What’s in a Name? Planets3

By Ben Barrett on April 2nd, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

It’s not a sequel, neither is it pronounced “cubed” so what exactly that superscript 3 is doing on the end of this RPG/block-em-up hybrid is anyone’s guess. What I can tell you is the absolutely gorgeous Planets3 is currently chilling out on Kickstarter with a few days (and thousands of dollars) to go. It caught my eye for two reasons: a creative element that allows for more customisation – wheels, triangles, and so on – and an integrated story/adventure that helps to direct the action. While I’m often enamoured with the idea of being totally free to build, explore and create as I like, actually doing it usually bores me after a few hours. A pre-planned mystery to solve, procedurally included in the world, helps to keep me interested. Have a look at their trailer and some thoughts on a very early Alpha build once you’ve mined through the crust below.

What I played wasn’t so much a game as an engine demo. There was no crafting to be done and while blocks could be mined out, there wasn’t any reason to do so other than to see what was below. What it did allow me to do was fly around the world and out into space, to observe the procedurally generated landscapes. In a word, it’s beautiful. Rather than lowering the rendering detail of the whole, a distance at which every block stops being drawn and is merged can be set. While this creates a certain amount of pop-in when surfaces are approached, it creates incredible vistas whether a-top a mountain or in orbit. It’s explained in more detail and with screenshots¬†here, along with how the engine also allows seamless transition from planet to planet.

Like all interesting Kickstarter projects, it’s incredibly ambitious and donation is always a risk. The various updates they’ve made to the page since launching show they’re a dedicated team and the fact they’ve anything playable, no matter how basic, puts them ahead of the pack. While what they’re promising with regards to vehicles and character progression is original, creative games as a whole are well-worn and a layering of RPG mechanics might not innovate that. As always, have a good read through their plans before putting your cash down and be prepared for the long wait.

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35 Comments »

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  1. Niko says:

    On one hand, it looks really promising, but there’s something weirdly unsettling about all the slopes and triangle shapes for me.

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      Gap Gen says:

      It would also be nice if the render in the top image had features that wrapped across edges rather than doing a one-block smoothing, but I guess this is just an alpha. The renders on the site look pretty, though.

    • TekDragon says:

      Promising or not, the pricing is ridiculous. A group of developers that no one has heard of (I checked their update 5 where they “introduced” their team – not one game project worth mentioning) releasing a game that could hardly said to be revolutionary? That’s fine, but for $15? Really?

      I paid $15 for Wasteland 2, a practically AAA game with a team of stars. I paid $10 for FTL, Banner Saga, and Dwarf Corp, and more.

      Occasionally I spend more, as with Shroud of the Avatar, but that’s by Richard Gariott for goodness sake.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        What, this has been done already? I’d seriously like to play this so please tell me which game like this already exists, so I can play that instead.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    I’m glad you guys finally covered this (as a kickstarter). It needed a bit of a kick to get it up the final hump to funded, and this should help. If you do Serpent in the Staglands and Earthlock my day will be complete.

    As a separate note, they say they use Ogre as their 3d engine. How many teams do this? I always heard it was very capable, but technically demanding.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I’ve had a quick look at it but never got into it heavily (part of my problem is that I’m shying away from C++ for quick stuff as it can be quite a verbose language with a lot of crap to work through). It seems pretty nice, but I have no idea how it compares to other engines out there. One thing is that it’s not trying to be something like Unity, which is a complete game dev package.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        The main difference besides the fact that Unity comes with a fancy IDE is that Ogre is just a graphics engine, Unity is a complete game engine.

        I know little about Ogre these days, but I do know enough about Unity to know that it has nothing to help you make a voxel engine, you’re more likely to spend most of your effort fighting against the way Unity wants you to make games and end up with code that takes zero advantage of any of its productivity aids.

    • bstard says:

      Well it seems harder to write an engine yourself, but Ogre still requieres a lot of time to ge tused to. Torchlight and Orcs must Die are using it btw.

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      Lacero says:

      It’s actually quite slow compared to modern engines, the design was made more than 10 years ago I think and it hasn’t kept up with the way things are done now. With Unity and now Unreal being so easily available and doing so much more it may suffer.

      That said they have rewritten a lot of it to use more modern techniques and I’ve not had a chance to try that one out properly yet. I think parts of it are 5x faster or so. Being so technical to use and also not giving speed in exchange makes it mainly of use for learning 3d engines and for not paying licensing costs.

      But it’s a great project! There’s just sadly less and less reason to use it now.

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        Gap Gen says:

        I don’t know much about engine design – what’s changed, out of interest, in terms of speed? Has a bunch of CPU-bound stuff been pushed to the GPU to speed things up?

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          Lacero says:

          On a mobile so I can’t give a full answer or actual links sorry.

          Look up data oriented design and talks by mike acton. He had one at gdc just gone that reviews the new ogre code, and an older one that reviewed the old ogre code.

  3. Koozer says:

    So is this the 90’s for voxel games? Maybe when Everquest Next comes around we’ll finally progress into the millennium.

    • misterT0AST says:

      Simpler shapes and looks make it easier for players to build constructions that blend with the environment.

    • Cvnk says:

      I don’t get this attitude. Just because voxels have been around a while doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used for new games. People still make 2D tiled games, Mario-like platformers, even ASCII-based games and they can still be successful and popular. You can’t expect an independent developer begging for handouts on Kickstarter to have the resources to develop the technology behind Landmark. If a game’s chosen style bothers you then oh well. There are lots of games out there. Maybe one of the others won’t.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        For a long time though, nobody made 2D platformers, or would even dream of commercial success with one. It’s not unreasonable to say that the market can get saturated with a particular type of game, from time to time. But trends go in cycles, we’ve even had a few point and click adventures in recent years – that was unthinkable 10 years ago.

        • hungrycookpot says:

          I don’t know if that’s really true? I can’t think of a time or system where I wasn’t seeing 2D platformers/adventure games cropping up. You’re right in that there is definitely a renewed focus on these style of games, but I think it’s a natural reaction to some of the recent successes that have come about. Once people convince themselves that they can still enjoy a game that doesn’t have amazing new graphics, it allows more developers to realize the game they wanted to make but didn’t have the technical chops or resources to make it happen with AAA graphics. Personally, I think indie development and by extension low-fidelity gaming is a win for the industry (because we’re not going to stop seeing AAA games alongside them)

  4. razgon says:

    Oh wow – what is that, Amiga Scene music? So cool! Love the video as well, but the music sealed the deal for me!

    • Cvnk says:

      How did you identify the music? Do you know the song itself or is there something characteristic about the sound that you recognized? I’m not familiar with Amiga Scene music but I do like what I hear.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        lo-fi drum samples and synths with lots of pitch bending is characteristic of some 90s Amiga Demoscene and/or game music, but this track is lacking the rawness and the playful house-y and (oldschool) hip-hop-y edge that the best stuff had.

  5. Zyre says:

    Sweet! I wanted to make contact with RPS last week about making a article about this Kickstarter as it’s almost finished.

    Seems someone else already did it for me :)

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    P7uen says:

    Took a look at those screens and then someone who I assume is one of the devs being a bit arsey with someone who had already backed him, didn’t seem very classy.

    I quite like the cute spaceships and such, hope the end product looks like what’s in the video (or was it a bad choice of header image?) and I’d give it a whirl.

  7. DarkFarmer says:

    Bit too high concept and not enough “on the ground” so to speak. This looks really cool, and I’d buy it if it was finished, but these games are notoriously long-winded to develop properly, and with all the pre funding going on, almost none of them get finished.

    They all sell like hotcakes when they get retailed, so I don’t understand slash get suspicious why games like this and TUG (im a tug backer, the only game ive ever backed on KS, just on high concept alone) don’t just use publisher capital instead.

  8. CookPassBabtridge says:

    No one said it yet?
    BORG PLANET RUN AWAY

    • newc0253 says:

      I think you’ll find it is actually Htrae, the Bizarro World, from the Underverse…

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        It’s clearly the Battlefield, currently in its second-prototype stage.

  9. lonesock says:

    I remember the guy making StarMade talking about his motivation for having flat coin-shaped planets versus cubed and even spherical planets…

    http://star-made.org/content/starmade-dev-update-why-spherical-planets-dont-fit-block-world

    Incidentally, StarMade is on Steam Greenlight, is completely free to play (for now), has triangles and vehicles, etc. I had a blast on it until my spaceship was marooned in a warring guild’s turret network and I could never get it back.

    This game’s worlds look really pretty, but once you host a multiplayer server it all becomes the same chaotic wasteland of mined blocks and derelict constructions.

  10. Cvnk says:

    It’s spelled “Planets¬≥” but it’s pronounced “Throat Warbler Mangrove”.

    • edwardoka says:

      You are a very silly man and I’m not going to interview you.

    • Darth_Pingu says:

      I was thinking more along the lines of PlanetsPlanetsPlanets.
      … Or (Planets)(Planets)(Planets)

  11. goettel says:

    Impossible not to back it after that soundtrack.

  12. P.Funk says:

    Can we walk off the edge of the planet and have an Inception moment if we want?

  13. Shodex says:

    I don’t think I ever played Planets 1 or 2.