Nextgen Space MMO Game - Procedural Galaxy with Billions of Stars - Seamless Planet Landing - Twitch Based, Skill Centered Gameplay - Own Ships, Buildings, Cities, Space Stations, and Even Planets - Sandbox Style Gameplay. You Decide How You Play, Not a Class System.

Report article RSS Feed Infinity: Quest for the Earth

With the woefully linear presentation of Freelancer and the extreme difficulty of the X series, it seems as though we might never see a spiritual successor to Elite. That is, until Flavien Brebion's Infinity is released.

Posted by JoeX111 on Feb 9th, 2006
Interview

[page=To Infinity and Beyond.]

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With the woefully linear presentation of Freelancer and the extreme difficulty of the X series, it seems as though we might never see a spiritual successor to Elite. That is, until Flavien Brebion's Infinity is released.

One hell of a view.
One hell of a view.


For the uninitiated, tell us a little bit about Infinity and the "team" behind it.

My name is Flavien Brebion and I'm 28. By day, I work as a graphics programmer in a small Belgium company. During the night (or the weekends), I work on Infinity, my pet project. I've been involved in a few independent projects before, some did succeed, some failed. But I finally came to realize that for a small team, it is extremely hard to make an ambitious game with a lot of content. I had for quite a while in my mind an idea for a new game, so I decided to give it a try by taking a different approach this time: generating most of the universe procedurally.

Procedural techniques are nothing new (64 KB demo coders have been using them for years), but very few games have been using them extensively. I'm definitely looking forward to Will Wright’s "Spore" for that reason. A science-fiction setting, space-based game was best to cut the amount of work down to a realistic level, and as a fan of the classic game "Elite", it was a natural choice. I started to develop the 3D engine in 2004, although I previously worked on some early prototypes to make sure it was technically feasible. I opened the website in September 2005 and received an incredible amount of support. At this time, many people volunteered to give some help, in particular Kevin Haelterman (Betelgeuze on the forums) and Andreas Österman (Abzence). In December, Shawn Sullivan (with whom I had already worked on a previous project) joined the team as a 3D artist and started to work on the first space station.

Want to go to the mountains? Check. Want to visit that planet there? Double check.
Want to go to the mountains? Check. Want to visit that planet there? Double check.


Tell us a bit about the procedural techniques used in the game engine.

In current games, the world is restricted by the amount of work and time the designers can put in it. Every little detail has to be positioned and tweaked manually. Of course, it allows the developers to make incredibly rich and immersive games, but they have to severely limit the size of their world and levels so that they can release their game in time. It's all about creating an illusion: you think that the world is huge, while in reality you're only walking in a corridor enclosed by invisible walls and all doors (except those few ones where developers allow you to go) remain closed.

With procedural techniques, you can offset the world generation to the computer rather than the designers, and even do that on-the-fly while the game is running. It's not a "magic" technique though: it comes up with its own set of limitations and opens a new can of wormy problems. In particular, instead of tweaking the world directly, you now have to tweak the algorithms that generate this world so that you can control it and make it fit your design.

What does this mean for players? Simply a massive and limitless world. When I say massive, I do truly mean MASSIVE. To give you an idea, all the planets have realistic dimensions and scales. If you were to land on a planet and fly at low altitude at airplane speed, it'd take you hours before reaching another continent. You'd never see the same hill or some mountain twice. Then, each major planet can have tens of moons. Each solar system can have many planets, all rotating with realistic, dynamic orbits, allowing you to attend an eclipse or a sunset in real time. Finally, the galaxy will contain millions, if not billions, of these solar systems. All different.

In addition, landing on planets is fully seamless, without any loading time to break immersion. This was probably the main technical challenge for this project, and as far as I know, no big recent game has been proposing this. It can be seen in the second part of the video.

[page=Space: Above and Around.]

A giant metal hat was seen above the clouds today...
A giant metal hat was seen above the clouds today...


On your website, you define the game as being an MMO. How similar will it be to most MMO games out there now? Does this mean people will have to pay to play it?

If you are thinking of a subscription-based monthly fee, then probably not: I’d like to stay away from this model as much as possible. People will probably be able to play for free, but some advanced content might only be available to paying customers, under the form of premium memberships, for example. This model seems to be pretty successful in the Asian market, and more and more "occidental" games are trying it.

Infinity will be pretty different than currently existing MMOs. First of all, it is not a traditional RPG, which is why I hesitate to call it a "MMORPG". It integrates real-time combat (similar to an action game). There will be no levels, skills or visible experience. It will be pretty close to a "sandbox" game, where every player is able to choose his own path and game play style. It will have a dynamic economy, gathering resources will be an important part of the game, as a way to build new ships from factories. The game will not place restrictions on player killing, although most of the core (populated) systems will have an efficient police to prevent griefing. Playing as a pirate will be no easy task.

In addition to all of this, we are planning to include a pretty advanced A.I. system. How advanced it will be, I do not know yet, even if I have many ideas. It has to be carefully implemented, since it can easily become a resource hogger for the server. But a space game is a great setting to add a ton of specific optimizations.

New content will be constantly added after release; it's actually one of the main ways to make the story dynamic and evolve based on the player’s actions. Note that a single-player mode (not requiring Internet access) will probably be proposed at some point, too.

Man, that's a lot of windows.
Man, that's a lot of windows.


Do you think the comparison to Elite is valid?

It would be incredibly pretentious to claim that Infinity is "the" spiritual successor of Elite, but it is true that Elite is a main source of inspiration. More so than some of the current popular space-based games.

It will have a lot in common with Frontier/FFE ( Elite's sequels ): a seamless, coherent universe; realistic scales and dimensions; a full 3D game play; planetary landing without loading times; dynamic orbits for planets; space stations with bulletin boards and missions to accomplish, and much more.

The main differences will probably lie in space combat and many extensions to the game play, for example the business/corporation side, being able to own many ships (or even a small fleet), stations or planets, and of course all the MMO aspects.

With all this generated content, I'm sure some people might be afraid that half of the planets will all look the same, or just be utterly barren. What do you have planned to keep this from happening?

This is a potential danger (and one of the main challenges) in procedural content generation. With millions of planets to explore, even if all unique, you can bet some of them will look similar. This happens in reality, too. But I do have many ideas to make the universe as varied as possible and give some "personality" to many planets.

Cedar lattice? On a space station?
Cedar lattice? On a space station?


What should players expect to start with when they first load up the game and how customizable will their avatars \ ships be?

Players will probably start by generating a context for their avatar. This context will include an "orientation" (trader, explorer, pirate, scientist, etc.. ) when the game starts, which will be used to determine if the player owns a ship, which type of ship, which type of equipment/weapons, and what amount of money. The context might also include some events in their past history, for example a player starting as a pirate could already have a bounty on him. How customizable spaceships will be, I’m not sure yet as there are a few design and technical issues to be solved first. It's safe to say that ships will have different tags/logos, use different weapons, and they'll possibly be assembled from different modules.

How far along is development at this point? Should we expect a pre-release demo at some point?

I would roughly estimate that it is at 35% of its development. The game engine is well under way and many core features have been completed, but there isn't much going on the game play side at the moment, except simple movement in space or on planets. The goal is to complete the game engine in 2006, and focus on the game play in 2007. A technical (but non-interactive) demo should be released by the end of 2006.

[page=Firefly Me to the Moon!]

If only they implemented skiing...
If only they implemented skiing...


While you mention on your website that players will not be allowed to wander outside of their ship on planets, will they be able to walk around on space stations? Or within their own ship?

No. This feature would require a lot of additional game content work, and with such an ambitious project I feel that there's already enough to do in the other areas. It might come back later as a patch or an add-on, but it will likely be missing at release time. Note that even though players cannot walk on foot on planets, some small vehicles are planned.

How will inter-character communication and interaction work? Will players just keep accepting missions from post boards, like in Freelancer?

It will be more advanced than that. In-game bulletin boards will be the central system; players will be able to accept missions given by NPCs from it, but also post themselves missions that other players (or even NPCs) can accept. Templates will be available to avoid abuses. Players will be able to exchange, buy or sell goods safely in stations or even directly between each other in deep space (at their own risks). Global and private chat will of course be present. Corporations will also be an important part of the game.

2007: A Standalone Odyssey
2007: A Standalone Odyssey


If players were to cause some damage on the surface of a planet, or were to leave a pod or something on the surface of a world and return to it many months later, should we expect to see that same item or bit of damage there?

It depends on the amount of damage caused to the planet. Minor damage will quickly disappear, but permanent damage (like a nuclear explosion, or a large crater) will stay forever. Items will also stay for a long time, but how much exactly will probably depend on the nature of the item and has to be determined in the beta test.

Will the planets feature realistic weather systems?

Yes, and some of these will directly affect the game play or controls. We plan to implement rain, snow, storms, but also lightning, geysers, volcanoes, sand storms and possibly tornadoes.

Are you looking for any help?

We are always looking for new talents, especially 3D modelers/artists who are dedicated, creative, and can make professional quality work.

And finally, when is your projected release date, at this point?

Officially "When it's done"; but if you want an estimation, we are aiming for an open beta test in end-2007 if progress remains constant.

All of us at Mod Database would like to thank Flavien for his time, and be sure to check out the exclusive preview trailer here.

Post comment Comments
Stewker
Stewker Feb 17 2006, 2:23pm says:

Very nice update IA (as Flavien is commonly called on the Infinity Boards)

My only wish is that beta would get here faster :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
methy
methy Feb 14 2006, 10:30pm says:

Huge. Massive. Hell yeah!

I've been eyeing off infinity for some time. I badly want! Nice interview.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Gryx
Gryx Feb 15 2006, 2:25am says:

I'm watching this one!

+1 vote     reply to comment
liqwiz
liqwiz Feb 15 2006, 6:30am says:

following it for half a year now, i can imagine player-made contests like "nuke a planet, place a flag and claim it yours".
man if only this game will get huge attention from the mass. i really hope for a big introduction of the game.

may many, real many people go play this in world when it gets presented to us.
I just hope (gameplay-aspect) that diplomacy & economy will be as big as the world itself, people will wake up in the night to check auctions & relations (like planetarion).

+1 vote     reply to comment
BKlegend
BKlegend Feb 15 2006, 7:24am says:

There's no doubt in my mind that this project will end up becomming a huge success. I've been following infinity for quite a while (on the forums, you should register too) and at the speed Flavien's releasing his updates, he should reach his 'estimated release date' by 2007 without a problem.

+1 vote     reply to comment
JoeX111 Author
JoeX111 Feb 15 2006, 11:19am says:

Planetarion? I haven't heard of that one!

*runs off to check*

Flavien's an awesome guy, though, so we'll try to keep up with features and updates on the game to draw in as much support as we can. Infinity is going to be crazily awesome.

+1 vote   reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Feb 15 2006, 12:48pm says:

My friend's a big Elite fan so I'll put him onto this one...

+1 vote     reply to comment
Canuck
Canuck Feb 15 2006, 12:52pm says:

This guy is a genius. Really amazing work. I am so looking forward to this.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Gothax?
Gothax? Feb 15 2006, 6:58pm says:

For being so early in the development process, Infinity: Quest for the Earth is shaping up to be one hell of a project. His prior experience sounds promising, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled to this one :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Black_Hand
Black_Hand Feb 18 2006, 5:28am says:

wonder if he intends to add nebulas or black/wormholes, imagine being a scientist and goin to explore a protostar. or imagine creating mafia :)), "letting" pay people pay for their "protection" :)). hope youll be able to create hierarchy for your organization/guild/mafia....itd be incredible :))

+1 vote     reply to comment
Michael
Michael Feb 21 2006, 2:55pm says:

I had this on my Modwatch, a definate game that strives to bring new experiences into a game.

Kudos!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Giddamon
Giddamon Feb 24 2006, 6:07am says:

An Elite/Frontiers game with modern graphics and real-scale planets? *drolls*
I can't wait for this one!

+1 vote     reply to comment
aegir
aegir Feb 25 2006, 1:08pm says:

i think the world is going to be tooooo big if i read the description. But anyways yeah the game wil be great iff they can pull this off coz this is a very difficult project but i think they 'll get through all the mess well i hope :p

+1 vote     reply to comment
eNTi
eNTi Feb 28 2006, 9:50am says:

please, make it work on linux too. no friggin directx, please???

+1 vote     reply to comment
DooMAD
DooMAD Mar 22 2006, 3:22pm says:

I loved Elite and have been waiting for a worthy successor for longer than I care to remember. I can't wait to play this.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Bluedrake42
Bluedrake42 Apr 27 2006, 7:20pm says:

Um... wow, Thats big. I think my subject title speaks for itself.

+1 vote     reply to comment
rwm2barton
rwm2barton Sep 28 2006, 1:09am says:

omg...i need to play this...im startin to cry, i want this so bad...

+1 vote     reply to comment
Tekhsheen
Tekhsheen Oct 19 2006, 2:09pm says:

how good does our computer be? it looks WAAAAAY more detailed than EvE onlien and it looks like it needs a directX10 to run it smoothly, and ther eis even gonna be a prosseror be made, like the dual processors have 2 processors, but the new one should have 4. soo can anyone give me soem ideas of the system requirements?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Dead|End
Dead|End Jan 27 2007, 3:39pm says:

Oh crap, this is gonna be such a Masterpiece. Keep Up the Amazing work. GG

+1 vote     reply to comment
my_fat_monkey
my_fat_monkey Jul 5 2010, 2:41am says:

Open-Beta test in 2007.....

Oh lord how I wish it were true.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Enthreri
Enthreri Dec 22 2010, 1:08am says:

No kidding...

+1 vote     reply to comment
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Infinity: The Quest for Earth
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