Monday Space Shot

By Jim Rossignol on November 17th, 2008 at 12:10 pm.


Afternoon, Internet. You know, it barely matters whether galaxy-spanning sim Infinity ends up being the space game to end all space games, or whether it’s just vapourware. As long as they keep turning out incredible images, like the planets-from-space in this recent devblog, I will be happy. Seriously, go and have a look at the galleries and tell me that the game you extrapolate from those images isn’t a thing of wonder – whether representative of the real thing, or otherwise…

Thanks to Tom for reminding us that Infinity exists.

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56 Comments »

  1. Ging says:

    I love following the dev blogs that Ysaneya (or InfinityAdmin) puts up, admittedly I generally only understand about 85% of what gets talked about, but the pictures are really, really pretty.

    What’s really bad is that he generally seems to say that the pictures in half the posts aren’t up to scratch and more work needs doing to improve them… Most depressing.

  2. Bobsy says:

    … mmmeeep …

  3. Flubb says:

    They should release the tools for world creation as a seperate unit, and host competitions for user content which they plug back into the game. I’m sure it would help cut down on the development time :)

  4. Shihouka says:

    If I remember correctly, everything is procedurally generated. Aside from 3D models, there is no world shaping.

  5. Flubb says:

    Bah then. The second video is pretty damn impressive (where it zooms out into the planet’s rings)

  6. Heliocentric says:

    To aim so high. And then ultimately be trapped by the tennents of it being a “game”. The combat prototype was fine don’t get me wrong. But i hope a game can co-exist within all the loveliness. Don’t have much need for a random planet generator if they are meaningless.

  7. Dizet Sma says:

    Mass Effect 2 could use a nice random planet generator, I’m sure.

  8. kert says:

    Perty graphics does not a game make though. If these guys would do a quick tech demo kinda game and licence their engine, we could have something.
    Ala Id software ->Doom3.

  9. Rekki says:

    i just want this do be done so i can get my hands on it how long has it been in development?

  10. Ging says:

    It’s ultimately aimed at becoming an MMO, some of the other dev posts discuss initial thoughts on server infrastructure and how the codebase has to work with it.

    It’s been in development for quite a while, which isn’t entirely unsurprising when you realise it’s one guy doing essentially 100% of the code work.

  11. DigitalSignalX says:

    Looks beautiful, I hope it turns into a real game soon we can inevitably mod into star trek and star wars :D

  12. Bobsy says:

    I found myself clicking away from reading any actual information about the game after the first brief skim, because it just sounded too perfect. I didn’t want to read anything that spoiled just how incredible it had become in my head, and I didn’t want to collapse under the weight of all that awesome.

    Briefly: Eve + planets + realtime controls – boring = body-weepingly awesome

  13. cliffski says:

    it does indeed sound mega awesome. It would be cool for eve to have some decent competition for a change.

  14. mandrill says:

    EVE will get there. As Oveur said at fanfest: they have a 10 year plan. Its a big pile of paper with the words Ten, Year, and plan on the front. I think CCP are going about getting their universal simulator working the right way. Baby steps all the way. Trying to do it all in one lump can only lead to overblown expectations and fail of epic proportions. I wish the infinity guys luck but I think they may have bitten of more than they can chew.

  15. Kadayi says:

    Impressive tech, but overly ambitious in terms of what they hope to achieve. Simply because you have the means to make vastness doesn’t necessarily mean you should employ it. I’d rather play in a game with 10 -20 distinct/detailed star systems than thousands of identikit ones. Without distinctness of place everywhere is nowhere. Bookmarked however.

  16. macc says:

    Damn, not another MMO, I want me a new Wing Commander!

  17. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    @macc: They say they will also relase a stand-alone version who will probably work like a sandbox.

  18. Bobsy says:

    @Kadayi: Absolutely disagree. Procedural generation is the way forward. When you hand-design everything you get Freelancer – you get GTA. Procedural generation gets you universes like Frontier and Spore.

  19. macc says:

    Procedural generation is maybe the way forward, but we’re not ready for it yet. The most open world space sims which have come out the last couple of years just didn’t work and didn’t keep their promises, Freelancer is actually one of the few who did work. Just look at the community it STILL has.

    I’m just really sceptical of games with promises like “one million planets”, “10000 races!”, “a zillion square miles to explore”. I just want a good sim with good story and characters in which you get really suck into. If they get that right, I don’t even care if you don’t even leave the solar system.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    Well, is Spore better than GTA? The problem with procedural generation is that sometimes you can see through the algorithms and everything looks the same. Part of it is storytelling and character – a good example of how procedural approaches have failed is Oblivion’s, where (apparently) most characters are very similar and very dull.

    I’d agree that the game looks very pretty, but all other things being equal (and this is a big condition – it’s possible that Infinity will be great), I’d rather visit three lovingly-crafted worlds with interesting things to do and see than a thousand near-identical worlds that have nothing genuinely new on them.

  21. jackflash says:

    I’m peeing my pants with excitement. Sort of wish it was a single player game instead of an MMO, but it could turn out cool. Will definitely keep an eye on this one.

  22. Bobsy says:

    See, this is my problem: the

    I’d rather visit three lovingly-crafted worlds with interesting things to do and see than a thousand near-identical worlds that have nothing genuinely new on them.

    argument. It is utter, utter cynicism to assume that a) those thousands of worlds will look similar and b) that there’ll be nothing to do on them. Content too can be procedurally generated, in whatever form this takes. What you should be expecting is a hundred thousand lovingly crafted worlds which have been generated through procedural systems. Procedural ≠ crap.

    Also bear in mind this is an MMO. That means that content will be shored up by player interactions. Eve proves this above all things. Empires have quite literally risen and fallen. And in this sort of playground you need room to breath. Three lovingly crafted worlds would rapidly fill up with people all grinding away at their “kill 20 space-orcs” quests.

  23. Pags says:

    What I never understood is why you couldn’t mix procedural generation with a little bit of design. Particularly in a space sim, as most planets are, by-and-large, pretty boring.

  24. Bobsy says:

    Pags: Boring how? And when?

  25. arqueturus says:

    I didn’t think that Frontier was procedurally generated?

  26. Gap Gen says:

    Bobsy: Yeah, if you edit out my disclaimer then of course the argument is a huge generalisation.

    The MMO aspect will probably make it better, because as you say humans procedurally generate cool stories by design, but as a single player experience I haven’t seen that many games that can capture procedural work and the human element that well. Usually, it’s the scripted elements in games that provide some kind of human interest.

  27. Dinger says:

    As Rescue on Fractalis taught us, procedural generation is procedurally boring. It’s not even that “everything looks the same”: we just come to expect the boundaries of what a procedural generator can do, and therefore nothing impresses us. It’s Videogame Prozac™. That’s why Spore’s worlds put me to sleep: they’re all going to be these tiny planets with more or less the same geography, maybe a city or several, and maybe an artefact buried somewhere. But outside the procedure, what’s the meaning to it?

    Or wait. Is that the case?
    Seven Cities of Gold, the ur-procedural terrain game, got old only once you realized there could only be one Incan-class empire to loot; the land was fun to explore, in part because you never knew what lay beyond. But it did get old, and that was when you figured out the bounds of the game.

    We found with Flashpoint that a hand-made terrain map, even if done in excruciating detail, was nowhere near as interesting or as “right-feeling” as one made from digital elevation data — any data. So, there too, a proper procedurally generated terrain might be fun. But it’d only be fun once somebody went and put in roads, forests and villages, and somebody else built missions on top of it.

    Spore’s procedurally generated terrain is quite sophisticated. In fact, many things in Spore are amazingly detailed, if you only bother to look. The problem is that it all defies meaning. A fully habitable planet is one that has a species of each type of plant and animal, just like every other fully habitable planet — the content can vary greatly, but it doesn’t mean anything. Worlds and their terrain are just for looking at.

    So, too, with these planets. If we can jump into space at the flick of a switch, why is the terrain going to matter?

    The big problem is scale. Thousands of worlds don’t have to be that unique if the focus of the game is in orbit. The attraction of space opera films is that we can go from a raging orbital fight down to a farming hunt on the surface below. Games simply cannot have that range without cheating somewhere.

  28. pepper says:

    I think procedural generated content is already quite far in gamedesign. You can use it to make tree’s in 3d programs, textures and terrain(see UT3) and the same system can be applied to animations.

    What i think a lot of people are afraid off is that the games will lose there charter and everything people love or hate about them.

    Fortunately i dont think it will come that far. Even procedural created content needs quite a bit of tweaking and testing. Just look at how long infinity has been working on there system.

    Another thing is that games will grow smaller, atleast a part of them, because procedural generated content will be created from code and not from content that is stored on a optical disk. And with modern CPU/GPU systems it should also improve loading times.

    But there’s still a long way to go before we can truly say that something is completely computer generated.

  29. Gap Gen says:

    “Three lovingly crafted worlds would rapidly fill up with people all grinding away at their “kill 20 space-orcs” quests.”

    Yes, but grind is shit no matter where you do it. If you’re grinding on your own planet parsecs away from anywhere, you’re still grinding. Like I said, all things being equal more deliberate design (in a single-player environment) can only be a good thing. In an MMO you can get players to make their own stories, but if every player is on a separate planet then that’s, in my mind, a worse experience than if there’s a thriving community in a few places.

    Again, the key thing depends on design. Good design can make all the difference, so I’m not going to judge gameplay that I haven’t even seen.

  30. Biggles says:

    I would love to work on something like this…

  31. tmp says:

    There’s over 6 billion people on 1/4th of surface of single planet, and you can still travel for quite a few hours without running into one of them.

    People who call for real scale worlds in games really don’t get the size of it until they actually get exactly what they wished for and it smacks them upside the head. At which point they immediately start crying for super-fast travel so they can zoom over the boring bits, which like with everything else make up 90% of the whole thing.

    re: Frontier, there was 3-4 cities per each planet in Frontier, and each had one landing pad, few ships on it and couple houses. They also all looked about the same. How many cities is there on Earth with at least 50k people each? Fuck if i know, but good luck visiting them all in ‘realistic’ space sim. And then doing the same on another few thousand procedural planets. Odds are after couple dozens they’ll all melt into a blur anyway.

  32. Pags says:

    @Bobsy: in answer to your question, I refer you to tmp’s post.

  33. Tei says:

    There are two types of Game Developpers.

    These that make the Perfect Engine.
    These that Release all Release often, and make games.

    Infinity is nice and all ( I could release *now* as something different than a game, and be more interesting than a game) but smells like a engine. Hence.. Where is the gameplay here, on that pretty screenshots?

  34. Kadayi says:

    @Bobsy

    It’s not about cynicism it’s about hard reality. Procedural generation has it’s place in game design, but it best used as a tool to create the initial canvas upon which you as a designer work upon (as an aid), rather than as a tool to replace the designer (which is the case here and what you’re arguing for). Sure a randomiser might paint you the Mona Lisa eventually, but it’s going to paint you a hell of a lot of Gypsy Children before it get’s there. Creativity and innovation are found in the imagination, not in variable strings, and it’s disservice to Artists and designers to think otherwise.

    http://www.complexification.net/gallery/

    Check out Substrate. It creates fantastic fractal images, but after 3 of 4 explorations, you know exactly it’s limitations, and they all merge into a state of ‘meh’. We as a species are consummate at pattern recognition, and very quickly identify characteristics and hidden rules sets after exposure to only a few disparate examples. The new excites until it becomes the established (look at cultural trends like tattoos, body piercing, etc which have gone from sub culture to main stream in barely 10 years). It is through the application of human imagination against the established, that further new is generated.

    If the bulk of your universe is desolate empty planets, how much motivation is there to truly explore them? The only reason driving around ‘generic planet IV’ in Mass effect was made bearable was because you knew there were hidden secrets to uncover.

    Also that other worlds, even within the goldilocks zone have plant life as we know it is a major leap of imagination on the part of the developers. The chain of events necessary to bring about plant life isn’t guaranteed.

  35. Steff says:

    something alot of people here seem to fail to realise, is that infinity is not being developd by a companey. it’s 3-4 people doing it in there spare time.

    Personaly, i’m in awe, that it seems like he’s acualy pulling it off, and I can’t wait for an elite/frontier type mmo to finaly be made and released.

  36. Kadayi says:

    Also. I can’t believe you cited Frontier as a recommendation for procedural generation. Sure it was a fun game back in it’s day, but the LoD was primitive to say the least. Aside from the name changes and their spatial relationship, there was absolutely nothing distinct about any of the planetary systems, whatsoever.

  37. Paradukes says:

    Regardless of whether you’re in favour or against procedural generation, you can’t deny one fact: It makes for some fantastic desktop wallpapers.

  38. Janto says:

    As an artist and graphic designer, it’s very interesting to look at procedurally generated stuff vs ‘intelligent design’.

    The ideal, specially in an MMO, is probably to give players access to quite powerful technology that is capable of affecting the landscape on a large scale, sort of along the lines of what you’d expect in an RTS or Civilisation, and have an NPC population that, on paper and on spreadsheets at least, outnumbers players by a massive factor.

    Essentially the huge procedural NPC population would be set up to drive the economy and exploit the technical resources available to them without player interference, but subject to player manipulation, while business or politics focused players would serve as the elite leaders to the faceless plebs, competing against each others’ empires, and setting the terms which shape their procedural minions (and possibly their rivals’). So if you want to set up your own police state dictatorship, you select against certain criteria, determine what the penalties are for the unfortunates who the game generates into that bracket, and then see if they begin to decline in number or become more radicalised, and out to get you.

    So in terms of the terrain, if it’s generated using tools that give remotely geologically accurate results, certain sites will have better access to certain resources, and others will be ideally located to serve as infrastructure hubs. Some places will be perfect fortresses, and others will remain deserts and be great places to hide out from the civilised world.

    But rather than everything being randomly generated in a crazy mess, like most computer-built RTS bases, give the players the power to act as town planners, zone land, lay down roads, determine architecture styles. It won’t be everyone’s ideal game, but if the rewards are balanced right, it could be ideal for social gamers, and give the game a reason to develop more complex social networks than a warband, with military, political and technical branches working together.

    In other words, procedural stuff is good (in theory) if its results are varied enough for even slight variations to have an impact on the game, and players have the creative tools to try and compensate for unfortunate circumstances and exploit lucky breaks.

  39. Lh'owon says:

    (From the overview page)

    A completely player-skill based game design… Where the outcome of combat is determined by your own intelligence and reflexes. Not the level and class of another player!

    YES. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Finally a developer that understands you don’t have to have arbitrary levels to make a compelling MMO, and indeed not having them makes it all the more compelling. I’m a huge advocate of stripping away the (to my mind) unnecessary ‘gamey’ stuff between the player and the game world. (A general example of this is Far Cry 2, with the map being something you physically pull out, etc.)

    The interaction of the player with the game world should be its own end – if you want to become a player god in the universe then it shouldn’t be because you’re an untouchable level 9987 while everyone else is level 20. It should be because you earned enough money by doing logical money-earning things to get yourself one hell of a ship, or even an empire of sorts. And even then you still have to utilise your own skill to play, and talented/clever yet less wealthy/experienced players can still hit you hard by being skilled. That’s what keeps the game exciting and fresh.

  40. Sam C says:

    The attraction of space opera films is that we can go from a raging orbital fight down to a farming hunt on the surface below. Games simply cannot have that range without cheating somewhere.

    When you say cheating, what do you mean? Star Wars Galaxies had a space combat system with the Jump to Lightspeed expansion, along with the ground portion. I think it’s very possible to have something where you jump from a planet’s surface to a battle in space seamlessly. has literally billions of stars and planets, and I think a combat game of some sort could be implemented that uses that big of a world. Whether it would be fun or not is another question, and if the world would be too generic to be that interesting for long, like Daggerfall.

  41. Sam C says:

    Yikes, I destroyed that. The block quote was from Dinger, and the link is to Noctis.

  42. Therlun says:

    To bad Noctis 5 wont be finished. :(

  43. Therlun says:

    Too bad even.

  44. kert says:

    Too many people are taking “procedural” at a too simple face value. I could use procedural generation to generate an exact copy of our solar system, call it a game world, let the procedural stuff fill out the places that i dont care about and then have a small army of designers go to each of the 8 planets ( oops, sorry Pluto ) and fill in whatever i need to drive a great singleplayer story, at the level of detail i need ( drop a generic moonbase here , a cave system here, now go into these caves, paint this wall and bury an artefact there )

    Procedural is not an either/or proposition with artistic at any level. You can have otherwise procedurally driven NPCs taken over by storyline at an appropriate time, you can have procedural economies, city designs all intermixed with artistic stuff.
    It only calls for a good system of meshing the two. Like for our solar system you want to make sure the planets are the right nature at the right orbits, but you dont really care much about exact placements of asteroids, kuiper belt objects or the exact placement of craters on Io. Its doable.

    Whether Infinity does that, i doubt. Elite 4, maybe, and Braben isnt talking. IMO the best bet for Infinity would be for some game company to buy up the engine and do an actual game, rather than a graphics demo on it.

    Now if anyone wants to try a space MMO that actually calls for a joystick Vendetta is still ticking.

  45. tmp says:

    I could use procedural generation to generate an exact copy of our solar system, call it a game world, let the procedural stuff fill out the places that i dont care about (..)

    If these are places you don’t care about, then they will be places players have no reason to care about, either. What is then the purpose of spending development time on systems… that ultimately produce something no one cares about? Other than getting an extra feature to print on the back of the box, maybe…

  46. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, the engine looks very pretty but colour me cynical until I see a game. Kadayi put it better than I did – procedural generation can make things interesting, but equally as he said, pattern recognition means that we work out roughly what the procedural algorithm is doing after a few times and get bored.

  47. LEEDER KRENON says:

    this needs to be single player. badly. for me.

  48. kert says:

    If these are places you don’t care about, then they will be places players have no reason to care about, either.
    Wrong. Have you seen any game where you spend 100% of your time following storyline ? After you dig out my planted artefact from that mars cave my storyline can leave you piss poor running trucking jobs at worst on mars until you have figured out a way to collect enough dough and buy your way off that rock. Completely and utterly procedurally generated surface populated with entirely boring NPCs if i so choose. You will do your best to get off that rock. If i, as a game designer, am generous i wont torture you for too long and offer a reward here and there though.
    Yes its “grind” in a way, but show me which games dont do that at all ?
    BTW, there were procedurally generated missions in Privateer, Freelancer and others.

  49. tmp says:

    Have you seen any game where you spend 100% of your time following storyline ?

    Yes; aside from sandbox games which are open-ended by their very nature, you’ll be generally led through series of missions/tasks/sub-plots from the starting tutorial (if any) to the end.

    Completely and utterly procedurally generated surface populated with entirely boring NPCs if i so choose. You will do your best to get off that rock. If i, as a game designer, am generous i wont torture you for too long and offer a reward here and there though.

    And if they are utterly boring NPCs put in boring environments, again why waste development time adding them in there at all? No, the player won’t care about either of these when they’re pointless and boring window-dressing for the actual task at hand that’s “make enough money to get out of here”. Consider EVE-Online where all the procedural boredom you propose is replaced simply with trading/production interfaces over few hand-crafted station environments. Is the game worse off because of it?

  50. kert says:

    Look, we are arguing over the details of game design that needs to be put in. A good game designer will make sure his game will have the precisely the right little amount of boredom and right amount of story and action in it. Procedural content, whether its vast swathes of barren land or cities full of dull people ( hey that sounds like real life ! ) is just one of the tools at his disposal, and powerful one at that because you can control a lot of aspects of game world with it ( like already mentioned the simple graphic content itself, submissions etc )
    I am not proposing procedural boredom. Im in favour of spending design effort in places where it matters but leaving the rest believable as well.
    And this is already being done, with the foliage generated in lots of games and terrain chunks etc, it would be unthinkable to spend designer effort crafting every leaf and branch on every tree. The forest does not become more “boring” because of it being procedural. Quite the contrary.

    This concept can and is being taken to larger scale.

    Why would you put boring NPCs in martian cities ? To make a backdrop, to paint a believable environment. If this wouldnt matter MUDs would be still vastly more popular than WoW.