What you need to know
- ARA: History Untold is a 4X strategy game from Oxide Games.
- Oxide Games provided a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Ara: History Untold during the Xbox Developer_Direct.
- Ara: History Untold is scheduled for a Fall 2024 release on Windows and Steam, and will be available Day One on PC Game Pass.
They say history is written by the victors. That leaves plenty of room for untold stories. Oxide Games is inviting players to join the world of ARA with their own nations to write their own histories. During the Xbox Developer_Direct, Oxide provided players with a fresh look at the development process behind Ara: History Untold, focusing on the importance of player feedback and the planned release window slated for Fall 2024.
Ara: History Untold is a 4X strategy game developed by industry veterans who have worked on games like Civilization V. While leaning into classic strategy gameplay, Oxide Games expressed an interest in pushing the genre forward in a modern way. To push this forward, Oxide focused on creating a living world, procedurally generated with deep systems that encourage exploration. Players can see the reflections of their choices on the world around them, as well as the influences of culture on an alternative Earth.
Speaking to Xbox Wire, Oxide Games Design Director Michelle Menard stated that the developers sought to identify key aspects of the grand strategy genre that the team felt they could improve on. "Something that plagues the genre space is that once you've kind of figured out how to win or how the game works, you've mastered it. You stop playing because you solved the problem; it was a binary problem because of the key drivers of something like a tech tree is a static, solvable problem."
To navigate away from this conundrum, Ara: History Untold players will have the freedom to build nations and write a history that is measured by prestige, as opposed to simple win conditions. A nation may rise as a leader by focusing on works of art and culture or building monuments known as Triumphs. Rather than focusing on overcoming win conditions, players can be faced with unpredictable live scenarios that challenge the way they think about their nation.
Menard also shared that Oxide Games developed a functional and complete board game version of Ara: History Untold during its development. The development of the board game led to innovations in the digital edition of Ara, with mechanics like crafting becoming key pillars for training units and gaining favor by creating gifts for other nations. To accommodate the direction development took, Oxide Games had to create an entirely new game engine and record hours upon hours of music using hundreds of unusual instruments that were brought in-house.
Oxide Games touts Microsoft's backing for the creative freedom behind developing Ara: History Untold. "A lot of times in games – even if you know they’re super fun, they’ve got huge communities – they don’t always have the most resources put towards them. Or you have the biggest budget, but sometimes a very short production schedule. Microsoft has been amazing to work with in that regard. ‘What do you want to do in the genre space, and we will help you achieve those things…’ whereas at other companies, we would have never had this kind of leeway or support.” Menard said.
During the Developer_Direct, team members from Oxide Games reiterated the importance of the community for Ara: History Untold's development. The game was built with the assistance of players via an Insider's program, and it was feedback from these gameplay sessions that helped the game to improve. In one particularly amusing anecdote, a developer retells a forum post where a player had problematic encounters with cougars in the game world, lamenting "Someone get these feline demons away from me."
Ara: History Untold will launch on Windows and Steam in the Fall, 2024 and will be available Day One on PC Game Pass. Oxide Games has said it plans to continue the Insider program for continued development and feedback after launch. Speaking on Game Pass and the strategy genre, Menard said, "We’ve always wanted to expand the grand strategy market with this title to new players who would never have tried it before, and I think that’s truly only possible because it is going to be on Game Pass."
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Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.