Survival RPG ReRoll Wants To Map (Most Of) The World

By Graham Smith on February 4th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Yours for £30 each.

This is almost too ridiculous, but it’s got pedigree. Julien Cuny and Louis-Pierre Pharand, former producers and creative directors at Ubisoft on Assassin’s Creed and FarCry, have formed a new development studio named PIXYUL. Their goal: to map our planet at 1:1 scale using drones, and use the resulting 3D recreation as the setting for a survival RPG called ReRoll.

Video below which shows, at least, that they are not joking.


When I was a kid, I used to dream of playing a game of hide-and-seek which would encompass the entire town in which I lived. The idea of turning that small suburban space into an enormous game seemed thrilling. A lot of the appeal of DayZ for me lies in that feeling: of taking ordinary, urban spaces, with all their stretches of dullness, and re-contextualizing it as a game of tension and hide-and-zombies.

So I’m inclined to like ReRoll for its goals, even if I am skeptical of its methods. Does that even need saying? They want to map the surface of the planet with small drones. Even if, as the site explains, they plan on skipping certain areas – Antarctica, the Amazon rainforest – I think that might take a while.

It’s also going to take a lot of money. Right now, PIXYUL are no more than they’re two founders, and they’re turning to crowdfunding – surprise – to get the money they need to make the game. They’re not using Kickstarter, but running everything through their own site. There an explanation of the funding tiers here, and there’s an online shop in which you can purchase characters or bundles of characters.

For the game that doesn’t exist yet. Set on the level the size of planet earth.

If you’d like to know more about what kind of game will actually take place on this digital recreation, they’ve got a page about that as well. From the little bit of (mock-up, it looks like) footage in the trailer above, it’s a top-down action RPG about foraging, fighting, crafting. Like Wasteland 2, but with a 24-hour day/night cycle and a planned system to sync the in-game weather to real weather, and also I guess with just huge stretches of space where it’ll be no fun to ever go or be. Like Hull. Imagine if you spawned in Hull.

To be fair, the money people give them will go towards creating “Brick 1″, a much, much smaller chunk of the world (a few square kilometers) which they can build systems around and release. From there, they’ll slowly start expanding into new areas. So if it proves a popular idea or a compelling game, it’s technically and financially feasible that they could expand from there.

But I wish they hadn’t opened with, ‘we want to map the whole world with drones’. It’s a lure, designed to suck you in with its futuristic ambition and absurd scale. The reality is they want to create an isometric RPG, haven’t made much of it so far, and would like you to pay for them to continue. That’s fine, that’s what everyone else is doing, but I wish they had pitched what they were likely to complete in the next, say, five years, rather than opening with, ‘This is what we’ll make assuming we receive an unfathomable amount of funds.’

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92 Comments »

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  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    It’s a stunning concept, but also rather ambitious and expensive.

    Love the idea though, despite being a fan of DayZ, Zomboid, et al, I am getting sick of zombies. I’d much prefer just to battle nature.

    • SillyWizard says:

      This is exactly how I feel about Downton Abbey and all the crap things that happen. Why can’t the show just be filled with pleasant people? (I’m looking at you, Tom the under-butler. Or whatever your name is.)

    • Shuck says:

      When one says something like, “Our ultimate promise is to… map the entire Earth,” that’s not ambitious, that’s just bullshit. Obviously they’re not going to do that, they can’t do that, and they certainly can’t promise to do that. It’s not remotely feasible – that’s more ambitious than Google’s efforts, and Google’s spending billions. Perhaps they meant it’s their ultimate, (unobtainable) desire, but they rather shot their credibility by stating it that way, leaving aside the issue of whether it’s even desirable to create environments this way (in even a limited way) for a game.

      • witzkawumme (wkw) says:

        even if they do it, then using the all this data for a 3rd person rpg?
        the “gameplay footage” looked like a flat 3rd person abstract action rpg… exploring for me works really in 1st person (see Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 & NV)

        • DodgyG33za says:

          Exactly. If you spend the entire game looking at someones arse, regardless of how attractive said arse might be, it is a barrier to immersion.

          I am no longer IN the game, I am moving the person with the nice arse (or not) in the game.

      • yurusei says:

        Forget mapping the entire world, they can’t even place landmarks at their place of origin in their trailer video. The Twelve Apostles (0.21) most certainly isn’t at Egypt.

      • Orija says:

        I’d be surprised if they can just map an entire city.

  2. Koozer says:

    …why don’t they just use existing satellite images and heightmaps? Making the world isometric avoids all the problems with aerial shots too.

    • Ernesto says:

      I guess the resolution would be too bad. It’s way too ambitious anyway. In this game-saturated world I don’t see this happening.

      Aside from that: How many players do they expect to play this game? I guess it would get boring quickly when, let’s say, 50000 people where spread across the globe… Or is this supposed to be a single player game? I didn’t understand that part.

      • whorhay says:

        Pretty sure that the existing maps are plenty good enough to get a lot of the work done. You could then use existing aerial photographs to map out buildings, foliage and rocks. I’m pretty sure the forestry service also already has maps showing how high the forest canopy is in places where that matters. Once that was all done you could write up some scripts to procedurally generate smaller rocks and other surface objects.

        • witzkawumme (wkw) says:

          a friend of mine worked in geoinformatics, he told me back then that the licensing/copyright stuff is quite a problem. Maybe to choose “we don’t want to pay an army of lawyers… let’s get an army of recon drones”…

      • Slazer says:

        If I remeber this correctly, this is even supposed to be a single player game

    • TWChristine says:

      If I recall correctly, the incredibly awful Braveheart game (sometime around 1999 I think) used geological survey data. All it really ended up being was a nice gimmick they could put on the box to make you think you were getting something really special. I can see how it’d be a really cool idea to consider, but in the end it seems more like a huge waste of money.

    • roryok says:

      It certainly seems like this would make more sense. There are games out there that use Google Maps as a playing area.

  3. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    The lengths some people go to to not be creative…

  4. Runty McTall says:

    Better to spawn in Hull than die there*

    *as nearly happened to me just before Christmas – in a flash flood, no less.

  5. AngusPrune says:

    Presumably this quixotic quest will end when they wander in to Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Area and explain in bad Pashtun they’re there to operate a drone.

    • SIDD says:

      …or when they try to map certain parts of Greece…I’m sure Bohemia Interactive can give them a bit of advice on that subject.

  6. Keyrock says:

    I like the idea, but this is just begging to collapse under the weight of its own ambition. I hope they can pull it off, though.

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    darkChozo says:

    Didn’t the FAA ban commercial drone use? Not to mention all the places in the world where people are less than happy to let you take publicly-accessible pictures of their property — Google has run into that a few times with Street View.

    • dogoncrook says:

      They would have to own and operate them, but since they are selling the resulting maps.. very fine line they are walking. Backing this is kickstarting a criminal defense fund, or buying 2 dudes a couple of expensive yet worthless drones. If they didn’t address this issue on their ks page this project should probably be removed. I’m not sure using ks to acquire the tools used to commision a crime is a very good idea, but it would be one of the largest criminal conspiracy cases I’ve ever heard of, so that’s kinda cool.

    • Jungle Rhino says:

      There are major issues dealing with Civil Aviation Authorities around the world. Fristly each country is different but for example in the UK drones have serious limitations on range and altitude or you end up being treated like a light aircraft. Then there is certification of drone pilots with massive health and safety issues – last I heard they wanted to fit parachutes to any drones in case they lost power/signal and crashed into people/houses.

      There is global DTM data available from a couple of sources, either SRTM data that came from the space shuttle back in the 80s or a newer set called ASTER which has come from sattelites more recently. But the grid resolution is close to ~30m so nowhere near good enough to satisfy any type of 3D game engine. This type of data also struggles with surface water/foliage so needs some pretty heavy duty cleaning up to get the desired results.

      Imagery would need to come from drone/light aircraft to get under cloud and needs to be flown from multiple angles to have a chance at managing an urban area. If you want to get a feel for the limitations of aerial pictometry modelling an urban scityscape take a look at Here.com and go to Sydney and turn on the 3D view.

      So yeah while I love the ambition there is no way in Hades they will ever pull this off and you would be mad to throw money at them. Walk before you run is what comes to mind.

  8. Barberetti says:

    No Antarctica?

    Pffft

  9. misterT0AST says:

    I’m sure it will turn out to be much less accurate/big than the trailer makes it out to be (it’s just a promotional video after all), and therefore more possible, but also less ambitious. I’m sure many people will back this and be completely disappointed in the result, much like Molyneaux’s things.
    It just SOUNDS incredible, but I’m sure there’s a catch, like the world being mostly empty, or only certain areas being explorable, etc.
    I think this game will be made, but also think it’s not a 1:1 representation of the whole world, military bases and all. The developers probably know what they’re doing. I’m just not sure backers know what they’re funding.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      “like the world being mostly empty”

      Do you mean player-wise, because I would love that.

  10. preip says:

    If they would have said ‘we want to map the whole world with drones and make that data publicly available’ and dropped that game bit, that would have been a project worth of support. (With the assumption that they would have a chance to succeed, which I belive these two have not.)

  11. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Gonna be a long walk from one end to the other.

  12. Swanny says:

    Wouldn’t playing this be some kind of supreme irony? Surviving on Earth? The more I think about it, the more clever the title becomes.

  13. Niko says:

    Top down? Doesn’t make sense. This sort of game needs first-person view.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Project Zomboid?

      • Niko says:

        But it’s not based on maps of the Earth, familiar places, all that.

        • aldo_14 says:

          Arguably, the world is more distinctly recognizable from a withdrawn than first person view… same way they can film movies or shows at ground level in an entirely different city or country, but would still use helicopter shots from the location they’re mimicking.

          Plus it does mean they can skip all the expensive stuff like modelling detailed trash or foliage or whatever.

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    JiminyJickers says:

    I’m looking forward to this releasing in 100 years.

  15. Jazzyboy says:

    Gee, yay, now I get to visit an even more depressing version of Wales.

    Oh, and I also get to grow my own food, and forage, and set up tents, and other stuff… that I’ve already done in real life, thank you very much.

    I could see the appeal if they took Earth, and then… advanced a century or so. However, we’ve all already seen Earth as it is now, so revisiting places that we’ve, either been to, or at the very least seen photos of, sounds quite boring, even if they do add new things.
    If they dramatically change urban areas, it might be alright, but it sounds a bit like Earth 1.5 to me right now, and that’s just dull.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Yup, the landscape sure changes over a century.

      • Felixader says:

        I can see that greatly happen when you remove the overabundance of the Human influence on the Surface of Earth.

        That said, i have problems with them claiming wanting to scan the whole earth and then showing the really small drones that they want to do that with. Just thinking how they want to reach every of those parts of the world makes my hea buzz with massive requirements of money and a timefram far beyound what i see them beeing capable off.

  16. araczynski says:

    i like the scale aspect of this, but hate the setting of the intended use (survival/zombie junk).

  17. derbefrier says:

    Fuck survival just map the earth set it in the “near future” and give us a badass crpg about the fall of modern civilization or something like that. I know survival is this years awesome buzzword that sell bajillions of copies but come on let’s not waste this on another survival game make something good.

  18. jrpatton says:

    A top-down survival game would be great. I was hoping Project Zomboid would be feature-complete by now, but I’m losing faith in its dev team.

    Top-down gives devs more freedom to focus on game mechanics, as opposed to DayZ which gets bogged down in making everything work in a first person full 3D world.

  19. Zenicetus says:

    Uh huh… so they want to crowd-fund travel to some nice exotic vacation spots, so they can play with their toy drones? Good luck with that.

    The game prototype doesn’t look too bad, but this is an awful opening pitch for it. Do they think people are stupid? There is plenty of high-res geographic data out there, and plenty of ways to map procedural terrain and ecosystems on top of it. Flight sims like X-Plane are already doing this; adding OpenStreetMap data on top of their terrain models for the entire world.

  20. MaximusG says:

    They’re gonna do it with little drones, manually?

    I think they’ve seriously underestimated the size of the Earth…

  21. serioussgtstu says:

    I’ve heard of indie developers promising the world with their games, but this is just ridiculous.

  22. Iskariot says:

    The concept does sound interesting, but Online Multiplayer games are a no go for me. I do not like the social interaction part of MMO games at all.

  23. Triglav says:

    I think they’re trolling.

  24. Cooper says:

    The real world does not a good game level make.

    • BobbyFizz says:

      It does, however, afford me the opportunity to visit my own house, fire a couple of rockets at it, realise it’s invincible, get bored then realise I wasted my money.

  25. hypercrisis says:

    Everything about this screams “scam” to me.

  26. whoCares says:

    This does not make sense. Either you have unique Textures for each square meter or you will have repetition of Textures and miss the goal.
    If you have unique Textures then you either have a constant HD-stream for every user or the user has to store HD-pictures of the world on hes hard drive.

    • Qwentle says:

      Having been semi-involved in this sort of stuff before (I was at Realtime Worlds when they were working on the unrealeased MyWorld, but not on that project) it’s ultimately possible to do something like this, but mapping individually using drones seems like it wouldn’t work for a number of reasons. It’s fine for barren wasteland like above, though storing that as textures would be near impossible in regards to disk space so you’d need to create materials and textures individually for each part of landscape, somewhat defeating the point. The bigger problem is when you get to urban environments. You’re not going to be able to properly map buildings with these drones (maybe with quad-rotors, but regardless I doubt you’d ever get permission from any government), and any sort of road overlapping is going to cause you nightmares as well. All in all this seems very dodgy.

  27. Stevostin says:

    Wait, it’s not first person ?

    SKIP

  28. S Jay says:

    I like the ambition, even though I believe it is impossible to do what they claim.

    Maybe if Google (or the NSA :P) was behind it, I would believe it a bit more.

    • The Random One says:

      If the NSA made a game its privacy policy would consist of nothing but a gif of Brent Spiner laughing.

  29. LVX156 says:

    Typical. As soon as someone has lofty goals (and a plan detailing how to go about it) and wants to make something brand new, all the RPS hipsters go “It’s impossible”, “It’s a scam”, “It can’t be done”, “That’s not creative” and so on. God, this website has the worst readership ever.

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      Nogo says:

      Brand new? This sounds like a remake of NEO Scavenger, but completely hampered by a ridiculous fetishization of realism.

    • Koozer says:

      I have this lovely bridge you may be interested in purchasing!

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      Martel says:

      I would love to know what your definition of impossible is, if it doesn’t include something that cannot be done.

    • Turkey says:

      I didn’t know hipster had extended its meaning to grognard who’s perpetually stuck in 1998.

  30. kwyjibo says:

    The drone thing is fanciful. But there’s lots of data already out there to license, some of it freely available. NASA has terrain data for the whole world available, Ordnance Survey has Britain in even higher detail.

  31. DarkMalice says:

    While I have no faith whatsoever that they’ll map the whole world (or even a full percentage to be honest), it would be amazing in itself to complete their BRICK1 ambition: fully mapping and rendering a real-world island in true scale, say something the size of Oahu in Hawaii at 10,931 sq mi.
    You could play a pretty big game in that space.

  32. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I would think a better way would be to make one of the teirs a ‘mapping kit’ complete with a drone. Then crowdsource the mapping part too. You’re funding the game as well as contributing

  33. Arglebargle says:

    On a small scale, that sorta thing sounds cool. On a large scale, it sounds like a tremendous amount of effort for a pretty small benefit. We’ll see how it runs on a PR scale…..

  34. Sacarathe says:

    “And what did you do yesterday good sir?”

    “Why I planned murder and mayhem in this online game with a remarkably accurate portrayal of this area in which we live; Unfortunately when I blew up the cinema and the church no body came running out screaming like they did today.”

    “Oh, that was you?”

  35. DanMan says:

    Why would you have to scan the earth yourself? Surely that data is already out there, waiting to be bought, no? Or can it really be cheaper doing it yourself?

  36. CommissarConn says:

    The surface area of the Earth is 510 million square kilometers. Let’s assume (very generously) that it takes about a minute of total time to map a location and get it properly put in the game. And let’s assume they have about 20 teams at a time across the world working with these drones and mapping a location in daylight, and divide those 510,000,000 minutes by 20.
    With twenty paid teams, working non-stop at mapping a square kilometer of the earth per minute, you will get the game you pay for now in roughly fifty years. This estimate does not include incredibly rough terrain, espionage charges, restricted-access countries, night/day/weather mapping, and other obstacles.
    For a game in a currently oversaturated bandwagon-esque market.

    This is beyond Kony 2012 levels of fanciful bullshit.

    • Shuck says:

      There was that team that mapped the Matterhorn not too long ago. They had a fleet of drones. it took them something like six hours to scan and process the data for 100 square miles. That doesn’t include time needed to clean up assets for game use. We’re looking at at least 1.5 minutes per square kilometer. You’re very charitably assuming the teams aren’t spending time traveling or sleeping/eating/resting, either. So even 75 years with hundreds of people is optimistic. (Then there’s the issue of storing and serving the enormous quantity of data.) Clearly they’re not remotely serious. That being the case, it’s hard to know what they are being serious about.

    • OscarWilde1854 says:

      But surely: Kickstarting (or whatever term they are using, since they avoided the actual site..) will allot them infinite money and resources!!

      Soon enough they’ll be flying these drones across the world in a swarm of millions, like Tie Fighters, swooping through the streets of all the cities! They’ll be finished mapping in just a few weeks! Never mind years!

      It’s like infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters! Once they have amassed their super army of drones and super army of super computers for processing the images from said super drones it’s inevitable that this game will be made!
      /* end sarcasm…..
      It makes me sad that people will honestly jump all over this and throw money at them only to end up with 0.0005% of the promised product or nothing at all…

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      To be fair, they probably don’t plan on mapping at least a touch over 70% of that, unless they want to employ aquatic drones. Still a pipedream, though.

    • foop says:

      Then there’s the fact that if you could actually generate this sort of data, you could make more money out of the data itself than by selling a game based on it.

      If they really want this to happen, surely it would make more sense to create a company that produces drone-generated GIS data of high quality and then use the income from that company to spin off a game company?

  37. boyspud says:

    Reminds me of that Outerra engine (which if you don’t know has a free tech demo for windows users to play with).

    Also, when is someone going to take one of these computer generated earths and put every other appropriate sim into it to make the ultimate sim?!?

  38. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Okay, that sounds pretty cool. But.. don’t mind if I just sit right here and see what’ll come of it. Cause I’m not spending my money on that.

  39. Strangerator says:

    This could work if they did 1:1 mapping of certain locales and then in the game you could fast-travel between them.

    Really, given the earth’s population and surface area, each of the 7 billion inhabitants has around 228,500 square feet to his or her self (if everyone where to spread out equally, which admittedly doesn’t happen). Now reduce the population to a super-high goal for a successful MMO, say 3.5 million in a single shard. You’re talking 1/2000th the population in the same space. It just plain doesn’t work.

    Also this seems like it could be the beginning of a Dr. Who episode. Was there a TARDIS in that video?

  40. daztec says:

    does it have the crovel??? it better!

  41. LordDamien says:

    Maybe it was only me, but I kind of imagined Dr. Evil from Austin Powers explaining their plan to use Drones to map the entire world and put it on a game.

  42. big boy barry says:

    Hmm, exactly how will they get 100s of millions of players to populate this.Itl feel pretty sparse if they dont

  43. mr.ioes says:

    Right now, PIXYUL are no more than they’re two founders

    English isn’t my first language, but shouldn’t it be “their”?

  44. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    Imagine if you spawned in Hull.

    In a single player game like this? Not so bad, really. Post-apocalyptic Hull would be fine – as well as virtually indistinguishable from the present one, a hollow shell populated by zombies. The physical Hull, the place itself, is not the problem. As for the real Hull, the soul-destroying, endless torment? Hull is other people.

    (With no apologies to the real-life denizens of Kingston-upon-Hell)

  45. MeestaNob says:

    I would think gamers would be just as impressed with a randomly generated world, and surely mapping certain areas of the world would present some very real issues with local authorities?

  46. The Random One says:

    I kind of like how in their site’s Exploration tab instead of mockups or concept art they just have pictures of real world locations. That takes some huge guts.

  47. kzrkp says:

    was interested, until the video. the drones are marketing gimmick more than a well done execution.

  48. JrfelixXD says:

    NOOOOO NOOOOOOO MY IDEA!!!!!!! kljhlfjkhdlhflhlkSAhlhsa;lhf