Indie Dev Interview: Mario Nemec, Aquatico

What would it like to live under the sea, in a modern day Atlantis? Well there’s only one way to find out, speak to the guys making underwater sim Aquatico. 

From Croatian publisher Overseer Games Publishing and developer Digital Reef, Aqautico is a survival city building game set in the not so distant future, where you have to build a new civilisation while trying to navigate a new life at the bottom of the ocean.

You’ll live a precarious existence as you try to improve the lives of your citizens through architectural, technological and cultural advances, while also dealing with the various challenges that come with creating an underwater civilisation.

As well as looking like a game with alot of potential, Aquatico asks some important questions about what a possible future for the human race could be – if we don’t get a handle on climate change and global warming.

The game is still scheduled to release in Q4 of 2022, and you can find further details on the Aquatico Steam page.

Please could you introduce yourself?

My name is Mario Nemec, co-founder of small developer and publisher Overseer Games Publishing. Also one of the co-founders of Digital Reef Games studio, a youngish dev team responsible for creation of Aquatico.

And could you introduce your studio?

Digital Reef Games is second dev team grown under Overseer Games Publishing. They’ve been active since 2019, and started production work on Aquatico in mid 2020. The team has less than a dozen members, but half of them are already pretty experienced developers from other studios with history of multiple games under their belt. However, Aquatico is the first independent title created by the team. The studio is located in Croatia where game development in general is going through a very dynamic and fast change for the better. Digital Reef is one of the many ambitious new teams emerging in last five or so years.

Can you tell us about In Aquatico?

Aquatico is a survival city building game set in a relatively near future. Due to natural disasters and apocalyptic havoc spreading the entire surface of the planet, societies couldn’t survive on the land anymore. Space technology still wasn’t advanced enough to leave Earth, so the only remaining solution was to descent into oceans (much easier then digging vast cities under the mountains), and try to cultivate it for new start of humanity. Players will have to find ways to secure resources available under water, make products from what’s available, and expand technology required to live under water. At the same time, challenges and dangers lurking in the depths are something different then people are used to…

Aquatico features multiple layered building system, meaning seabed will be full of production/industrial buildings (with underwater walkers and drones doing most of the work) and pipelines connecting them. At the same time, second layer is in the domes above seabed. These domes are pressurized to sustain humans and allow for the elements of old human way of life to continue (in these domes players will build housing buildings, education, cultural and trade objects, also beautifications, restaurants and all sorts of stuff needed to prolong the continuity of human way of life). Domes will be connected by transport system and come in several available sizes.

Some of the other important systems in Aquatico are expeditions (to explore global map outside your immediate settlement), then various events (linked to your local settlement alone), then disaster system and some other surprises…

Can you explain the typical gameplay for Aquatico?

Typical gameplay loop for Aquatico will have several “rounds”. Firstly you need to secure basic resources, initiate production (or raw gathering) of everything needed for basic survival, and start expanding population, both human and mechanical units. Secondly, as your population grows, you’ll need to start building selfsustaining system of advanced production in order to keep your little society happy and prosperous. That means meeting the growing demands for advanced goods, education, higher tier of living standard. In this part of the game most important will be to start using expeditions, increase capacity for production of advanced goods, and maintain general sentiment of population.

Thirdly, later stage of game will bring unique challenges in appearance of attacks, disasters, monsters and others. By this time your underwater settlement will likely be pretty big and strong one, and you’ll draw attention from all sides. Main challenge here will be to have your city prepared to withstand the difficulties happening here. If you succeed, and you survive even through that, all that remains is to finish the entire research tree and enjoy the view of your outstanding city that stood everything oceans could threaten you with. That means you’ve tamed the nature and found a new path for civilization.

What are the challenges the player will face?

As mentioned mostly in previous answer, challenges are grouped in three categories: fight for resources and production of necessities, then fight for happiness and growth of your underwater citizens, then lastly fight against pirate and sea monsters attacks, disasters and other external threats.

You will ofcourse always have several means at your disposal to overcome these challenges, but having capacity and logistics to utilize them at the right moment will be tricky…

What was the fascination with an underwater world? 

We’re all sc-ifi nerds, and Aquatico gave us a chance to combine future tech with amazing fantasy scenery of an underwater world. No one ever saw depths of the ocean as something that could be a home for civilization, and that very idea was incredibly appealing to us. At least create one possible vision of that. We dreamed of being a combination of Nautilus crew and Jacques Cousteau

How much thought and research went into making this unique ecosystem plausible?

Some research went into this, less then we originally wanted, because when we went too deep into technicalities, it became a very complicated task with rising fears the final product won’t be fun at all but rather a physical realistic technical demonstrator. Since first intention was to create an appealing underwater fantasy world, we spent much more time thinking about how the system could work, what would be needed to offer unique challenge and still keep the positive vibe of our fantasy world.

That original vision was then supplemented with research of what could actually work underwater, not in a fully mathematical and realistic sense but as a general concept. This applies to types of food possibly available underwater, artificial pressurized greenhouse farms, multiple layers of buildings, extracting resources from unusual materials found underwater, concept of pressurized domes, addition of mechanical units to move around  in water, submarines, pressure caused malfunctions on infrastructure objects and many more details…

Creating a game where we are living underwater, did it present its challenges to develop? 

Yes it definitely did. There are no underwater cities in existence today, so imagining how the entire system could work required a lot of thinking. It was impossible to take lessons from reality, but at the same time, we wanted our world to remain in touch with realm of possibility. The trick was to use technologies and researches that seem plausible and possible even from today’s perspective, inspite if not actually been developed yet.

Another challenge was to think of a challenges people would encounter in such underwater settlement. No one actually lives under water permanently in real world, and all we had is bits and pieces of hardships that are likely to happen in such environment. But all of that are only assumptions, not hard facts. Finally, the challenge was to depict a still positive perspective on human life underwater. That was the ultimate goal – show that even in worst of circumstances, human life can still find beauty and brightness.

What sort of response are you hoping to see from players?

Well, we’re hoping for positive response from players. Kidding aside, we hope they will enjoy the peacefulness and positivity of the game atmosphere, and will wish to spend time being creative in challenging situations game will present. We also hope players won’t find the game too hard and complicated to play.

It is a pretty extensive game with many main and side elements to its mechanics, but all of them have place for specific reasons. Best path forward is to play it slowly and carefully. That will give you time to explore all the available options and learn that every problem has multiple possible solutions. Aquatico will not force you to follow a single path, and there are many different routes you can take, only important thing is to plan ahead, manage your resources carefully and never forget what your ultimate goal is.

Besides that, since we’re open to future updates and modifications, we’re hoping game will continue expanding its player base and bring about a vivid discussions and feedback. All of that will be the base upon which post-release updates will be built.

Now you’ve spent all this time underwater, what’s your favourite sea creature?

Favourite sea creature? I’d like to keep a few dolphins as pets, and glowing jellyfish to keep them company. However, if all goes well, incoming secret sea monster from long forgotten past should be most spectacular of all!

When is it out and how can people stay updated?

The game is still scheduled to release in Q4 of 2022, and if that changes we’ll be sure to announce it in time. As far as we see with internal development pace, that should still be achievable, and in worst case scenario we’d be looking at a smaller delay, not anything significant.

We’d like to invite all players interested in Aquatico to wishlist the game on the Aquatico Steam page. It’s fastest way to follow the progress we’re making. Besides that we also have a Twitter and growing Discord channel. All of these channels will announce any and all news pertinent to future of Aquatico.

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This Article was written by: Harry Cole

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