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Video: Inside the design of Subnautica

July 10, 2019 | By Staff

July 10, 2019 | By Staff
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More: Indie, Design, Video, Vault



In this 2019 GDC session, Unknown Worlds' Charlie Cleveland discusses the design of the studio's hit underwater survival sim Subnautica and how it created feelings of exploration, discovery and the unknown.

Starting with creating and adhering to specific design pillars and capturing emotion in the initial prototypes and the prototyping process, Cleveland explained -- through studies of game features big and small -- how the game came together.

It was a great talk that covered everything from the hows and whys of Subnautica's crafting system to embracing player phobias, mysterious tooltips and adding structure to a sandbox through radio signals. Also covered are examples of story beats that didn't overly direct or guide the player and how it's possible to reframe problems when development is stuck.

It was remarkably thorough and insightful, so if you haven't seen it yet (or just want to refresh yourself) take advantage of the fact you can now watch it completely free on the official GDC YouTube channel!

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its accompanying YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC or XRDC already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.



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