Chatting With Creators – Aquanox Deep Descent Edition
Perhaps some of you will remember Aquanox, an old series created by German studio Massive Development. The games were underwater vehicle shooters set in a post-apocalyptic world where humankind fled to the oceans after the surface of Earth had been largely destroyed.
Now, Serbian developer Digital Arrow and Austrian publisher Nordic Games have joined forces in order to revive the franchise with Aquanox Deep Descent, powered by Unreal Engine 4. They have used Kickstarter in order to gauge interest and prove that there is a demand for this kind of game; the base goal has been surpassed and, with just a few hours to go, here’s our exclusive interview with Project Lead and Lead Game Designer Norbert Varga.
- Recently, the gaming industry has enjoyed a Renaissance of space combat and trading games. Do you expect fans of these games to be interested in Aquanox, given some similarities?
- We certainly do. Aquanox Deep Descent is similar to space games in many ways. But it also greatly differs from them due to its setting. The gameplay is somewhat similar because you are piloting a “ship”, but the environment allows us to create an entirely different experience for every aspect of the game: the ship movements in the water, lighting and range of sight, deep sea flora and fauna, currents, etc. etc. we have a lot more possibilities than we would have in space.
- The game is supposedly set in a post-apocalyptic environment where the surface of the Earth has become uninhabitable. However, did this cataclysm influence the Sea as well in terms of flora and fauna? Basically, can we expect to see new/mutated creatures and plants down there?
- The cataclysm has certainly impacted the underwater world a great deal, and also there’s already now so much of the oceans that is unexplored that anything could be down there. Also, humans have bred plants to survive that might not have existed before. But we do want to make sure that the world still feels like a believable future of today’s Earth.
- You’ve mentioned that Aquanox features a semi-open world, with large zones that you can go back to. What I’m wondering is if the ecosystem will acknowledge what you have done in a certain zone, what kind of enemies you have vanquished etc., or will they just respawn after a while?
- Our semi-open world plays an important role in providing a game that allows the exploration of the oceans. It’s primary feature lies in allowing players to re-visit such zones and go to deeper areas as they upgrade their ship to withstand more pressure. Once a certain enemy has been shot down, the exact same one will not directly “respawn”. Encounters will vary greatly, depending on the player’s status. There will likely always be a certain number of enemies in every zone, but their strength, number and aggression towards the player will depend on what happens in the story and the player’s actions.
- You have talked about the four characters who will compose the players’ team, and you also said that powerful factions are vying for control of the deep sea. How do these characters factor in all of this? Will they be able to choose which faction to work for?
- At the moment we plan that the player characters each have a background story connected to one of the factions, but that they are now basically pirates, privateers, so within the story they will get in contact with all major factions. Just like the original games, we want to keep the factions ambiguous and realistic in their morality and ambitions. We don’t want to categorize them into bad and good, they just all have their goals and their own ways of achieving them.
- How long do you believe the campaign to be in Aquanox Deep Descent, in terms of gameplay hours?
- Our rough estimate is approximately 12 to 14 hours of gameplay, which can be played in both singleplayer or co-op. But this can get much longer if the player gets involved in exploring the world and doing side missions, bounty missions and other activities such as mining, salvaging and trading. On top of that there’s the classic multiplayer which further extends playing time.
- The game also features PvP. Will this happen in the same large zones of the campaign, or are there dedicated maps? Also, is it possible for fauna AI to interfere in this case?
- Some multiplayer maps will be based on key locations from the main campaign, while others will be dedicated PvP maps. We have many plans to involve the various water physics and potentially fauna as well into our PvP gameplay.
- Aquanox is scheduled for a release in February 2017. As such, I’m inclined to think that you’ll be using DirectX 12 – can you tell us how, and what do you think of the new API so far?
- DirectX 12 is certainly something we are having in mind. Testing will reveal how much of it we can use.
- A hot topic among enthusiast PC gamers right now is that of Async Compute. It looks like AMD’s GCN architecture might be better suited for this purpose than NVIDIA’s, at least until Maxwell; are you going to use Async Compute in Aquanox and if so, do you expect NVIDIA cards to suffer for this?
- We aim to develop a game that is enjoyable to everyone who wishes to join the world of Aqua. Implementing and/or focusing on technologies that would limit certain people from accessing the game is entirely against our philosophy of being a community focused developer. If at any point, there will be an implementation possible that will not limit NVIDIA card users, then we will certainly explore this option as well.
- Finally, ports for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are set as stretch goals. Do you already have in mind a target resolution/frame rate for the console version?
- Actually, we are currently developing the game mainly for the PC. We hope to be able to do Mac and Linux versions as well of course. Whether we will be able to port the game to current gen consoles will depend on how the project develops, of course we certainly hope we’ll be able to broaden our player base to include console gamers as well.
- Thank you for your time and good luck!