- Last Days of Lazarus is heavily inspired by the post-communism period in Romania
- Get immersed in an unsettling mood with many religious, supernatural and superstitious influences, of a country in disarray
- Play the game to discover the fate of Lazarus and his troubled and sinful family
Hi, I’m Catalin Marcu from GrimTalin, one of the two developers of Last Days of Lazarus – a dark post-communist adventure that tells a disturbing story about family, loss and sin. George, our game director from Darkania Works, and myself are extremely excited that our game is finally releasing on Xbox Series X.
While I joined the development of the game about a year into its making, I have instantly resonated with its setting into not only our country, Romania, but also in a difficult period for us: the post-communist transition period. I feel we have achieved our goal of highlighting, through a supernatural distorted lens, what our life was during those difficult years, as we ourselves were growing from kids to teenagers.
I was four and half when communism in Romania fell. While there wasn’t much unrest in the small town I grew up in, the big cities and our capital, Bucharest, were in a full Revolution. I remember one of those nights, as my dad was leaving for his night shift at the factory, he told me and my older brother: “Stay inside and behave. They’re shooting in Bucharest.” I don’t know how much I understood at that early age the gravity of what was happening, but my dad’s worried face conveyed it was something important and those words stayed with me.
What followed was the period of transition. A sacrificial generation as they called it. Our parents were supposed to sacrifice themselves to poverty and continuous struggles so that my generation would have a real chance at democratic life. Quite inspiring! What that really meant was the right people with the right connections got a free pass at looting almost everything from the country. It meant corruption ran rampant. It meant a generation that was still blocked and kept into the old way of thinking and surviving.
Communism didn’t disappear from our country overnight. Neither did all the cultural and commercial Russian influences. We still imported a lot of stuff from all the countries in the old communist bloc. That is the main reason there are so many items in our game that look like they’re from Russia. That’s why there are texts in Russian here and there. Some people might mistakenly think the game is set in Russia or that we placed those items in the game in error. In fact, that’s what our lives in Romania looked like back then.
During communism, one of the ways people coped was through religion and that remained a defining feature for us into the transition period. Our Orthodox Christianity has always been blended with many traditions, many of them of pagan nature. We are religious while also believing in ghosts, curses, disenchantments, fortune tellers and so on. For people on whom life has been particularly hard, it was common to become obsessed with religion and the belief in our superstitions. We wanted our game to illustrate as best we could this distorted view of Christianity.
Our country has always been praised for its beautiful scenery. This is also something we worked hard to bring in our game, with some eerily beautiful locations inspired by our real places and architecture, like the monasteries and the Bran orphanage, blended into lush forests.
I personally am super happy to have been given the chance to work on a game that highlights our country, its traditions and its difficult past. It’s a rare setting in games and I hope you will take the chance to explore it and take in all the details. And, of course, help our titular Lazarus find out the truth about his family’s troubled past and the fate of all of its members. Last Days of Lazarus is out now on Xbox Series X|S!
Last Days of Lazarus
Set in a post-soviet Eastern Europe, Last Days of Lazarus tells the story of a troubled man, long estranged, returning to his childhood home after his mother’s death to spend some time with his sister Lyudmila. But as the country around him seems to fall apart, so does reality itself, with a series of unexplainable events leading him on a quest to find out more about his family’s disturbing past.
Last Days of Lazarus is a first-person adventure game with a strong narrative, rich visuals and supernatural elements, heavily inspired by post-communist Romania, its troubled history, eerie locations, religious beliefs and strange superstitions. As the story unravels, you’ll meet questionable characters whose corrupted version of the truth you’ll need to navigate. With a troubled past yourself, you’ll struggle not only with solving the mysteries laid upon you but also with keeping alive any sliver of hope for salvation.
Transport Fever 2: Console Edition is Bringing the Full Transport Tycoon Experience to Xbox
Today, we proudly share a sneak peek into the development of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition, and how we managed to bring the full transport tycoon experience to Xbox.
Transport Fever is a very popular and highly rated transportation tycoon franchise on PC. Its latest entry, Transport Fever 2, delivers a level of size and detail never before seen in the genre. The goal of the game is to build a successful transportation company by constructing railroads, streets, water and air lines. Starting in the 19th century, the player connects towns and industries to transport both passengers and cargo. In addition to a customizable free game mode, there is also a fully-fledged campaign mode with challenging missions set in real-world transportation history.
After the huge success of Transport Fever 2 on PC, it was only logical to bring the experience to consoles as well. Not only that, but no efforts were spared to give the console community the full experience that made the game great on PC. In order to achieve this, the engineers at Urban Games had to pull some rabbits out of their engineers’ hats.
One of the most cherished features of Transport Fever 2 are its highly detailed vehicles. The game comes with more than 200 lovingly hand-modeled trains, ships, and airplanes, each sporting multiple 4k textures and normal maps.
On PC, it is easily affordable to have all the models and textures in memory whenever needed, as a typical rig has 16 GB of RAM and a GPU with a dedicated extra memory. Consoles, however, are built differently. They have a unified architecture with an overall smaller amount but ultra-fast memory. The key to make it work on consoles is texture streaming, which allows to clear textures of models that are not in view anymore. Moreover, this technology is used in Transport Fever 2 to constantly load textures at the highest affordable resolution to present the stars of the show, like the classic Class A 3/5 steam locomotive, in their best coat of paint at all times.
A trademark of Transport Fever 2 are its huge maps. During development of the game, it was always paramount to provide a real sense of scale. The engine should allow for maps where a high-speed train, such as the famous Japanese Shinkansen, can really make use of its superior speed. So, a lot of effort was put into designing a highly effective terrain rendering pipeline that can handle maps of more than 120 sq miles of size with a detail resolution of almost 1 yard. Central to this is a dynamic terrain tessellation algorithm on the CPU that, while costing a bit of extra memory, makes sure the engine can render these maps on a wide variety of PCs.
Now, enter the world of consoles with their incredibly well-designed GPUs and graphic APIs. Here, the hardware can be leveraged very well for terrain rendering by making use of the GPU tessellation feature. This feature generates the render mesh for the terrain fully on the graphics card, saving valuable processing time for the complex economy and city growth simulations. While generating more triangles, the hardware approach still costs less memory overall due to its efficiency. So vast maps can be viewed from a bird’s view high up in the sky and seamlessly zoomed in down to individual rocks on a riverbank.
Finally, let’s talk about constructions, a central and defining part of the Transport Fever 2 experience. Constructions are large assemblies that consist of dozens of assets, street segments, ground decals and terrain modifications. Think of structures like airports, train stations, docks, highway crossings, and many more. Anything that is needed to build a vast transportation empire.
For a smooth construction experience, it is key that the player really feels that he has precise control over the building placement. On PC, constructions are typically built using the mouse. As the average PC user is very well adjusted to this method of input, it is sufficiently performant to calculate the entire construction each frame and place it under the cursor. However, on consoles, the best way of building constructions is to have them always kept in the center of the screen and move the camera along the map for placement. And moving the camera needs to be as smooth as silk.
So, for the console release of Transport Fever 2, the construction preview pipeline was overhauled. All dynamic calculations are now performed in the background while a static preview of the structure and its underlying ground plan are shown. Not only are constructions now completely stable in terms of FPS, but they also give feedback to the player on what environment features the construction would tear down when built.
Let’s get tycooning on console
We are very excited to bring the Transport Fever franchise to consoles for the first time ever with the release of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One in February 2023, and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we did developing it.
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