Tactical Survival Game - Submerge

Thanks guys, that’s awesome!

When you work as a leveldesigner, one of the first things that you will have to do is to translate
the vision image into a first draft 3d scene.


So first we set up some materials and create a quick scene in unreal where you can play with the
lighting and coloring. A good start can be to use the mountain demo landscape material (If you
want to have this material in your project with all dependencies, just use the migrate function).
Unreal uses a special material for the landscape so you’re in full control on how to blend the
ground textures.

When this is set up, we can add a height fog, render the scene and start to adjust a lot of sliders.

In strategy games it is important to highlight the units, make them stand out or at least ensure
that the player knows what is going on when he tries to manage his units in a battle.

So in our case we desaturate the background and aim for a dark blue ocean that feels like we
are really deep under water. That of course has a considerable effect on how we approach the
leveldesign, how the scene will be lit and how the details in the ground textures and the details
created by placed 3d meshes should be handled.

The next important step, especially in unreal, is to add a post processing effect that really lets
you change the visual appearance of your level in any desired way. We also added a caustics
effect and played around with the ambient occlusion. Just a little.


With the post processing volume added, a lot of things happened. We added a depth of field,
to get things blurry in the distance and a color gradient makes the foreground slightly more cyan.
But the best thing is that we can create custom blendable shader materials that let you adjust
the end result of how the scene looks.

Here it is used to render additional darkness into the scene depth and create an additional
water wavy effect.
In the end we have a material instance that lets us adjust this custom effect in an instant via
simple sliders and values.


“Effect Depth” and “Effect Strength” are custom variables that we created ourselves in the
process and its functionality can be changed or expanded at anytime.

The following shows what happens when you start playing around with those variables.

By adjusting the effect depth we get a darker blue in the background and with the effect strength
we increase the “wavy effect” as you can see in the video (The buildings get distorted).

Of course we can also change the colors to change the mood of the scene completely.

Gameplay can also greatly influence how you translate the vision into an early level concept.
In Submerge, we wanted a planar movement layer for our units with easy identifiable blocking
objects. We used large structures and cliffs to clearly communicate to you where your units
can move and where not.


In the left picture, you see a green layer which visualizes the calculated navigation mesh.
For the cliffs we used a special texture that renders cliff stripes into the rock texture that
can be adjusted in height. On the right picture you can see how the white cliff stripes indicate
where the units actually can move.

With unreal engine 4, we were capable to quickly translate a certain targeted mood into a 3d scene
without the necessity to create much content in the first place. For a leveldesigner this is a great
way to rough out your early design and make it possible to communicate the focused art style even
in the early stages of development.

a short video to show the current state of our level design. it’s an early state with a dummy interface. enjoy.
so far, we have placed the first environmental assets and are working on the mood we are aiming for.

We asked you guys to tell us your opinion on the two movement systems we tested so far.
We had two different controls implemented and weren’t completely sure, which one was better.

[FONT=Arial Black]Short recap:



We got some really great feedback from a lot of you guys and we actually liked the idea of combining
both movement types. A big thanks to all the awesome people who came up with the idea of combining
the two systems – it’s great to get in contact and work with the community. We created a new prototype
and here is how the combined system works now:


  • To send your units around you can always use RTS control or hack-and-slay controls
  • At game start the camera follows your units (locked camera)
  • To scout around your units, you can move the screen with your mouse (free camera) anytime you want
  • The moment you hold down the right mouse button to control your units in hack-and-slay style the
    camera jumps back to your units and follows their movement again (locked camera)
  • You can also trigger this behavior by pressing SPACE key

Playing the prototype now really feels like the best of both worlds – having the complete control over
your units, but still having this immersive feeling of sticking to your units and watching over them.

And trust us guys, we are super exited and can’t wait to invite you for the first gameplay test to hear what
you will say about the feeling of the movement. By the way have you already signed up for our newsletter?
Best way to stay up to date with our dev blog, hear about upcoming gameplay tests and a lot of other exiting stuff!

What do you think about the transition between the movement types? Interesting? Half-■■■■■?
Awesome – solves the world’s problems? Keep your thoughts coming!

Just added some wallpapers to our website. For those who want some underwater feeling for their desktop :slight_smile:

In one of the previous posts we were on the track of our unit design philosophies. We were writing
very deep, philosophical things. But above all, it was theoretical and abstract. This time, we’d like
to continue with our unit creation pipeline and give you an idea about our PRACTICAL workflow.

[FONT=Arial Black]First step: Getting the idea

Maybe you have already read the first steps on unit creation. (You did not? Then go check it out
here, here or here. I’ll wait.) In a nutshell: We check out, which roles and functionalities are missing
and create ideas for that. Additionally, we define gameplay goals for the new unit: How shall it feel?
How will it be played? Which are the interesting situations, the strengths and weaknesses?

[FONT=Arial Black]Second step: The idea becomes a design

The second step of our unit’s journey is led by our ambitious concept team, consisting of a game
designer and an artist. They convert an abstract idea to a yet theoretic design concept. Always
keeping a close eye on the prior defined goals of the unit, a list of possible functionalities is crafted
and discussed. In this early step, the first rough art concepts are created. Mostly with a pen and
paper, just to get an idea of possibilities.


After intense arguments and bloody fights, we finally settle for the best fitting unit functionality.
We like to refer to this process as the “survival of the fittest idea”.
Leaving some of our honorable team members for dead, the survivors continue to craft a unit design
sheet. This sheet contains all information we’ll ever need for the development process: Attack type,
value focusses, size of the unit, roles, references, visual descriptions, animation lists, sound lists,
ability functionalities … The list is endless.
The climax of the second step is the team kickoff: The concept team presents its work to the rest of
the team to track down the last questions.

[FONT=Arial Black]Third step: Giving life to the design

Once the unit definition is clarified in every aspect, our art pipeline starts converting the unit design
sheet to truly breathtaking creations.

Starting with a couple of concept ideas…



… and undergoing another round of the “survival of the fittest idea”, we then settle for the
best-fitting and most awesome visualization. This phase of unit creation is always emotionally
charged. After all, we have to decide which visualization FITS the purpose, LOOKS awesome and
TRANSPORTS our vision of that unit. Besides, it’s never easy to say no to the other concepts,
which are never bad – but maybe just not fitting so well.
Once we decided for one of the concepts, it’s time to iterate over it. Adjust parts, get into every
detail and make everything work together. When the responsible artist and game designer are
satisfied, preparations for the next development phase begin: We create side views and a beauty
concept to communicate the vision of the unit to the 3D artist. In addition, animation and effect
storyboards are crafted to make work easier for the Animation and Effect artist.

And that’s the final outcome of the unit design workflow:


We hope you enjoyed the trip through unit design workflow. After this, the results are used as
input for the 3D workflow, which is – you probably guessed it – part of the upcoming newsposts.
So stay tuned for some awesome videos where we show you the making of our turtle and give
you some insights into 3D modeling.

[FONT=Arial Black]TL; DR

For all of you who mindfully will read the post (I’m pretty sure you will?), but would like to sneak
down to check out the results first. Here’s the summary of our unit design workflow:

  - Design something to look busy
  - Add explosions
  - Add more explosions

Seriously, no time to waste:




Thanks for reading. Get your very own always hungry turtle in our wallpaper section.

Usually, when you are working as an artist in a game development studio during production phase
there is a lot to do. Once the Game Design has formed the basic idea about the functionalities, roles
and playstyles of a unit the Art Department starts the design process with a first concept.

Once the look of the unit is settled and the side views are drawn, the asset moves directly further
in the art pipeline for the creation of the 3D Model, Animation and Effects. And because it’s production
phase, there is little room to create extras like high polished beautyshots or wallpapers. But sometimes
there is time available, like when we take the concept of our turtle and transform it into a nasty little
biter to decorate your desktop.

Watch our artist creating the front view of the turtle.

Get the finished piece in our wallpaper section.

High poly asset modeling

You already got quite some insight into the way we are working. We shared our thoughts on
basic unit design with you, explained our unit creation workflow and let you watch our artists
while painting the Crimson Jackjaw.

Today, this is all about 3D modeling. When starting the modeling process, there are different
ways of approaching. Like, starting with the low poly model to add details later. It’s also possible
to begin with the high poly model and create a low poly topology from the detailed model.
Which is what we did in the video.


The reason we decided to go with that order is simple. Since we didn’t create top- and sideviews
from the plant concepts, we are more flexible in shaping the asset to give it a look we are
satisfied with. The high poly sculpting allows us to completely reshape the asset like a block of
clay – otherwise we would need to change the low poly version first, unwrap it again (which is a
real pain and seriously, nobody wants to do this). In the upcoming videos you join our artists to
watch the different steps of creating a plant asset – from the high poly sculpting to the final
texturing. Enjoy.

By the way, have you seen our video of the first level design impression? Check it out to see how
the plants are used to illuminate the world of Submerge.

Low poly asset modeling

Now that we have the beautifully modeled high poly asset it is about time to create a lower
detailed model. Much lower. Since we are using a lot of them to illuminate the ocean floor we
need to reduce their polycount drastically. Our 3D Artist is showing you how. Enjoy the video.

On totally unrelated news (well not THAT unrelated I guess):

Are you ready? Here it comes!

The submerge forum is ALIVE! Yes, we are moving closer to you and we are super excited
about this. So get your avatars ready to stop by, say hello and have a chat with us. Meet the
team, ask anything you want to know and be part of game feature discussions.

Looking forward to talking to you!

Just click the community button on our website. But I dare you to hit the Jackjaw.


Another fantastic project I missed over the past couple of months. This is some incredible work, I love the art! Keep up the good work, will definitely be keeping an eye on this. =)

@SE_JonF: Thanks man! Don’t worry there is still a lot to discover in the upcoming weeks. I totally love your environmental designs.

Other news about Submerge:

We launched our first newsletter.
Just click subscribe to get the next one delivered directly to your inbox or follow this link.

Thanks! Looking forward to seeing more. =)

hey guys, today we are sharing the last part of our 3D design episodes with you.
The video comes included with a large blog entry from our man behind the asset design.

It’s really a lot of text so I’ll just share the video with you, but I really suggest to have a look at the Interview over at our blog.

Enjoy the video.

Introducing the breeding system

We already told you a lot about Submerge, but today it’s time to show you some of our
metagame features: The breeding system.


To breed biological units, you need at least two pets. Pets can be found in the battlefield like
normal resources, but are very rare to find. Once you have collected a pet, you need to raise it.
Raising a pet slightly differs from the common unit system that is used for the normal units in
Submerge. While you are able to unlock different upgrades and abilities for your units, you unlock
different states of maternity for your pet. Every new maternity state comes with a new slot for
several abilities to choose from. Like googly eyes, rainbow dash or lullaby.
Unlike building units, calling for your pet during the match requires no resources, however a pet
needs to be raised to adulthood at least until it can be called in battle.

1d35b2ad36050539d796d06e74edffcb6173955b.jpegAdult form

8d4e979062d76c148cccf11dee9dbd29fc52f9fb.jpegChild form

Once raised to adulthood it is possible to select two pets for the breeding process. Due to youth
safety we refrain from showing the act. To breed simply call for two pets during your playsession
and use the skill “mate”. Mate can also be used on enemy pets. Since mating units gain a minus
on sight (due to distraction) this could be used as effective attack.

skillset.jpgPart of the skillset included


Raise your pet using the Submerge Zoo app. You will be able to feed, train and play with your
darling even while not ingame.

Interesting system, and the cross platform sounds awesome. Keep it up. =)

@SE_JonF nice, thank you. But to tell the truth, this might have been a little april fool’s joke :wink:

Guys, it’s on!

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[FONT=Arial Black]Date: Saturday 18 April 2015 22:00 UTC
Date: Sunday 19 April 2015 19:00 UTC
Please note: You will need steam to play this

The test is limited to a small amount of users. Don’t worry if you don’t get a key, we will
be doing this more often. Within the next weeks we’ll try to provide you with every information
necessary on the event but if you have further questions just contact us or best: share you
questions and open a thread in our forum.

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[FONT=Arial Black]To all of you first time visitors

No need to browse through dig through older posts because here is the summary of what to
expect from Submerge.

Submerge is developed by Icebird Studios, a Joint Venture of two german studios, each with their
own long-term expertise in creating games.
The game is delivered to you with the super sweet graphics of Unreal Engine 4.

Submerge is a fast paced, tactical survival game with main focus on thrilling multiplayer matches.
It combines the players passion for Hero Units from “Dota” with the beloved tactical fighting and
moving behaviors from Starcraft – but without any waiting times for matches to begin!
In the game you build and control a swarm of different units, each with their own unique look and
abilities. Search for other players in order to fight them and steal their life points to survive longer
than anyone else in the game. Use the different abilities of your units to create a superior tactic
and dominate the battlefield. It’s hunt or being hunted.

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There is a lot to do in the upcoming weeks folks! Stay tuned as we are going to introduce you to the
nation playable in this first access, present some of the units you will be able to play and highlight
some of their manufacturers.

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Stay tuned!

It crossed my mind, but then I was like this actually seems legitimate haha.

A new nation joins the fight

Folks, we have announced our gameplay test and now it’s time for you to make contact with our brand new nation.

[FONT=Arial Black]Mankind joins the battle among the seas

[FONT=Arial Black]Earth 2050
With 9.5 billion people on Earth and the increasing automation of all different kind of jobs
in every sector, mankind faces an unemployment rate of over 50%. Although redundancies
are mainly affecting jobs in the physical labor, transportation and administration fields,
even creative jobs are becoming more computerized.

Due to the increasing average temperature of 1.9° C since 1950, the sea level has risen
significantly. Gathering resources from the deep sea starts to be profitable. People are
building arcs to escape the crowded cities and move closer to the mining grounds.

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The ISA is giving away mining rights to corporations which begin to hire many of the
people whose jobs have become redundant due to the increasing automation. Different
stakeholders fight over the distribution of the deep sea. A new era of gold fever begins.

*There are three simple rules for mining nowadays:
One: arm yourself
Two: arm your ship
Three: ISA’s eyes only touch the ocean surface

[INDENT]- Megan Winter, Captain of the Raccoon (2052 AD)*[/INDENT]

The human nation is a very flexible nation. Several manufacturers provide the player with
different ship types, each with the manufacturer’s unique styling in design and attitude.

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Each ship comes with several upgrades to choose from which influence your abilities and
playstyle. In the metagame, you will be able to unlock new units with different abilities.
Then, you can build your fleet in the maingame, choosing from your personal set of ships.

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Sign in for our play test today, to join the battle under the seas.

Wow, this is looking amazing and love the progress, concept and art!

Definitely makes me want to make a game like this now, haha