Game Analysis: Subnautica


  • I choose Subnautica for my analysis because ever sense I played it for the first time it almost instantly became one of my favorite games I have ever played.

Game Play Analysis

Formal Elements
The BasicsNOTES
Name of the gameSubnautica
The platformXbox, PS4, PC
Time played (should be at least 30 minutes)23 hours
If you could work on this game (change it), what would you change and why?I would make the game a TINY bit more clear where you have to go to start the mid-game progression.
How many players are supported?1
Does it need to be an exact number?Yes
How does this affect play?This makes the player feel alone and isolated on the alien planet.
What are the players trying to do?Explore and escape the alien planet
There are three categories of (what the book Rules of Play calls) operational rules:Setup – the things you do at the beginning of a game.Progression of Play – what happens during the game.Resolution – How an outcome is determined based on the game state.Subnuatic uses all Setup, Progression of Play, and Resolution
What controls are used?I used a Xbox controller to play so the controls would differ for keyboard and mouse and PS4. Left stick to move, right stick to look/aim, right trigger to use, left trigger to secondary use, A to jump and rise, X to interact, B to close, right bumper to go up in a ship, left bumper to go down in a ship
Was there a clear introductory tutorial?No there is no tutorial at all, the game just throws you in with no help. This makes you feel alone.
Were they easy to understand or did you find yourself spamming the controller?The only problem I had was that the tablet (where you find info you find) and the pause menu I mess up all the time.
Resources & Resource ManagementNOTES
What kinds of resources do players control?The player controls a person in the first person view.
How are they maintained during play?You can swim, stand (if on land), get items to help in your objectives.
What is their role?Your role is a person who has crashed into a alien planet. The planet is made completely out of water (except for 2 islands) Your main ship has crashed and you escape on a life pod. You are the only person left and your goal is to explore and escape the world.
A resource is everything under the control of a single player. Could be the money in Monopoly or health in WoW. Other examples are:Territory in RISK The number of questions remaining in 20 Questions Objects picked up during videogames (guns, health packs, etc.)Time (game time, real-time, or both)Known information (like suspects in Clue)
Game StateNOTES
How much information in the game state is visible to the player?All you have is a compass, your hot bar, and your oxygen/health bar
A snapshot of the game at a single point is the game state. The resources you have, the un-owned properties in Monopoly, your opponent’s Archery skill all count towards the game state. Some example information structures are:Total Information – Nothing is hidden, like Chess.Info per player – Your hand of cards is only visible to you.One player has privileged info – Like a Dungeon Master.The game hides info from all players – Like Clue, where no one knows the victory condition.Fog of War – In video games, where certain sections of the map are concealed if you do not have a unit in sight range of that area. You also cannot see other players’ screens, so each player is unaware of the other’s information.
In what order do players take their actions?Your character is in an open world and can do whatever they want.
How does play flow from one action to another?You can go from objective to objective through the AI voice that can sometimes tells your objectives.
Some structures include:Turn-based – Standard board game technique.Turn-based with simultaneous play – where everyone takes their turn at the same time (like writing something down or putting a card down in War).Real-time – Actions happen as fast as players can make them. Action-based video games.Turn-based and time limits – You have this long to take your turn.
Player Interaction
Some examples:Direct Conflict – I attack you.Negotiation – If you support me here, I’ll help you there.Trading – I’ll give you this for that.Information Sharing – If you go there, I’m warning you, a trap will go off.
Theme & NarrativeNOTES
Does it have an actual story structure?There are 2 story lines, one is that your trying to escape the planet and the other is that the planet it being infected by a virus and you get infected so you cant leave the planet until you get cured.
Is it based on a historical event (or similar)?No
Does the theme or narrative help you know how to play?It is a fantasy game so you know that anything can happen
Does it have emotional impacts?The game can be really scary because you are never told what are at the very depths of the ocean (and you are forced to go there to progress story) . At the very depths there are huge monsters that will attack you no matter what.
Also, look for en media res (does it start in the middle of the game)?The infection story line starts in the middle of the game.
The Elements in MotionNOTES
How do the different elements interact?You can mine ores for tools and build a base for tools and ores. You can interact with the fish/aliens by them killing you.
What is the gameplay like?The gameplay is very basic in which you just explore do objectives and progress story.
Is it effective?Yes
Are there any points where the design choices break down?No
Design CritiqueNOTES
Why did the designer make these particular choices?The designers made all models and designs to look strange and foreign.
Why this set of resources?To make the player feel alone and scared.
What if they made different decisions?If they did not choose to do it this way the game would not be the same .
Does the design break down at any point?No
Graphics & SoundNOTES
Does the game art pair well with the mechanics?Yes
Did you find any bugs or glitches?Only one big one. The map sometimes did not fully load and there would be big holes in the ground.
What about sound?The sound design is really good. It feels like each noise should go to each creature.
Can you spot any technical shortcuts?No
Various Stages of the GameNOTES
To wrap up, some things to keep in mind (as if there aren’t enough already) as you play:Anything can pop up and try to kill you.
What challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them?The virus is overcome by curing it near the end of the game.
Is the game fair?Yes
Is it replayable? Are there multiple paths to victory or optional rules that can change the experience?There is just on but you can find new things and find new ways to play the game each time.
What is the intended audience?I think all ages would enjoy the game.
What is the core, the one thing you do over and over, and is it fun?Just the discovery and mystery.

This analysis form was adapted from



Mr. Le Duc’s Game Analysis Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *