Around Ars, we always knew Subnautica was special. The gaming world has been littered with different spins on a survival game—from Minecraft to Don’t Starve et al.—but reviewer Steven Strom put his finger on the key difference when reviewing the game back in February 2018:
Unlike the other survival games I’ve tried, [Subnautica] has a beginning, middle, and ending. There’s a purpose to the player’s time spent stranded on Planet 4546B. By giving an end to the means, survival doesn’t just feel like satisfaction for its own sake—for my own self-aggrandizement.
Naturally, when we had the chance to get director Charlie Cleveland in a room last year to walk us through this modern classic’s backstory (err, War Story), we dove in deepsea helmet-first. Cleveland walked us through his initial inspiration (a game that wasn’t built around guns and combat), what made the game’s mysteries so effective (being engaged is more important than being engaged in combat), and how he settled on placing this alien world below rather than above ground.
But really, for game with the depth of Subnautica, 20 minutes ain’t nearly enough. So we’ve finally made our entire 90-plus minute conversation with Cleveland available for your enjoyment. If you love Subnautica or are even just curious about it, this cut has much, much more detail than our initial War Story. Be sure to stick around till the interview’s final third in particular if you’re interested in seeing some early versions of the game.
Listing image by Sean Dacanay / Jeremy Smolik
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