Tell us about your background. How did NVYVE Studios get its start?
NVYVE Studios actually branched off from NVYVE (www.nvyve.com), where we did architectural and product visualization with Unity. A couple of years ago, a small team split off to form NVYVE Studios, where we’re now building P.A.M.E.L.A.. Our prior experience with Unity from the arch-viz work definitely made the process an easier transition, but every day is still a learning experience!
Define “Utopian Survival Horror” :)
Utopian survival horror can sound a bit contradictory, but we’ve found it’s a concise way of getting our concept across! Really, it’s more of a “post-utopian” world, as by the time the player enters the scene, all hell has broken loose, so to speak. However, the nature of the catastrophe that has befallen Eden (the city in which P.A.M.E.L.A. takes place) means that the world is still quite intact.
So as you’re surviving and exploring, you get to experience some very colorful and enticing environments which are different than what you’d experience in the typical horror game. This contrast between light and dark is a big part of the game’s atmosphere, and we believe it actually ends up creating a scarier experience as there’s this constant shift in tone between areas as you play.
What are your sources of inspiration, both on this project and in general?
It’s hard to identify all of our inspirations as we’ve had years of different games and movies making their mark on us. The inspirations that are perhaps the most obvious would include Mass Effect and Bioshock from a visual/environmental design perspective, and a combination of modern survival games such as DayZ, The Forest, et cetera, in terms of gameplay. Of course these are just a few; we are inspired in some way by just about everything we see and play, including real-world modern architecture.
How did you discover the Allegorithmic tools?
Years ago we saw a Substance demo for Unity, the “Airstream Demo” which had some pretty impressive effects at work. At the time, we took a look into Substance but didn’t have the time to seriously dig into it. Once we started production on P.A.M.E.L.A., however, Substance had matured quite a bit and we needed to establish some efficient workflows from the outset, so we looked back into it.
When and why did you decide to use Substance?
At the very beginning of production, so in August – September 2014.
At the time, I was the only artist on the team, so it was obvious to everyone that we had to find a way to maximize efficiency and turn out assets as quickly as possible. After researching and trying a number of different solutions for our texturing pipeline, it became clear that Substance was the way to go.
How did you use Substance to create particular assets or environments in P.A.M.E.L.A.? (Walk us through.)
Substance was used for all of the environments, characters and props in the game. One of my first tasks was to create a small but varied bunch of environmental textures that could be adapted and applied to Eden, our in-game world. These consisted mainly of real-world materials such as various plastics and metals, partly due to Eden’s futuristic aesthetic but also because the few complicated materials we needed (wood and tiles) we already had.
At a basic level, I created glossy and matte versions of the plastics and metals I wanted. It was easy to add some very subtle grime and scratches in Substance Designer and of course to make them tileable. In a matter of hours, we had a whole set of small, great-looking, highly adaptable textures to splash across almost every surface in the game. The basecolors of the materials could be changed in-game, which meant that a tiny amount of textures could have almost infinite uses in the environment. Even to this day, the majority of the environmental textures in Eden are made up of those half dozen or so materials!
Did Substance change your approach to texturing? If so, how?
Absolutely. Most props are created using a fairly traditional pipeline: model, bake, texture. But Substance has definitely altered each of these in its own way. I’ll go into greater detail on some of these below, but an immediate difference however is that so much work can be centralized to Substance and tracked much more easily. Everything from baking to cross channel texture creation, viewing the model in real-time and saving out and sharing the materials you like can be done inside Substance.
But it wasn’t just texturing either. Because you can paint directly into your normals, it cut out having to model, adding a lot of little doo-dads, using IMMs in ZBrush. This also meant that you could wait to see what certain materials look like on the final model before adding those details. So, you may initially model a lot of detail into an area but later decide that it would look super cool in-game if it was smooth and uncluttered so as to catch the light at certain angles – or the complete opposite. Substance gives you the freedom to decide these things at a more appropriate stage of design.
But specifically, for texturing alone, it generally made things much faster, easier and even more enjoyable. Painting across multiple channels and immediately seeing the results is not only more efficient but something that I still find satisfying after nearly two years of doing it. Being able to save and share created materials with other artists is also a huge deal both in terms of time saving and consistency.
Also, node-based workflows were probably new to all of us on the team at least for texturing, but Substance Designer (and definitely Wes McDermott’s great video tutorials) made it pretty easy to get to grips with. All environmental textures were created in Substance Designer as well as quite a number of props and this is something we simply would not have done had it not been for the powerful tools in Substance Designer and, most notably, the ability to save materials and apply them to whichever assets you want.
What was your greatest technical challenge in making this game?
Achieving uniformity of visuals and “feeling” across all aspects of the game is probably the biggest challenge. We’re building a pretty huge world with some fairly intricate mechanics, and making sure it all falls into place like it’s meant to is always a challenge. Constant communication between everyone on the team goes a long way to combat this, however!
What happened during the making of this game that you were not expecting?
A ton of people around the world became excited for what we were building! Seriously, from day one we’ve always been flattered and humbled by the amount of support and we’ve received from the community. It makes the hard times easier and the good times that much better to know there are people out there rooting for us.
Can we expect a cross-platform version? If so, when?
We’d like to bring P.A.M.E.L.A. to consoles, but first we’ll be working on Linux/Mac support following launch on Windows. Fingers crossed!