Development Diary Part III – October ’23

by | Oct 25, 2023 | News | 0 comments

Hello all,
Many thanks again for enjoying these Development Diaries. The teams are finalisng the game now and things are hectic! Still, they found the time to update you all as to what’s cooking up in sunny Brighton – it’s a lot. So without further ado, let’s begin!

Art / Animation / Lighting

→ Dreich: adjective. (Scottish English) – Depressing, miserable or cold

The word dreich is commonly used to describe the weather in Scotland when it’s just plain miserable. Grey clouds, rain, wind, and no sign of sunlight. It’s also a word that describes a feeling and that is exactly what we wanted to portray to players in Still Wakes The Deep.

Have you ever looked out of the window and thought to yourself “Yeah, I really don’t want to go out there in the cold…” That’s dreich.

Unfortunately, Caz, our main character, doesn’t have that luxury. He and the rest of the crew on board the Beira D oil rig are used to this kind of weather in the North Sea, so we wanted to portray that as much as possible so that the player can feel how miserable it might be out there.

Another day on the rig You wake in your bed, the light from the overcast sky barely reaching in, the weather ever-present.
It’s overcast and the weather is horrible, so we tried to establish that feeling early in the game. To get that sensation that the weather was at our door, outside the thin walls of the rig, the rain and wind beating on the windows trying to get in. As the game progresses, the weather becomes stronger and more prevalent, affecting both the rig and Caz on their journey through the events of SWTD. As you navigate the oil rig you’re led through the dim interior by softly penetrating light from the sky, and the internal lights of the rig.
You push open the heavy exterior door onto the deck, the sound of a working oil rig, the weather ever-present.
You’re outside, it’s grey, and feels like the weather has taken all the colour and joy out of the surroundings. It’s raining and every surface is wet, the surroundings reflecting from the puddles.
The colours, lighting, and VFX all play a part in how SWTD is rendered. We wanted to make something that looks natural and cinematic.

Part II next month…

– Luke Norman, Senior Lighting Artist

→ Graphical detail, pushing the quality bar

Something the art team was really excited about for this project was setting the quality bar of visual fidelity and realism super high. We’re a small team compared to major AAA studios, but we wanted to match or even beat the standards set by some of the best-looking games out there when it comes to realistic graphics.
After doing extensive research into finding solid reference images of the time period and oil rigs, all that was left was figuring out our technical pipelines and workflows to achieve the best we could with a limited number of people. Personally, I’m a huge nerd when it comes to figuring out these pipelines and workflows, so I had a lot of fun figuring out our options together with the team. In the future, we might try to share more of our solutions for maximising texture resolution and mesh quality. Something that was coincidental with our project, and extremely helpful, was the release of Epic’s new tech called ‘Nanite’. Suddenly we could leverage the GPU to add more detail to our 3D objects in a way that was previously not possible.
Still, our expectations for highly detailed realism (with a small team) means we’ve given ourselves a tall order for sure, but if you look at our trailers and screenshots, that’s all 100% in-game, we’re still tweaking things, but we’re already very proud of what we’ve managed to achieve.

Nanite Triangle View

– Dominique Buttiens, Principal Environment Artist



→ The voiceover is in!
We are working hard towards our Beta milestone, which involves us reaching a ‘content complete’ state. While not all audio will yet be final, we aim to have coverage across all aspects of the game that need sound. Things are progressing well, though you can probably imagine it’s a period where we are spinning lots of plates, as new work requiring an audio pass is constantly being added.
While we’re working across all features of the game, a major aspect of our current focus is on dialogue implementation. We’ve recently finished all the dialogue recordings with our incredible cast, so we’re working closely with the animation, design, and code departments to get all this fantastic content into the game. The work ranges from creative decisions such as the pacing of lines to fine-tuning and optimising our implementation processes.

The payoff of this work is immense and rewarding. Lines that used to exist in the game as digitally generated speech for testing now are performed by our actors, lending emotion and meaning, breathing so much life into the game, and adding new dimensions to our characters. This phase of development, where things are starting to come together, is always a very exciting time.


– Daan Hendriks, Audio Director

Code / Programming


→ Star in the Story: Exploring the rig with player traversal and movement

As Still Wakes the Deep  is a first-person narrative experience, we want the player to have a strong connection to the character and feel grounded within the environment.
This means the inputs need to feel meaningful, there must be consequences to the way you move around the world and the character has to have a physical presence to increase the sense of embodiment. Seeing more than just the hands performing actions in front of the camera was essential, we wanted to see the entire body traversing the world and not feel like the camera is attached to a weightless entity.
With the aim of being able to see the character’s body throughout all modes of traversal, we needed to attach the camera to the body itself. This brings many technical challenges, there’s a reason that most first-person games don’t do this. It adds complexity to animation and doesn’t lend itself to precision gaming where aiming your gun is the highest priority.
Originally, we attached the camera directly to the head bone which gave us the effect we were after, however, we discovered that because the head bone was part of a chain of bones the camera would inherit jitter and unwanted motion when blending between animation states. Creating a specific camera bone that mimicked the motion of the head bone allows us to have the characterisation of the head bone without the troubles of it being part of a chain of bones.

Another issue we had to solve was allowing the player control over the amount of “head bob” and roll rotation (Dutch angle) that was applied to the camera. Some players can feel quite sick if there is too much movement and rotation on the camera. We now needed to have the camera fixed to a location whilst applying a percentage of the camera motion and rotation back onto the camera.
These are just two examples of issues that need to be solved with this approach. However, the result is a camera that feels truly connected to the character and a character that feels connected to the actions they perform.

– Programmer Joe Wheater

Community / Comms


→ Working at a candy store
This comms person comes from an arts background, so visual culture – beyond games – has always been part of my life and what I’ve been curious about. Games, of course, also represent a huge part of the broadening understanding of art, and it’s incredible to see games reaching the walls of MoMA and the Barbican Centre. What’s been utterly delicious about working with the comms for
 Still Wakes The Deep

 is that it sits so perfectly in that beautiful intersection between video games and broader culture – be it film, literature, or performance art. The game itself inspires numerous interpretations and is a testament to creativity and depth. But what’s even cooler is that our Creative Direction team on the game is very generous with listing numerous well-known, or even more obscure cultural artifacts that have informed their decisions.
So in our communications about the game, we can be open and proud about the game being inspired by titans like Kubrick, Loach, and Dargento, but we can also relish in the lesser known but just as crucial references, such as Sapphire & Steel or frankly anything that Scarred for Life does. 1970s interior designers are a reference, as well as TV commercials, recruitment ads, or a particular carpet maker. Nothing is off the table – if it tells a story, it’s worth mentioning. This freedom to create a tapestry of atmosphere-enhancing references has felt like being in a rich and delightful candy store with the biggest budget to spare.


Oh oh, and also! the Xbox Partner Preview just premiered a first look at a couple of gameplay scenes from the game. PSA: Swearing occurs! Hope you enjoy –

– Senior Marketing Executive Marijam Didžgalvytė




→ The changing environments – lessons!

There’s a theme in Still Wakes The Deep – transformation and change – that we wanted to reflect in the level design from the very beginning. We wanted the evolution of the rig to be starkly foregrounded as one of the main areas of player perception of place. To this end we included many scenes where you return to previous areas… but they’ve changed – either through flooding or destruction. Early on we also identified this as a cost-saving – rather than making whole new areas we can just re-use and alter existing areas! How clever we thought we were!
In fact, this did not lead to a promised land of free environment art. If anything it made things more challenging. If we wanted to move a door or to extend a corridor, or alter any other minor piece of the environment layout, we had to make this change in multiple versions of the scene. This actually increased the cost. We made sensible accommodations – putting base environment structures in a single shared sublevel or layer for example, but still… once damaged versions of doorways or walls go in, it’s not something you can change just once.
Regardless of this painful lesson, we’re pleased and proud that as the game proceeds, you will get to see the Beira D change and evolve, as always intended.

– Lead Designer Rob McLachlan



→ Near the finishing line

This month in QA we are doing a big focus on consoles as we move towards certification! Making sure all the bugs and crashes are squashed before we submit to Sony and Microsoft, it’s a scary but super exciting time. Console certification is quite a long-winded and detailed part of QA but we are lucky to have the PC version in a really good spot and have already done plenty of console testing to ensure the experience is working as it should. We are about to enter the beta period meaning the game is fully playable from beginning to end and all the core systems and features are included. This is probably the busiest time for QA as it’s at this point that we hold nothing back and even the most minor issues will be reported to the developers. As the game improves the remaining bugs get more and more specific and elusive as we ramp up our effort to try and narrow down the cause of all of them. Of course, no game is perfect and there is no such thing as entirely bug-free software but we are on track to having a really polished final experience!

– QA Tester Seb Axel



→ “Jacob will fill it in”

What was originally a placeholder note from our Senior Marketing Executive is actually quite a good title for a Production diary. What does Production do if not fill in the gaps? More often than not, I’m trying to create as clear an image of the big picture as possible for our various disciplines. Whether that’s in the form of collating data in an easily digestible format for the spreadsheet-averse Art team, or ensuring that the bug reporting is delivered as efficiently as possible for the Code team; I’m constantly trying to make sure that there are no gaps left which important things can slip through.
Some people describe Production as problem-solving, or putting out fires. This is true at times of course, but the truly great moments as a Producer are when you prevent a fire, rather than extinguish one.
Obviously, sometimes you can’t prevent all the fires, but if you’ve done your job right, you’ll have some sort of fire blanket that can be swiftly put to use.
I’ve really stretched this metaphor to its limit so I’ll stop here before I start talking about the QA department and how they’re “first responders”.


– Associate Producer Jacob Jackman


→ Something exciting is coming from our ends, we’re currently working hard on it! ????

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25th October 2023 | News