It’s a cliché at this point to say that making games is difficult. Of course it’s hard. It is in many ways even more difficult to create a game entirely on your own. But do you know what’s really hard? Maintain your focus and passion on a project for years at a time.
As I have said countless times before, Axiom Verge is both my hobby and my job. He puts food on the table and keeps a roof over our heads. But I’m lucky that this is also what I would do even if I didn’t make a living from it. For this to be true, and to remain true, I have to push the boundaries of what I create. It would be difficult for me to maintain my passion for game development if I just created a new map layout and new weapons for Axiom Verge and called it a sequel.
So I decided to push myself and try something ambitious. I’ve talked a bit in the past about some of the technical challenges of creating Axiom Verge 2, especially the sloping dirt-like terrain and smart enemies, but never revealed the bigger challenge and Axiom Verge 2’s most distinctive feature… so far.
Here’s the big reveal: Axiom Verge 2 is two worlds in one. Behind the world map that I have shown all this time is another interconnected breach world in an alternate dimension. I hinted at this in a first trailer, where the drone goes through a mysterious portal, but I kept this a secret for a while.
So first of all, what’s the breach? Well, if you’ve played Axiom Verge 1, you might remember a cutscene with this image:
The breach, to the right, is a region of space, long considered impassable, that initially kept the inhabitants of Sudra safe from the outside universe. [Minor spoiler alert imminent!] In Axiom Verge, someone named Athetos was able to walk through the breach and use a breach attractor to keep Sudra trapped. Hijinks ensue.
I first decided to include the breach in Axiom Verge 2 in some form or another around 2016. It took a while for the idea of two worlds to come to fruition. At first I envisioned having only one raised lot on top of the other. After playing around with a few approaches, I decided that approaching the breach as an extra dimension could unlock a vast array of opportunities for nonlinear exploration.
In Axiom Verge 2, you will have the opportunity to enter and exit the breach and discover how this world is connected to the overworld. There will be secrets you can only find in the breach as well as places in the overworld that can only be reached by a path through the breach – and vice versa.
At a glance, you can see that the breach zone is very different from the overworld:
The breach, being of extraterrestrial origin, shares a little more in common with Sudra than the earth. It has more blocky tiles and a completely different look. The enemies are more organic than robotic, but still completely alien. In some ways, it’s two games in one.
Making two games in one is hard enough, but it’s really the interplay of the two worlds that makes it a cohesive whole. If these were just two separate art styles, where some pieces were breach style and some were overworld style, that’s not particularly interesting. What’s interesting, for me at least, is using one to explore the other.
For each location in the gap, there is a corresponding point in the overworld. The entry and exit points of the Rift and Overworld had to be carefully aligned to ensure players were not trapped and so you could reach anywhere you wanted to go. Crafting the map system for this literally added an extra dimension to the game’s design.
Going into more detail on how the Breach and the Overworld interact would start to bleed into the territory of the Overworld. I don’t want to spoil the fun of uncovering the secrets of Axiom Verge 2, so I’ll stop here. Just know that the game will be releasing before you know it and you’ll be jumping into dimensions in no time.