Subnautica devs want to add Arctic biome after release

*singing* Wouldn't it be ice if this was frosty / then we wouldn't have to live so looong

Subnautica, the underwater survival game about being a space castaway, is crawling out of its early access shell and into a shinier full release shell tomorrow. It’s been in development for four years and it is “pretty close to done”, says Charlie Cleveland, director of Unknown Worlds Entertainment. But there are plans for post-release additions, including the possibility of an icy biome with new creatures and frosty hazards. These plans aren’t final, said Cleveland in an interview with us, but he also says they are “80-90 percent sure” they’re going to make a paid expansion of some kind or another. Read on for more details and essential context that I, a dastardly journalist, cannot communicate in an intro.

First of all, the focus for the team is still on the release version, he says. When asked if the team was going to add new biomes or creatures post-release, or if they were eager to move on to  something new, Cleveland said “a bit of both”.

“We’re going to see how 1.0 does,” he says. “Subnautica is a very expensive game. People think we’re super indie and I guess we kinda are but it’s, like, probably a nine million dollar game to make. If we just have the team making new biomes and stuff, and we’re spending millions of dollars to do it, we really have to make sure it pays off. So we’re going to be watching release closely.

“We’re about 80-90 percent sure we’re going to make a paid expansion. I don’t know how many we want to do but there’s one in particular we want to do that I think would fit really well with the game. So we’re planning on doing that.

“I know we’re going to do maintenance patches and stuff like that to the main game, and we’re probably going to add some small things but this is not like a ‘game as a service’ where we just keep adding to it, it’s a singleplayer game and it’s pretty close to done.”

But what exactly would the new stuff be?

“New biomes,” he says, “and fill[ing] out the story in different ways. We were talking about doing an ice world, like an Arctic area. I don’t know if we should talk about that now because we want people to just focus on release but we definitely could chat about that more when we have stuff to show. But yeah, we’re excited about that.”

A frozen biome is an idea that the developers have previously explored in their roadmap Trello (the studio’s noticeboard that anyone can go and examine). They’ve even compiled a list of ideas for creatures, equipment and some sub-zero phenomenon they’d like to see, including a swordfish, an algae bomb and salty ‘brinicles’ (as seen in BBC’s Frozen Planet). I am particularly frightened of the description of the “Atramentous Expanse”.

Atramentous Expanse – This section is dark as ink, below several meters of solid ice, blocking out all light in some areas. It lacks bioluminescence due to the freezing temperatures, and is host to maze like ice cavern systems, and biofilms which are both deadly and attracted to light sources. Due to limited visibility, underwater UAV systems are used in order to monitor and report incoming danger.

There’s a lot of neat ideas in that Google Doc but, again, it is just a Google Doc for now. We haven’t seen any of it implemented in-game, and there’s no guarantee it will appear. But let’s hope.

Cleveland also discussed mods and the possibility of multiplayer, both of which are more or less a “no”. Where modding is concerned, he’s worried supporting this would be a lot of work without much reward.

“We made the game we wanted to make with Subnautica, so it’s less exciting for us to spend a bunch of effort to have the community undo it or to make splintered versions… I love mods, but I don’t see the point.”

He does mention a somewhat janky co-op mod somebody made after decompiling the game (“I don’t know how the heck they’re doing it”) but says that although there may be tentative steps within the studio to see if it is feasible, official multiplayer is “probably not going to happen”. So don’t get your hopes up.

We’ll post the full interview with the director later in the week, in which we talk more about the horror and tranquillity of the open ocean. We’ll also have a review of the final game tomorrow. So keep your peepers open for those.


  1. ToozdaysChild says:

    It’s a damn shame official co-op is pretty much a no-go. This is exactly the sort of game I’d like to play with a buddy or two. Mainly because the deep sea is fucking terrifying.

    • TimePointFive says:

      I think these games shine in mp because of the different types of play behaviour. I have no interest in designing/building an underwater base. I just want to explore and upgrade my gear. My good friend I play with is all about building and optimizing, though. Ah well.

  2. Neurotic says:

    I think it’s the right thing to do, keeping it SP. At least, it’s not the kind of game you want to be rushing through, or dicking about in ‘bc lolz’. I like to think of it as an underwater Morrowind. :D

  3. Sargonite says:

    I’m glad they’re keeping it singleplayer – there are so many MP games in this general space already and so few singleplayer-oriented ones. I’d rather the design remain focused around that solo experience.

    • Maniak6632 says:

      I think you glad about that it is SP beacouse you never play co-op or multi :).

  4. SaintAn says:

    His response to modding makes him sound like an asshole. If I didn’t already own this game I’d boycott/pirate it because of that. The game has no replayability, and they refuse to add a randomly generated world mode, so modding would be the only way to give this game life after it has been beat and the player knows where everything is.

    • Megatron says:

      That’s kind of an immature response, dude. Just because you don’t agree with his opinion doesn’t mean you have to react like he just stole your favourite toy. He doesn’t see the point of modding? Ehh, whatever. We can still appreciate what he and his team have made, which is one of the most remarkable, memorable and downright enjoyable gaming experiences of the last few years.

    • Pendragon says:

      Your comment makes you look like an asshole.

      See how stupid that is ?

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      Might help to know a little history here.

      Unknown Worlds has one other (major) game under their belts, Natural Selection 2. That game is a sequel to the total conversion mod for Half Life 1, and NS2 has an absolutely bonkers amount of mod support- everything was written in lua, and the whole game was built from the ground up to support mods.

      So it’s not like Unknown Worlds just hates mods and doesn’t like them and stole your lunch money. Instead, they’ve learned from what happened with NS2, specifically that 1) It’s an absolute ton of work to really have proper mod support, it’s not an easy thing to just drop in, and 2) it does tend to create a lot of branching splinters of the community, which was a real problem in NS2. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a fractured community, it’s certainly a valid stance to say, “This game is the game we wanted to make, and if you want to mod it, figure it out yourself.”

      • Wolvie501 says:

        I respond to this because of one sole reason only:

        Unity3D natively supports alot mods…

        Just like they do naitvely support listen servers (Peer to peer) servers.

        This game has no replayability after first playthrough (Sorry, it just does NOT have it.)

        Its why games like Skyrim are so famous, because of the ability to use a ton of mods.

        Same like Outlast, no replayability too. You done 1 playthrough you have done it all.

        After you enter the LR its all so damn linear!

    • Rilazy says:

      Also, modding support isn’t necessarily needed for mods. It’s a lot harder, but the internet will find a way.

    • FizicsMcmanus says:

      Sometimes you only want to go on a roller coaster once.

  5. Morph_Guy says:

    That google doc is entirely fanmade and anyone can edit it if they want. The devs probably just found the suggestion interesting so they added it to their trello page for potential inspiration. There’s a very high chance the biome won’t come out anything like that in the expansion.

  6. fish99 says:

    I hope they get chance to have another pass at VR support. It has some broken UI and controls, and performance issues. Doesn’t stop it being maybe the best VR game around, but it could be even better.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      The ocean is 2spooky for me with VR. I could barely make it out of the safe shallows. The kelp forest (with the knowledge of what is in there) had me too spooked to even keep playing.

      In short, yeah, it’s pretty immersive.

    • Chaz says:

      I’m rather hoping that the VR support will get a final brush up with the release.

      • fish99 says:

        Hope so, but I doubt it, the big patch they did last week was what they had up to that point, so another week of small patches isn’t going to change much. The good news is that if they’re doing expansions, that means they’ll keep supporting the game and hopefully working on VR.

    • noodlecake says:

      I found a lot of it too scary even without VR :S

  7. Carl Sagans Ghost says:

    I’d like to thank RPS for introducing me to both Rimworld and Subnautica. <3

  8. fuggles says:

    I wish so much I had the spare cash and time for tips game. One day, it will be mine.

  9. Buuurr says:

    You win some you lose some. When I supported this in early access I thought there would be a lot more things going on. This game is done? As in done? Most of it is completely empty and sterile. I was kind of hoping they would have put more into the environments and creatures for those who want to explore a little on top of building. Oh well. It is what it is. Another mediocre game.

    • pentraksil says:

      More things? Like what? It has plenty of things, more than most titles do nowadays. You have to explore if you want to build, you cannot just build it. You need to gather resources and find out about blueprints, story and main quest. You can explore if you want, discover species etc. “It is what it is” Well, this game is really not what you think it is it seems.

      • fish99 says:

        Yeah the game has plenty to do if you follow the story.

      • Buuurr says:

        pentraksil says:

        “More things? Like what?”

        Oh, I don’t know. Life? I dive. I know how teeming with life the ocean or even a fresh water body of water is. This game is just a wreck in that instance. You go from glorious sun and rays in the shallows with all kinds of happy things going on to nothing. Just let your eyes glaze over and stare at the horizon. You won’t miss anything. Just sand for oodles and oodles of space. Then, another completely different zone with completely different creatures. Only a few mind you. Very specific creatures. They have to be ‘scary’ or horrifying as all you keep pointing out. I get there being dead space in the deeper parts of the game because that is just how it is. But the upper levels of this game have very little to offer once outside the shadows. Unless cheesy fog effects and a cut down view distance are your game.

        “It has plenty of things, more than most titles do nowadays.”
        Really? I would say it has about a tenth of the things that Ark has. Please, tell of the plenty of things. You can you know. You can literally write them all on here. It is a very small list.

        “You have to explore if you want to build, you cannot just build it.”
        That goes for just about everything. That said though, in regards to this game: You have to go here on the map and get this. And then go here and get this. I believe RPS has a fairly hateful stance towards this in UBI games. Funny it isn’t exhibited towards this one. Maybe it is the lack of icons on a map that makes it fun.

        “You need to gather resources and find out about blueprints, story and main quest.”
        Yeah, sounds like every Far Cry game ever after the first… those are frowned on though.

        “You can explore if you want, discover species etc.”

        Yep. You can. As I said. I have had this since its first days in EA. You can completely do all this in a matter of an hour or two. There has really been nothing else added except a pet or two or more grindy building. Maybe a zone or two which is a lot like the other zones only reskinned.

        ““It is what it is” Well, this game is really not what you think it is it seems.”

        No, actually, it is. It is a basic and if I am honest: A mostly unrealized concept that has a lot of hype.

  10. funky_mollusk says:

    Looks sweet. I think I overlooked this title because I mistook it for Stranded Deep. :(

  11. TheDarkRaven101 says:

    I’d rather they got started on a sequel actually. Put you on another world, maybe continue the story of the precursors. Or just have you explore space with alien life that stuck to your escape ship.

  12. Ozzysil3nce2262 says:

    i love subnautica its hands down one of my faveret survivle games out there. i love what they have done with it and what there going to do with it. i like that there keeping it SP but it would be nice to have a MP for it even if its two or three players max or have a stand alone MP for it. thats if they can get the revenue with the DLC stuff there planing on.