shaking, temples-rubbing, brow-furrowing atrocities that are littered throughout Grand Theft Auto V. I get that video games are engaging and that they can be really fun (*ahem*, personal experience), but surely we’ve got to draw the line on what kind of entertainment we’re immersing ourselves in. After all, we are what we consume. But – I reiterate – this is not about Grand Theft Auto V.

Independent, San Francisco-based developers Unknown Worlds, whose goal is “to unite the world through play,” just announced that they are creating a video game that creates “a unique experience, the genre of which we do not believe has yet been invented.” The game is called Subnautica, and I suspect that the furor and excitement that this news has generated in the gaming world is due in large part to Unknown Worlds’s previous hit, Natural Selection 2. Natural Selection 2 itself garnered a lot of attention and had largely positive reviews on the major gaming channels like Metacritic and Gamespot. It even won PC Gamer’s Editor’s Choice award. NS2 began as a first-person, shooter-type mod for the video game Half-Life, but distinguished itself with its combination of real time strategy and WYSIWYG graphical tools and scripting that allowed interested players to go further in modding and customizing their gameplay to create new weapons and scenarios. Gamespot’s review goes so far as to claim that NS2’s “appeal entirely depends on your desire for a complex, deep alternative to the usual immediacy of modern online shooters” and requires “you to learn, improving and developing skills as you go,” all the while pushing the envelope and not relying “on the most tried-and-tested formulas.”

So far, if this sounds like I’m stalling and not talking about Subnautica, it’s because I am! You see, there isn’t much that is known at this point, even by the developers. The developers say that the game is not even at the alpha stage. It’s only ideas and some testing of technology at this point, or as developer Hugh Jeremy wrote in their reveal post: “The first in-game art assets are being created, soundscapes are being recorded, and animations are starting to slither, turn and swim.” What is known is that Subnautica is an open world underwater exploration and construction game. For the uninitiated, this implies that players will be able to freely roam the virtual oceans (in diverse aquatic environments) with underwater vehicles that they themselves make in-game. There will be elements of role-play and sandboxing and exploration as players build submarines to navigate and explore the depths of a fantastical realm, all the while, I presume, listening to some very ethereal and spacey sounds (the developers have released some preliminary soundtracks 

). That’s not all: “Decisions you make about vessel layout, capabilities and structure will affect your ability to navigate hazards and enter the domains of creatures; the likes of which your imagination has never conceived of.” You can see some of their initial concept art here.

Now that you have a sense of the game and where the developers are coming from, here’s the big clincher and why I’m giving this prominence. Along with all the released media, the developers have also announced:

“The creation of Subnautica will be extremely open. We hope everyone in the Unknown Worlds community, and new faces, will be interested in giving feedback, sharing ideas, and participating in development. You can talk to most of the development team on Twitter and on the Subnautica forums. We will be opening up early Subnautica ‘builds’ (versions of the game) to a wider and wider audience over the coming months, and you will be invited to play.”

Keep reading on the next page

What this means is that they want the community – everyone and anyone interested – to give input into what this new game should be like! That’s a whale of a claim, but if holds any water, we could lend our voices! You can go tell them what we’d like to explore, what what we’d like to see! They’re giving us ways to reach out to them – TwitterFacebook, and a YouTube channel. This needs to be shared if only because instead of complaining about the state of the media, we’re given an opportunity to participate in its creation. This is very much in line with what Blessed John Paul II said in his last apostolic letter, The Rapid Development, that with regard to the popular media, we must engage and participate. The Catholic Church has been very supportive of media, calling media “gifts of God” and providing guidance in her myriad documents on how we might engage media and experience authentic joy. (For further reading, I’d shamelessly tell you to go read Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Mediaif it weren’t for the fact that I wrote that book, so instead I’ll encourage you to go read the Church’s myriad documents on media!)

This is an opportunity to follow that call to dialogue and participate in developing engaging media that holds to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Here’s our chance to steer and make something unique and popular that isn’t Grand Theft Auto (those developers never once asked for our input!) If you’ve been disappointed with typical game offerings in the past, this is a game you can help shape!

What might you share with them? Let prayer inspire your creativity. A game engine like that holds much promise and potential. I already envision creating custom wet-suits and vehicles. (I’d like to construct my own version of the Nautilus, please – Jules Verne, eat your heart out!) I know too that this would be a hit with my sons. Already, they’re spending a significant portion of their allotted video game time customizing their own Lego super hero and Star Wars characters. Or perhaps add-on packs or mo
ds that allow us to explore coral reefs, interact with marine animals like whales (though I’ve got a scuba license, I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to dive with a real one), and explore sunken ships and the wreck of the Titanic. Or maybe go in a shark cage with great whites, or return to prehistoric waters with the 
Megalodon and Liopleurodon! Or create futuristic underwater cities (no Gungans, thank you very much) that would make Tolkien and CS Lewis proud.

So take a look at their welcome video 

, then consider lending your voice and shaping the media, starting perhaps with this one, into something true, good, and beautiful.

Dr. Eugene Gan is Faculty Associate of the Veritas Center and Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States. His book, Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media, is grounded in Scripture and magisterial documents, and is a handbook and practical guide for understanding and engaging media in meaningful and healthy ways in daily life.

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