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INSOMNIA: The Ark

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INSOMNIA: The Ark (formerly InSomnia) is tactical action RPG developed by Studio MONO, an independent development house motivated by the goal of creating a complex, multi-layered RPG featuring unique game mechanics within a carefully constructed and coherent universe. After severe complications and a 8+ years development cycle, it was released the 28th of September 2018.

Story[edit | edit source]

The bulk of the action in the game will take place on an enormous, half-deserted space station that has spent more than four centuries traveling to its ultimate destination: the Evacuation Point. Most of the station is abandoned but there are also many sectors that have never been explored. The survivors are trying to maintain order within a manned sector called Urb in the hopes that the station will one day reach its destination.

Every player begins the game in the manned Urb sector as a Descendant of the Nomans, a people who escaped their home planet more than 400 years earlier. The life-support system resuscitates the player from a 20-year-long Delta-Sleep, a state in which the majority of the inhabitants of the Manned Sector are kept in order to save resources. The player then encounters other people who have also been woken up and begins carrying out a series of instructions while simultaneously trying to determine what happened on the Station while he was asleep.

Development[edit | edit source]

The pre-production phase[edit | edit source]

It started with the simple idea of making a game that would continue the legacy of the classic “Golden Era of RPG” titles. Most ideas never find their physical form and keep haunting their authors forever after. INSOMNIA started to materialize on paper in the form of words and sketches almost immediately. This process continued for quite some time since no one on the team had any previous experience in coding games. And while the team and the design document was growing, it was actually time to pick the engine and the technology so that we could finally start bringing INSOMNIA to life.

Ogre3D: real development begins[edit | edit source]

So the decision was made and Ogre3D, the open-source graphics rendering engine, was picked for the first version of the game that was proudly presented to the public back in 2013. At this point in time, INSOMNIA was presented as an isometric co-operative online role-playing game with tactical elements.

However, potential fans were clearly not interested in yet another online RPG. After some deliberation, we’ve made the decision to focus on single player elements instead. Developing the game in this direction took another year, and the studio came back with their first publicly available tech-demo in 2014.

This change made quite a few people happy and they were able to successfully kickstart INSOMNIA. The secured funds allowed the team to be expanded, improve working conditions and continue the development more effectively. However, all the previous months spent working on the projects had shown the team that the Ogre3D engine was severely limiting their capabilities. They had to spend more time on developing their own tools and improving the engine instead of working on the game itself. This is when the idea to move INSOMNIA to the Unreal Engine 4 first popped up in their team meetings.

Unreal Engine 4: the way to go![edit | edit source]

The UE4 engine seemed to include all of the tools the team wanted: incredible visuals, powerful development environment and detailed documentation. The downside was — they had to transfer everything that had been done so far using Ogre3D to the new engine. This took quite a lot of time and resources, which pushed MONO to reach out to the Kickstarter community for their support once again. Thanks to their help, they were able to get additional funds and continued to breath life into INSOMNIA’s world.

It took around 3 years for them to move from one engine to another and actually add all of the remaining content to the game. They also had to update UE4 itself once in a while to stay up to date with the latest improvements to the engine, which also took time. At some point this process had to stop, so that the studio could start locking down changes and wrapping up development.

Steam release: getting the necessary feedback[edit | edit source]

When INSOMNIA was released, the team was using the the 4.16.3 version of UE4 which performed well on their in-house machines. However, the launch brought in thousands of people with all kinds of graphics cards, monitors and other computer hardware on which the game running on an outdated version of the engine did not always work as expected. The feedback provided during the following months resulted in 4 patches and the team realizing that they had to update their technology once again to fix the issues that couldn’t be addressed otherwise (localizations being mixed up, optimization problems, missing textures etc.).

Since the difference between older and newer versions of UE4 is huge, the jump couldn’t jump from the older version to the newest one in one go was impossible. They had to update the game step by step, taking a few weeks of their time.

Gallery[edit | edit source]


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