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An RPG, RTS, and sandbox space exploration game all-in-one. Explore, trade, build, and fight in a beautiful, procedural universe.
Created by

Josh Parnell

5,449 backers pledged $187,865 to help bring this project to life.

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The Road to the Beta: Chapter 2

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Well hello again...can you believe it's already (past) that time of the week?!  I can't either!  In fact, I've spent the last 46 hours trying desperately to let go of week 2 but...the end did not come easy...there's too much fun around every corner now, I'm really going insane...but...I guess it's a good insane?  Anywho, you know how it is -- when the code calls, you listen :)

(Disclaimer: All jokes aside, I really am a "bit" on the crazy side right now from the past two sleepless days, in which I was inexplicably yet completely possessed by LT coding to the point of not being able to give it a rest...so please forgive me if I'm not so as coherent as usual...it's for a good cause! :P )

Alright...let's take a look at week 2!

Now Show Me More...

Last week we focused on making some of the basics more visible to the player via the HUD.  But there's still a whole lot left to uncover.  In week 2, I continued to focus my attention in the general direction of "uncovering that which already exists," but now starting to look towards things larger than the HUD.  I wanted to reclaim higher visibility of the details of objects, cargo, hardpoints, assets, so on and so forth -- some juicy stuff!  Show me the numbers!  Show me the shapes!  SHOW ME THE UNIVERS--eh, alright, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

Since my mind isn't functioning at full capacity right now, I think pictures are going to speak more powerfully for my week of work than I can.  So, behold, here's what an 'object' looked like in the UI at the beginning of the week:

Hmmm.  Not too enlightening.  Of course, some types of objects would have shown a little more, and there was a lot of stuff in progress under the hood.  But this week, I am much happier to say that I can actually show you something that looks like part of a game:

(WIP) Object Overview
(WIP) Object Overview

Welcome to the new object interface -- this time, a serious push toward getting it in beta-capable working order!  This particular 'overview' tab is intended to be a quick summary of basic information, as well as rendered depiction of the object.  Much like the HUD, it offers a selection of smaller 'summary' widgets.  Note that, also like the HUD, these summary widgets act as 'links' to more detailed information (clicking the cargo summary links to the cargo tab, clicking the location links to the object interface for the current location, etc.)  Although I wasn't able to finish it this week, I'll have hardpoints overlaid on the hologram, so that subsystem information is available here as well.  But there's more...I wanted to take a splash in as much of the object interface as possible, so why not...

(WIP) Cargo Management
(WIP) Cargo Management

Cargo!  At least until something more exciting came up...

(WIP) Asset Management
(WIP) Asset Management

Assets!

Reach Into Your Heart

The object interface is really the heart of all UI-based information and interaction in LT.  Nearly every other major UI is, in some way, a part of (or related to) this one.  For example, the market, with which we're all familiar from the work shown in the last video, is naturally a part of a (trading) station's object interface:

"Market, I am Your Father" ~ Darth Object
"Market, I am Your Father" ~ Darth Object

So the drive to complete the object interface is, in reality, a drive to bring together and finalize all previous UI work.  I pushed hard into it this week, which resulted in a major explosion of new visible content.  That being said, since the effort was spread, none of these pieces individually are perfect as of yet (hence the perhaps-unnecessary 'WIP' on the captions...oh man...letting go of perfection now on a weekly basis is truly the ultimate personal challenge...).  Next week I'll no doubt be filling in more of the incomplete pieces.  For me, the most important thing right now is to uncover as much of the game as possible -- to reconnect with the player-side experience before progressing onward to finishing the game itself.

---

There are so many details to talk about just from the new shots above, but the point of RTB is not details.  So I'll choose one detail and call it a day...fair?  You have to let me get excited about some small detail...!  To make navigating the interface fast, I've chosen to go with these little circular icon 'tabs.'  I'm obsessed with these things.  They glow.  They make a little click when you press them.  It's relaxing.  I could do it for hours.  When you have a hard day at work, just come on home, boot up LT, and start flipping these things back and forth.

Example Ship Interaction Bar. Very Soothing.
Example Ship Interaction Bar. Very Soothing.
Example Player Interaction Bar.  Even More Soothing.
Example Player Interaction Bar. Even More Soothing.

On a side note, won't it be a fun day when we can open that 'messages' tab and use it for AI communication?  Not today I'm afraid, but hey, the icon is already there ;)

---

Well, week two of RTB has come and gone, and I'm growing ever-more-convinced that we're moving faster than before.  Ultimately, I'd still like to compare one month of RTB toe-to-toe with the previous methodology, but at this rate, I think the answer is going to be a happy one :)

And of course, in closing, a shot of this new stuff in context!

It's a Family Name.
It's a Family Name.

See you all again next week!  And, with any luck, I'll be a bit more rested and entertaining :T  Thanks for bearing with me today!

PS ~ I don't know if you noticed, but I'm having a kind of mid-life crisis with respect to deciding on flowing, circular forms or hard edges :P I'll figure it out sooner or later...in the mean time, feel free to tell me whether you prefer the style of the market (more angular) to, for example, the style of the asset management UI (more circular / smooth)!

The Road to the Beta: Chapter 1

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Gooooooood evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for showing up here tonight for the grand opening of the weekly Limit Theory Road to the Beta development update series!  It's an exciting day, but also a bit scary, since...I've not the slightest idea what an RTB is!  I mean...should I...should I tell a joke?  Or...pull a small bunny out of my slippers?  No no...maybe a card trick!! ._.  Hmm...well, we've gotta figure it out one way or another, so I guess I'll just dive in and see what happens...

Back to Basics

During my recent planning-and-mind-orienting week, I put my finger on something that's been bothering me about LT -- something that I thought can and should be attacked immediately during RTB.  Generally, that something is the lack of visibility of core features that already exist in the engine.  There's so much that already exists.  There really is.  But with the amount of revisions of various kind that we've been through, it's been hard for any of those features to consistently stay on the surface.  Broadly, that's sort of the point of RTB.  But even more specifically, this week, I decided to concentrate my firepower on the most basic of those areas: the thing you see first and last, the thing that serves up the direct information about your world and your ship, and, most importantly, the thing that is currently far more empty than it should be: the HUD.

Show Yourself, Limit Theory!

This week we welcome the following new widgets into the repertoire of LTSL-driven (i.e., compatible with the current and final UI) HUD components:

  • Minimap
  • Target display
  • Miniscanner (small scanner output preview)
  • Notifications list
  • Compact hardpoints control panel
  • Fast power distribution widget

Yes indeed, have a look below.  You can eyeball the distance to a pack of enemies using the minimap, identify a mineral-rich rock on the scanner, route all power to the forward deflector shields, and even monitor your personal messages, all without leaving home base.

Show Yourself, LT!
Show Yourself, LT!

Please note that those notifications were added for show; your actual game experience of meeting or not meeting Darth Vader (and of obtaining reasonable prices on tetrite ore) may vary (I cannot be held responsible!)

I've also done away with the bottom menu, which was previously a "menu for the thing I'm flying" menu, and replaced it implicitly with HUD elements (since, it turns out, the HUD is also a "menu for the thing I'm flying"!)  In this picture, for example, clicking the minimap will open the system map in a new window.  Clicking the scanner preview will open the full scanner display.  Clicking any of the targeted objects from the top-right will open their information window.  The same applies to clicking any of the hardpoints in the bottom-left lattice.  Concretely, this just means that the HUD is fast and simple to use.  Although I wasn't able to complete a 'ship summary' widget in the week, I hope to add it as the last (major) missing piece, since it will then provide a link to opening the player's ship window.

Hardpoint Control Groups

Every good cap ship pilot knows that having lots of weapons calls for having weapon groups!  After all, sometimes bringing down a mosquito doesn't require all the nukes.  LT now has equipment groups, and the implementation is very simple.  Several control group buttons live alongside the hardpoint nodes.  One of these group buttons is always selected at any given time.  Right-clicking (or performing an equivalent joy / gamepad action) on a hardpoint node will toggle whether that hardpoint is to be 'active' or not under the current control group (colors and opacity indicate whether the hardpoint is active).  The group will remember these toggles, so that when you switch between groups, they'll be preserved.  Simple!  The number of available control groups can easily be changed as a setting.

It's also worth mentioning that the hexagonal lattice layout of the hardpoints is due to a new layout widget implemented this week.  The reason I mention is because I'm quite excited to use these lattices in other places.  They're ultra space-efficient, but, more than that, I'm seriously impressed by how good they look with comparatively-few frills (compared to a square lattice, for example.)  Practical and attractive?  Now that's a layout I could fall in love with...!

On-the-Fly HUD Customization

It's nice to finally have some stuff populating the HUD, but no doubt we're all going to have our own opinions of what should go where and how big it should be.  In fact, your answer will almost certainly depend on the role(s) that you choose to pursue in game.  For this reason, I created a simple and easy mechanism to allow players to customize their HUD without ever leaving the game.  By toggling the HUD's "Edit Mode," HUD widgets will be converted into their proxy 'containers' -- big rectangles -- which can then be repositioned, resized, and (in the future) disabled and reconfigured.

This means that a single touch of a button turns this...

HUD #1
HUD #1

Into this!

HUD #1 Edit Mode
HUD #1 Edit Mode

From here, we can literally just drag or shift-drag (to resize) these boxes and place them however we like.  There's a grid-snap key as well.  In no time at all we can have something like this...

HUD #2 Edit Mode
HUD #2 Edit Mode

And now just say the magic word (key) and we get...

HUD #2
HUD #2

Try tabbing between the first and last images at full-res so you can see the difference!  Naturally, more extreme examples are also possible...

Minima--
Minima--
I'm very serious about exploration.  VERY SERIOUS.
I'm very serious about exploration. VERY SERIOUS.

In the future, I'd love to add the ability to individually configure each widget (see those gear buttons in edit mode? Some day...).  It'd be fantastic to be able to choose the behavior of your minimap, resolution of your scanner preview, shape of your center reticle, etc. all without ever having to leave the HUD (well, in edit mode).  But for now, the point is already accomplished -- to give the player some power over that functionality!  To let them feel and take control over what LT has to offer.  Between having more content available to access from the HUD as you roam around, and having much more power to shape it, there's quite a difference in the feeling of game tactility between last week and today.

Now then!  RTB is a merciless companion, so if you'll excuse me, I've got to barrel right on through into the next one.  Please feel free to critique the RTB style or make suggestions if the format isn't doing it for you.  But also keep in mind that I'm just starting to figure this out...I'm sure the process will get more entertaining :)  From my end, though, this first week of testing the RTB ideology worked out really well!  Less stress than a monthly video, but, hour-for-hour, I'd say a fair bit more productive as well.  I remain very optimistic about this road :D

See you next week!

~Josh

PS ~ I'm aware that the green health indicator on the side of the reticle sorta sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of color right now :T

LT in 2015 & The Road to the Beta!

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Hello there good people of space sim fandom! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!! :D I hope everyone's had a great holiday season.

As we wave goodbye to 2014 and enter into the new year, I'd like to take the opportunity to introduce and explain the (major) shift in LT's dev / update process that I'll be rolling out at the beginning of 2015. In the process, I'll also be explaining the status of the beta and what we're going to do about it. This one's gonna be a rather lengthy bit of text, but I've got a lot to say...so please bear with me!

The Beta: First it's Going to Hurt, Then it's Going to Get Better...

First up, as you all have surely noticed, late 2014 has come and gone with no sign of a beta being released to KS backers. Not good. The simple but honest truth is that the game isn't ready for beta yet. Despite my constant work on it, there remains quite a bit to do (mostly in terms of gameplay implementation) before LT can enter beta. It's not for lack of trying, either. I could get a lot more specific about this failure, but I think the more helpful question to be asking right now is not WHY we don't have a beta yet, but rather, WHAT are we going to do to fix that.

Having already been through two major delays, shifting dates simply isn't going to cut it anymore. Something must change, and that something needs to be more than the target beta release date. You guys are (I think) itching for the beta. I, more than anyone, am itching to get LT 1.0 in your hands. For this reason, I've decided that it's time to take action and shift gears. It's time to finish this game. And that's what this development shift is all about :)

Introducing Limit Theory: Road to The Beta!

Starting in January 2015, the monthly updates are going to be replaced with a new update series called "Limit Theory: Road to the Beta" (RTB).  RTB will be a weekly development digest, comprising text, images, and (optionally) small videos. In terms of medium, it's essentially a blend between the dev logs and the monthly update, taking the best of both worlds. You get some description, you get some visuals, and (sometimes) you get some in-game demonstrations.

But, critically, RTB isn't just a change in update granularity. It's a change in focus. With the dev logs and the monthly updates, the focus has always been to show what was done in a given time period. With the new RTB update series, however, the focus of each weekly entry is going to be very simple and very clear: demonstrate to you all, on a weekly basis, that LT has made a significant step toward completion (and beta release). Put differently, whereas the reaction to a devlog / monthly update might have been "yes, this work looks nice," I will strive for the reaction to each RTB entry to be more along the lines of "wow, yes, this makes LT more of a complete, playable game!" Tweaks, graphical enhancements, tech advancements, etc. will not cut it. With the RTB development focus, I will be looking for and pushing to achieve tangible completion of game features and content each week.

Despite the fact that the project's timeline is stretching longer than any of us would have liked, I do feel that things are starting to align in a nice way at this point. In particular, it feels like RTB is coming at the perfect time! In the past few months we've undergone the shift to fast, LTSL-based development. Last month, in particular, we saw a wealth of actual 'stuff' being implemented and iterated on in LTSL. Moreover, the tech level of the LT engine is at an all-time high, and, on the whole, more than capable of supporting the beta and 1.0. I wouldn't have been comfortable saying this only a few months ago. But now, I can say with conviction that it's time for the home stretch. It's time to focus all firepower on the deflector shield genera---uhh, I mean, on the completion of Limit Theory the game.

Now, returning to the format of RTB, I'll elaborate on the aforementioned "optional small videos." Video content in RTB is going to be handled quite differently from the usual monthly videos. Rather than simply show what was done each week, RTB videos are only going to happen when I have a feature to show off that's best conveyed with in-game demonstration. Hence, these videos are to be small (5-10 minutes), tightly-focused videos that demonstrate the (singular) feature in question -- no more, no less. Again, in keeping with the overarching theme of RTB, the idea is to demonstrate game functionality / content.

On top of being a more focused development / update ideology, RTB will also help me to remain mentally-sane by removing the 'update anxiety' that has crept up over the past few months. In RTB, there is no pressure to beat the last entry, no time for last-minute content (since it's weekly), no question of whether the entry is a success or failure. There's simply the need to demonstrate game content, end of story. It's likely that some (hopefully few) entries will indeed be failures in terms of being able to make us say "LT is significantly closer to completion!" But so be it. Such will be the harsh yet efficient nature of the RTB dev process. Game content, and game content alone, is the success metric.

In summary, RTB is all about getting LT finished and in your hands. It's about sculpting all the tech and gameplay theory that already exists into a final melange of usable, enjoyable features.

Cool, but When is The Beta?

Indeed, that's a lot of talk about Road to the Beta, but I'm guessing it hasn't slipped your mind that, amidst said talk, there was nary a date mentioned. What gives?

Well, the official release date of the Beta is, as of now, "as soon as humanly possible." What this means is that, if tomorrow I miraculously wake up with 10x as many neurons and am able to implement every remaining facet of LT in a casual 8 hours, then the Beta comes out in two days. Yes, you could rightfully point out that it's an awfully fancy way of saying "when it's done" -- but I hope that you all can see that it's more genuine than that. The truth is, I can't put a date on it with confidence (let's face it, I'm new to this and, thus far, have been pretty awful with dates). But what I CAN do is what RTB promises to do: shift the focus entirely to game completion, and show you that we're moving significantly closer to that unknown date every week.  I still do have every intention of hitting early 2015, but, like I said, I'm not going to get more specific about dates.

The Road Beginneth on the Fourteenth Day.

Hopefully at this point you're all starting to warm up to the idea of some juicy, game-content-focused weekly development imagery, and are asking when exactly this RTB train is going to hit the rails!

I've decided that I'm going to take the first week of 2015 to do some final planning, preparation, and mind-focusing. I'll be getting everything ready for the start of this intense (but exciting!) journey toward the completion of LT. As such, the RTB development process and ideology will officially commence on January 7. That puts our first Road to the Beta entry at January 14!

Closing.

Wow. That was really a lot of writing. I do hope I haven't bored you all, but I really wanted to do justice to the reasoning behind RTB, what it means, how it addresses the current lack of beta, etc.

In closing, I'd like to invite you all to share your comments, concerns, or suggestions surrounding RTB and the beta plan either in the comments below or the forums. I'm eager to try this puppy out and see how you all like it (and how it speeds up the coming of the beta), but in the mean time, I'll be equally-eager to hear what you think about it!

Happy New Year from Limit Theory!

That was a lot of dull text, am I right?  If you managed to wade through it, you really do deserve a medal.  But I don't have medals to send out at the moment, so instead, please accept some festive LT screenshots!  Behold: the inhabitants of the Limit Theory universes are currently celebrating the New Year in style after a remarkable research breakthrough in astrofireworks technology!

How these colorful, spaceborne fireworks manage to pull themselves downward on a universally-aligned vertical axis remains a baffling mystery to top physicists. Regardless, as one particularly-eloquent researcher put it, "physics be ****ed, they're sparkly and that's all that matters." An 'opportunist' (who refused to be named) also commented that "if you pop two big rounds on either side of a cargo ship, nine times out of ten they'll be too blind to notice a transfer beam cutting through the hull."  Delightful!  What better way to celebrate the New Year than with a festive bit of thievery!

Party in the LTverse!
Party in the LTverse!
Party in the LTverse!
Party in the LTverse!
Party in the LTverse!
Party in the LTverse!

Well, that about does it! See you all on January 14...and until then, see you on the forums :) Happy New Year!

~Josh

Development Update #21

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*Sigh* Well, when I said updates aren't going to come out *exactly* at the end of the month, 1.3 months later is not what I had in mind x_x  Really am sorry about taking so long on this one.  Luckily, I learn from mistakes and am planning to not repeat this one (see below!)  But.  Apologies aren't what you guys came here for, am I right? :)

The Video.

The last one was 36 minutes, you say?  Hah.  Child's play, I tell you!  Come now, have a taste of a real man's video -- update #21 -- standing proud at 37 minutes!  Honestly, I put a lot of love into this one (if you read the devlogs, you know that it was actually way too much love, in terms of hours...).  Really do hope you all enjoy it!

Octember has Arrived!

The Summary.

To say that these two months can be summed up in a few pictures (or even a 37-minute video) makes my mind shed a small tear in honor of all the hours of work that will necessarily go unrecognized.  Nonetheless, I'll present a few of the highlights below, as usual!  Click to view full-resolution versions.

General Market / Trade Interface
General Market / Trade Interface
Planetary Rings!
Planetary Rings!
Warp Nodes & Warp Rails: Fast Travel in LT
Warp Nodes & Warp Rails: Fast Travel in LT

Future Updates & Retrospective

Ok, so when I say 'put a lot of love' into this one, what I actually mean to say is...I spent way too much time, and stressed myself out way too much over it.  It was dramatic.  There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth (of course, it was all one-sided, as I was gnashing teeth at myself, but it was scary nonetheless :P).

Clearly, the idea that I had last month about releasing an update video 'near the end of the month' did not work.  A flexible video date ended up bringing it 43 days late and still didn't save me any stress, nor did it save the community from update anxiety.  So let's just call that one what it is: a failure of an idea!

Now, that being said, something still needs to be done.  Update videos are becoming more and more of a tricky affair each month, and this problem must be contained!  Luckily, I have an idea for shifting the nature of the dev updates that I believe will make us all happy, while simultaneously reducing the stress surrounding them.

I'm not actually going to reveal that idea yet, because I need a bit of time to prepare for it and make sure I'm taking the best approach.  But I said all this to let you all know: change is in the Limit Theory air (for the better!), and I'll be in touch soon (likely a week or two) to explain exactly how I'm going to reform the dev process for the better!

In the mean time, thank you all for your support.  I've really gotten a lot of kind words and encouragement from the community lately that have helped me get through the stress without losing (too much) perspective.  You guys are the best! :)

~Josh

Development Update #20: August & September 2014

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Well, this one sure took its time, didn't it?  But, my dear fellow stellar explorers, you all know the drill -- when you're late, you bring presents! ;)

The Video.

Clocking in at a whopping 36 minutes, this update is nothing short of a monster.  It's the first regular monthly update to be segmented into pieces for the sake of coherence.  And it's got five of them, plus an intro and outro :D  I'll admit that I'm quite proud of this one, as I think it's reflective of a lot of the strong work that's happened in August and September, and it's also reflective of...a lot of love put into the video-making process!

Really, from the bottom of my heart, I hope you guys enjoy it and that it somewhat eases the pain of last month's cancellation.

Enjoy :) 

The Summary.

I'm not even going to try to summarize these two months in the usual two-to-three-picture format.  It just doesn't suffice.  We need to break out: the list!

  • Merged all existing UI concepts into final LT UI engine, combining the best elements from the older linear UI, the node UI, the layer-based UI, and introducing a few new elements in its own right
  • Developed several isolated, small testbed applications in LTSL to rapidly iterate on specific elements of gameplay
  • Fell into the groove of the new LTSL-driven workflow and have already written around 90 files of LTSL (far faster than I could have written in the equivalent C++!)
  • Implemented colony 'cultural traits,' 'local items,' and AI player spawning
  • Plenty of new graphical polishes

And some pictures to follow....enough for two months' worth!  NOTE : Click thumbnails to view full-resolution images!

New Lighting Techniques
New Lighting Techniques
Hot System
Hot System
Cold System
Cold System
Stand-alone HUD Testbed
Stand-alone HUD Testbed
Object Quick-Action Menu
Object Quick-Action Menu
UI Feature Testbed
UI Feature Testbed

*** Concerning Future Monthly Updates! ***

For those who do not watch all the way to the end, please note that, at the end of this video, I discuss how the process of doing the monthly update is getting more and more involved as LT grows in size, and it's come to a point where I'm regularly missing the 'last-day-of-the-month' timings.  It's both stressful for me and disappointing for the community, so, to that end, I'm saying from here on out that the monthly updates will come out near the end of the month, but not necessarily on the last day -- it may be several days later.  I'm hoping this will relieve a bit of the angst of the whole process!

--

August & September Retrospective

It's takecomingn a long, long time to get to where we are today in LT's development process.  It's taken oh-so-many wrongs to make the rights, but we're finally in a phase of development where those rights are coming to dominate the scene.

The content sprint has truly begun.  It started with UI.  It started with little testbeds that isolate pieces of game functionality.  From here it will grow, piece-by-piece, isolating and polishing every facet of the game until we have enveloped the whole of Limit Theory.

No, there's not a great deal of time remaining on the clock -- but with the right tools, with the right insights, with the right frame of consciousness...there is no limitation to the potential of the mind.  After all, that's precisely the meaning of Limit Theory.

~Josh

EDIT -- Whoops...accidentally left some stuff out of that middle segment!  I was really far too tired to be coherent by the time I posted this ._o