4A DNA: The Creation of ARKTIKA.1’s Sci-Fi Infused Setting

This is an exciting time for VR, and also for 4A Games – which you may know from the popular Metro series. As I type these words, we’re working really hard on the studio’s first VR title, ARKTIKA.1 – A true immersive and action packed first-person shooter with AAA production values and hours of gameplay.

Our Design Process

When we decided to move away from R&D and focus full time on an actual game concept, one of our initial priorities was to make sure we were doing something that was familiar to us and to our fans. We wanted to make sure we were utilizing all the years of experience we had built in the studio in making these highly detailed and immersive worlds.

An obvious running theme in the studio (and among our core team’s experience) is Eastern European post-apocalyptic environments. This was a good starting place, but we also wanted to make sure we differentiated this new IP from our previous games.  After discussing a few different options, we quickly settled on introducing futuristic sci-fi elements to ARKTIKA.1’s visual design. While it was an entirely new direction from an art style point of view, we were able to ground it in what we are most familiar with – and still keep the resulting world and style as realistic as possible!  

With everything we do – from the highest level concept to the smallest detail in a side room – we always try to ensure that every asset, design, and decision has a reason to be there or work the way it does so that it’s grounded in reality. Everything you see should make sense so that you don’t sit there questioning the feasibility of what you are looking at. This was a fun challenge in introducing futuristic sci-fi as a major element because the nature of “futuristic” is that it doesn’t exist yet. For example, while we could have fun with the design and functionality of our weapons, we had to make sure that if the player held them in their hands and some plasma ball shot out of the barrel, it still felt like it could work if it were real. 

This decision would also give us a lot of advantages in other areas. For example, we always try to make sure that our games can be played without HUD elements displayed on the screen. A HUD can break immersion because it reminds you that you’re playing a game. We’ve always tried to build as much information into physical objects in our worlds. The mechanical, hand-crafted design in our previous games makes this possible in unique and cool ways, but it doesn’t apply as much to the setting of ARKTIKA.1.  

Using the futuristic sci-fi setting, we were able to leverage holographic technology as a means to “physicalize” nearly all the information we need to display to the player. For example, we have things like ammo and health displayed around the wrists in a way that is futuristic, but also very believable – and the information is still displayed with a physical object (of sorts). We haven’t shown this yet in our two demos – but menus also project out of the back of each hand, can be interacted with, and still feel “real” and physical as a result.

A Silent Apocalypse

We wanted to make sure that the cause of the apocalypse in ARKTIKA.1 was distinct from what we had created in our previous games. A frozen planet, doomed by humanity’s failed attempts at fixing global warming, gives us a plausible and relatable scenario. The apocalypses in our previous games came from human ignorance that resulted in a violent event, where the apocalypse in ARKTIKA.1 is more “silent” and slow – coming more from human arrogance. The perpetual winter setting is also very familiar to the Eastern European location, and it does a good job of complementing a dangerous and aggressive world.

We’re building an intense FPS from a relatable scenario – from weapons full of character to minute atmospheric details. Look closely at each weapon as you fire them, paying attention to animations, mechanical details, ejected shells, etc. Try rolling down your vehicle window in the opening scene and listening to the howling wind that ensues and how other sounds are affected while it’s open.   

We’re pulling out all the stops so that ARKTIKA.1 can deliver the sort of fully immersive, engrossing game world that players have come to expect from 4A Games. I look forward to bringing you more behind-the-scenes insights as we get closer to launch!

Jon Bloch
Executive Producer, 4A Games

Jon Bloch