Essence Prototype: Preview and Developer Interview
Not all games come from Huge AAA developers, infact all developers no matter how big or small started from the grass roots with a first title. These may have been un-released projects or small sections of bigger titles.
With Kickstarter and other crowd funding sources now a real and growing opportunity for developers to show off their own projects and get funding to help deliver on the dreams they have. One such team is One Visions a small 2 man team from Germany that very kindly agreed to give me their prototype Essence that was successfully funded through Kickstarter and is in development for release soon.
What you see before you is the prototype and it is currently a PC title that may be given a Console release at a later date. The aim is to finish the PC release first along with a VR update that should work with both Oculus and Vive. The premise is to create an open-world puzzler that has a very strong Sci-fi theme with clear Alien and Stargate inspirations as you awake confused and lonely in this floating prison. Soon as you find your bearings you explore the world and interact with simple controls as the basic puzzles here guide you onwards and upwards. Unware of your surroundings or indeed reason gives the game a mystic of its own. Soon you move out of this floating chamber into the larger world or planet and meet your first NPC at this point like yourself origin unknown.Trusting him and his guides you explore the world, find glyphs and develop your skills into areal acrobatics, more puzzles and a much larger and even more imposing world unfolds before you.
The game is created with Unity and is a first person adventure and the teams first game and all the footage you see here is my time with that on my AMD 8350 and 7870 machine. With a startup menu allowing default resolutions and visual settings to enable it to run already at this early stage on a good selection of hardware. At full 1080 and top visual settings we get 60fps in these quieter sections with a some dips at points and as the world looms large ahead this is more towards the 30’s but the game is only a prototype and very, very early days for all things especially performance but it is of no great issues on this machine even at this very early stage.
What is clear is the game art design is very impressive with an almost Shadow of the Colossus vibe further into the game as volumentric light shafts and heavy bloom bleed over the medieval architecture that towers above. It is very impressive at times and helps evoke both the mystery and mood of your quest along with teasing you more as you progress further opening up the world and its intrigue beckons. This is something CK mentioned when I spoke to him with this game along with other like Zelda being a big influence on the game art direction and style.
Platform skills are used more as you get into the game and even though I have not encountered any battles the team are aiming for a game bigger that the Witness that has both NPC’s and larger areas to meet and visit. The level given from the team was aiming somewhere between that and the Witcher 3 which is a bold and impressive target for anyones game, but they sure look more than capable of delivering on that.
I had a chance to ask the team more questions about the game, engine and just what had inspired them to make this mysterious conundrum which you can read below. Along with that you can check out the games status on Kickstarter and One visions own site.
This early taste of what they want to deliver has won many over including myself as the successful backer has already shown. Now with funding behind them they are hard at work to complete the full game and have already signed up to the Microsoft Indie development plan to help them ease into the Console development cycle when the final game is complete. You can still back the game via the Kickstarter page or the site with the links above and if this preview entrigued you please check them out. As it stands the prototype shows great promise in both its vast expansive world and compelling setting that mixes exploration, platforming and puzzles well.
NXGamer:- With the game being an open exploration puzzler how large is the world you are creating, Like The Witness for example or The Witcher?
ONEVISION:- For now we are not 100% sure how big exactly the worlds will be. It will be somewhere in between both scales (The Witness / The Witcher). However we are working hard to make the worlds as big as possible and want to have an open world feeling to it.
NXGamer:- Do you have NPC's or allow co-op play with others in the game?
ONEVISION:- Yes there will be many npcs. There will be many spirits which are representing all the backers, who have pledged more than 50€ . Also there will be some enigmatic characters and you have to figure out what they are, what they want and how they are connected to the world and story. A co-op mode is not yet planed but it might come in the future.
NXGamer:- Unity is a good engine and very popular at the moment, what made you pick this over Unreal 4 for example?
ONEVISION:- The main reason is, that we already had a lot of experience with Unity from university and other Projects. Especially my parter Tim has started with unity years ago. Since we are far more specilalized in Unity and have our own plugins and tools. However It is also imaginable that we will make games with ue4 in the future, because essence will not be the last game with such unique graphics.
NXGamer:- With Pc and Mac in development have you thought about console and or looked into that as a possibility in the future?
ONEVISION:- Yes we have considered it, and currently console versions are in our stretch goals of our Kickstarter.
NXGamer:- If so have you had any experience with either machine (PS4, XboxOne) and any thoughts or insights from a PC port stance and possible difficulties?
We are both console players, but from a developer perspetive we are new to that. We know the development process for consoles is easier than ever and Unity will help us a lot with bringing Essence to Xbox One and PS 4. So we are exited to try it.
NXGamer:- Do you have much more work on the games design and assets still for creation?
ONEVISION:- All aspects of the game are still in a early state, we will increase the overall quality and mechanics alot in the finished product, since we have just a prototype.
NXGamer:- One comment is the fact the cross-hair moves around the screen it can make movement disorientating and even a little nauseas at times. Locking this into a small central area would help? Do you have any other areas of concern,alterations?.
ONEVISION:- This and much more will be fixed in the upcoming development, since we have gotten much feedback from our community. To fix the crosshair is actually very high on our todo list.
NXGamer:- What inspired you to create a vast open-world puzzler?
ONEVISION:- It's more a exploration game with puzzles, but our inspiration for the genre came from great games, like Journey, the Talos Principle, the Zelda and Metroid series. We think there are not enough of these games, and we want to make a game that combines all this.
NXGamer:- From my play I feel a Stargate and Alien vibe from the prototype, what artistic influences did you take and what is your aim.
ONEVISION:- Yes, especially I (Ck) am a fan of the alien series and their art. We have many inspirations from our past that we are now bringing in Essence. Inspirations for the art are also Journey, Zelda, Metroid, Naissancee and Shadow of the Colossus and many more.
NXGamer:- How have you found Unity for development and are you looking at any DX12 or Vulkan support at launch or later?
ONEVISION:- For now Unity is very good and we are building up a efficient workflow. Of course we are very exited for dx12 and we will work with it once Unity releases their support. So we are sure Essence will launch with dx12. We see a lot of potential in to push the grafical limits. Also we are watching the new Vulkan support. Depending on how it will work in the public, we are considering to work with it in the future.
NXGamer:- Are you using Image lighting (IBL) and or GI probes in your game or other approaches for lighting?
ONEVISION:- We are using all what Unity can give us, classic and dynamic lightsystems, and of course GI (Global Illumination), and we are very open to try new things when something is new for Unity.
NXGamer:- Aside funding what has been your biggest challenge to get your game at this stage and how big is the team?
ONEVISION:- The first challenge was building up and fixing the prototype for public use. We are currently a team of 2 people and are also supported by an extern componist (Composer). As we are working with no budget we do also struggle a bit to raise awareness about our game Essence and to grow our community.
NXGamer:- Many thanks for your time and your prototype. I wish you all the best with the project and look forward to covering it again soon.