Limit Theory Development Summary: February - April 2018
Looking at the last update, I'm quite intimidated to post another one -- that's a tough act to follow. I'm afraid I don't have quite as many pretty screenshots for you today, but I certainly did not come empty-handed :) Over the past few months, we've been busy acting on the lessons learned from the PAX Demo sprint as well as pushing into new gameplay territory. In particular, we have seen a great deal of progress on the high-level dynamics of the game, as I'll detail shortly!
Before we get to the excitement, though, I would like to announce an unfortunate bit of news: Lindsey has left the team. Rest assured that there are no hard feelings nor burnt bridges; she left of her own volition due to changes in her work availability. During her time here, Lindsey built up an impressive procedural geometry library that I'll be able to leverage in finishing up the remaining algorithms. And, of course, we still have the ridiculously-good fighter algorithms that she devised! Despite her time with us being too short, I am nevertheless grateful for all that she accomplished while here. Thanks, Lindsey! o7
Now, back to the good news.
Content Creation with The LT Editor
One of the lessons I took away from our PAX sprint was a lesson that I had already learned (in an unfortunate manner) during the era of LTC++ and LTSL: the ability to add content in a flexible, granular fashion tends to run directly counter to the ability to maintain a big-picture view of that content.
In response to the dilemma, I spent a bit of time prototyping a tool to help. With the power of Lua and a UI library known as Dear ImGui in-hand, I came up with an "LT Editor" that fundamentally solves the aforementioned problem. The editor allows us to maintain full visibility of everything going on in the game while simultaneously making changes maximally-modular, since each change to the game content is encoded as atomic 'deltas' in a generated, Lua-based LT mod file, and these mod files can be merged cleanly in nearly all cases. Ultimately, all of this boils down to avoiding the same tractability problems that I've run into in the past as we scale the game up with more and more content.
There's quite a lot going on in the editor; if you're interested in reading about the details, check out my March 9 devlog.
When I revealed my work on the editor, some of the community voiced understandable concerns about the relevance of such a tool to shipping LT 1.0. While I still feel that the editor will play an important role in avoiding past mistakes, I have shifted my attention to raw, unquestionably-relevant-to-release gameplay for the moment to dispel any misconceptions that LT is not going anywhere, which, as my last devlog in particular demonstrates, is quite false :)
Dynamic Economy, High-Level AI, Colonies
Speaking of gameplay, the past few weeks have brought a real explosion of work on the big-picture dynamics of LT. I've resumed both theory and implementation work on markets, trading, projects, colonies, and the AI that ties them all together into a dynamic macroeconomy. My efforts thus far have yielded a tremendous amount of fruit, bringing our current implementation of these dynamics to a quality level far beyond that which was demonstrated in the old update videos.
To ensure total dedication to the work itself and zero distractions (like...shiny graphics..), I used an 'economy sandbox' application for this work. As such, the images are rather ugly -- but it's the contents that matter! To explain everything going on in this sandbox would require several devlogs worth of text, so I recommend glancing through the two relevant logs -- April 20 and April 30 -- if you're interested in learning more about all the details. Perhaps the most important breakthrough in this work was the development of a novel, 'flow-based' model that enables the AI to make remarkably-sensible choices that lead to interesting, efficient, and stable economies.
For those not interested in the details, it suffices to say that Limit Theory is shaping up to be every bit the rich, dynamic experience that I outlined in the beginning. We have real market economies, colony dynamics, AI with free will to do as it pleases (and high-quality algorithms that make sure these choices result in rational behavior), emergent global phenomena that result from changing economic conditions, and so on. This is no lonely, unresponsive single player experience we're talking about...this universe is alive!
Exploration, Discovery, and Information
With the global economy simulation humming along better than ever before, I wanted to press even further into new code and flesh out the exploration mechanic, both in design and AI implementation. The latter, in particular, yielded some really exciting work in the economy sandbox.
Once again, I'm afraid that to explain this work fully is beyond the scope of a summary, so I will refer interested parties to the "Information, Discovery, and Non-Omniscient AI" subsection of my April 30 devlog. The short story here is that we have a game world whose activity can be completely reshaped by discoveries and the spread of new information. Explorers rejoice, for here, you actually matter!
Gameplay development continues at a steady pace. The economy, high-level simulation, and AI are all in really good shape. Information & discovery mechanics are now well-explored territory (teehee). Although a fair bit of UI work remains to be done in order for all of these implemented mechanics to be usable by players, having the underlying theory and AI algorithms worked out for these features is a huge relief considering that we're talking about fairly brain-taxing work. On his end, Adam is working to implement the interfaces for much of this gameplay, and already has a command interface up-and-running!
The coming months should be relatively unsurprising: with no real blockers or distractions in sight, Adam and I will continue powering through that which remains between us and feature completion. Personally, I am looking forward to a continued focus on the 'big picture': bringing mechanics together to produce a vibrant universe.
One last note: I've been working hard to bump up my devlog frequency over the past month, so for anyone unsatisfied with the relative infrequency of the Kickstarter updates, please do drop in on the "Dev Logs" sub-forums where you can follow development at a faster pace and in (vastly) more detail! In fact, Adam has posted a rather hefty log just earlier today!
Until next time,