June 29, 2015

Science-Fiction Becomes Reality in The Hum

By Brian Sharon

Artistic expression and the telling of tales are core to the human experience. We’re all storytellers, through our actions or through our words. How we tell our stories, however, is rapidly changing - a fact that designer, author and creator Ariel Arias is keenly aware of.

After more than twenty years of experience penning futuristic tales in books and graphic novels, the talented Argentinian -- with the important aid of Totwise Studios -- is bringing his blend of horror and science-fiction to new platforms.

Falling under the ominous title of The Hum, Arias and his team plan to deliver a buffet of new extraterrestrial tales, including The Hum: Abductions, an experience set in the exciting, and relatively unexplored, world of Virtual Reality.

“VR is a vast and unexplored land. It's super exciting,” exclaimed Arias. “But, due to the uncharted nature of these waters, all the people like us who are pioneering the field need fast prototyping tools.”

Being at the forefront of new technology is a challenge for any developer, yet, according to Arias the tools Unreal Engine 4 places at the user’s disposal -- such as Blueprint -- have allowed both Arias and his team to meet these challenges head on.

The Hum: Abductions Art

“For us, that's not a problem at all.” Arias began.“We can create scenes and mechanics really quickly thanks to Blueprints, and even, we can create powerful VR characters thanks to Persona and Animation Blueprints.”

Though Totwise Studios was clearly aiming to inspire fear with its new content, the small team wasn’t without its own anxiety during development.

“I started with UE4 when it was first released in March 2014. I was using other engines and at the time I was a bit skeptical about Blueprints and and a little scared about C++,” explained Arias. “Also, seeing that many tools made me think that the engine will be something really hard to handle.”

It wouldn’t take long for Ariel and his studio to realize that while Unreal Engine 4 was a substantial upgrade from what they’ve seen before, it also offered an amount of accessibility and convenience that they had not anticipated.

“But it only took to me some weeks to understand every aspect,” he stated. “Recently, another programmer and an artist, both without previous experience in UE joined to the team, and both understood the engine really quickly.“

The Hum: Abductions Art 2

With a firm grasp of what UE4 has to offer, the now slightly larger team is able to express their vision in ambiguous and atmospheric fashion.

“Shadow/Lights are a language by itself,” he explained. “That is something very important to understand if you want to make good visual storytelling.”

This indirect philosophy of storytelling bleeds throughout the twisted universe of The Hum, and Arias is more than pleased with the painters palette at his disposal.  “I found that not only the lights/shadows, but also the emissive materials in UE are really powerful in terms of configurations, and, of course, are visually appealing.”

Though at this moment the studio is largely focused on developing games under the galactic umbrella of The Hum, they also have plans to tell their story in other mediums and formats, seeking to propel their fiction to a whole other world.

“We are using UE not only for games, but for cinematic experiences as well,” Arias began. “Our universe (books, games, experiences) will be released in a client we are creating, where you will see short alien-themed cinematic cut-scenes made in UE4.”

The Hum: Abductions Art

Using Unreal Engine 4 Ariel Arias and Totwise are creating a universe. No longer hindered by technical ceilings or limitations, their fiction will sprawl over several platforms, adding just a bit more science into science-fiction.

Later this month Totwise Studios will release an alien-themed cinematic in preparation for the launch of The Hum: Abductions, which will planned for release in 2015 on PC, Mac and Playstation 4.

For more on The Hum visit http://thehumuniverse.com/, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.