August 22, 2022

From the Lab: ’22 mid-year review

Despite the yet warm weather, sunny afternoons and sometimes tropical nights, the summer of 2022 in the southernmost part of Sweden is slowly coming to an end. It’s been a tumultuous year so far and while the times have raged on outside the Apog lab, we’ve kept our heads down, our lab coats on and our minds very, very busy. Yeah, it’s really been quite some time since we last provided anyone interested with an update as to what we’re keeping ourselves busy with and since you’re still reading… you must be interested! Let us explain…

Airport CEO

Since the full launch of Airport CEO and its subsequent departure from early access on the 4th of March 2021, an additional three aircraft pack DLCs, the free Supersonic aircraft pack, the Vintage aircraft pack and the Beasts of the Easts aircraft pack, have been launched. Airport CEO has to this date sold a total of 275000 copies and as of this spring, Airport CEO is not only available on Steam and Humble Bundle but now also on GOG! Since the 1.0 release, we’ve launched an additional 40 minor updates addressing various aspects of stability such as, for example, ensuring that the game runs reliably on the newly released Apple silicon (M) machines, tweaking simulation variables in response to user feedback as well as fixing various fringe case bugs. While we continue to explore additional platforms for Airport CEO to be launched on, we will also continue to release minor stability updates on the same theme as mentioned and perhaps also the occasional new aircraft for the vanilla version of the game. With Airport CEO, or Project Mercury as it once was known, since long now fully released and “done”, our main focus now lies with Project Venus and the future of the studio.

Project Venus

Project Venus (working title) has been in active production for roughly the past six months, excluding our recent summer break and an initial six months of game engine related production issues… which we’ll get to in a few minutes. At Apog Labs we like to build systems driven games but compared to Airport CEO, that’s just about where the likenesses between the two titles stop. Project Venus is a third-person open-world exploration game in 3D that can be experienced alone or together with friends. The game is today fully designed on paper and our ambitions for the scope and quality are set very high, beyond that of our previous work. However, we are also very keen on ensuring that we do not repeat some of the core mistakes we did with Airport CEO including specifically a design process embossed by major scope creep and software architecture that, because of that scope creep, became very cumbersome to work with towards the end of the early access period. Airport CEO was envisioned and started with the help of a great deal of naïveté and although we will this time around have a much, much better grasp on game development and its best practices, being a bit naïve can sometimes help foster big ambitions. We hope to able to unveil a lot more about Project Venus come 2023.

A loss of tech stack Unity can become an Unreal challenge

Project Venus is being built with Unreal Engine 5. This is maybe the most significant difference comparing the development of this title to Airport CEO, which was built in Unity. Switching game engine, or perhaps rather learning to work with an additional engine, is an extremely tough decision for any studio and the decision was no less difficult for us as the dream is to immediately on your second title bank on the experience from the first one. There are however several different reasons as to why the switch made more sense than developing Project Venus in Unity. For us, and more importantly for the success of the quality of the title, it is a combination of a more advanced render pipeline, multiplayer support “out of the box” and a game engine with a workflow that is more suitable for the mechanics we’ve envisioned. Project Venus originally started as a Unity project with DOTS as its foundation but after multiple quick iterations and subsequent quick failures we eventually switched to Unreal. As a result of this switch, the initial six months of development consisted of converting our knowledge of game development in Unity to an Unreal context ranging from its core principles to blueprint scripting, network programming and working with C++.
As of today, we’ve produced a pre-alpha version of Project Venus with most core systems in place, fully networked. The pre-alpha version has acted as a test bed for ensuring that we can deliver on the techniques required for fulfilling the game’s design but also as a test bed for learning Unreal. During the coming autumn sprints, we will transition into an alpha state of development which essentially entails a full grey boxing of the open world and extensive feature development. We will throughout the rest of 2022 and likely well into 2023 also be exploring opportunities of working on Project Venus together with a publisher and potentially growing the lab.

Hiring a 3D artist 

Since Project Venus is a title set in a 3D environment, we were earlier this year joined by Magnus Evertsen, a 3D Artist and generalist heading the visual development of Project Venus. Magnus is a super talented multi-classed 3D Artist with a few years of experience from the AA segment of the games industry and joined Apog back in March. He has quickly come to adopt the “multi hat” approach of working in an indie setting and we cannot wait to show you what he’s produced so far. Welcome Magnus!

Gamescom 2022

We’ll be kicking off the second half of this year with a trip to Gamescom 2022, together with our game developer friends from Game Habitat’s DevHub here in Malmö. After being on hiatus for the past two years because of… reasons… we’re very excited to return to Köln and the world’s biggest game show. While our main purpose of going there is to ensure the future of Project Venus, it’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet up with like-minded professionals and take the temperature of the industry.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this update and insight into how we’ve spent our time since the release of Airport CEO. After a few months of rest from writing bi-weekly dev blogs it feels great to sit down yet again behind the typewriter and reflect on what we’ve done and where we’re going. We hope to be doing a lot more of that come the reveal of Project Venus and perhaps that’d be something you’d be interested in as well.
Thank you for spending your time with us during this brief update. Have a fantastic week, weekend, or whatever else time unit fits you best and we’ll talk again soon.
// Apog Labs

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