Down the Hatch

Earlier this year, we announced that our development would be shifting to the Unreal Development Kit. We did move to UDK very briefly, but it turns out the story doesn’t end there. Shortly after we made the transition to UDK, Epic announced the release of Unreal Engine 4, which would outdate and replace the engine we had just switched to. We didn’t want to commit to UE4 until we were absolutely certain that it would suit our needs, but after more than a month of testing, we are confident enough to announce that we will definitely be using Unreal Engine 4 from now on.

Unreal Engine 4 is better than UDK in almost every way, and yet they work almost the same. Thus, upgrading has been a breeze. It’s so pretty, it makes UDK’s graphics look like Uru. And what’s more, it has far more platform support than UDK did – as of today, we are finally able to officially announce the addition of Linux support to our platform roster, as well as SteamOS.

We’ve been working on putting together a demo of what the engine is capable of (and we actually showed you an in-engine screenshot from UE4 a month ago, without mentioning it!), so here’s a demo of interaction with the Jungle Island submarine, running in Unreal Engine 4. Please note that the sub is still untextured, and the animations/GUI/interactions are not final in any way. This is more of a programming test, to learn the ins and outs of Unreal 4.

We’ll keep you updated on our Unreal 4 development as it progresses!

26 Responses to “Down the Hatch”.

Team members' usernames are in red.
  • Graham Says:


    Does this mean we’ll have to financially back you every month due to the subscription fees?

    • KBlaney Says:

      Not if they cancel the subscription. You can still use UE4 and release products even if you don’t have an active subscription. The only reason to keep a subscription up is to get bug fixes/new features and access to an as of yet (I believe) unreleased asset store like service.

      So no major need for Starry Expanse to keep those subscriptions up.

    • MysticalDigital Says:

      Even if they did require us to foot the subscription that’s only $20/month

  • StefanosK27 Says:

    Nice…! Can’t wait to see the textured submarine in motion!

  • mors Says:

    Looks great !
    I did find the sound effect of shutting down the hatch a bit weird: too much echo. While inside the sub there should be just a small bit (the other levers were just fine) and while outside, there would be no echo at all. Also, lacking step sounds going up the stairs.
    Good job 🙂

  • Nintendo Maniac 64 Says:

    Is it just me or are the polygon counts on the rounded edges considerably improved?

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      One of the awesome features of UE4 is its geometry tessellation, which basically helps make polygonal objects appear to be a lot smoother and more round than they actually are 🙂

      • Anthony Says:

        ‘geometry tessellation’

        Woohoo! I hope every feature of the UT4 engine is fleshed out for this remake!
        RealMyst Masterpiece certainly lacked good bump mapping techniques e.g.

      • James McDermott Says:

        How much are you planning to utilize UE4’s tessellation capabilities? In theory, you could tessellate virtually every object in the game, helping to bring the The Starry Expanse that much closer to the source game. Furthermore, this wouldn’t have to be as intensive as it would likely be since modern tessellation methods are programmable – meaning tessellation amounts can be changed based on distance (somewhat like LODs for models) or runtime parameters (such as animating liquids), models can have tessellation applied in specific ways across them (i.e. the handle of a hammer can be tessellated differently than its head), and so on.

        However, given how much work can be involved in correctly setting up models to be tessellated, and given The Starry Expanse’s target audience may not own a graphics card powerful enough to properly utilize tessellation, I understand if tessellation were to be used sparingly, if at all.

        • zib_redlektab Says:

          So far, we have been allowing unreal to do all tessellation work on its own, based on its default settings. This means tessellation happens on the fly, with the level of smoothing adjusting on the fly, based on a number of factors (such as computational power available). We may decide to fine-tune this behavior in the future, but for now, Epic seems to have done a pretty good job.

  • Julian Says:

    Wow! Looks great guys, thanks for all the hard work and keep it up!

  • Gloix Says:

    Looking pretty good! Love it <3

  • Kaelri Says:

    The way that lever vibrates after it springs back into position is downright magical. I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product.

  • flake100 Says:

    We are living in a yellow submarine

  • shaman4d Says:

    Extremely nice! You were right when switch on U4 from Unity3d. One question: is submarine material from U4 standard assets or you wrote own shader?

  • Mark G Says:

    Good lord, that is beautiful

  • Jack Says:

    How difficult would it be to re-create the Prison Island demo using the Unreal 4 engine – or at least getting some snapshots of it to compare to its previous incarnation?

  • Ryan Medeiros Says:

    Does this change your funding requirements any? Isn’t any full UE version paid-subscription only?

  • Brian Says:

    Beautiful work! I’m beyond stoked to have found this project!

    Not to throw another wrench in your conflicted souls, but did you know the oh-so-beautiful CryEngine is half the price of UE and royalty-free? Of course, there’s also a free SDK to start on, akin to UE’s UDK.

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      Rest assured that we gave CryEngine some serious thought before ultimately choosing Unreal, for a number of reasons. Even with CryEngine at its new low price, our commitment to Unreal is as solid as ever. No wrenches thrown! 🙂

  • Jan Says:

    Hi! Looks great.
    I have a question that I don’t know if it has been asked before.
    Will the gameplay be limited to Riven “walk paths” or will we be able to wander around freely? If not please at least consider a special play mode for exploration so we can see all the Islands from all angles and in all their glory.

    • zib_redlektab Says:

      Our primary goal is to re-create the original game and its gameplay, including its walkway restrictions. Only once this is done can we evaluate adding additional content, like free roaming.

  • olalia Says:

    Muchas gracias por tu fantastico trabajo, besos!

  • jon Says:

    I think you need to up the poly count. It’s clear as day that it’s a 3d model when you notice the facets in round surfaces, it breaks the illusion.

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