As promised, here comes our weekly update!
Kelsey, our awesome writer, is visiting us in Los Angeles. To celebrate working with her, in the flesh for a change, here is a short interview:
Loan: What was the hardest thing for you to start writing for the Nomai
Kelsey: The hardest thing was getting their tone right. It wasn’t too difficult to come up with them as an alien race, and it was fun building their society. Really the hardest thing with them was trying to find that balance between the scientific intellectuals they’re supposed to be and writing fun content so you’re not just like, “Oh god these nerds, when will they shut up?”
Loan: Do you remember the process that led us to create the unique structure for the Nomai writing?
Kelsey: I distinctly remember you guys [Alex & Loan, the game designers] telling me to “do whatever.” You said we were free to do what we wanted and it didn’t have to read like a script, so it seemed like a natural choice to play around with 3D space, hence the translator tool. The structure we use in the game was one of the options that was interesting and fun to read that still tied back to the idea that the Nomai are very scientific, curious, and analytical. They want to analyze every part of a conversation, and they get distracted by new ideas easily, so of course they’re going to go off on all these tangents and branches. The goal there was designing a system that fits with their philosophy.
I did a lot on paper before I started writing their text, and I would think, “How can I reasonably convey information that doesn’t look like I’m just taking linear notes?” I normally do a lot of arrows, especially when brainstorming. I also have a lot of offshoots in my notes - things that connect to one idea but not another idea, or an idea that loops back around and reinforces an earlier point.
Honestly, the system is what a language would look like if my notebook were written by multiple people instead of just me. Which, in retrospect, is a little bit conceited [laughs].
Loan: I know you took great care defining the personalities of every single Nomai you actually get to read in the game. As a result, some of it was quite difficult for you since, not to reveal anything, it doesn’t necessarily end well for all of them.
Kelsey: Well, I can tell you right now that we’ve effectively killed a lot of the Nomai through rewrites. Remember, we originally had not only bigger conversations but also a lot more characters speaking in each one. The problem was that it got bogged down to the point where you couldn’t remember who was who, because each Nomai only had one or two lines per conversation. So I had to cut a lot of characters that I’d already fleshed out and really enjoyed, and just went with the ones that were the most memorable. Which, in all honesty, made it a lot stronger. There are so many characters in the back of my head that still exist somewhere in the Nomai society whose voices you’ll never actually read in-game. Which is a bit weird, but there you have it.
As for all of their fates... It was kind of weird to create a society that was continually being disappointed and not reaching its goals. I think they have enough little victories. And honestly, if the Nomai knew how the game “ends,” I feel like they would be very pleased with everything they were able to do. That’s very satisfying to me.
As mentioned before, our artists are working hard on creating the terrain of the game. And that’s a lot of rocks! Luckily, the art team is keeping a positive attitude:
Our apologies for how slow we have been with our updates. Following some people’s feedback, we are going to try to make these updates again on a more regular basis but probably smaller as a result.
In our previous update, we asked for your opinion on how to call a strange new substance in Outer Wilds. We wanted to thank everyone who participated and call out some of the best ideas! We really liked “Void Matter” from Corinator based on “Voidal Matter” from Allan Wu. Trina McLeod mentioned “Will-o’-wisps” as a direction we could take which we thought was very much on point. We all enjoyed and learned a lot from reading about “Réaumur”, so thanks LegenDove for bringing that one up. Finally there were a bunch of cool names that were too close or referenced Quantum Mechanics, which is unfortunate as we already have quantum effects in the game and we do not want to confuse players.
Another reason why we have been slow with this update is that we have been head’s down into production. We are in the process of recruiting multiple new artists to help us with a complete overhaul of the visuals. We have been itching to show you how the game is going to look in its final version but we have decided to keep that for a big reveal once we have a lot more art for the final game.
To achieve this as quickly as possible, we have been expanding our art team over the past month. Our first new recruit is Eilish Lambrechtsen!
“Hello there! My name is Eilish (pronounced Eye-lish) and I specialize in 3D environment art for games. I describe myself as being a rather sleepy, rather small person who laughs loudly. The most rewarding part of this gig is making stylized assets that we muck about with. Be safe in space, travelers!”
We have also been working a lot on making the players feel more embodied. This includes making the jetpack feel more unstable and wobbly, in particular when hitting objects sideways. We also have added many helmet effects, like rain impacting on your helmet visor on Giant’s Deep:
Or helmet cracks from high speed collisions:
To end this update, here are a few of our latest piece of level design (all graybox) on Brittle hollow:
Updates on our games, our process, and the joys of being Mobius Digital.