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Dive Into a New Genre of Video Games

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  and ). 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:

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