We are constantly amazed by all the wild and wonderful fan art made by the Outer Wilds community. However, we’ve also been struggling to keep up with requests to review or give permission for use of Mobius Digital IP. In response, we decided that we too should become a cool, hip game studio with a fan art policy.
We want this policy to enable you all to continue to make Outer Wilds and other Mobius Digital related fan works. We spent a lot of time crafting it, reviewing other studio policies, and incorporating feedback from our legal team. However, we want to make sure this policy and FAQ are clear and answer the most common questions, so if you have questions or feedback, please let us know! Either by commenting on this blog post or emailing us at email@example.com. We’re a small team, so won’t be able to respond to every message, but we’ll do our best!
Read our Fan Content Policy here.
Thank you again – from the bottom of our hearts – for being such a great community of creative, curious, and wonderful people.
We chat with creative director Alex Beachum about how design is being adjusted now that we're so deep into production!
SO WE’RE NEARING THE POINT WHERE ALL THE LOCATIONS IN THE GAME HAVE BEEN DESIGNED. HOW DO YOU FEEL THE DESIGN OF THE GAME STANDS CURRENTLY?
Alex: We just kind of did a high level reassessment a little while ago, level-design style-wise, and we realized that we really wanted to take a new pass on pathing. Because the game is kind of all of these nodes with content in them with either paths between the nodes or no paths because it’s just on the surface of the planet, and when it’s easy to see the node it works fine, because you see an object and you think, “Oh, I’m supposed to investigate this.” But we realized a lot of the paths…
You’d be in a place with a node with paths leading to different places away from it and players would kind of choose which one to go down randomly, and you wouldn’t have any real idea of what you’d find on the other side...which isn’t bad, per se, but the whole point of the game is having your choices motivated by your curiosity. So we decided to telegraph where paths lead. Ideally this happens visually, so you think, “Oh this path leads to a tower in the distance, I’m going to follow it.” But underground this doesn’t work as well so we’re trying to add trailmarkers and some things more cryptic so you have a little bit of information to go on when choosing instead of just flipping a coin.
Our amazingly talented artist, Alice Li, has been creating all the backer rewards headed your way when production ends! Here are the postcard sketches: hope y'all enjoy! We think they're a pretty good tour of the solar system...at least the known solar system!
Our awesome & talented Art Director, Wesley Martin, discusses what he does on Outer Wilds and how he got his job. This is #2 in the Meet the Team series: hope y'all enjoy!
So you're the Art Director on Outer Wilds: What does that mean you do on a day-to-day basis?
On a day to day basis, being the Art Director on Outer Wilds involves jumping back and forth between a bunch of different processes. For the first few months I focused on setting a visual style through research, concept art, and the creation of all of our initial 3D assets and pipeline. Once the direction was established to the satisfaction of the team, my role shifted towards art asset production and technical art. On the technical side, most of my work is in tandem with Logan, our technical art programmer. He and I work together on shaders and materials, particle effects, and techniques for making the game visually spectacular that often involve a lot of trial and error as well as unusual visual magic. On the art side, I spend most of my time making copious amounts of planetary terrain, as well as putting together the final scenes in unity - doing prop placement, setting up lighting, and getting rid of any art-related bugs we encounter. I have been training our concept artist Alice in 3D modeling, and she is already cranking out props to help fill out our worlds with visual detail. We also just hired Lara, who is a generalist like myself, so that she can help fill out the game with terrain, props, and characters. For those who aren't familiar with the game development process, my job is somewhere in between a painter, a sculptor, a landscape architect, an interior decorator, and an animator.
How long have you been working on Outer Wilds?
I started work on Outer Wilds in pre-production this past July, and my initial role was to make the vertical slice that we used to design our art direction and pitch the game on Fig. Though I have only been working on the game for six months, as soon as I played the alpha demo I felt like I had been preparing to work on this game my whole life. I have always been obsessed with space exploration and I grew up on the grounds of a summer camp, so this job fit me like a glove!
What’s the most fun part of being a Art Director?
My favorite part of being an art director is being able to fill any role as needed to make sure the art gets done to specification. I get to be the first one to jump in and try to solve a problem, and I am usually the last one sticking around to get that last bit of visual polish into the build. I love jumping back and forth between different roles and doing whatever is necessary to make the game look great! I also love working with the whole team - design, programming, production, and art, to make sure that everyone is on the same page and contributing everything we need to get the game done.
We here at Mobius Digital are very proud to be the launch title on the revolutionary new crowdfunding platform, Fig. Fig is a crowdfunding platform made by gamemakers for gamemakers and gamers alike that's designed to create a better platform tailored specifically for games.
And, even better, they're curating what titles can be on their platform so you know the games on Fig will definitely be finished. Fig was created by the heads of such legendary indie studios as Double Fine, Obisidian, and inXile, and we are super honored that they chose our 2015 IGF Grand Prize Winner as their first title.
We've been very humbled that super busy, talented guys like Brian Fargo and Tim Schafer have taken the time to participate in our campaign videos, play our games, give us advice, and provide resources throughout our production because they believe in our game and our studio.
We are very excited to be a part of a platform like Fig that is revolutionizing the way games are being made and making sure unique creators are getting the budgets they need to bring amazing, wonderful games to the people who care about the most.
If you agree with us, please take time to support Outer Wilds. We need your support! This award-winning game is now getting the full time, full team commitment it deserves, but we can't do it without you.
Greetings from Outer Wilds Ventures!
Intrepid travelers, we have been delayed in our announcement of our industrious expedition for another week. Whether you're in front of a fire pit or in orbit, stay close to your news sources next Tuesday, August 18th, for an important Outer Wilds bulletin!
Until that moment, we leave you with wallpaper, concept art, our new logo, and a GIF of the new art direction. Enjoy!
Greetings from Outer Wilds Ventures! A new traveler has arrived from deep in the forests of Timber Hearth, and he brings with him a new discovery that will change our solar system at its very foundation...his name is Wesley Martin, and he joins the Ventures as our Art Director!
When I first played the alpha of Outer Wilds, I was immediately drawn into a lovingly hand-crafted world that sparked my imagination at every turn. Now that I'm working on Outer Wilds, I am excited to bring the same level of lovingly hand-crafted goodness to the visuals of the game. There's a lot of work to do in the art department, so let's roll up our sleeves and get started!
The art in the Outer Wilds alpha is mostly designer art designed to test out the feel of the game without spending too much time worrying about the details. The more polished parts of the visuals come from student work, so even at its best the alpha has a long way to go. That said, there is a certain charm to the simplicity present in the current art, which often leaves the details to the player's imagination, lending the game a level of abstraction that improves the overall immersion.
The goal for the new art direction is to preserve that abstraction, but bring in a more refined aesthetic so that the game encourages the player's imagination rather than relying upon it.
Hey traveler! Alex here, transmitting live from our Story Simulation Center on the moon (the low gravity is great for tossing around weighty narrative concepts). Most of the work we do up here is still under wraps, but today we're going to take a small peek into how we build and test the underlying mysteries of Outer Wilds.
Archaeology In Space
It might have all the trappings of a space game, but I like to think of Outer Wilds as a narrative adventure game that just happens to take place inside a (miniature) astrophysics simulation. As players explore each planet, they discover pieces of embedded narrative that reveal the history of the solar system and the ancient race that used to inhabit it. These pieces also act as clues that point to each other and to special hidden locations, or "Curiosities", where players can find answers to the game's biggest questions (i.e. what's really going on).
Considering the scope and complexity of our narrative structure, it's pretty important that we test whether or not players can understand the clues, find the Curiosities, and piece everything together into a coherent story. Which brings us back to the bit about all of this taking place inside an astrophysics simulation. Testing for narrative comprehension is extraordinarily time-consuming when players can't even access most of your content without (among other things) learning to fly a spaceship. We needed a way for players to test the game's entire narrative structure in a fraction of the time it would take during a normal playthrough.
"It's Only A Model"
Our solution was to make a paper prototype that completely abstracted away the space travel and focused on what we wanted to test: the underlying narrative structure.
Major locations on each planet were represented by note cards, and players were given a limited number of turns to move between them each round (if you've played the alpha you can probably guess why). Players could also spend a turn to explore a location, which occasionally meant flipping over the card to reveal hidden information, and more often involved me just describing what they found there.
Overall the prototype worked surprisingly well. It gave us valuable insight into how players were interpreting the clues and understanding the story, and by essentially DMing each session I had a lot of flexibility to adjust content on the fly. We noticed that all of our playtesters quickly resorted to jotting down their discoveries on a notepad, which pretty much confirms that the onboard ship computer should keep track of your discoveries.
From Paper to Processing
The next step, which was both totally unnecessary and absolutely worth it, was to recreate the paper prototype in an open source Java library called Processing.
Between these two narrative prototypes we now have a much better idea of what the game feels like when all of the pieces are put together. Our next big challenge is to translate the descriptions from the text adventure into fully realized 3D spaces. We've got a lot of content to make, but it's nice to know that all of it is probably going to make sense.
Greetings from Outer Wilds Ventures! Our latest transmission comes from Kelsey in the Narrative Department, who is making sure you'll have the most wonderful story to tell after your amazing stay in Outer Wilds!
Three guesses which games are major inspirations for Outer Wilds’ narrative and in-game text! If you guessed offhandedly snarky titles like Grim Fandango or Curse of Monkey Island, then you win bonus points, because the easy answer is “pretty much any Zelda game.”
Weirdly, I have not played much of Majora’s Mask, which is obvious OW design influence; I was a latecomer to consoles, so my first experience with the Legend of Zelda was on the Game Boy Color, and the charmingly bizarre characters and races in Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages made a big impression on me. In Oracle of Ages you have the Tokay, friendly giant lizards obsessed with meat that steal your items when you land on their island and go around saying off-kilter things like, “There’s a winding maze beneath this island. Maybe.” Oracle of Seasons has the subterranean-dwelling Subrosians, a secretive be-robed species who are really into digging for ore chunks and dancing. That’s also where you’ll find the Subrosian Smithy, one of my favorite places in the Zelda multiverse, where your choice of dialogue when requesting a job is between “Make it fine!” or “Do whatever.”
The point I’m trying to make is this: my favorite games have always been the ones full of interesting characters and unique races, because that’s what really sucks me into a story and makes me feel like part of the world. What would Ocarina of Time be without the Gerudo and Gorons and Kokiri and Zoras?
So we finally tried updating the Outer Wilds project to Unity 5 this week! After several thrilling hours of tweaking the entire code base to work with the new (admittedly much-improved) Unity API, the last compile error finally vanished and I eagerly pressed the play button.
This is what I saw.
Those who have played Outer Wilds before know that the game begins with the player character looking up at the sky. This is technically a screenshot of that scene, albeit with a few notable discrepancies. Let's ignore all of the weird graphical artifacts for a moment (those are to be expected when upgrading a project) and focus on the fact that the player character has fallen through the ground and is well on her way to the planet's core. If you haven't played Outer Wilds, I should note that this is not how the game typically starts.
A cursory glance at the error output window revealed the source of the issue.
The console contained 999+ identical errors reading "Non-convex MeshCollider with non-kinematic Rigidbody is no longer supported in Unity 5". Non-convex (or concave) refers to geometry featuring negative topology (valleys, caves, tunnels, etc), and non-kinematic rigidbodies are objects that can be moved by physical forces. This error essentially means that dynamic physics objects can no longer have negatively-curved geometry in Unity 5.
In most games this isn't a problem. The most common use for convex colliders is level/terrain geometry, which by definition is usually static. Objects that need to be simulated with physics tend to be simple enough that their shapes can be approximated by one or more convex colliders.
In Outer Wilds, literally everything in the game is moving at very high speeds due to real-time physical forces. Each planet is a non-kinematic rigidbody that is actually rotating about its axis as it zooms around the sun. Every planet also features a terrain that relies on a non-convex mesh collider to prevent smaller physical objects (like the player) from falling through it. Likewise, your ship is a dynamic rigidbody that needs a non-convex collider so that the player can walk around inside the cabin while it's in-flight (fun fact: we have to apply a counter-force to the ship at its point of contact with the player, otherwise the player's weight would cause it to spin ever so slightly).
A quick google search revealed that the ability to marry non-convex mesh colliders with non-kinematic rigidbodies was discontinued by the physics engine itself. Unity 5 uses the latest version of Nvidia PhysX, which apparently no longer supports that feature (probably for performance reasons). In short, it's not something that's going to be fixed anytime soon.
That leaves us with a few options:
Then again, I suppose we wouldn't want it any other way.
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