TerraTech Worlds “isn’t a sequel” to TerraTech, but does “supplant it in every way,” say devs

Later this week, Payload Studios’ open world vehicular survival builder TerraTech Worlds launches into early access. As the name implies, it’s a bigger, bolder and more ambitious take on their still very popular sandbox game TerraTech, but according to Payload’s founder and CEO Russ Clarke, they’re viewing this new version as more of a successor to TerraTech than a full-bodied sequel. “The overall quality of experience is really a huge leap forward,” Clarke told me during a press presentation last week. “We’re not calling it a sequel because we felt that making it a sequel would be a bit too constraining.” Rather, it’s “more of a reimagining” of the original game, says Clarke, with a change in engine and fresh investment from Tencent allowing them to reach the full potential of their original vision.

Cover image for YouTube videoTerraTech Worlds Official Announce Trailer

“It’s, in concept, very close to the original vision that we had for TerraTech, which was way too ambitious for us to try and make back in 2013,” Clarke admits. “But now that we’ve got the scope and the capability to really do more with it, we can get it to the full scope of that vision. It’s also very much informed by the learnings that we’ve had in that period working with our community.”

Originally, they conceived TerraTech Worlds as “the original game + stuff”, says Clarke, but as time went on, it became clearer that this idea “really needed to change to allow the game to reach its full potential.” Hence why it’s “more of a reimagining,” though Clarke does say that “narratively, the intention is to connect it in an overall timeline that we’ll flesh out over time during and beyond the early access period.”

As part of that reimagining, Clarke says that switching to Unreal Engine 5 has allowed the team to “potentially sweep away a decade’s worth of technical debt and really swing for the fences” with Worlds, as well as “truly optimise for the simulation scale that we want to achieve”.

A wheel is being placed on a block-based vehicle in TerraTech Worlds
Image credit: Payload Studios

As a result, several areas that Clarke deems “fairly crude in the first go round” have been greatly expanded and improved upon. Mining has had a “full overhaul”, for example, extending to terrain deformation and more in-depth transportation systems, and crafting has been redesigned to support more expansive base-building and automation processes. Plus, the planets are properly spherical now, rather than infinitely generated flat plains like they were in the original TerraTech, which Clarke hopes will give Worlds a “much stronger sense of location”.

Base-building in particular was always something Clarke felt was “a little bit untapped” in Terratech, but has now become “a huge component” in Worlds. “There’s a natural overlap with our block-based building systems and these kind of factory-building gameplay,” he continues. “We’re all big Satisfactory fans in the Payload office, and we just think it’s a great expression of the core building rules, and it just allows you to do a lot more with that system.”

Multiplayer was another “missed opportunity” in Clarke’s eyes, as they “did not have the resources to do a proper job of it,” he admits. As he puts it, “bolting it on later […] did not go well,” and their focus on PvP was “not what the community really wanted”. Worlds, therefore, has been designed with co-op and PvE in mind right from the start, and will have peer-to-peer support and dedicated servers out of the gate. You can also play solo and offline, too, if you prefer, of course.

A vehicle drives across an alien planet in TerraTech Worlds

A red vehicle approaches a base constructed above an ocean in TerraTech Worlds

Image credit: Payload Studios

They’ve also refined some of the stronger aspects of TerraTech, such as making block placement feel more intuitive and expressive, and building out its customisaton features. These will be arriving over the course of the game’s early access period, with the first major milestone update due to arrive later this summer. “The full range of those tools won’t be available at launch,” says Clarke. “The engine support is there, but we need to do quite a bit more work on the UI for things like spray-painting, skins, multiple primary and secondary colour choices, decals and loads of cool stuff we didn’t have in the first game.”

In terms of other things coming down the early access pipe, Clarke says they will be adding “narrative elements, set-piece events and other kinds of interactive points of interest to make the world feel like an interesting place to be,” along with boss battles, new planets and biomes, a creative mode, and aerial combat to name just a few of the other features available on its roadmap.

It’s certainly an ambitious track they’ve laid for themselves, but it’s also one that Clarke and his team seem well-placed to meet as they approach TerraTech World’s early access launch on March 22nd. Hopefully, the end result will be a game that navigates that age-old question, “To sequel, or not to sequel?” in a way that’s satisfying to its playerbase, and that doesn’t destroy what made that first game special to them. Until then, you can find out more about TerraTech Worlds on Steam.

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