About this project
:: DEV BLOG :: YOUTUBE :: TWITTER (JOSH) ::
Space can be cold, dark, and lifeless. But not here. Here, in the many universes of Limit Theory, space is luminous, vibrant, and rich with opportunity. Step into an open-world, sandbox universe in which you can explore, trade, pirate, mine, escort, hunt, defend, build, and more.
In brief, Limit Theory is:
- An open-world space simulator / RPG
- A sandbox game : No story, no restrictions.
- Completely procedural : A completely new universe is only a button-click away.
- Infinite : The game universe has no boundary.
- Third-Person or First-Person : Command your ship from within or without.
- Deep and intelligent : Engage in far more than just combat or trading.
- Twitch-Based : Aim and fire weaponry directly, as you would in a shooter.
- Approachable : Intuitive controls and slick interfaces ensure that playing will never feel like a job.
- Strategic : Command an entire fleet when you amass enough cash to purchase more ships.
- Extensively-Customizable : Outfit your ship, fleet, and space stations with whatever equipment you choose.
- Single Player : A universe built just for you, that no one else will ever get to see (unless you choose to share it with them!)
- Beautiful and Atmospheric : Gaze in awe at a universe as diverse, vibrant, and uniquely-atmospheric as your dreams.
Sound like something you might want to play? Then read on.
Enjoy your Freedom Among the Stars
Like any good space sim, Limit Theory offers you the chance to explore a vast universe, prospect and mine minerals in asteroid fields, take jobs as a patrolman, escort, bounty hunter, courier, etc, or become a pirate and hijack convoys.
Command a Fleet ... Or Many.
When you've acquired enough wealth, hire other pilots and purchase more ships. Customize and outfit your fleet with whatever weaponry and equipment you desire, then fly alongside your armada in combat, or send them off to explore, trade, or conquer while you attend to other affairs. No restrictions are placed on the number of ships that you can own. A wealthy player can play the game much like an RTS, achieving victory from afar.
Build Your Empire.
Buy or construct buildings on planet surfaces as well as stations in space. Acquire mines, factories, trading outposts, and more. Set up production chains to build guns, munitions, or even new ships. When hauling goods for a profit gets old, why not try manufacturing the goods instead?
Interact with a Living Universe.
Experience a rich variety of interactions with an artificial intelligence that actively explores, trades, works, and lives just as you do. Just because the game is single player doesn't mean you'll be alone. Take jobs, strike deals, and become friends with the inhabitants of the universe. Need an escort to get you through a particularly dangerous stretch of space? Call up the mercenary that you met last week on a station a few systems away. Need just a tad more ore to get the furnaces of your new factory cranking? Call up your old pals from your days as a miner, and offer them a nice price for finding what you need.
A rich social interaction system is key to making Limit Theory more than the average single player experience. With the ability to keep track of and build relationships with the non-player characters that you meet in the universe, a whole new world of gameplay opens up, allowing for a wealth of creative ways to achieve success without ever having to arm your missile bays! (Although, to be realistic, you'll still probably end up doing so a few times...)
In a universe of such freedom, how will you spend your time? Here are just a few of the possibilities:
You are a Merchant. You have explored the farthest reaches of the universe, and know exactly where and for what price anything can be bought. For the right price, you can move anything. You supply what is demanded, and demand what you deserve - which is substantial...because you do so much more than move goods. You supply the universe.
You are an Admiral. You command a ship that dwarfs everything in sight. Frigates and cruisers hover about you, pretending to offer protection, but you don't need it. At the first sight of an enemy, hundreds of bolts carrying terrawatts of energy pour out of your ship, vaporizing the unwanted presence in seconds. Slowly and steadily, you drift from system to system, steamrolling those who oppose your authority. You conquer the universe.
You are an Explorer. You move quickly between systems in a nimble ship. With a keen eye and even keener sensing technology, you pick up all the details that everyone else misses. Selling ore locations to miners, enemy ship locations to warring factions, and uncharted system locations to aspiring empire-builders, you broker your knowledge to those that are ignorant of the beautiful and bountiful universe around them. You uncover the universe.
You are a Pirate. That's what they call you, but you prefer to think of yourself as an "opportunist," because, when the opportunity arises, you can and will take what you want, unlike those bound by the chains of law. Your home station resides in dense, unscannable clouds of dust. In this dark blanket of matter, you are untouchable by the arrogant hands of the law. You exploit the universe.
You are a Wingman. You fly alongside hulking ships that make your fighter look trivial. But you aren't. You are critical. You know where and when the ambush will come - you've seen it a thousand times before. You know that they'll go for the engines first, and that, while they're doing so, you'll acquire a perfect lock on their fuel tanks. The pirates think it will all be over in a few minutes. They're wrong. It'll be over in seconds, but not how they anticipate. You protect the universe.
You are a Miner. You can spot the shimmering reflection off of asteroids a lightyear away. You know the color and composition of each and every raw ore that the generous galaxy provides. In the deepest, darkest corners of space, you harvest that which will become warheads, turrets, and even ships. You are the very heart that pumps blood through the arteries of the universe. You create the universe.
You are Everything. Life is not black-and-white, and neither is your career. You can't devote your life to one profession. And that's fine, because Limit Theory won't make you. All of the above are options - but you won't find a checkbox for selecting which life to lead. The universe is yours for the taking, and your time therein will be whatever you choose to make of it.
No matter how far out into the universe you delve, you will never find an edge. The algorithms behind the universe have been designed very carefully, such that they are mathematically-guaranteed to generate universes of infinite size, each and every time. What's more, each universe has a unique number associated with it - a "seed" - that defines it entirely. By sharing that seed number with someone else, you can both explore and experience the exact same universe!
It's Totally Procedural.
Well, almost...the music and sound effects will be hand-made. But everything you see will be procedural. Planets, nebulae, stars, asteroids, ships, stations, textures, and so on. Thanks to cutting-edge procedural generation technology, Limit Theory will have the ability to keep providing you with new experiences. No matter how long you play, there will always be more to explore, see, learn, and conquer!
Every mission, every event, and every asset that you encounter in game will be unique - and it won't be the same next time you play. You'll never "beat" the game, nor will you ever know it like the back of your hand. When you feel that it has become too familiar, all you must do is click "New Game," and you will once again be completely lost.
It's All About the Interaction.
LT will focus heavily on bringing the universe to life with a deep and powerful AI engine that includes advanced, high-level planning. You aren't the only one trying to make your way in the universe, and your path will regularly cross with others that are trying to do the same - for better or for worse.
It's All About You.
Limit Theory will not offer a story, a campaign, or a guiding direction of any sort. You are unique, so isn't it best that you craft your own unique story, rather than live out a pre-fabricated one?
Here are some screenshots from the current prototype. They're straight out of the game, except for the small border and logo text at the bottom.
Limit Theory is far from a wide-eyed dream! After only three months of full-time work, I've brought LT from a mere idea to the well-underway game that you see here. Furthermore, much of the three months was spent developing core engine technology, since the engine is being built from scratch.
At this stage, much of the graphics technology has been completed, most of the core engine is in place, and many of the procedural algorithms are well underway. Gameplay is the largest part of what remains, and I fully intend to make gameplay my burning focus for the rest of the development process. Gameplay is king, I recognize that! Limit Theory will not be about graphics (although they will be good!). It will be about gameplay. Deep, rich, engaging gameplay, just like the space sim genre deserves.
The planned release date is Early 2014. That may seem like quite a while, but I'm not interested in making unrealistic promises, and, to be realistic, LT is going to take a lot of work. But if my work so far represents only three months, can you imagine what another year-and-some will do, especially given that much of the engine heavy-lifting is finished?
I hope you'll help me find out where the project will be in a year!
Hi! I'm Josh Parnell, the one-man team that's going to bring you Limit Theory! I'm a passionate game programmer with a particular love for graphics, space, procedural content, and open worlds. I guess you can see why I'm excited about this project :)
I currently study computer graphics at Stanford, but that doesn't stop me from working 40 hours a week on LT. I absolutely love working on the game - expanding the features, making it more beautiful, and discovering new algorithms for creating bigger and better content to fill the universe.
I grew up playing games like the Elder Scrolls series (Morrowind will always have my heart!!), the Egosoft X series, Freelancer, and various Star Wars titles. All of them inspired and left me with a burning desire to someday build my own world - free, open, procedural, and infinite. So I devoted myself to studying graphics and procedural generation technology. And here I am, years later, finally ready. I'm ready to realize my dream. I'm ready to bring you a space sim that will inspire and excite you - and allow you to live out all those grand sci-fi adventures!
I definitely feel most at home when I'm engulfed in my code. I've been coding since I was 10 (that was 10 years ago, for those who are wondering..), and since then, c++ has become just about as much of a first language to me as English! Going for a week without coding makes me uneasy. Good thing I've always got LT to work on these days :)
I love taking on projects that seem insurmountable. Perhaps the most exciting thing in the world for me is taking on something that seems impossible, hammering away at it for hundreds of hours, and ending up with a beautiful result. As an example, I did this last year when I won the grand prize at the 2012 Stanford Rendering competition by writing a GPU-accelerated renderer (using MC path tracing) from scratch. Here's the award-winning image produced by said renderer:
That's exactly what I intend to do with Limit Theory. I have pitched you something that probably sounds impossible, or too hard for one young developer. And it seemed like that to me too, when I first started. But now, I can see that Limit Theory is just like any of my other projects: it will require extreme devotion, untold hours, and endless perseverance, but it is very much possible.
"Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not. For my ally is the force, and a powerful ally it is." ~ Yoda
I may not have the name, but I promise you, I have the passion! Please, I urge you, don't judge me by my lack of reputation. Judge me by what you see here. Judge me by the quality of this content. Keep in mind that I have far fewer distractions than high-profile game designers. That being said, I also have far fewer resources...which is why I need your help!
Give me a chance, and I will give you a universe :] (Well, actually, infinitely many universes...!)
[ $20 + ] The Game.
Good choice. Get a downloadable, DRM-free copy of the game so that you can hop into your ship and start exploring the endless universe(s) the day it comes out.
[ $30 + ] The Soundtrack, The Book.
Download the maximum-quality version of the Limit Theory Original Soundtrack (composed by yours truly), as well as a digital copy of "Architecture of a Universe," the making-of book with development shots, commentary, and details concerning the technical magic that makes Limit Theory possible.
[ $40 + ] The Hitchhiker's Maps
The universes of Limit Theory are big. Infinitely so. If you're going to make your way around, it sure would be nice to have a map. We've got you covered. The Hitchhiker's Map will give you information concerning the starting regions of a handful of different universes. You'll see planets, space stations, asteroid fields, jump gates and jump holes, and more.
With these digital maps in hand, you'll start with a leg up on finding your fortune in the stars!
[ $50 + ] The Hitchhiker's Guides
Maps are good, but insider information is even better. Many Bothans died to bring you this detailed information. The Hitchhiker's Guide, much like the Hitchhiker's Map, will give you a wealth of information concerning a handful of universes. Unlike the maps, however, these guides will include detailed planetary economic data, planetary point-of-interest data (including goods bought/sold, ships manufactured, etc), locations of rich ore fields, optimal trade routes, faction dispositions, and more.
[ $60 + ] The BETA.
Be the first to explore the infinite expanse of the Limit Theory universe(s). You'll get access to a closed BETA well before the game's official release. Voice your opinion, and you may just have a significant impact on the game!
[ $75 + ] The Prototype(s).
If you can't wait long enough for the BETA, that's okay...because at this tier, you'll receive exclusive access to a PRE-ALPHA combat prototype/playable demo, coming in early 2013. You'll be among the first players in the world to experience the epic fleet combat of Limit Theory! You'll also get the chance to provide me with feedback, so if you don't like something, you'll be in a good position to get it changed long before release.
While I'm only officially promising one prototype, there's a lot of cool technology in Limit Theory that I want to show off and have tested by real players. I anticipate releasing more than one prototype, because there's a lot more than just combat that needs early testing! At this level, you get access to any and all prototypes that I decide to release.
[ $100 + ] The Discs.
Get your hands on a shiny new copy of both the game and the soundtrack on custom CDs. At this tier, you will get the custom discs in sleeves. These are only available through this Kickstarter offer, so your CDs will be truly limited-edition!
[ $150 + ] The Box, The Credits.
Not only will you get a physical copy of the game and soundtrack, but also a custom physical game box, adorned with beautiful Limit Theory artwork. But that's not all. Open up that box, shove that CD in the drive, run the game and click "credits"...and what do you know? There you are. Your name, immortalized in Limit Theory history under "supporters."
[ $200 + ] The Map, The Signatures.
Included in your physical Limit Theory box, you will find a physical map of Universe 3827, the default starting universe for new players (of course, since the universe is infinite, the map cannot be complete!) Never take a road trip to a foreign system without a map in hand! While other players wander around in the (metaphorical) dark, you'll be whipping across systems, doing business as you please without ever having to wonder where you are. Note that this map will show at least twice as much as the Hitchhiker's Map version (and of course, it's physical)!
Moreover, you will also find that both the map and box have been signed by your dev team (me)!
[ $250 + ] The T-Shirt.
CDs and boxes and maps are all good and well...but when you want to show off your support in a flashier, more stylish way, you're going to need a shirt. Not just any shirt, though. You're going to need something that says "hey, I'm all about unbounded space exploration, and that's why you should come over here and talk to me." How better to do so than by having a little slice of an infinite universe slathered across your chest?
In all likelihood, there will be multiple awesome designs to choose from by the time I'm ready to ship the shirts, so it's entirely likely that you'll end up looking even cooler than you're imagining right now as you picture yourself in this extravagant cosmic drapery.
[ $300 + ] The Poster, The Signature.
Okay, so your chest is covered, your disc drive is full, your box shelf is boxed, and your map shelf is mapped. But what about your wall? It's probably feeling a little left out in the cold. But you can fix that. How about adorning it with a large, signed, numbered Limit Theory poster, printed on high-quality, glossy poster paper?
[ $400 + ] ??? TOP-SECRET SCHEMATICS ???
Get your hands on an ORIGINAL, ONE-OF-A-KIND "idea sheet" from the development process, signed and dated by me. I write down all of my best ideas regarding technical features as soon as they come to me. You will receive a laminated, one-of-a-kind element from this set of notes! Unfortunately, I only have a limited number of grand ideas...lucky for you, that means you'll own a truly-unique piece of LT history (and possibly have the blueprints of a technological aspect of the game that has not been publicly disclosed)! I'll also include a historical explanation of whatever is on the tech report, and summarize how and why it was such an important achievement. Unlock secrets ranging from the algorithm for constructing a universe of guaranteed-infinite size, to the mechanisms that allow AI players to formulate and pursue high-level goals and aspirations!
Note that higher-level tiers include one schematic each.
[ $500 + ] The Physical Book
Get a printed, hardcover, limited edition copy of "Architecture of a Universe," signed and numbered by me, including a personal message of thanks.The book will be of the utmost quality, printed on high-grade, premium paper with a hardcover. It will also include extra content not found in the downloadable version, most likely in the form of extra details concerning the magical secrets behind Limit Theory technology!
[ $1,000 Exclusive ] The Custom Edition.
I will write a CUSTOM VERSION of Limit Theory JUST FOR YOU! In it, I will include a small-to-medium feature of your request that did not appear in the publicly-released version. I will be willing to extend the code by a few thousand lines for your personal edition, which will result in a cool new feature for you and only you to play with! Of course, you could also just request a bunch of minor cosmetic changes (like having your name appear on menus, changing the appearance of lasers, nebulae, or planets, or perhaps making the NPCs have Star Wars names...), since those take very little time.
[ $1,000 + ] The Elder Council.
I've given you all that I have to offer in the way of physical goods. But it's not the end. At this level, you gain membership to the Limit Theory Elder Council, a VIP group of high-tier backers that will be given special privileges, including regular interaction and meetings with me, as well as exclusive content updates that will not be released to the general public. Such updates will include videos of new features, work-in-progress screenshots, and perhaps even playable demos!
As a member of the council, your word will be taken very seriously, and I will make suggestions made by council members a top priority. Your words will carry significantly more weight than the average forum-goer's, and, as such, you'll be given a special rank on the Limit Theory forums to identify you as a member of the council.
In addition to being able to voice your opinion individually, the council will also get chances to vote as a collective on features that should be prioritized, major game design decisions, and general matters of high importance.
Finally, your status in the Limit Theory credits will be upgraded from "supporter" to "Elder Council." Your name will, of course, be more prominent than those of the non-council supporters.
Can I Pledge Without Kickstarter?
Yes, I've set up a PayPal page for doing so here. Unfortunately, due to limitations with PayPal, I can only offer one tier, so you will only be able to select the $20 tier. Please note that you WILL be refunded if you pledge via PayPal and we do not meet our Kickstarter goal!
Will it be on Mac/Linux?
If we hit the stretch goal, then yes, definitely! Otherwise, I will make porting an immediate priority after release, but cannot guarantee a Mac/Linux port. However, the codebase is completely portable, so I wouldn't anticipate any problems doing so.
Can you Land on Planets?
Very much so. In fact, much of the deep gameplay will involve planet activity. More information to come in future Kickstarter updates!
What About Space Stations?
Yes, of course there will be landable space stations that will, like planets, be the core of much deep gameplay. Conceptually, they aren't much different from planets, except that they have a different aesthetic and can be destroyed.
Are Planet Landings Seamless?
You decide! Right now, the plan is to have a transition between space and planetary surfaces. But if you'd like to be able to fly straight from space to the planet surface, without ever having to see a loading screen or fade-out, then help me hit that stretch goal! The goal will be announced when we get closer to the appropriate level.
Can You Get Out of Your Ship and Walk Around?
No, not this time around. Someday, whether in an expansion, LT II, or whatever. This is one of my most revered dream features, but I have been realistic in choosing what I can and can't implement within a reasonable time frame, and I don't feel comfortable that I could do justice to this feature in a reasonable amount of time.
What Engine Does the Game Use?
I have written the engine from scratch using C++ and OpenGL. I felt that it was the right choice for several reasons. First, it allows me to develop my own unique style - something that games using prefab engines often fail to create. Second, and most importantly, the engine is designed completely around procedural paradigms, and this influences the architecture of the engine in many ways. Every file is written with "everything procedural" in mind.
What Does the Name Mean?
The founders of the Ancient Colony were idealists. They conjectured - long before the advent of space travel, long even before the rise of technology - that all limitations are merely illusions. Physical, mental, emotional...every limit is simply a misunderstanding. A failure of the mind. Anything and everything can be overcome with the right thought, the right idea, the right insight. This philosophy became known as Limit Theory, and it prevailed throughout the ages. It was idealistic and unrealistic, but it drove them forward. It pushed them to distant lands, to the corners of the Ancient Planet, into space, and, ultimately, to the furthest reaches of the universe. Limit Theory is the theory that limits do not exist. It is not only the philosophy of the Ancient Colonists, but also of your developer. The game is the ultimate embodiment of the Limit Theory ideal - that one can be, and should be, free of all limitation.
How Will you Distribute?
The usual: Steam, Desura, proprietary online download system (if necessary).
Why Isn't There an Option to Have In-Game Planets/Stations/Systems/... Named After Backers?
I thought long and hard about this one. It seems to be the norm for Kickstarter projects these days, to have backers included in the game in some way more than just the credits. While I am eternally grateful to my backers, I feel that I must place the utmost importance on creating an immersive experience. Backer names will no doubt seem out-of-place, perhaps even jarring, to players in the game world. In addition, the naming systems in the game use a system that is far more complex than a simple random list, so that names have certain characteristics based on faction and region. There's simply no way to integrate backer names into the game without breaking the immersive, procedural experience that I want Limit Theory to be! But you can certainly get a shout-out in the credits!
Risks and challenges
Limit Theory is a large undertaking..I won't deny it! I certainly wouldn't blame you for questioning whether a single young programmer could fulfill what may seem like a AAA-grade promise. But the key difference here is in assets. Limit Theory has no assets - they are procedurally generated - which means all I really have to worry about is algorithms and gameplay.
Since Limit Theory is totally procedural, I don't have to spend day after day modeling new ships or painting new background textures. When I spend a day working on a procedural algorithm, not only does it enhance the quality of one asset, it enhances the quality of EVERY asset of that kind in the game. This is really an incredibly efficient development process. The problem of building an entire game of assets becomes the problem of building an algorithm to construct a single type of asset. It's this sweeping simplification of game development that allows me to work quickly enough to build Limit Theory as a one man team.
Now, you might be skeptical. You might think that everything will look the same after a while, perhaps because you've seen poorly-done procedural content before. But that's not the way it has to be. That's not a fundamental property of PCG. Procedural algorithms can be as complex, diverse, and varied as the author allows them to be. Since they are at the heart of Limit Theory, you can rest assured that I will be spending countless hours advancing and tuning the algorithms to make sure that they produce high-quality yet diverse content.
So there you have it. At the risk of sounding ludicrous, my claim to you is that building Limit Theory is easy. I build an algorithm for planets, ships, background nebulae, asteroids, stations, etc...and then I build the gameplay. I recognize that the latter, in particular, is quite a complex task, which is why I have allotted over a year for it.
With procedural algorithms and an endless supply of coffee by my side, I will face the challenge of building Limit Theory, and I can't wait to show you the result :)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Although I can't give you exact specs yet, I can tell you that the game won't require a whole lot of power to run. If you're used to playing modern games on your PC, then you'll be just fine.
To give you a bit of perspective, the first three months of development took place exclusively on my laptop, which has a Core 2 Duo processor and GeForce 9400m graphics chip. In other words, a laptop with just about zero gaming capability. Even with these specs, I was able to run smoothly at medium quality.
The LT Engine is quite efficient, but it also doesn't leverage any extremely expensive graphical techniques, so you shouldn't have to worry much about your specs!
Not likely. If we exceed our goal by a significant amount, it's possible that I will announce multiplayer support as a far-off stretch goal, but I don't anticipate reaching it. I need to make sure that I can complete LT in a reasonable amount of time...and, realistically, adding multiplayer would increase the development time by a significant amount!
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