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Artemis. Possibly the most ambitious project to come out of modern game developers. An open-world game as big as Earth.
With each passing day, we seem to stray closer and closer towards a true Cyberpunk world. One where we turn our heads from reality and dive into a virtual reality. And Brendan Greene is taking the initiative to make this a possibility.
“We want to give people a new place to live, because this one has some issues”
What is Artemis?
Pubg Creator Brendan Greene is taking a leap of faith in creating one of the biggest open-world games out there. He helped reignite the Battle Royale genre with PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. Arguably the game that kickstarted the battle royale frenzy (though we don’t discredit the BR Minecraft mod).
Brendan Greene (mister PlayerUnkown himself) is a highly ambitious and accomplished individual, but he wasn’t satisfied with just Pubg. Instead, he’s taken it upon himself to take on the mantle of creating a game many have dreamt of. A giant, deep and detailed world where anything is possible.
Artemis could be as close to Ready Player One and Snow Crashas we ever get in reality. A nexus point for endless possibilities. Brendan simply likes calling it ‘a world’.
However, Greene is painfully aware of the possibly impossible engineering behind this project. He fears that the world and technology at our disposal now might not be enough for Artemis. That’s why he’s focusing on a pre-emptive project, aptly named: Prologue.
“Prologue is really just a stepping stone.”
As of now, we know that Prologue is a 64 kilometre by 64 kilometre world. The terrain of which will resemble modern European forests. But at its very core, Prologue is meant to serve as a tech demo.
Greene wants Prologue to be two things:
He wants his studio to build an authentic and trustworthy reputation. He wants PlayerUnkown to mean something in a couple of years. He believes the only way to do this is to be open and say, ‘This is what we’re working on.”
Furthermore, Artemis already has funding, so isn’t reliant on Prologue being financially successful. Instead, Prologue will serve as a good template for Artemis, to show players what’s on the horizon and to obviously dip their toes in the Artemis project.
A Dream of a Giant World
Greene reminisces on the first day he played DayZand meeting the inevitable invisible wall that cordons players off from the rest of the virtual world. He desperately wanted to see more, to play more. As he tells GamesBeat:
“I loved the idea of making a space where a helicopter has real meaning. It’s not just that it cuts the trip across the map down to a few minutes. It cuts it down from a few days.”
A game world where events aren’t pre-scripted and could be different each time players log in. Prologue is said to draw on systems and concepts from existing survival games, but there’s so much more to it all.
One could argue that the reason why games are so popular is because it feeds our desire for escape. The real world is bleak and hard, things aren’t as easy as they can be in games. Especially in recent years, the prospects of growing up in our world fills people up with more dread than hope.
Hence why games, with their gorgeous worlds, fictional events and ability to grant us our deepest wishes are so appealing to millions. Hence why there are so many kinds of games out there, to satiate any hunger. Build yourself a zoo, oversee a city, recreate history anew, gun down your enemies or simply go on a virtual walk… Games appeal to escapism.
What people wouldn’t give to play a game where they can be and do anything at all, to truly escape. A world that feels alive and responds to you, not just your player character. As Green says:
“This kind of desire to have a digital life is strong in a lot of gamers. Providing this space where it’s a big enough world–I love Rust, but if you play on a busy server there are bases every few meters. I want a space where you don’t discover a player’s base for miles. Or when you do it’s a big settlement rather than a box. This stuff has always excited me, ever since I got back into gaming by discovering really open worlds. Red Dead Redemption is fantastic, but it’s just a bunch of scripts. You go kill all the bears in a region, go away, come back, and they’re all back again. I want to have a meaningful life in the world. If you kill all the bears in a region, maybe the deer population explodes.”
Greene has shown his ambition, he wants so much for this game and he wants it to be his legacy. For him, it’s not just another cash grab, this seems to be his dream project and he’s actively working on it. He wants this world to exist without the player, to be alive and flourish on its own. A world where you can step into and simply go by yourself and discover it.
A Dream or a Reality?
It would be easy to dismiss Greene’s ambition as foolish optimism but it’s worth considering just what Greenehas accomplished.
“What I’m doing is a little crazy,” he says. “I wanted a chance to strike out on my own and leave a legacy. […] I just wanted to strike out on my own and make my own name.”
Greene seems to be the ideal blend of a dreamer and entrepreneur. He has big plans but is fully aware of what he’s asking for and that it just might be impossible given modern technology.
Artemis is a grand project, one that combines humanity and machinery to create a new world from scratch.
Greene is taking the risk, one that he knows might be for naught but if he can accomplish it, he’ll be leaving behind far more than a legacy. Artemis could become something far bigger and greater than he or we could ever fathom.
A Leap of Faith
Greene believes that the games industry has strayed too far from its creative and ambitious start. Companies aren’t willing to risk anything, they keep their projects in a tight budget. Mid-sized studios are either eliminated or absorbed and reproduce the same content every year.
He believes that his help in creating Pubg showed that people are hungry for something new. Of course now battle royales are over saturated and some are bored of them, but back upon pubg’s initial release, it was something completely different and new for starved gamers.
Thanks to the cultural and financial capital pubg game him, he’s now been able to take a bigger risk. One that could transform the games industry all over again.
Greene has said that his dream is not to create a game. He wants to make a world.
A Small Team with Big Ideas
As of now, Greene’s team has just about 25 members, all in Amsterdam. These team members have worked with Greene from their time at Krafton. Greene also wanted to make sure he kept his name PlayerUnknown while Krafton kept PUBG.
“I take my intellectual property, Prologue, my work, all of that with me, and the team. That was very important to me,”
Considering Greene doesn’t want to be too open about what they’re doing, apart from what’s already been shown, he’s had to be wary even in the recruitment process. He is aware that they’ll likely have to hire more people to achieve their dream. But he’s also said that he doesn’t think they’ll need a team any bigger than 50 people because of the technology they’re building.
The Entity Component System
Greene found that no commercially available game engine was enough for their project. Therefor, him and his team has gotten to work on making their own game engine, dubbed Entity Component System (ECS).
Generating a world requires an inordinate amount of work, as expected. So Greene is trying to figure out ways he can cut through some of this work and time. One of these ways is to implement AI into its creation.
For example, in any world, artists are tasked with the detail art of a world. But the bigger the world, the bigger the game file. A world as big as he wants it to be would be far too big for any normal person’s computer to even run.
As such, they’re considering using AI that can work alongside artists and designers, making something far more manageable.
The main task is finding a balance between game design, machine learning and user-generated content.
“We figured out how to achieve this massive world. We broke it down into some pillars. The first was building a terrain tool to generate and fill massive worlds with content. The second thing would be how you fill that with life, using AI, giving the player real things to do, and making the world feel alive. And then finally, how do you dump 100,000 players on top of that?”
As their engine isn’t ready just yet, the PlayerUnknown team are using Unity to start testing their tech.
Greene said that it was Unity‘s Megacity demo that inspired him to use its tools. Stating: “Holy hell, we can really make these massive worlds. Now my dream can be made.”
Artemis is so much more and truly a possible world changer. Although it’s not likely to be released anytime soon, we can at least look forward to Prologue and all it’s setting out to be. You can read even more about it here!
Although Maya grew up and lived among the F1 cars and beaches of Monaco, she spent more time indoors playing on her Xbox 360. As she grew up, so did her love for games, particularly narrative-based games. She loved games that told a story or got her attached to characters. Now, Maya writes both articles about the latest games but also is writing her own novel. She one day hopes to be writing for games herself, especially fantasy RPGs!