The Solus Project Interview – Surviving On Another Planet
Here's our full chat with Teotl Studios' Sjoerd de Jong about The Solus Project, after the technical tidbits we reported in the previous days.
Just like Matt Damon in The Martian, you'll be fighting for survival in an uninhabited planet, Gliese-6143-C. Unlike him, your mission is also to save mankind. No pressure, right? Check out many more details on this game, due for release on Steam Early Access and Xbox One Game Preview in Q1 2016.
- What kind of books, movies or games inspired you to make The Solus Project, both in terms of backstory and gameplay style?
- It is inspired by a bit of everything. When I grew up I read a lot of local comic books about kids going on adventures in far away places. I took the sense of adventure and exploration from those comics, combined it with the mystery and again, sense of adventure, from Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, and mixed that up with the first Unreal game. The original Unreal game really captivated me when it came out. Its scary but intriguing, dark but colorful alien world with its beautiful skies is very much so exactly what The Solus Project strives to be. On top of that series like Lost have had an impact on development, as does a sci-fi classic like Alien(s) of course, along with Prometheus, as well as all the Ancient Astronaut theories. Throughout the game we've got loads of references and hints to the pop culture classics of our generation. Some of them are very obvious like a ball called Milson (Wilson's brother, with no hair but a beard), while others will likely require a team effort of fans to find. The whole game is very much so that. It is full of hidden things and mysteries, and we hope that people online will work together to find those extras.
- The game sounds heavy on exploration and resource gathering, but what about crafting? What can players expect in this regard?
- The game is indeed first and foremost about the exploration and gathering. We have some crafting, but it is definitely not central to the experience and will be limited to straight forward crafting options every now and then. What is at the absolute center of the game is the story and mystery though, and that is also where TSP puts itself apart from other survival games out there. We will be providing the player with a very detailed world rich in mystery. TSP is a survival experience with clear goals and reasons to push on, and thereby differs itself substantially from the open ended sandbox focus of other games.
- I understand that The Solus Project features a fairly large playable world, but it's not seamless. Can you confirm this? How often do we have to expect to run into loading screens when venturing from one zone to another?
- TSP is very much so in the first place a single player story based adventure, and that story and experience is spread out over the 10 large levels in the game. You will be able to freely travel back and forth between the different levels, but if you follow the story line as intended you will only experience a loading screen every 30-45 minutes, and the loading screens will be just 10 to 20 seconds long on a decent computer. All of the levels in the game are entirely handcrafted. Nothing was generated, it has all been done with love and care up to the greatest details. An exploration game like TSP relies on being able to find cool locations and details in the world, so we placed on focus on providing that kind of quality and detail above quantity.
- How long is the day/night cycle in real time and how does it factor into gameplay?
- It is about 20 minutes, with the day taking around 12 minutes, and the nights a slightly shorter 8 minutes in order to give the players some more daylight than night time each day. You can sleep to skip time in case you want to avoid the dark nights, although sleeping carries its own set of risks. If you go into hypothermia while sleeping, you will never wake up anymore for example. There will also be a setting to enforce a 24 hour day and night cycle, though we are not quite sure yet how playable that really is. Hasn't gotten much testing so far, but it is in there if someone wants to give that a go.
- Given the strong survival aspect of The Solus Project, I'm curious about the save system. Is it checkpoint based, or do you allow players to save anywhere and at any time?
- The game autosaves when transitioning levels, but other than that it will come down on saving manually whenever you feel like it by sleeping. Each time you sleep the game will save, but you cannot sleep everywhere you want. You cannot sleep while swimming for example, nor in the middle of a storm. You need to be in a reasonably safe environment to sleep and save.
Being a survival game we want to strike the balance between giving the player the freedom and control to decide when to save/end the game, while also staying true to the survival aspects of thinking through your steps and planning ahead, even when it comes to saving.
- Do you plan to add free or paid content to the game after launch, or should gamers just wait for your next game after finishing this one?
- Not sure yet. Right now we are entirely focused on finishing the game itself. We want to make sure that the game itself is the experience that people deserve. Like with so much in the game we have taken an oldschool approach to things. So no in-game purchasable items or an extensive set of small DLCs and so forth, but instead a solid quality single player adventure game that is complete the moment you buy it.
- In a previous interview, you mentioned that the PC version of the game will support 1080P and 60 FPS. However, many hardcore gamers nowadays expect even more, with displays sporting 4K resolution or 144Hz - can we expect unlocked frame rate and the ability to bump the resolution up to 4K?
- Yes, you can expect to tweak it at will. Our options menu will not offer access to too many features due to us being such a small team, but any option that will not be readily available through the menu can still be tweaked at will through the configuration files for those who really want to try and tweak the settings to be exactly as they want them to be. It is running on Unreal Engine 4 so you will be able to easily look up information on the hundreds of graphical settings available, and there is no limit on what resolution, Hz, or aspect ratio can be entered. We will also support resolution scaling by the way, so you can make the game render as if it runs in a higher resolution than your monitor can display. Other things like Field Of View will also be accessible, for players who want to play at extremely wide resolutions.
- In the same interview, you mentioned that for the Xbox One Game Preview you're targeting sub-1080P and lower frame rate. Just to clarify, is that 720P@30 or 900P@30? You're still confident you can bump this to 1080P by the full release, correct?
- The game will be released with 900p@30 into the Xbox Game Preview in early 2016 and we will continuously work on improving the performance throughout the Preview period. Our goal certainly is to reach 1080p by the time the game is in its full release.
- Do you intend to add DX12 support to The Solus Project and if not, why?
- DX12 support is not planned right now. For something like DX12 we rely on the support for it within Unreal Engine 4, and that support right now is not at the level where we feel we can properly utilize it for TSP. This is something largely out of our hands.
- This game looks like it might fit VR nicely. Are you interested in supporting it and if so, which devices would you target for VR release?
- We are certainly interested in supporting it. The game will be released with at a minimum rudimentary support for Oculus, and dependent on how Early Access works out we might bump up our support for it some. You will be able to turn on VR mode, but we will not guarantee that everything works as well as it should the first for at least the first few releases.
- Finally, I'm sure PlayStation 4 gamers would be interested in this game too. What are the chances that The Solus Project will be available on Sony's console in the future?
- There are currently no plans for a PlayStation 4 version and we fully focus on the Xbox One and PC versions.
- Thank you for your time.