Epitasis is a new project being worked on by Lucas Govatos. It's a puzzle exploration game in the mould of Myst that was inspired by the soundscapes of electronic musicians like Tycho. It's also being made entirely in Unreal Engine 4.
The game, whose name is Greek for the main action in a play, grew out of the ashes of a one of Govatos' previous projects. Using the code he had already developed for player movement and interaction with objects, he began expanding on his vision for a game where the player is discovering new worlds and learning about them through the artefacts left there.
Similar to games like Obduction and Fez, Govatos wants to create a sense of mystery and impending epiphany through a combination of intellectual puzzles and secrets hidden in the environment designs, as well as a whole bunch of portals. "The showcase demo I have built includes a pretty cryptic 'secret' puzzle using binary numbers," he said. Talos Principle is another comparison Govatos pointed to, due to his love of lasers.
The game itself arose from a much more pedestrian moment, however. "Epitasis had a bit of a weird start," Govatos said. The idea for it came to him while he was at his school's art gallery with a friend nearly a year ago. "I was walking around and something just struck me - a vision of a green field and orange planet, which can still be clearly seen in many of the pictures you see today of the game."
After getting deep into prototyping the game, Govatos spent a month traversing Costa Rica and working at an animal rescue hostel there, an experience which helped solidify what he wanted the experience of playing Epitasis to be even further. "My biggest impression of Costa Rica was just how foreign it was while still feeling somewhat at home," Govatos said.
Places like Monteverde, which is up high in the rain forest jungles, also impacted my view of exploration by going on early morning bus rides up into the fog and taking a trek through the rain forest. San Jose (the capital) was also great in this aspect, as its quite a busy, populous place with winding roads and long bus rides, and you never really knew what you'd find around the corner. Also like I said, I stayed at the Costa Rican Animal Rescue Center, and got to take care of a ton of different animals there as well, which I think left a good impression as well in terms of just the beauty life, the world that surrounds us, and the tranquility of it all.
The game's other influences are musical. "I've been listening to Tycho for a few years now and there was always something about the music that transported me to someplace else," said Govatos. "And much like Costa Rica, it felt like it took me to a foreign — perhaps alien — place, but a place none the less that still felt somewhat familiar and like home." The giant planetary ball present throughout his work on Epitasis should be familar to anyone whose seen the cover art for Tycho's Dive album.
Govatos also mentioned the work of Washed Out, another artist that dabbles in soundscapes and which has at one time or another been associated with chillwave (which, contrary to Dave Schilling, totally was a thing). If you've ever watched Portlandia, you'll know the band's music from the show's opening theme. I can still remember binge watching the first season late at night back when I discovered it late 2011, not so much for the lampooning of Oregon state's woodland hipster culture as the little vignettes of a city I'd never been to set to a soundtrack of repackaged oldies.
"Tycho's music, and much like Washed Out's as well, often feel tranquil and calm, but still present with energy and emotion," said Govatos. "This emotion definitively translates to a certain soundscape or feeling, and when thinking about the game's design it does help quite a bit when trying to find inspiration or nail something down." Andrzej Ojczenas did the music for Epitasis' first trailer, but Govatos isn't sure who will be responsible for the game's final soundtrack.
And then of course there's the software from Epic that's helped make it possible for Govatos to recapture that eureka moment he first experienced in the art gallery so many months ago.
"Unreal Engine 4 is a godsend," he said.
"When Unreal 4 came out, blueprints essentially taught me how to really start prototyping designs and mechanics due to its friendly nature." It's a programming architecture Govatos feels comfortable with having come from an art background, but which encouraged him to embark on a computer science degree as a result.
Govatos plans to release the game on Steam once its complete, but doesn't know exactly when that will be yet. In an update on his development blog, he wrote,
First of all, I should state that I see Epitasis having a "when its finished" release date, but having done something like that in the past I know that I'll be able to figure out a release date before its actually finished, depending on the amount of work thats left to be completed. At the moment, the game is in a state where most basic and core systems are completed, and now I'm just creating content, levels, and more designs to be added in and extended. Its a hard process, and to be completely honest, its only going to get harder as more time goes on. There is some promising designs I've already started concepting for the game though, such as a language based on real world binary numbers and how one may be able to communicate through binary to extraterrestrial intelligent life (see: Voyager probe plaque, and also prime number communication) and a bunch of other cool stuff I'll talk about in the following year.
He hopes to demo the game at different festivals and meetups throughout 2017. You can see more screenshots from the game below.