The year is approaching its end, and as promised, there’s one more update coming. It will be the one previously referred to as “Content 2”, rounding off the content development we’ve been busy with throughout the year. Where “Content 1” AKA Rusted Remnants was about shipwrecks, and the big campaign update, New Frontiers, had to do with stations, this one is largely about the natural wonders of Europa.
Interact with the world
While the environment’s role as the visual backdrop of the game is hugely important in itself, the world around your submarine can and should be so much more than that. Before delving into what kinds of visual changes are being made, here are some new ways in which the environment is going to affect gameplay in the future.
Caves are a highly wishlisted addition that we’ve been just as enthusiastic to add, and here they come! For now, they’re like alien ruins or wrecks in that they’re found in all maps and require you to leave the safety of your sub, and you can select a mission to go clear one out. Unlike ruins and wrecks, though, they come with a bit more variety: different environments have different-looking caves, naturally. With later updates, we also plan to flesh out the cave concept some more and give them even more variety. Let us know how they play!
Another important improvement is environmental obstacles and rewards. The obstacles you may encounter are now more varied and the rewards are better distributed, in that minerals now tend to spawn in clusters rather than being scattered all over the place (and naturally, you may stumble on some nice mineral deposits in caves). As for the obstacles, look forward to certain ice chunks becoming destructible, ice spires that may block your path and seriously damage your sub, and a whole new kind of environmental hazard called Piezo Crystals that is specific to one particular area. Explore to find out which one!
Finally, we’ve worked to improve level generation in multiple ways: there’s going to be a lot more variation in the shapes and layouts of maps, and there are going to be branching paths instead of just one main path running through a level, so actually navigating to get to your objective should become more interesting. As a side note, we’ve also made some changes that should help with the target creature of a mission escaping “outside” the map that many players have encountered at some point.
Change of scenery
Image: Europa cross section, straight from the design doc.
Then, let’s take a look outside the window. Biomes, that’s to say, distinct zones with their own typical visuals and environmental features, continue to be the foundation on which the Barotrauma environment is built – to make our sandbox interesting even as you progress through it, it can’t be all Cold Caverns from start to finish. While we’ve not made changes to the number of biomes present in the game, they’ve finally been better defined and properly dressed up. They’re also not only visually different: each biome will feature different enemies and environmental hazards (and this gameplay differentiation of biomes is something we’ll also keep working on). Let’s take a quick look at each biome.
The Cold Caverns are, as always, the zone where your journey starts. This biome is right under the ice crust, starting at a depth of approximately 1000–2000 meters. It’s as close to the sun as you’re going to get, which is to say, not very; our designers describe the zone as “a very dim and shadowy, crystalline world of ice”. However, it’s still close enough to the surface, with all its ice and radiation, that not much grows here, and as such, the biome is pretty barren in terms of wildlife.
The rocky but comparatively lush Europan Ridge is as temperate as anything on Europa, situated a little deeper than the Cold Caverns but still largely above crush depth. The Ridge is a melting pot zone at the crossroads of the ice above and the volcanic activity below, making it biologically more diverse than most other places. It makes up the western slope that leads to the Eye of Europa gravitational anomaly site, and the after effects of the impact that created the Eye in the first place can still be seen here, or so our scientists assume, anyway.
The Aphotic Plateau sits on the precipice of the Eye of Europa impact crater and marks the end of the temperate western zone. It also signals the approach of the kind of depths that will crush most submarines without specially reinforced hulls. Some unknown influence or biological process has turned this area into a mushroom garden, with consistently warm water rushing across the region in powerful currents. The relative warmth and availability of food make this area home to a wider range of fauna as well as flora.
The Great Sea, formerly known as the Great Void, is where the Europan environment really starts coming to its own, hostile class. As the name suggests, this area is a vast open space, dotted with islands, various other obstacles and all manner of sea creatures, making navigation a perilous task. The Great Sea is found inside an ancient impact crater and can only be traversed by submarines specifically outfitted for deep diving missions.
The Hydrothermal Wastes, the last biome that you’ll see, occupy the bottom of the crater and provide some infernal, fiery vistas suitable for the end of the road, along with rough seas: expect volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, unpredictable heavy currents, and lots of sonar flora that interfere with your navigation equipment. Only the most monstrous of Europan wildlife can survive in this environment, and if you can survive them, you’ll be getting close to the Eye of Europa.
That’s… not all!
Besides the environment overhaul, the update will introduce new missions, a couple of new enemies, and a bunch of fixes and improvements as always. We’ll write more about those a little closer to releasing the update… and the update is expected to be released in the first half of December. Until then!