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It's been many years since the release of the last video showcasing the seamless planetary engine, so I'm happy to release this new video. This is actually a video of the game client, but since there's little gameplay in it, I decided to label it as a "tech demo". It demonstrates an Earth-like planet with a ring, seamless transitions, a little spaceship (the "Hornet" for those who remember, a space station and a couple of new effects.

Posted by InfinityDevs on May 5th, 2010

Making-of the video
Before I get into details of what's actually shown in the video, a few words about the making-of the video itself, which took more time than expected. What a pain! First of all, it took many hours to record the video, as each time I forgot to show something. In one case, the frame rate was really low and the heavy stress required to dump a 1280x720 HQ uncompressed video to the disk. The raw dataset is around 10 GB for 14 minutes of footage. 14 minutes? Yep, that video is pretty long. Quite boring too, which is to be expected since there's no action in it. But I hope you'll still find it interesting.

Once the video was recorded, I started the compression process. My initial goal was to upload a HQ version to YouTube and a .FLV for the video player embedded on the website. The second was quite easily done, but the quality after compression was pretty low. The bitrate is capped to 3600 kbps for some reason, and I didn't find a way to increase it. I suspect it's set to this value because it's the standard with flash videos. I also wanted to upload a HQ version to YouTube to save bandwidth on the main site, but so far it's been disappointing. I tried many times, each time YouTube refused to recognize the codec I used for the video (surprisingly, H264 isn't supported).

After a few attempts I finally found one that YouTube accepted, only to discover that the video was then rejected due to its length: YouTube has a policy to not accept videos that are more than 10 minutes long. What a waste of time. So instead I uploaded it to Dailymotion, but it's very low-res and blurry, which I cannot understand since the original resolution is 1280x720; maybe it needs many hours to post-processing, I don't know. There's also now a two parts HQ video uploaded to youtube: part 1 and part 2 . If you're interested in watching it, make sure you switch to full screen :).

Content of the video

The video is basically split in 3 parts:

1. Demonstration of a space station, modelled by WhiteDwarf and using textures from SpAce and Zidane888. Also shows a cockpit made by Zidane888 ( I'll come back on that very soon ) and the Hornet ( textured by Altfuture ).
2. Planetary approach and visit of the ring. Similar to what's already been demonstrated in 2007.
3. Seamless planetary landings.

I've been very hesitant in including the cockpit in the video, simply because of the expectations it could potentially generate. So you must understand that it's an experiment, and in no way guarantees that cockpits will be present for all ships in the game at release time. It's still a very nice feature, especially with the free look around. You will notice that you can still see the hull of your ship outside the canopy, which is excellent for immersion. Note that the cockpit isn't functional, so if we indeed integrate it to the game one day, I would like that all instruments display functional informations, that buttons light on/off, etc..


The backgrounds you see in the video ( starfield, nebula ) are dynamically generated and cached into a cube map. This means that if you were located in a different area of the galaxy, the background would be dynamically refreshed and show the galaxy from the correct point of view.

Each star/dot is a star system that will be explorable in game. In the video, as I fly to the asteroids ring, you will see that I click on a couple stars to show their information. The spectral class is in brackets, and follows is the star's name. At the moment, star names are using a unique code which is based on the star location in the galaxy. It is a triplet formed of lower/upper case characters and numbers, like q7Z-aH2-85n. This is the shortest representation that I could find that would uniquely identify a star. This name is then followed by the distance, in light-years ( "ly" ).

I still have to post a dev-journal about the procedural rendering of the galaxy on the client side, in which I'll come back on all the problems I've had, especially performance related.


I'm not totally happy with the look of the planet, so it is likely that in the future, I will at least do one more update of the planetary engine. There are various precision artifacts at ground level, as the heightmaps are generated on the GPU in a pixel shader ( so are limited to 32-bits of floating point precision ). I've also been forced to disable the clouds, which totally sucks as it totally changes the look & feel of a planet seen from space. The reason for that is that I implemented the Z-Buffer precision enchancement trick that I described in a previous dev journal, and it doesn't totally work as expected. With clouds, the clouds surface is horribly Z-fighting with the ground surface, which wasn't acceptable for a public video. At the moment, I use a 32-bits floating point Z-Buffer, reverse the depth test and swap the near/far clipping planes, which is supposed to maximize Z precision.. but something must have gone wrong in my implementation, as I see no difference with a standard 24-bits fixed point Z Buffer.

The terrain surface still lacks details ( vegetation, rocks, etc.. ). I still have to implement a good instancing system, along with an impostor system, to get an acceptable performance while maintening a high density of ground features.



Look & Feel
Don't think for one second that the "look & feel" of the camera and ship behavior is definitive in this video. I'm pretty happy with the internal view and the cockpit look, but the third-person camera still needs a lot of work. It theorically uses a non-rigid system, unlike the ICP, but it still needs a lot of improvements.

As you may notice, the ship's thrusters correctly fire depending on the forces acting on the ship, and the desired accelerations. Interestingly, at one given point in time, almost all thrusters are firing, but for different reasons. First, the thrusters that are facing the planet are continuously firing to counter-act the gravity. It is possible to power down the ship ( as seen at the end of the video ), in which case the thrusters stop to work. Secondly, many thrusters are firing to artifically simulate the drag generated by the auto-compensation of inertia. For example when you rotate your ship to the right, if you stop moving the mouse the rotation will stop after a while. This is done by firing all the thrusters that would generate a rotation to the left. Of course, some parameters must be fined tuned.

When the ship enters the atmosphere at a high velocity, there's a friction/burning effect done in shaders. It still lacks smoke particles and trails.

This video will also give you a first idea of how long it takes to land or take off from a planet. The dimensions and scales are realistic. Speed is limited at ground level for technical reasons, as higher speeds would make the procedural algorithms lag too much behind, generating unacceptable popping. At ground level, I believe you can fly at modern airplanes speeds. A consequence of this system is that if you want to fly to a far location on the planet, you first have to fly to low space orbit, then land again around your destination point.



Post comment Comments  (0 - 50 of 57)
Anonymousperson May 6 2010 says:


Absolutely stellar

+7 votes     reply to comment
Bluedrake42 May 6 2010 replied:

no pun intended? haha

+4 votes     reply to comment
sajber May 6 2010 says:

Absolutely fantastic! I would love to have function cockpits as well!! That would be awesome!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Commander1985 May 10 2010 replied:

Yes with TrackIR Support please :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Dr.Worm May 6 2010 says:

So much love and detail I've been watching since 2006 and it still puts me in aw and I can firmly say I really don't mind waiting at all for this game because it's just going to be jaw dropping that I'll be playing in a daze for many years to come I really really love your work and I would go gay for you guys in a heart beat i mean that from my bottom of my heart because of the passion and love you guys just pour into this game also, ill be that girl that waits for decades at the same house waiting just to marry you!

/no ****

+4 votes     reply to comment
Theon May 6 2010 says:

0.o You guys never cease to impress me...

+1 vote     reply to comment
MDIGN May 6 2010 says:

.....I....This is unexplainably awesome!

+1 vote     reply to comment
GhostEdge May 6 2010 says:

Seamless...planet...entry....oh my god, my dreams have come true...

+3 votes     reply to comment
infl1ct1on May 6 2010 says:

That video was breath-taking.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Anddos May 6 2010 buried:


But there is eve online , why would we need this?

-12 votes     reply to comment
Betelgeuze May 6 2010 replied:

so with every new shooter game you say "but there is Doom, why would we need this?" ?

Have you actually seen any of the main features from this video in EVE?

+5 votes     reply to comment
MDIGN May 6 2010 replied:

In my opinon EVE sucks and doesn't even compare to this, from what i've played you can't even land on planets, only warp though them, also the combat is s**t. If you want a space game, play Freelancer or Freespace.

+2 votes     reply to comment
formerlyknownasMrCP May 7 2010 replied:

They're working on fixing that though. Hence the whole RTS ground stuff they're adding now. But point taken, the Combat system isn't very good.

+1 vote     reply to comment
OldBoy May 6 2010 replied:

But there will be infinity. Why would we need anything else? ;)

+6 votes     reply to comment
Ribster80 May 6 2010 says:

Fantastic Work Guys !!!!!!!!

And so real ! Keep on the Good work...

Tracked ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Metalspy May 6 2010 says:

My god, words can't describe the excitement I felt while watching those video's. Even the slightest bit of more awesome probably would've caused a heart attack.. seriously.

+3 votes     reply to comment
james340 May 6 2010 says:

That is an absolutely amazing engine you guys are rocking there. incredibly and amazingly breath-taking!

+2 votes     reply to comment
SolidFake May 6 2010 says:

Some criticism and some questions:
Yes, without clouds it looks really quite "artificial", hope they will still come!
The ring looks great, although a bit thicker wouldn't hurt :P
The surface looks very sweet, will you also be able to walk onto the surface?
The cockpit looks good, but I didn't see any defraction/refraction effects due to the glass of the cockpit.
Gravity forced too? Great! Very nice, that shows that you really go into detail with your work.
Do you also want to add rotation to the planet as well as making the space station rotating too? (might cause some gameplay problems, though)
Solar systems! Do you will add them? For sure without the orbital movements but a sun in the middle of some planets would be quite awesome!
When you fly back into the orbit, the ship heats up pretty significantly, I'm no rocket engineer, but wouldn't the air getting colder and therefore cool down the ship instead of heating it up, as well as the decrease of density of the air. At least, it would heat it up much fewer when flying out of the atmosphere instead of in?

What, you can fly to each star dot you see? Are you crazy! WTF XD Endless freedom I smell.

Anyway, really really great work, I will keep an eye on this one, keep up the good work ;)

+3 votes     reply to comment
aidas2 Jun 16 2010 replied:

You can do everything you listed besides walking, swiming, driving on planets.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crystan May 6 2010 says:

Breathtaking... Just breathtaking

+3 votes     reply to comment
Miko_PL May 6 2010 says:


+2 votes     reply to comment
ciastoludek May 6 2010 says:

Very high quality work there.

+1 vote     reply to comment
PentaSTAR May 6 2010 says:

I saw the Tech Demo movie and I fell in love. Everything looks great. I'll be watching this project.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Bluedrake42 May 6 2010 says:

this game looks AMAZING! now from the gameplay I've seen I was a little disappointed... hopefully in the end it will resemble something more like freelancer (from the roleplaying aspect, not combat) but with more guns and stuff ;P

+2 votes     reply to comment
Bluedrake42 May 6 2010 replied:

but I also realize this is all WIP, and BY GOD! what a WIP it is haha =) really really really amazing guys, I love your work

+2 votes     reply to comment
MasterSVK May 6 2010 says:

Man i just lost all words! This is exactly what im waiting for all the years!

+1 vote     reply to comment
xgxe May 6 2010 says:

There is just one thing i felt missing: huge flashlights.
Beginning at 6:30 in the video, i see a lot of insanely dark areas that no sane pilot would fly in. ;)

Otherwise, awesome!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Archan May 6 2010 says:

This is amazing, simply amazing! I can't wait to see more of it~

+1 vote     reply to comment
DOLBYdigital May 6 2010 says:

Wow is right, very good work here!
Now the next hard part is filling all this wonderful space with fun things to do. Open it up for modding and the mod scene should help with some of those distant stars and planets ;)

I would love to see different takes on solar systems and worlds from all the talented people out there! Either way keep up the great work, you are showing how its done right!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Squeebo May 6 2010 says:


Truly beautiful =D

+1 vote     reply to comment
NullSoldier May 6 2010 says:

I love this update, I just wish people knew how to use youtube. You can upload more than 10 minutes without a problem as long as you change your profile type on youtube to Director.

I have been following this game since before the first prototype.

+2 votes     reply to comment
w0dk4 May 6 2010 replied:

And how do you do that? I cannot simply change my Youtube Account to "director"..

+1 vote     reply to comment
NullSoldier May 6 2010 replied:

Yeah you can, I did it with ease. They moved it so you change your channel from your channel options instead of from the profile options.

Go to "My Channel" from the options drop down. You'll see multiple tabs at the top. "Post Bulletin, Settings, Themes and Colors, etc..". Click Settings and then change the Channel Type drop down to Director. Done.

+1 vote     reply to comment
w0dk4 May 7 2010 replied:

No, they updated it and you can no longer upload 10+ minutes videos with a director account (or you changed to director before they updated it).

Point is, you need to be a Youtube Partner, which I am not.

+1 vote     reply to comment
InfinityDevs Author
InfinityDevs May 8 2010 replied:

Thanks for the info w0dk4, I've now applied to be a youtube partner so I can more easily host future videos on my channel.

+1 vote   reply to comment
Spooboy May 6 2010 says:

Best Indie game I have ever laid my eyes upon. This is amazing, simply amazing.

+1 vote     reply to comment
MrEmjeR May 6 2010 says:

I can't believe i'm not dreaming... is this really true??
its too beautifull. really

+1 vote     reply to comment
skyewing May 6 2010 says:

This is beautiful I have to agree also. I would pay 60$ easily for just that lol!

+1 vote     reply to comment
timstro59 May 6 2010 says:

i will pay what ever you want for this game!!!!

+1 vote     reply to comment
SolidFake May 7 2010 replied:

yar soooouuuuuuuulllll.......

+1 vote     reply to comment
formerlyknownasMrCP May 6 2010 says:

*Begins humming the Elite theme song*

Congrats guys you've delivered us what we've wanted for years, a true successor to Elite- this is definitely what I had in mind.

I can't wait till you get those awesome city models into the engine along side vegetation.

Can't wait to try it out. I still can't believe that you guys dynamically rendered every star and nebular, its crazy! :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
CloneWarrior85 May 6 2010 says:

Jawdrop :O

+1 vote     reply to comment
Dr.Nick May 6 2010 says:


+1 vote     reply to comment
dirtbag007 May 7 2010 says:

nice :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
bogie May 7 2010 says:

Absolutely amazing. I can't wait to fly around, who needs combat when its so beautiful just cruising around!

What happened to the water surface efects and vegitation? I didn't see any in the video?

Would be nice to see you hyperspace to another star! That would be the icing on the cake for this video!

Keep up the awesome work! BZ

+1 vote     reply to comment
ben590 May 7 2010 says:

I just can't wait!!!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Mars_3K May 7 2010 says:

Sold my X-52 last year. Sad face :(

+1 vote     reply to comment
scratch May 7 2010 says:

Absolutely amazing, it even brought a tear to my eyes. Question though: Are you planning to add more of a thruster-like manouvering on planets? It looks like the ship still acts like in zero-g here.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Kaneda13 May 7 2010 says:

This is an absolute masterpiece. Anyone who got mored by that video can't appreciate the beauty of the work done behind it.

+2 votes     reply to comment
KodY May 8 2010 says:

One of the best features I'v seen in a game for a loooong time. Outstanding work.

I hope you get it working with the clouds again. I bet it drastically adds to the atmosphere.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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