Time for another update on what’s happening here at Embark.
Let’s start with the news of the day. In case you missed it, Nexon just announced they will increase their ownership in Embark to become a majority owner of the studio. You can read more about the details here.
Nexon has been with us from the beginning, as our first and only investor and the publisher of our first game. Frankly, we wouldn’t be where we are without them. The team at Nexon has seen what we’ve managed to achieve over these past seven months, and believe in our studio and what we’re attempting to do.
I joined Nexon’s board earlier this year, and I’ve been really impressed with their patient attitude to game development. They know how to make games that engage players for decades. Most importantly, our companies share the same world-view. We both know that game development needs an overhaul, and we’re both convinced that new technology, methodologies, and perspectives will completely reshape what games can become.
So what now? We keep on building our studio and will continue doing things the way we have, working on the things we’ve started building. If anything, Nexon’s increased support means we can move a bit faster and focus even harder on our long-term mission.
Speaking of what we’re working on, I thought it would be interesting to detail some of our latest progress.
Last time I wrote one of these we were just off the starting blocks, with a team of some 50 employees. The studio continues to grow, and we’re now approaching 80 (really talented) people, a team small enough to fit on a photo if we cram together.
Around half of the studio is working on our first game which, if you recall, is a cooperative free-to-play action game set in a distant future, about overcoming seemingly impossible odds by working together.
The game team has been deep into prototyping over the spring, and we’re beginning to see the early seeds of something unique. The other week we started running weekly (and gloriously buggy) playtests, which means we have begun iterating on our ideas and can start to identify the things that are good and the things that are less good.
Our artists (who recently came back from a photogrammetry trip to Iceland) have set out to create large worlds at high visual fidelity, while remaining a small and focused team.
Their work is a good example of how we’re approaching game development in a drastically new way. They combine photogrammetry with procedural workflows and have a mindset to avoid manual input to the largest extent possible. The results are promising, as seen by this environment test in Unreal that we shared the other month.
But we’re working on more than games. Around a quarter of the studio is focused on our long-term mission. As some of you may have heard us say, we think it’s too hard for people that aren’t professional game developers to make games.
So we’ve started working on a platform that we hope will let anyone create interactive experiences, even people with no prior experience with game development tools.
Much of the work on the platform so far has gone into building up the core, and there are some large and interesting challenges ahead.
Animation and movement, for instance, is one of these walled-off areas in game development that until now has required the expertise and resources of a game studio to pull off. So we’re asking ourselves, can we develop a method that would enable anyone to animate?
Our AI team is experimenting with a physically-based system that uses reinforcement learning to create animations. Here’s an example of some walking animations for a spider-robot, created by our learning system without any manual animation work at all.
The team and I can’t wait to share more about the things we’re up to. I know that our CTO and my co-founder Johan Andersson (aka repi) is itching to tell you more about our vision for our platform, and how we work with Rust. So keep following us on whatever channel you prefer (GitHub, Twitter, Instagram, or here on Medium) for more updates.
Considering all that has happened, it’s hard for me to fathom that we started this studio from scratch a short seven months ago. There’s plenty of stuff we need to accomplish, but so far it feels like we’ve hit the ground running.