DevLog Watch: That Which Sleeps, Limit Theory, [encrypted]

When this column first started there were a dozen devlogs to choose from which had been running for years. Now, to avoid repetition, the column hungers for fresh meat – new games, new developers, and untold stories of variables and arrays. Perhaps there is value in holding up older, previously covered games as examples, though. Perhaps they might act as loss-leaders, luring in the timid and fearful who might be otherwise put-off by the unknown.

I’m featuring Limit Theory this week, is what I’m saying, because everyone asked for it.

Fantasy cartography! The best of devlogs! Programmer art!

That Which Sleeps

Last week, every game I featured was procedurally generated in some way – landscapes, dinosaurs, and so on. That prompted calls from developers for fairness and “equal representation”. Lest I prompt some game design civil war – artists vs. programmers, Photoshop layers and algorithms strewn about the battlefield – I should probably mention That Which Sleeps.

That Which Sleeps is a turn-based strategy game in which players are an “awakened evil”, manipulating a world of AI in a gradual effort to corrupt it. You do that by recruiting agents and sending them around the world to complete challenges, inciting orc unrest or spreading famine.

Why isn’t it procedural? Much like last week, the devs walk readers through the process of designing the game’s worldmap: from attempts at procedural generation, to the decision to go handcrafted, to the discovery of a tool that helps do this very thing.

The benefit of procedural generation is the replayability it offers, but That Which Sleeps hopes to get around it by providing editors and mod tools to the community. Details of that and more over at the TIGSource thread.

Limit Theory

Last week I mentioned, as always, that people should submit hot tips for hot devlogs. A couple of people responded in the comments to recommend Limit Theory, Josh Parnell’s trading-and-combat-and-outerspace game. Then three separate people emailed to suggest it. Does our extensive coverage of the game thus far mean it doesn’t belong in this column? I guess readers are saying that it does.

I suppose there’s something to be said for showing how it’s done. Limit Theory’s devlog is gloriously in-depth, regularly updated and stretches back years. There’s an old blog, daily updates on the forum, a separate blog dedicated to relevant procedural work, and publicly available monthly videos via the game’s successful Kickstarter.

The game itself is an almost frighteningly complex Elite-like, with plenty of economic systems and bar graphs to underpin your interstellar trading. As pretty as those graphs can be, there is also mercifully shiny space combat to go alongside. I mean, look at the pretty asteroids and space dust in the first minute of the latest video, embedded below, and decide for yourself whether that makes it worth listening to the chat about the game’s new scripting language and what that means for mods:


There is a special place in my heart for programmer art, because it seems like an artistic style which can be pushed and elevated and improved like any other. As proven by [encrypted], a quick-step roguelike inspired by 868-Hack and Brogue. Check out this explosion:

As explained in this post, the inspirations above extend further than functional art. Each enemy in the game is designed to have a specific purpose – death to lore, etc. – and a successful run in the game should be completed in around ten minutes.

You might also want to read this post about how the above explosion effect was created. I am hungry for every detail – every screenshake stat – that I can find, to better establish the difference between what feels crunchy and what feels like nothing at all. Every detail:

1.b.) The inside of the circle is visualised by – again – tiles with periodically randomised glyphs. These tiles are scaled slightly smaller than the outer tiles (0.75 as opposed to 1.0). They also have a randomised rainbow colour cycle to them (using HSL colourspace: varying hue along its full range, constant saturation of 0.9, constant lightness of 0.66).

1.c.) Oh, also, all the damage circle tiles scale up (using a ‘logarithmic’ curve ~) from a scale of 0.125 when they’re first created. I should probably make scale down again, or maybe fade out, when they’re destroyed at the end of the turn.

There are currently development builds available to download for those who want to try the game and offer some feedback.

Mini Updates


  1. amateurviking says:

    ‘That Which Sleeps is a turn-based strategy game in which players are an “awakened evil”, manipulating a world of AI in a gradual effort to corrupt it.’

    What a bloody amazing concept.

    • teije says:

      I’d never heard of That Which Sleeps. This looks like it could be brilliant. Thanks much for highlighting it, and I’ll be following it.

      Also love the map, being a long-time creator of maps using CC3 myself.

  2. Alberto says:

    That explosion in [encrypted] is one of the most beautiful gifs I’ve seen.

  3. RedViv says:

    More fantasy realm simulation games are always welcome. Especially when they rely heavily on manipulating a world from the highest possible indirect level.

    And as usual: Josh Parnell is a ridiculously talented and nice person, and perfectionist in the best ways. It shows in the Limit Theory dev vids, in the dedication to daily logging and… everything, really.

    • WrenBoy says:

      On the down side his dev logs are capable of provoking feelings of inadequacy. They also give me a gnawing sense of worry that he’s working too hard.

      But they are mainly great of course.

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        There’s no need to feel inadequate. After all, one can always grind his brain into a nutritious smoothie and drink it to gain his power.

        • Stardreamer says:

          One of the stretch goals, as I recall.

        • The Ultimate Clone of The Ultimate Warrior says:

          Oh god, one of those fad diets. Bah, Everyone and their Aardvark knows that the correct way to gain the powers and ability of another is through the correct application of potions and demonic rituals. I remember when RPS’s community was all about those and not this “brain smoothie” diet.

  4. Alistair Hutton says:

    The moment I saw the “That Which Sleeps” screenshots I thought it looked like a Campaign Cartographer map. And I was right!

    • Syt says:

      My thoughts, too. Of course those maps (especially with some packs from the Annuals) can look gorgeous. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. :blush:

  5. jeeger says:

    Registered to mention that “That which Sleeps” looks very much like Dominion, which makes me want to play it. Also, if your’e looking for gorgeous ascii graphics, look no further than the Cogmind GIFs. It’s got fun explosions, lasers, lightning ‘n stuff!

    • Kyzrati says:

      Heh, gee thanks. Just happened to be checking out this post and get to see another mention of my game :D

      Limit theory certainly looks like an awesome piece of work. I’ve… never even heard of it, having been stuck in my dev hole most of the time :/

  6. Stardreamer says:

    Then three separate people emailed to suggest it. Does our extensive coverage of the game thus far mean it doesn’t belong in this column? I guess readers are saying that it does.

    I think the general frame of mind about the actual-genius Mr Parnell is “MOAR PLS”, based on the principle that if he’s working that damned hard not only single-handedly develop the game but actually document it every day then that kind of superhuman effort deserves the reward of more people looking at him and his work more often than happens currently. :)

    Also: he’s really nice! Nice people deserve constant visibility.

  7. captain nemo says:

    props for the Limit Theory mention. The active LT forums make interesting reading too

  8. Cockie says:

    Yay Limit Theory! Yay modding support! :)

  9. HyenaGrin says:

    Limit Theory is probably the most exciting development to watch right now, if you are one of those people (like me) who enjoy watching the process of developing a game. Because it’s made by one guy, who is both enthusiastic about his work and enthusiastic about talking about his work, you can pretty much follow him day by day and see how the game changes and progresses. It’s really something. Also his monthly videos are incredible, I legit look forward to them every month.

    I didn’t know about That Which Sleeps, but it looks a little bit like a fantasy take on Pandemic with much more detail and boardgame-like features? Definitely something I am going to look into, very much my kind of thing. I was hoping for a beta/early access but it looks like we need to wait.