Remnant: From the Ashes blends genres to become a unique co-op shooter
To see how the roughly 30-person team developed the captivating experience, we interviewed Gunfire Games President David Adams, Principal Designer Mike Maza, and Art Director Colin Post. The trio speaks to how they nailed the game’s fantastic setting, explains how they designed and balanced different hero archetypes, and elaborates on how they created varied, unique monsters within randomly generated worlds. The trio also shares their favorite Unreal Engine 4 tools and features. Thanks for your time! With a blend of third-person melee combat and cooperative gunplay, were there any particular titles that Gunfire Games drew inspiration from when creating Remnant: From the Ashes?
Gunfire Games President David Adams: We drew inspiration from a number of our favorite games, but there were a few that helped define our approach to the design. We were inspired by games with challenging and deliberate combat. For example, the Monster Hunter series for its deep crafting and progression system and our own Darksiders games for boss combat.
Many people who have played Remnant compare it with the Dark Souls games. Can you speak to the studio’s design to create combat that was challenging and deliberate?
Gunfire Games Principal Designer Mike Maza: We wanted to present a different pace of combat… something difficult, but rewarding and rarely seen in the third-person shooter genre.
Remnant oozes a post-apocalyptic atmosphere infused with a bit of fantasy. How did you go about creating this interesting setting?
Adams: We’ve always been big fans of merging contemporary or futuristic settings with distinct fantasy themes. You need look no further than our treatment of the Apocalypse in Darksiders I, II, and III. We think the widely different treatments complement one another if done properly.
With impressive lighting, animations, and particle effects, Remnant looks great. How did you achieve the game's high level of graphical fidelity?
Gunfire Games Art Director Colin Post: We have a very talented, resourceful, and quite prolific team of artists and animators who are always trying to improve their own skills. The team is seasoned using Unreal (and various other engines) throughout the years, which helped us establish an effective art pipeline to get the results we wanted quickly and efficiently.
While Remnant allows gamers to play by themselves, it also offers up-to-three-player co-op online. With this in mind, how is the studio designing the experience to be highly replayable?
Maza: We wanted to capitalize on the growing trend of three-person squads, which also dovetails nicely with the concept of three core archetypes – a tank, a DPS, and a support class. It makes it a little easier to find a full squad of players for co-op, however, players will be able to bend or break those roles with gear-based progression.
How might difficulty scale with more players?
Maza: Remnant will scale the number of enemies as new players join the game. Enemy levels (and thus, the amount of damage they deal and the amount of health they have) will be calculated based on your hero levels.
How did you approach designing and balancing the multiple hero archetypes and the variety of weapons the game has to offer?
Adams: In Remnant, the hero archetypes are defined merely as a collection of starting weapons, armor, and equipment. We gathered together sets of gear that complemented a specific style of play, but you are never locked to that initial archetype. Throughout the course of the game, you will collect a myriad of different items and can freely mix-and-match them to suit the way you like to play. With this concept in mind, it was relatively easy to balance the different archetypes.
Remnant features dozens of monsters both large and small, many of which offer unique strengths and weaknesses that will keep players on their toes. Can you elaborate on how the studio designed enemy creatures and bosses?
Maza: Enemy design on Remnant was an extremely organic process. Sometimes inspiration came from asking the question, “What role will the enemy fill?” Other times a beautiful piece of concept art would drive ideas on what a creature could do. That’s the easy part. The magic happens in the implementation… and the willingness to scrap something and start over again until the creature stands on its own.
Considering Remnant offers dynamically-generated environments, were there any UE4 tools or Marketplace features that helped you create these randomly-generated worlds?
Adams: We built most of our random generation tech from the ground up, however, the flexibility of the engine allows us to stream in anything from individual assets, to entire map chunks, which has made what we do feasible. Without this kind of flexibility, we wouldn’t have been able to implement our own systems so easily.
Considering players can shoot enemies up high for increased damage or shoot their legs to cause them to stagger and fall, were there any UE4 tools that helped implement these animations and systems?
Maza: The physics assets allowed us to mark each part of the body with unique physics materials, which we then use to determine which location was hit. This is then used to modify damage or trigger specific hit reaction animations based on a body part.
How large is the Remnant team?
Adams: Our team size has fluctuated over the development of the game, but we have probably averaged around 30 team members. Right now, we have a lot more than that, but in the beginning, we only had a handful of people working on it.
What made UE4 a good fit for the game?
Maza: All the different editor-side tools made it a good fit. The Blueprints system, the animation graphs, all the different editing tools – this gave our designers and artists the ability to develop systems and content for the game with quick iteration time.
Were there any favorite UE4 tools or features that the studio leaned on?
Maza: Sequencer has been really valuable both for more elaborate cinematics and for simpler scripted sequences. Overall, we used most of the tools available to us, from mesh simplification tools, splines, and animation Blueprints. We even used the Actor/ActorComponent system to create a fairly robust data-driven quest system.
Considering the game is available across PC, PS4, and Xbox One, did you find UE4 helpful with the porting process?
Maza: Definitely. Getting the game up and running on the various platforms couldn’t be easier.
Thanks again for your time. When can people expect to get their hands on the game?
Adams: The game launched August 20. You can find out more about the game on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.