Friday, 19 December 2014

SOMA enters pre-beta

Another major milestone is reached: SOMA is now in pre-Beta!

So what exactly does that mean? First of, it isn't the same as Alpha. SOMA was in Alpha mid-March this year, and since then we've made loads of additions, changes and fixes based on feedback and our own evaluation of the game's state. The pre-pre-Beta that happened a few weeks back was our final big test of that work. The game's current state, pre-Beta, is a milestone in preparation for the proper Beta, basically the full game without the final polish, which will happen a few months into next year. The pre-Beta marks final our chance for us to evaluate a number of crucial elements in the game.

First, we need to check if any dialog is missing or needs to be tweaked. We'll be doing our final recording a few weeks into next year, so it's important that everything's ready by then. In SOMA the voice-overs are a lot more significant compared to our previous titles. In Amnesia most of the voice-overs were background stories that had little relevance to the gameplay. In SOMA most of the voice-overs are directly connected to what the player is currently doing. This means that any changes we make to gameplay might require changes to voice-over and vice-versa. There's also a much greater need to make sure the two match up. For instance, we need to make sure that when a character describes a piece of scenery, it's accurate to what is actually in the game. We're also making a lot of tweaks to ensure that tone stays consistent and that exposition never gets too overwhelming.

The amount of voice required for SOMA is staggering. The games use more voice-overs than all of our previous games put together. The combined recording sessions total up to almost a month. Most of this is active content spoken by characters you encounter on your journey through the game.

The other big task is to check the final implementations of changes made after the pre-pre-Beta. After we went into pre-pre-Beta a few weeks back, the team met up for a few days of in-depth discussions. During this gathering we played through the entire game and made sure that everybody was in synch with what kind of game we were making. Over the years there have been lots of changes, and we needed to make sure that everyone grasped the sort of atmosphere, narrative and gameplay each part of the final game was supposed to have. We also decided on any last major changes to make and nailed down the feel we should be striving for in each part of the game . For example, we had long discussions on how the ending should play out and what sort of emotional pay-off we were going for.

Now that we're in pre-Beta all of these changes are in and tested. This means the game's final form is basically set. From now on we are not allowed to do any major changes and if something turns out not to work, we need to use smaller tweaks to fix it or just skip it entirely. This is a scary phase to enter, but also crucial. There are so many disciplines that are interconnected when making a narrative-heavy game; the underlying systems, the writing, the sound, the art and the overall gameplay flow all have very strong ties. In order to allow us to focus on polish and making sure what we've got works properly, there needs to come a time when the game's structure get locked down.

It is important to compare this lock-down to our previous games. In Amnesia and Penumbra, a level was considered locked pretty much done straight after the first implementation. But in SOMA we have had entire levels torn them down and rebuilt several times over. Partly due to the higher standard of polish we are after, and partly due to the game just being harder to make. From the get-go SOMA has been about immersing the player in certain thematics that takes place inside an active narrative. Figuring out how to do this properly turned out to be a herculean task, far harder than we first thought.

Next week, most of the team will go on Christmas leave, and then get back at the start of the next year for the final push. We are now closing in on a development period of five years and everybody is excited that the end is finally in sight. It is easily the most complex and difficult project we have ever undertaken and being able to release it next year, at a level of quality we are proud of, feels extremely satisfying.

Before we leave for vacation here is a little treat for you all: a brand new screenshot!

(Click to enlarge!)


25 comments:

  1. Congrats ! I can't wait to play this. As an amateur of horror, I enjoyed Amnesia immensely. But I am sure SOMA will be something else.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Waiting for the system requirements to be announced and looking forward to SOMA!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Whose dick i gotta suck to get key?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mine. And you will only get the key to my house.

      Delete
  4. Will SOMA require DX11? I'm curious because my aging video card only supports DX10, but I still want to play this. Or are you guys still using OpenGL like with Amnesia?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DX10 will be enough! We have at least one known feature though (terrain tessellation) that will be DX11 only, but that is just some minor fluff :)

      Delete
    2. You will support Linux, right? I already bought all your previous games (even though I'm too scared to play them). How will you implement it?

      Delete
  5. Are you sharing beta-keys for loyal fans? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I can understand wanting to get to the game as soon as possible, the hard truth is that you will get the best experience from playing the final version. Beta will contain bugs, be missing sound, have some unpolished graphics and miss all final general gameplay polish. And as all our games, the first playthrough will be the most interesting one, so you wanna make sure you use the best version for that.

      Delete
  6. This game will be definitely the BEST of 2015!
    I'm sure it will even beat mammoth-projects like The Witcher 3.

    Frictional Games are the best developer and artists nowadays. I wish the world would have more of them! They always know to make high-qualitative games with a special meaning and not just about fun. I like the perfect design!!!
    You will stay in my memories for all time as a prime example and I wish you will keep on that good work for a very long future.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Is there any hope for an Xbox One release?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. We will look into it, but afraid it is gonna be after PS4 and PC release.

      Delete
    2. I can see why you would go for the PS4, its selling ridiculously huge amounts. However the Xbox One is catching up now. don't make the mistake Ubisoft made with the Wii U edition of Sleeping Dogs, by putting it out much later and at a higher price point, only to be ignored lol.

      Delete
  8. I guess S.O.M.A uses OpenGL 3.3 on PC ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am surprised that Thomas said DirectX 10 or 11.
      Or does OpenGL also use terrain tesselation?
      Amnesia was only OpenGL 2.1 if I remember right.

      Delete
    2. You never really use an OpenGL version as you sorta just use the extensions you want it. Easier to just go by what sorta D3D version you are targeting.

      We actually thought about doing a proper D3D port, as it gives you slightly less driver issues, but it was too much work, and time better spent on PS4 support. Gonna make damn sure we ship with as few issues as possible. Probably gonan make a public demo (as we did with Amnesia) to ensure this and work out any kinks in good time before release.

      Delete
  9. Hmmm, why do i have a feeling that this base, dedicated to researching anomalous/alien artifacts or phenomena, might be linked to a particular organization which did just the same (albeit in a somewhat dryer and colder locale).

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sounds like a real doozy :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I need to play this game... pleaseeeeeeeeeeee

    ReplyDelete
  12. Will there be anymore live action videos? The first two really got me pumped. Really set the mood without revealing too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seconded. Please make a web series out of that.

      Delete
  13. Ah, so the bassoons are firmly in place I presume.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Will the game be available in boxed edition, or just digital download?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh I would really like to get one or two physical copies of SOMA. Games like this are a must-have in a box. But please release it later when all updates and patches are already included. I also want to have an european retail release of both Amnesia. That would be great!

    ReplyDelete

SiteMeter