Subnautica: Below Zero feedback

zeuskabobzeuskabob Join Date: 2019-02-11 Member: 250805Members Posts: 3 Fully active user
Hi guys, I just played through Subnautica: Below Zero. I really enjoyed the first game, and played through nearly to the end, while building some bases and enjoying the atmosphere. I really think Subnautica: Below Zero has a better potential for excellent gameplay and story than Subnautica had, but would like to give some advice about the things that matter most to me in that regard, as well as some suggestions for less important but still great features. Spoilers, obviously.


First and foremost is the issue of pop-in. Texture pop-in is very noticeable, but worse than that is environment and creature pop-in. The most egregious examples are the Rock Breakers and the Glow Whales, where the rock breaker crabs will spawn in above the ground, floating slowly to the bottom in a very conspicuous way. Glow whales pop in in full pods, all swimming in the same direction, and it completely breaks immersion. Extending the pop-in cutoff, improving pop-in spawn behavior, and reducing visibility at long distances would help with the issue.

Second, the issue of clipping. Player clipping is limited to feet clipping below ground textures but creatures, especially leviathans, have had clipping issues for a long time. The Sea Emperor has a big problem with clipping through walls, and in addition his sharp turns look unnatural when he runs into a wall. I don't know how to fix the issue, but my dream would be for leviathans to interact with walls intelligently, for example the Sea Emperor, when it gets too close to a wall, could turn its body and grip the wall with its tentacles to turn and push off. This tech would likely require some hybrid animations, which I'm not sure are implemented yet and therefore would be a low priority.

Third, the narrative. The game comes off very strong at the beginning with a negative view of megacorps, but it's not couched in realism. Alterra's dominance in Subnautica was limited to small views of their galactic superiority, but in this game we get a close up look, and it doesn't show properly. The most striking example of this (to me) is the poster in the arctic base. It boils down to "we own everything you find, and technology is good, culture bad". It doesn't really relate to our current or historical experience of corporations, and I think it could be well altered to something like "Alterra needs results! Your pay is based on your findings. Remember that you're a researcher, not a tourist". This poster would make more sense to me, because it is closer to the gray area, and I could actually believe an imaginary megacorp believing it's a reasonable sign to post in their base. Adding some very positive examples from Alterra would be great as well. They're putting out propaganda for their many employees/indentured servants, so making some really good looking, emotionally affirming posters would be great, and would further drive dissonance between Alterra's image and Robin's distrust of it may drive the player to question if she and her sister are simply paranoid, and whether trusting the alien AI is truly a smart idea or one that could lead to a lot of danger for Robin and Sam. This kind of uncertainty really plays into the Subnautica feel from the first game, where you're always led to wonder whether it's smart to take your seamoth deeper into the grand reef or if you should stick to safer, well explored waters.


Less importantly than these three, I have a couple of suggestions. First, I'd love if weather were made up of dynamic weather systems. For example, if you could sit on top of an ice sheet and watch as a rain cloud rolls over the map from a distance. This would occlude some map features, and if the weather is sufficiently chaotic it could really give the map a larger, more intense look. This could also give the player a chance to see a blizzard coming, instead of getting no more than a few seconds' notice. I love the idea of dynamic weather, and think it could help with immersion.

In my original Subnautica playthrough, I completely ignored the option of building a second main base, and opted instead to build a tiny outpost with nothing but water and medkit production. The main reason for that was that I didn't want to have to move all of my many materials over from my main base, and so left them in the shallows. A cargo system would be very nice, made up of a cargo hold base module (a bunch of boxes with some robotic arms to carry them) and a cargo loading bay for the Cyclops. This would allow you to store a lot of materials easily, and easily cart them from one base to another if you want to. Possible extension could include cargo bots, which would carry materials but could be damaged by aggressive creatures. This would mark a beacon, which would lead you to the bot and its loot, but could lead you straight to a leviathan-class creature with the bot in its belly.

Above-ground bases need some love I think. I don't know if I just found the wrong place for it, but I wasn't able to place modules above-ground without placing a foundation, and the foundation was a good 5 feet above the surface. This clearly doesn't work well for base building, so I'd like it if the foundation could be placed underground. Bonus points if above-ground bases and sections of underwater bases that breach the surface get covered by snow during a blizzard.

Weapons and combat are in dire need of something, but I'm not sure exactly what. The technique of using the prawn suit to grapple and drill a leviathan class creature is so utterly absurd that it breaks me from the game completely. Essentially leviathans are placed as creatures whose only interaction with you is to eat you. The Stasis Rifle is an interesting concept, but doesn't feel right. If weapon effects were improved, and new weapons were added, then it could be nice to use the weapons to chase away enemies, up to leviathan class. In my mind, most weapons should be reserved for the Cyclops or PRAWN suit, since this would add to the claustrophobia of using that equipment. Bonus points for dynamic damage effects on creatures in the vein of Left 4 Dead 2.


Thanks for reading! Please let me know what kind of feedback you have on these points. Would you also like to see these things added to the game?
Klinn

Comments

  • JimboJamboJimboJambo Join Date: 2018-01-25 Member: 235708Members Posts: 21 Advanced user
    edited February 13
    zeuskabob wrote: »
    Second, the issue of clipping. (...) I don't know how to fix the issue, but my dream would be for leviathans to interact with walls intelligently, for example the Sea Emperor, when it gets too close to a wall, could turn its body and grip the wall with its tentacles to turn and push off. This tech would likely require some hybrid animations, which I'm not sure are implemented yet and therefore would be a low priority.
    There are procedural animation systems that allow animation bones to interact with the world. Overgrowth is a game that's best known for that, but there are other games that use them too, and you can find plenty of indie YouTube videos with testing walking animations on various surfaces. I bet Subnautica could use something like this as a first step, just to reduce the amount of obvious clipping, but this alone won't do everything you; large fish will still swim into walls and just sort of crunch up until they decide to turn around, but at least it will look like their body is solid and is interacting with the wall.

    I'm learning animation, but I have yet to actually use these systems myself, so I can't tell the devs how easy it should be for them to implement, but I bet it is possible.

    Anyway, I agree that it's probably a low priority, but maybe not so low as you might think. Subnautica is all about immersion, and I wouldn't mind seeing more realistic animal behaviors take priority over some small new gameplay feature.

    Third, the narrative. The game comes off very strong at the beginning with a negative view of megacorps (...)
    Maybe it's just me, but I didn't really get that impression. It makes fun of them, but in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, I thought. Nothing wrong with your suggestion, though.

    Less importantly than these three, I have a couple of suggestions. First, I'd love if weather were made up of dynamic weather systems. For example, if you could sit on top of an ice sheet and watch as a rain cloud rolls over the map from a distance. This would occlude some map features, and if the weather is sufficiently chaotic it could really give the map a larger, more intense look. This could also give the player a chance to see a blizzard coming, instead of getting no more than a few seconds' notice. I love the idea of dynamic weather, and think it could help with immersion.
    Agreed, and I bet you can cheat to make it less expensive. Rather than having the game track where on the map the foul weather is, weather could be map-wide like it is now, but the onset of a snowstorm could be delayed following a purely aesthetic animation of clouds rolling in from the distance. Once the clouds reach the player's position (or cover the entire playable area), the snow can be triggered.

    In my original Subnautica playthrough, I completely ignored the option of building a second main base (...) The main reason for that was that I didn't want to have to move all of my many materials over from my main base, and so left them in the shallows. A cargo system would be very nice, made up of a cargo hold base module (a bunch of boxes with some robotic arms to carry them) and a cargo loading bay for the Cyclops. (...)
    I think the planned "sea truck" will be able to do some of this.

    Above-ground bases need some love I think. I don't know if I just found the wrong place for it, but I wasn't able to place modules above-ground without placing a foundation, and the foundation was a good 5 feet above the surface. This clearly doesn't work well for base building, so I'd like it if the foundation could be placed underground.
    Yes. But more importantly, a way to control the placement distance and rotation of an object before placing it.

    Weapons and combat are in dire need of something, but I'm not sure exactly what.
    I doubt you'll get anywhere with this suggestion. The devs have made it clear that they do not want Subnautica to be combat-focused, going so far as to reject the idea of being able to have any interactions with a dead creature's body because that might encourage people to kill them.

    Personally, I'm with them on this one. I could see some sort of electro-stun grenade or an entangling net, maybe, but I don't think combat needs to be expanded upon in any significant way.
    Klinn
  • zeuskabobzeuskabob Join Date: 2019-02-11 Member: 250805Members Posts: 3 Fully active user
    My point on procedural animation is that they don't have them implemented yet, so the implementation costs are high. Context-sensitive hybrid animations with AI to match it is a huge process, and you'll see even AAA games eschew them because of the high cost of implementation. I don't know truly how much it costs, but a quick and dirty solution prior to this animation system is a high priority for me.

    Good to hear about the Sea Truck.

    Sad to hear about the weapon situation. In a game where you're at odds with the environment, need food to survive, and are already taking and eating fish, it seems silly not to at least give you the capability to take home prey slightly larger than what you can hold. I'm not looking for combat-focused (since actual combat with leviathans is basically suicide), and I'm not looking for combat being a better option than avoidance, but I think that the current gameplay (e.g. Ghost Leviathans in the Lost River biome) isn't very interactive, and once you experience the initial fear it has very little to offer gameplay-wise.
  • KlinnKlinn Lost in a cave Join Date: 2016-03-09 Member: 214022Members Posts: 228 Advanced user
    Good points Zeuskabob and JimboJambo.

    About combat, leaving aside any philosophical type discussions about its place in video games, I just like the idea that a developer is trying something other than the same old "give the player bigger guns" trope. Forces you to think about how to accomplish goals a little differently. I need to focus on avoidance / defense.

    Anyway, your suggestions about improving how the player perceives Alterra are very good. In that vein, I feel there's an issue with the Sam and Maxim characters.

    First, Maxim. It seems that Alterra is a very large organization spanning vast reaches of space. So it seems odd that the CEO himself is getting involved in one particular project. Perhaps later in the story it becomes evident why he's directly involved, looking over Sam's shoulder, but at the beginning it seems like the sort of thing that a huge conglomerate would assign to an executive rather than the CEO himself.

    Secondly, the voice acting for Maxim doesn't ring true to me. There's no powerful, understated menace in the character. He just shouts. And shouts some more.

    Lastly, Sam. Her aspiring to a VP position also sounds too far up the organizational ladder. Remember, this is huge organization we're talking about and VP positions would be pretty scarce. Why not have her hoping to land an "Executive Director" position or something similar. Sufficiently high status that you could understand her desire to advance, but not so unrealistically near the very tip of the pyramid.

    BTW, I do like the voice work for Robin. It's critical that the player sympathizes with the character since she's "us" and so far it's very well done.
  • CaptainFearlessCaptainFearless CO, US Join Date: 2016-12-14 Member: 224941Members Posts: 357 Advanced user
    I would like to just take the time and say how we all wanted weather in the base game, and in Below Zero, we got just that and more! It's incredible with the snowstorms, the electrical storms and how it shook the intro sequence, it's incredible! I love how it sounds from underwater and can't wait until they make it so you can see it from underwater as well, instead of a clear sky with random noises. Thank you devs!
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  • AltaziAltazi Join Date: 2019-01-16 Member: 248807Members Posts: 32 Advanced user
    I try to play these games as if I were in the environment, doing things the way I would normally do them. I follow a 'leave me alone and I will leave you alone' philosophy - but when fauna goes out of its way to attack and ruin my day, I feel obligated to return the favor - and end the threat permanently.

    With the stasis rifle and the heated knife, you can take out leviathans. Granted, it takes serious commitment and effort on your part, along with perseverance. I have also used the PRAWN suit with the drill arm and normal grabber arm; the leviathan does ~20% damage and leaves temporarily, and I pop out and repair the damage. Repeat this about five or six times and you have a dead leviathan. But as I have said elsewhere, the leviathans that I have killed seemed to stay killed.
  • WarvisWarvis Join Date: 2017-01-14 Member: 226701Members Posts: 28 Advanced user
    My initial impression is, that Below Zero will provide the same great early-access experience as Subnautica did, minus the fear that it may end up in alpha-hell like some other EA titles I had during Subnautica development.

    Yes, I may be unstable or laggy, but I have to say that compared to other EA games (again) beside little fixable glitches I have not experienced any showstoppers or savegamewreckers so far, and occasional hiccups in an unoptimized development build shouldn't be overly surprising...

    Intro walksim seems to be a bit dragged out right now - much walk'n'talk, but it's quickly forgotten once you begin exploring the sea. Maybe there's mor interactivity planned for later, or it might turn into an initial speedrun on replay ;)
    I'm not sure what to think about Al-An. I guess as long as he isn't constantly babbling later on, we should get along.

    Weapons
    zeuskabob wrote: »
    Weapons and combat are in dire need of something, but I'm not sure exactly what. The technique of using the prawn suit to grapple and drill a leviathan class creature is so utterly absurd that it breaks me from the game completely. Essentially leviathans are placed as creatures whose only interaction with you is to eat you. The Stasis Rifle is an interesting concept, but doesn't feel right. If weapon effects were improved, and new weapons were added, then it could be nice to use the weapons to chase away enemies, up to leviathan class. In my mind, most weapons should be reserved for the Cyclops or PRAWN suit, since this would add to the claustrophobia of using that equipment. Bonus points for dynamic damage effects on creatures in the vein of Left 4 Dead 2.

    I have a history in FPS gaming, and so I as well came to the point where was wishing for a BFG, but the lesson here is: There are no weapons in Subnautica, and you're using tools as weapons just out of shooter-habit ;)
    In the end I found that it was the right decision to restrict weponry, because it seemed easy enough to avoid or bypass most dangerous creatures (or scare them with tools), but still have the sense of danger without the safety of being able to blast the thing out of the water with my railgun.
    Altazi wrote: »
    But as I have said elsewhere, the leviathans that I have killed seemed to stay killed.
    I wonder if a ghost-leviathan beefsteak remains transparent when cooked.

  • JAZZYFORSUBNAUTICAJAZZYFORSUBNAUTICA Join Date: 2018-05-01 Member: 240453Members Posts: 48 Advanced user
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