Little Big Universe: Limit Theory Hits Funding Goal

By Nathan Grayson on November 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Oh, this is good news. This is very, very good news. While big names like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous are bringing back space games with budgets that eclipse the number of stars in the sky and – in the latter’s case – startling amounts of vagueness, Limit Theory‘s the exceedingly impressive product of one very dedicated guy. Unlike the aforementioned genre titans, Limit Theory basically came out of nowhere, but with plenty of gameplay footage and a highly detailed Kickstarter page. And now it’s reached its semi-modest (in the grand scheme of things) $50,000 goal in just under one week, because there is justice in the universe after all. To celebrate, creator Josh Parnell’s synthesized up some new gameplay footage using the space-age techno-magic of some basic video capture software and YouTube.

Apparently, it’s been in development for roughly three months, and that’s already resulted in a custom, fully procedural game engine – which makes the game potentially limitless while, somewhat ironically, potentially limiting its variety quite a bit. Obviously, though, it remains to be seen whether or not that will actually be an issue.

In the meantime, Parnell’s goals for the project are madly ambitious. He’s hoping to keep things manageable by focusing exclusively on single-player, but beyond that, he’s still shooting for infinite living, breathing universes, any playable role you can imagine (explorer, pirate, merchant, miner, etc, etc, etc), and a release date within our frail, decidedly non-infinite lifetimes. Specifically, he’s got his eyes on early 2014, with something playable (for backers, anyway) headed our way early next year.

What’s here so far looks quite nice, though, so Parnell’s not just slapping together his ship with duct-tape, hot air, and good faith. (And that’s good, too, because those components would, at best, make a hot air balloon. A really, really bad one.) Hooray, though: a well put-together Kickstarter succeeded. Hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come, but I’m not so sure. These things are starting to be met with an attitude of fatigue – and rightly so, in many cases. But where do the bad eggs leave a funding model that, under the right circumstances, can do some serious good? Are you getting tired of crowdfunding? What does it take to convince you to chip in on a project these days?

[Jim's note: watch out for an interview with Josh later this week.]

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38 Comments »

  1. DanielSF says:

    I’ve funded this (so y’know, yay), but my knee did jerk most mightily upon noticing the £1,000 custom game tier. If I remember cliffski’s recent meanderings correctly, this is exactly the kind of thing he was protesting against and I find myself somewhat agreeing that it is not a good thing to do. I can’t put my finger on exactly why it’s rubbing me the wrong way, I only know that it does.

    • finc says:

      I think its uncomfortable because I’d rather the designer spend that effort improving the game for everyone than for one person.

      • RobinOttens says:

        ^ This. And with the modern internet those custom game people are going to post videos or something of their exclusive feature eventually. Then it’ll just be weird that the rest can’t have it.

        • Snakejuice says:

          Well here’s to hoping the £1000 backer puts his copy up on thepiratebay!

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            fiendling says:

            I fervently hope this doesn’t happen.

            I’m pretty sure the custom game tier is a product of his youthful exuberance and a fair amount of naivete.

            The tier’s description also clearly states that it would be a small-to-medium feature not a completely different game: “I will write a CUSTOM VERSION of Limit Theory just for you! In it, I will include a small-to-medium feature of your request that did not appear in the publicly-released version. I will be willing to extend the code by a few thousand lines for your personal edition, which will result in a cool new feature for you and only you to play with!”

            I had a chat with Josh (through Kickstarter’s private message service), his passion and enthusiasm for Limit Theory is infectious. It cracked my cynical shell and made me up my pledge to get access to the ALPHA build early next year.

            We definitively need more game developers like Josh and much less of the jaded professionals churning out the rehashed rubbish we complain about on a daily basis.

  2. Barberetti says:

    YES! Congrats Josh!

    Oh man, if this game delivers on its promises, it’s gonna destroy my life for months.

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    Yachmenev says:

    I hope that the interview will be with some tough questions about the risks with the project that´s being descibred as “madly ambitious”. . I like the idea, I like that the project reached it´s funding goal, but maybe we should try and be as least as sceptical against indie kickstarters as we have been against the bigger ones lately?

    • The First Door says:

      Of course people should be sceptical of big claims but most of my scepticism comes from project pitches with no gameplay footage whatsoever. To that end, Limit Theory is already much more credible in my mind that many of the recent big name projects.

      • finc says:

        I love it that people keep saying “some big name games they could mention” when they mean “Elite”. You can mention it if you like, Braben isn’t looking. ;)

        • The First Door says:

          I wasn’t wanting to call out Elite, because they aren’t the only ones! Project Godus, the Dizzy reboot and a few older ones are pretty guilty of it too.

  4. RobinOttens says:

    “any playable role you can imagine” Diplomat, Shop Owner, Space Journalist, Space Station Repair Man.

    Anyway, this is good news. I didn’t fund it, and probably won’t for lack of money to spare. But if and when all these games finish development, there are certainly enough space sims to choose from. And that’s never a bad thing.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Delivery Boy, Space Pimp, In-Ship-Stereo Installer, Space Helpdesk Operator, Sous-Chef, Animal Husbandry Expert, Satirist, Mattress Salesman, Blogger

      • Uncompetative says:

        Would those be sentient mattresses from Squornshellous Zeta?

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          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          You bet! Slaughtered by electroshock and sun-dried to perfection. There’s no sleep like a Squornshellous sleep! And if you call now, I’ll throw in a down comforter!

  5. soldant says:

    That system reminds me of Freelancer. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

    • d34thm0nk3y says:

      Exactly what I thought when I was watching the video. Man, I would kill for some more Freelancer.

  6. Orija says:

    Limit Theory, Maia and Sui Generis were the three projects that were under my radar. And, now only Sui Generis remains to be funded, with 60 hours left and 40000 euros away from their goal, I really hope this one makes it too.

    Edit: Aye, Maia!

  7. The First Door says:

    This game does already look awfully pretty. That recent video reminded me a bit of the old Homeworld games which I used to be terrible at, but enjoyed just floating through the lovely backdrops.

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    Harlander says:

    Anyone else get a bit excited at the thought of a Little Big Adventure sequel after reading the post title?

    • Uncompetative says:

      I think the story author was making a play on words with “Little Big Planet”, only the comparision to that famous PS3 game is inexact as there appears to be no community-driven ‘design your Universe’ ability that would allow a Battlestar Galactica / Star Wars / Star Trek / Firefly / Blake’s 7 / Doctor Who / Babylon 5 / Stargate / Farscape / Lexx pastiche.

      As far as I can see this game lacks the last of the 3 C’s: combat, commerce, colonisation. Whilst EVE and Dust 514 seem to address this quite pragmatically – understanding that those interested in ground combat like a short spat of action, whilst those interested in corporate politics / commerce / etc. are more patient.

      Shores of Hazeron is crazily ambitious in this area and succeeds despite having Atari ST quality graphics

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      Lambchops says:

      Aye.

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      lazy8 says:

      Yes, another game with Twinsen would be great.

  9. MrLebanon says:

    Reminds me of the X3 games… which i found really boring. Maybe this won’t be so slow paced?

    • frightlever says:

      That’s kinda like me looking at ARMA 2 and saying it reminds me of Farming Simulator 2013 because it has fields.

      Also, a video showing him shooting at asteroids that opens up into a pitched space battle. He’s pretty much fucking with Braben, isn’t he?

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    Lambchops says:

    I still haven’t backed a space game, I really want to but each one has given me some nagging doubts. This one (being a one man team) seems riskier than most but it has got me itching closer to clicking the pledge button (despite the fact that I actually tend to prefer having missions to sandboxes it seems that most space game pitches offer sandboxes so I may have to run with it).

    Ludicrously ambitious but would be very cool if it comes off.

  11. WHS says:

    Not that I have any business talking about game development, but I feel like procedural generation is often an aesthetic dead-end. 99% of the time, you end up with relatively samey assets, and the occasional oddity doesn’t make up the difference.

    It’s much less of a problem in something like Minecraft, where the expansiveness and natural feel of the world is part of the fun. But space games are mostly empty space anyway, so it’s hard to see how much procedural generation could add.

    I’m still glad this got funded. Any kid that loves space sims enough to make his own gets my respect.

  12. Freud says:

    Creating space graphics and flying mechanics is such a little part of what makes a great space game.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Although it’s kinda hard if you leave them out.

  13. jonfitt says:

    Lots of clouds in that space game.
    Is the side plot about a family of space faring clouds? Struggling to make their way in the universe as the lack of gravity and inward pressure tear them apart?

  14. MrBRAD! says:

    I’m worried this guy is going to get far, far more money than he has any idea what to do with, where the only way to satisfy demand would be to hire a team. I hope he likes managing people as much as he likes procedural generation because I have a strong feeling he will be so flooded he runs out of capable stretch goals.

    From what I see, so far his current aim is singleplayer only, and without a story. His enthusiasm sure is infectious, but will backers get upset if he gets very significantly more than is goal and that’s what they end up with? He would be in no way at fault, but things might turn a bit unpleasant with an overhyped community expecting “Freelancer 2″ out of an indie programmer.

    Just a pondering of mine. Any thoughts on this yourself?

    also @Freud yes I totally agree.

  15. Jenga says:

    Day one purchase, when it’s released.

  16. SuicideKing says:

    Man this makes me want to start playing the FreeSpace 2 SCP again…though i somehow didn’t like the lasers, too slow. Same with SC. They jsut float like the Terran Huge Turret in FS2…

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    daphne says:

    What I find interesting is that Josh Parnell is only 20, and has a very commendable resumé (currently enrolled in Stanford with a perfect academic record) already, with ten years of coding experience under his belt. Fuck, I started to program at his current age. At least from a most superficial perspective, this guy is very smart — and considering the game he’s interested in creating, basically a Braben in the making.

  18. DXN says:

    Wow, this looks fantastic! I hadn’t heard of it before but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it develops. I frankly have much more faith in his ability to make a procedural *and* interesting game than David Braben. I also love that the guns aren’t bolted onto the frame. Space games should be futuristic, with ships that can do interesting and novel things, rather than just being reskins of a WWII carrier group.

  19. Kurshuk says:

    Pledged.