DevLog Watch: Submerged, Biome, Theme Parkitect, More

Where dreams come true.

What could be more in keeping with the theme of in-development indie games than this column being delayed? At least its release was only pushed back a week; I could have extended it for years and called my continued absence performance journalism. But no. There’s too many embryonic games to discover.

Drowned worlds! Drown-able worlds! Corporate spies! A game called “Theme Parkitect”!


Uppercut Games are a small studio making a big game, one set in a half-submerged city where players explore in a simple fishing boat and scale ruined buildings in search of supplies.

There’s not much more information than that at this stage, but the game’s inaugural devblog post outlines how they’re wringing as much detail out of Unreal Engine 4 as their three-person art team can manage.

We first created a master material that had 3 channels, one each for a base surface, a damaged surface and a moss covered surface. Each of these materials has its own physical properties like roughness, normal maps and colour. These materials are then combined into a single layered shader, with a set of masks to blend the materials together.

If you ever wondered how videogame environments were created for you, this is one of the most fundamental tools. I hope Uppercut continue to explain how they’re building their drowned world.


At this year’s Rezzed I had the chance to tickle Biome, a game in which players click to raise and lower a tiny slice of land. Mountains burst from the earth, oceans ebb and flow, and with each re-factoring of the landscape new environmental properties are discovered.

At the Biome blog, the game’s UK-based designer offers insight into the creation of the game: details of that trip to Rezzed, in-progress GIFs of new effects, advice for fellow indie developers, and the distinction between toys and games.

Whichever Biome is, it’s lovely to watch these pet worlds be enriched with detail. I could stare at these GIFs for hours; imagine how long I might spend if they were alive, manipulable, inhabited.

Hidden Asset

There are so many archetypes that I’m sick of, such as elves, zombies and sometimes robots. I never seem to get sick of spies, though. Hidden Asset is a stealth game with puzzle-like level design in which you take part in corporate espionage and sabotage.


It’s inspired by XCOM and Syndicate and from its screenshots at least, it’s already a considerable distance into development. That’s in part because the project began in 2010 – or its devlog did – and although it’s been dormant for the past year, its one-person developer says they’ve been working on it continuously ever since.

Since returning from silence at the start of the month, there’s been a flurry of activity, including posts detailing the new combat system, the new lighting system, procedural NPC generation and the reasons behind a recent name change (from Hostile Takeover). I am ready for some XCOM-style games which are not just literally re-creating XCOM, so here’s hoping the quick pace of progress continues.

Theme Parkitect

If the mainstream industry won’t build the game you want then by golly an indie developer will do it instead. If Citybound is an attempt to make the SimCity you’ve always wanted, then Theme Parkitect may turn into the modern Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon of your dreams.

The project only began back in April, but the TIGSource forum thread is already 17 pages long. Some of that is the game’s rapidly growing and adoring audience, begging for the ability to make rollercoasters crash at high speed, but there’s a lot of rapid development and detailed designer explanations, too. Here are the beginnings of the game’s real art:

And it’s not like all that begging didn’t produce results.

Why has it taken someone this long to start making this game? Follow its development before it becomes cool.

Mini Updates

In a fit of ambition, I had my character declare lordship over a village to a farmer in a cottage. I then graciously offered up my position as leader of the new entity to him, an honor which he accepted. Now unemployed, I asked to become one of his guards. He said I wasn’t worthy enough yet, which I thought was sort of ungrateful. Unfortunately, I think he might try to stage an actual site takeover at some point, or move his new entity into a ruin. I wonder if the game has become odd. Eventually people will have to develop more sense about their life goals.

  • Dwarf Fortress remains on track for its first update in years. You should be following along.
  • Cogmind is a sci-fi roguelike in which you control a robot. Development continues with examples of procedural world generation.
  • IndieCade is fast approaching, which means indie developers the world over have been crunching to get their games ready in time for the submission date. Good news for those of us following the likes of Curious Expedition.
  • Thanks to those who sent submissions in these past two weeks. Keep doing so, or I’ll think you don’t like me.


    1. Premium User Badge

      Lexx87 says:

      See now that’s just good timing Graham. Just about to have my lunch and look at all these lovely things to read.

      In other Graham news – I do like the Crate and Crowbar references you keep throwing up in the Sunday Papers in lieu of just linking to it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Graham Smith says:

        So tempting to make it a running joke that I link the podcast there every week. Self-promotion FTW.

    2. Premium User Badge

      Lexx87 says:

      The Theme Parkitect forum is worth a read, if only for the creepy placeholder public:

      link to

    3. BTAxis says:

      Ooh, a RCT clone. That’s exciting. Somehow I never got into RCT3, and the first two games aren’t very suited to modern day systems. There’s some other project going on that I forget the name of, but that’s more of a sandbox without a park/economy simulation element to it, so it’s not too interesting to me.

    4. RedViv says:

      I do find the colour palette of Theme Parkitect to be very, very lovely.

    5. Wisq says:

      I’m waiting for the “we finally hired someone who knows how to write fast code so we can stop all forts from eventually dying to lag” Dwarf Fortress update, but I’ll settle for the “we stopped adding new features and fixed the huge number of bugs with the existing ones” update if necessary.

      While I realise that optimisation and full-time bug-hunting is something one typically does near final release, it’s not particularly clear if/when DF will ever approach that state. Either way, it’s frustratingly slow and buggy now, and I doubt I’ll be returning until that’s less the case.

      • BTAxis says:

        Don’t get your hopes up. DF is the definition of feature creep, and I think that’s an integral part of what it is.

      • frightlever says:

        In other news, they appear to have integrated Stone Sense into the Dwarf Fortress UI.

        link to

        It crashed every time I tryed to fullscreen it and it’s obviously working with the current version but damn…

      • sinister agent says:

        Ayup. By the time that happens though (most likely after Toady dies and someone less obtuse releases the source code so that someone can spend another aeon fixing it), we’ll probably be playing it on Mars, and it’ll mostly be played for a day for nostalgia / historic curiosity value, and then we’ll go back to playing the far more playable games it inspired.

    6. Cinek says:

      Theme Parkitect… please, be it locked down to isometric perspective, please, please….

    7. Lemming says:

      I wonder if the Submerged devs were inspired by/aware of the first Valerian comic City of Shifting Waters?

      • frightlever says:

        It’s a fairly established trope. You may have heard of Atlantis.

    8. Sam says:

      Biome looks quite remarkably like a project I was working on a while ago. For some reason this inspired me write about how it failed:
      link to

      Sounds like it plays like a better thought out version of another project that I tinkered with for a while too. No depressing post for that one yet though.

    9. The Sombrero Kid says:

      Submerged & Biome look really cool.

    10. The Random One says:

      My favourite part of this column was when Hidden Asset was described as a puzzle game of espionage and it was followed by a gif of two dudes biffing each other.

      Parkitect just reminds me that I’ve had RCT3 sitting on this computer pretty much since I installed it and I never went past the sandbox… Maybe I should fire it up.

    11. Frank says:

      Ain’t nothing wrong with making an interactive toy; I have an expansive category/tag for them in my steam library. Also, I love that toy’s art style!