Can you talk about your approach to designing the interior and exterior of the car in the game?Dracott:

For both the exterior and interior of the car, we obviously start with the basics of an 80’s station wagon. Then, over the course of the game, we want to have the player’s car visually progress.

Initially, the player is improvising heavily. Taped together doors, improvised re-use of existing parts from the world—that kind of thing. As the game progresses though, the car eventually becomes that strange retro science machine that we’ve been showing, with parts created by the player for specific purposes.

For the individual visual designs, we do pay particular attention to how things are put together, even for the higher tier elements. For us, there is a goal of “exposed electronics” that we want our designs to have. A common quote around the office was “What if Doc Brown had been in a rush?” What that eventually looked like to us is that we want to keep it looking scientific, but still something that was improvised and done quickly.

Can you elaborate on how players will be able to heavily customize the car and touch upon how you implement car damage into the game?

Rosen: When you find it, the station wagon is in pretty rough shape—a missing door, a flat tire, crude parts, etc. Early in the game, you’ll mostly be restoring it to its former glory. But before long, you’ll start researching mundane, but essential, upgrades like elemental-resist doors, panels and bumpers, wheels that perform better on certain surfaces, and things along those lines. You’ll also be able to install new hardpoints on the car, allowing you to add similarly basic-but-useful things like additional storage, extra fuel capacity, battery generators, and flood lights.

As you reach the deeper areas of the Zone and find more advanced resources, you’ll get access to higher-tech parts that add abilities to the car, from the expected—a nitro boost—to more outlandish options. Every part that you craft can be installed in at least two locations on the car; a design pillar for us is “your car, your way.” In some cases, these decisions might just be aesthetic or simple preference (e.g. extra storage for spare tools goes on the rear-right window rack), but in others it might fundamentally change what the part does (e.g. installing a nitro boost on the front of the car isn’t going to get you to your destination any faster… unless it’s behind you, of course). Speaking of aesthetics: in addition to all of the above, there’s a variety of paints and decals to be found in the Zone if you want to give the car a bit of a facelift, and there are several types of cosmetic items that can be found and then equipped to the car.

As far as the implementation of damage to the car: we use an immersive-sim-style messaging system that allows us to “process” the incoming damage based on a variety of factors. Using this system, we can make sure that damage done to the car happens in a way that feels somewhat realistic, or at least makes physical sense. If you smash into something with the front right corner of your car, the damage will spread out from the impact point, dissipating as it gets further from the contact. And once the damage is applied, each part on the car will reflect that damage visually in a variety of ways, based on the incoming damage type and magnitude.

Source: Unreal Engine Blog