This One’s Got Legs: Inside the Strange New World of Once Human

by Intel Gaming |

An alien substance known as Stardust has a transforming effect in the open-world survival game Once Human from the aptly named Starry Studios. The endless potential of the skies is something of a recurring theme, as they took their company name from Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘The Starry Night’. Head ofOperations Derek Qiu states their aim is “to create games with depth, beauty, and a unique vision, much like that iconic painting.”

They’re off to a good start with this highly anticipated debut title, described by Derek as “made for fans of survival games and spooky horror thrill-seekers.” In a post-apocalyptic world, Stardust has infected every living thing; bizarre organic/mechanical mutations called Deviants stalk the land, including a bus on legs should your own limbs get a little tired from the endless struggle to survive. Players aren’t mutated by Stardust, however; instead, they can use it to develop special abilities.

The end of the world has been a playground for gamers for decades, so, in a crowded landscape, how does Once Human manage to stand out? Derek declares himself and the team at Starry Studio “huge fans” of the survival genre to begin with, and also passionate about New Weird content. As Derek explains: “We realized that both of these have some commonalities, and that got us thinking: ‘Why not create a one-of-a-kind supernatural-themed open-world survival game?’ We were super excited about the idea and that’s how Once Human came to life … [It] sets itself apart in the competitive survival game market with its distinctive worldview, monster design, and a fresh gameplay approach that combines MMO elements with survival mechanics.”

It’s Creepy and It’s Kooky

In this world of mutants and madness, players “explore five different natural areas, interact with various NPC camps, solve puzzles, take on bosses, and unravel the main story as it unfolds. In this unforgiving natural environment, they’ll also need to gather resources, construct their own territory, and craft weapons and gear to survive the apocalypse,” Derek expands. “But that’s not all … You can capture creatures known as Deviations in the open world to help you in battles and survival. Team up with friends to tackle hardcore dungeons or raid other players’ survival supplies. And, with no limits, you can build expansive playgrounds and all kinds of unique structures.”

The monsters are key to the game’s success; they’re as fresh as the gameplay, which is no mean feat. Take heart anyone struggling to find a unique take for their own development—this didn’t happen overnight. “We were initially unsatisfied with the monster designs,” Derek says. “They looked too similar to the typical apocalyptic monsters. So, we went back to the drawing board and reconsidered what makes a player feel truly weird. We concluded that one aspect is ‘feeling anomalies in familiar objects.’ With this in mind, we took a bold step and incorporated everyday objects into our monster designs, resulting in creatures like the ‘walking bus’, and the ‘Watcher’. These designs aligned with our vision and became highly popular with the players.”

This approach extends to the Deviations, and what you can use to grow their abilities. Disco balls. Yes, those glittery globes suspended from the ceiling. Or in this case, present at a mutant Deviant rave. If you ever wondered if disco would survive the apocalypse, wonder no more.

Ready Player Fun

The sense of fun that permeates Once Human’s design extends to the player experience. “Thanks to our unique blend of survival and shooter gameplay, along with multiplayer features, both MMO fans and shooter enthusiasts can have a blast in our game,” Derek affirms. “You can team up with friends and go on adventures in servers with up to 4,000 players, or battle it out in PvP servers.”

Starry Studios clearly considered broad appeal alongside attention to detail, but what is this going to cost you, the player? Well, they’ve thought about that, too. Back to Derek: “Once Human, as a large open-world game, will be free to play! Additionally, the development team guarantees that there will be no pay-to-win elements in the game, and that the main paid content will be restricted to cosmetics only. Our goal is to establish a completely fair gaming environment for our players and community.”

Get Graphic  

You don’t want to land in a world of high-flying possibilities only to be brought crashing down to earth by performance issues. “We’ve observed a gap in the current open-world survival genre,” Derek says. “There’s a clear demand for a game with top-notch graphics that can truly elevate the survival experience for players. That’s why Once Human places a strong emphasis on PC performance. Improved graphics, 3D models, and animations can significantly enhance players’ immersion in the world of survival and exploration. If you want to fully experience Once Human with top-notch PC performance, be sure to run the game with our recommended system requirements.”

That’s something we at Intel can only agree with. Improved performance for player enjoyment is at the heart of what we do, and Starry Studios are on board. “We value our technical partnership with Intel,” Derek confirms, “and are working on integrating Intel Xe Super Sampling (XeSS) technology … We used the Intel VTuneTM tool to help us identify CPU performance issues, ultimately enhancing the game’s operational efficiency.”

Looking To the Future

Having made a mutated world, what’s next for the team? More inspiration from the stars? Derek explains: “Our top priority right now is to deliver the ultimate Once Human open-world experience to players upon the game’s official release … Our main objective for the next phase is to consistently provide our player community with improved game content, ongoing updates featuring new events, gameplay enhancements, and new monsters. We encourage all players to join our Discord community, and invite developers to join us in making Once Human even better.”

Find Once Human on Steam from 9th July 2024