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'Subnautica' Postmortem

Jonas Boetel  (Lead Programmer, Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall

Date: Tuesday, March 19

Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Summits, Indie Games Summit - Get your pass now!

Topic: Independent Games Summit

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

'Subnautica' almost failed. Unknown Worlds Entertainment almost went bankrupt. Initially, Early Access sales were weak. Fast forward three years and 'Subnautica' sold two million copies, growing fast. How did they turn it around? Is it replicable?

In this talk Jonas explains how open development saved 'Subnautica': what it is, what it means, and how it affects every part of the independent game making process. The talk is about listening to your game, iterating on feedback, growing communities, and finding customers along the way. It is about how to thrive on Early Access.

Jonas will show in detail how the Unknown Worlds Entertainment team found and doubled down on the core spikes, which make 'Subnautica' stand out, and how the process can be generalized for other games. He will show how they were able to tell a story in a nonlinear open world game. He'll show how to gather and process massive amounts of player feedback. Finally, of course, he will also show you what went right and what went wrong during development, the challenges faced, the changes made along the way and the lessons learned.


Get behind the scenes information about the development of 'Subnautica' and take away practical advice based on the way Unknown Worlds Entertainment works. Open development helps them make better games and earn money. They want to inspire you to consider it as an alternative way to develop, publish, and market games in a truly indie fashion.

Intended Audience

This talk is for indie developers, big and small, who are willing to listen to their game and make significant changes based on player feedback.