Patrick Soderlund left an extremely well-paid position (opens in new tab) as chief design officer at EA last year, and now we know what he's been up to since then. He's been busy putting together the team (Embark Studios) for a sci-fi, free-to-play, co-op survival game. He made the announcement today (opens in new tab), showing off Embark's work with this preview of its terrain-creating chops, embedded above.
Those are just a few picturesque, dynamic-lighting-and-weather-modelled scenes from what Soderlund says is 256 square kilometers of virtual land. The extra-impressive part is that it was all put together by a team of three people over three weeks, using a combination of scanned-in real-world data, procedural tools for placing objects (so somebody didn't have to manually drag-and-drop each bush), and some other tools loaded onto Unreal Engine.
Given its engine choice and the way the wind has been blowing (opens in new tab) for other PC games (opens in new tab), I wouldn't be surprised if Embark's project turns out to be another high-profile platform exclusive for the Epic Games Store. I hope we won't have to wait too long to find out more details because I'm digging the vibe of this concept art.
The explorers in their primary-colored suits, all looking out at mysterious sights that lie on just this side of the horizon, give me some grounded No Man's Sky vibes. And you just can't go wrong with a classic bomber jacket over a sleek environment suit.
Soderlund says this initial game concept is the first step in a broader idea that will empower more people to "create and share meaningful interactive experiences". We've heard this kind of big talk from a number of well-funded new ventures that went dark and never came back, too. Thankfully Embark is starting with more modest goals.
"And for a small studio like ours, the right way to tackle this won’t be to hide away for years, trying to develop something big and complex that may or may not succeed," Soderlund says. "Instead, we’re focused on getting something out there quite fast that we can build upon - a really fun game that, if popular, can expand with design and functionality that take us closer to our long-term vision."
Maybe it won't be too long until we can count Embark's untitled project as one of the biggest new games of 2019 (opens in new tab) and beyond.