As we make trails from April and prepare to make camp in May, we here at Outer Wilds Ventures have an extra spring in our step from all we accomplished in the last month--the solar system's really taking shape!
What have we been doing in the last couple of weeks? On the design front, we finished greyboxing and playtested two of the biggest planets of the game. The art team started modeling all the Hearthian characters in the game, modeling the ship, and creating particle systems to populate the solar system. The tech team has implemented entirely new player and ship UI and created a vital new tool for adding Nomai text throughout design, and we're starting to implement new player sound effects as well!
Moving forward, our big focus will be all things ship: the model and overhauling all of the systems around it. We hope y'all enjoy this update about our playtesting notes and new concept art!
Playtesting Outer Wilds is not without its challenges. For starters, our design pillar, Curiosity-Driven Exploration, works by sending players across the solar system, not just an individual planet. The nature of our production pipeline, however, requires us to design one planet at a time so we can pass them over to the art team. Currently we have to focus playtests on exploring one planet at a time for production's sake--as we get deeper into production, we can open this up, but it requires a much longer playtest if we're asking players to traverse the solar system.
Additionally, playtesting these planets requires previous knowledge of how to play the game: we're not looking to run through the tutorial anew with each tester. Any game you pick up again after a month, two months, or more away is going to be a bit foggy for you, and add tweaks to input & player systems on top of that...we have to really strive to make sure we create the ideal playtest scenario for each playtester that comes to our office! So with those constraints in mind, what did we accomplish?
- We changed the gauges for Oxygen & Fuel. The goal here was to make the UI feel more diegetic and of-the-world and less meter-in-a-video-game. The current iteration feels a lot more like old pilot/plane HUDs, which was a big inspiration.
- We experimented with making Health a number. In trying to give the UI a more cohesive design, we've tried a few different ideas with health. Currently we're working with a number for overall health, which works well aesthetically and gives the player the amount of info they need about survival. Anything more detailed would require a more complex body damage system, so for now we're leaning towards the health percentage.
- We adjusted the way thrust was communicated to the player. So far this has been an intuitive hit with our players that let's them know when boost is being applied and in what direction their thrusters are going.
- We focused the signal scope's UI to be clearer. The designers think the player tools are awesome and use them all the time. Players use the tools much less frequently because they don't understand the edge cases when tools are super useful. We constantly try to bridge the gap between these two facts without forcing the player to do anything specific, but we think some tweaks to the UI has made the signalscope a much savvier tool.
CONCEPT ART SNEAK PEEK!
We've been concepting some different art applications that we're excited to share with y'all as we get ready to implement them in game! The first is a new style for Nomai murals. As storytelling and narrative for the Nomai evolves, we want to make sure their aesthetic continues to grow to meet aesthetic demands. We're pretty excited for the style, with a distinct Japanese influence, that is shaping up for these murals.