Better visual cues of speed and size in Kickstarter videos

The 2010 tech demo vid and the 19 Nov 2013 vid are one of those illustrations of cosmic scales that too easily lose traction on someone not used to cosmic scales.

In the 2010 vid for instance, around 4’40" the ship slows around an asteroid and then the scales are very clear, but elsewhere in the video the ship accelerates so fast and coasts at such high speed that average people not used to outer space’s dimensions lose their sense of just how fast the ship’s moving, and consequently how large the spatial dimensions are (e.g. the planet, its ring, terrain features) because there’s too few things to judge relative speed and size from. E.G. during re-entry and when the ship first enters the planetary ring.

Unlike on something like this video that makes speed and distance palpable:

Obviously more detail, for now, than the I-Novae engine can handle and that can be produced by art team (vegetation, buildings, etc), but it shows how puny speed like above youtube video still seems faster than the 2010 demo ship does at times, merely because of camera placement and level of visible detail. A static flyby and/or static near-ground camera tracking a ship coming in thru the last part of EDL (narrow angle long distance view from camera as e.g. if zoomed into the great daylight fireball of 1972) all the way till touchdown right near the camera (wide angle view) – that would really impress IMHO. Or e.g. if there had been a fly-by view of the ship from a static camera on the surface of one of those asteroids.

If you look at those “viral” style vids, their immersive trick is less actual CG effects quality and more filming and human POV cues that common people can relate to. E.G. in those Star Wars over SF (1, 2) clips it’s familiarity of atmospheric scattering, HDR/relative brightness, and (overdone for our Kickstarter, but good illustration of the principle) believable cameraman handling.

Where these break immersion is when something too different from reality happens, e.g. a plane that’s supposed to miraculously land with just one wing but clearly has fake physics despite lots of camera shake to conceal it. But also when something’s got both familiar and unfamiliar characteristics, e.g. in Ron Miller’s Earth/Saturn rings illustrations: in most of the shots like Washington or Guatemala, the rings are pretty much like anyone would expect them to look, but in the Polynesia shot the atmospheric distortion and Earth shadow combine to make something that probably jars most people’s credulity.

The same thing happens in the 2010 tech demo vid when the spacecraft dives into the atmosphere at an angle too steep to hint at atmospheric friction, familiar magnitudes of the gravity well’s power relative to the spacecraft’s propulsive power (proportionately huge, even if unesthetic, thruster plumes would better convey the physics at work) when punching thru re-entry and slowing down once near surface, and the camera oriented too steeply down and FOV too narrowed, all together set the flight dynamics into a context that’s too unrelatable for average people, even possibly for too many players used to flying around in God mode with unlimited acceleration as virtual reality allows; at the very least it doesn’t do the engine and art justice.

IMHO the most amazing scenes the engine can render, at least in Kickstarter context, should be scenes that at least start off from or include a few very familiar physical circumstances like in the better-done “viral” vids e.g. the Star Wars over SF ones or the above F-35 ejection trial.


I agree. The 2013 video was far too conservative in showcasing cool engine features. Please do not hold back in the Kickstarter video, show off what you have. I don’t want to be impressed, I want to be blown away by your Kickstarter.

Maybe have the shields (and/or hull if you don’t have shields) flare up a little from micro-impacts of dust particles and the like; have trails from those impacts off the ship itself, rather than have the stupid looking dust specks flying past that most games tend to favour?

Might also help to show which way ships are moving relative to which way they’re pointing, if you can figure out what to show that speed relative to.
(I guess at near lightspeed, the motion of everything in the system is rather insignificant and could probably be ignored without too much bother, just set it relative to the system’s star, which I guess will be stationary for simplicity’s sake… That’s a thought. Celestial bodies like planets moons and asteroids are going to move in battlescape, right?)

what about Independace war 2 aproach? Random lines on hud indicating movment

The thing about space is – and this is something that is maybe a little counter-intuitive, I don’t know – is that in space, unless you’re actually next to something, scale is basically meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything to say that you’re 300,000 km away from an object when your ship is capable of traveling at 30,000 km/s relative to that object. Even our internal concept of speed is rendered mostly meaningless due how the void forces us to adopt Galilean relativity to perform any real measurements. The lack of universal references makes it impossible to portray space in an intuitive way.

Did you just fly past a very large asteroid that was very far away very, very quickly? Or did you just fly past a small meteoroid that was nearby rather slowly? There’s no way to tell, especially on a 2D screen. Your “RADAR” can print some numbers on the screen for you, but, in terms of experience, the two are identical.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That is the realistic experience. Anything else is attempting to impose the expectations of people who think that Ford Mustangs go fast, and who want to drive their Ford Mustangs around in something they want to believe is exotic.

Unfortunately, I don’t think people are going to be as wowed by that as, say, I would. If you don’t already have an intuitive sense of how stupidly far away even the Moon is from the Earth, honed over years of reflection or study, then flying from the Moon to the Earth in 10 seconds is going to be no different than driving to the end of your driveway. The significance is entirely lost. False, and indeed significantly less lofty, expectations will be imposed to force an otherwise realistic and quasispiritual experience to conform to the expectations of people who have never noticed the planets shining down upon them in the real sky, and would probably accuse them of being photoshopped if the every saw them up close anyway.


A Kichae, I do love your explanations! :smile:

The issue of speed in space games is something I tend to start ranting about, usually referring to the X series or something. Never in my life have I felt travel to be so dull as in those games.

I’d better stop myself and get to the point. “Things flying past the ship” = “The impression of speed”. Unfortunately, space is really quite empty. My instinct would be to go for the slightly more realistic (whatever realism means in this context) idea of no Freelancer-style artificial visual cues. Instead, make use of the HUD to show information and relative speeds perhaps.

In my mind, part of the fun (and uniqueness) of a good space game is the ability to look at something far away and feel like it’s going to take a lifetime to get there because you’re moving SO SLOWLY. Then you get there and realise how fast you were actually travelling (I usually follow this by barnstorming the surface of said object).

Tl;dr - I don’t want false, unrealistic visuals to show speed. Electronic HUD enhancements, fine. But certainly not particle effects or suchlike. The transition between what feels ‘slow’ from far away, but ‘fast’ up close is what makes the speed experience good for me.

Edit 2: Now camera effects are another matter. (For when I’m less sleepy perhaps).

Still, as you need to attract a larger crowd than the astronomy professionals and astrophysics nerds, it can’t be left at it. Fortunately, you can cheat.
Show a ship re-entry from orbital speed with its plasma trail meteor (or space shuttle)-style, complete with growling sound and shaky camera. Show a landed ship taking off, gaining speed at low altitude and then going to the sky for the furthest moon, complete with the same heat trail (maybe less intense, though). Show the ship at a scorched world barely 1M km of the star, to give the star’s scale, then fly off to the outer planets. When going for interplanetary, make the speed increase with distance, so there is always something visible moving at eye-range speed. When warping, make bigger structures like magnetic fields faintly visible, to better convey the sense of moving. I wrote this one on the old forums before Braben talked about it for E: D anyway. Actually, the last two should make their way into gameplay itself IMHO, but that’s a whole other debate…
The point is, there are still ways to convey some sense of scale to our old hairless hominid brains with the right tricks. The ring one in the 2010 video was actually a pretty good one in that regard.

If you are confident enough in the engine, showing generated planets next to real ones may be a good idea to show that they are actually realistic, atmosphere, radius et all, despite what our ill-equipped brains may tell us.

For HUD speed indicator, I’d personally prefer obvious HUD ones like faint grid crosses than random dust. But would either look good in the video?

No, I mean it when I say that, if the game is to have a realistic scale, then there’s absolutely no way to convey that scale to people in a way that they’ll interpret it as being correct. That’s entirely due to the fact that, as human beings, we have, quite literally, zero experience living in a full scale universe. Most of us don’t even live on a true scale planet anymore.

I’m not saying you can’t make the game feel epic. That’s actually really, really easy to do. A shakey cam will take care of 90% of that. When the ship’s in warp, shake the camera. When the ship’s flying at high speed through an atmosphere, shake the camera. Make sure there’s lots of rattling sound effects, and maybe even some silly wind noises for FTL. EVE worked completely backwards, and faked the scale of the universe by arbitrarily slapping sciency units onto their warp speed speedometer.

My underlying point – and perhaps I waxed too bitterly poetic – was that people don’t have the first sniff of the tip of a clue as to how big even a solar system is. It’s literally so large that scale is meaningless, yet I already know that people are going to go on and on about how the scale seems wrong because they’ve been doing it for years now.

When the 2010 video came out, people said the ship didn’t reach the planet’s surface in the right amount of time. Some said the atmosphere was too thing, others said the ship took too long to traverse the atmosphere. The funny thing about that, though, is that everyone was just pulling this stuff out of their asses. It’s not like there aren’t videos on YouTube of the Space Shuttle re-entering the atmosphere, or of the booster rockets falling back to Earth. Those pretty much all said that the video got it exactly right.

You give people reality, and they say it doesn’t look right. We can airbrush it a bit, but at the end of the day the developers either have to choose a scale that’s realistic, or one that’s believable, and do so knowing that, because no one has bothered to actually see what things actually look like, there are 7 billion different versions of “believable” (some of which are so far apart as to induce vertigo), and only one version of realistic.


The issue is that in our videos we are going very fast - as in speed of light fast (or faster). If people want “believable” I’d be more than happy to hand them a demo where you can only go ~1,000 mph and we’ll see how long it takes them to get anywhere :wink:


Well actually I was thinking that’d be a unique approach to making a Kickstarter video; set up a planet and moon with the same approximate size and relative positions as Earth and the Moon, then fly from one to the other with the same constant acceleration as, say, a fast motorcycle getting up to highway speeds in an expedient manner. So about half a g + enough additional force to counter gravity?

I haven’t run the numbers, but I figure it should be possible to make the trip in less time than the Kickstarter will run for.

I’d actually be inclined to give people a properly scaled solar system and a speedometer in fractions of c. So long as the time to reach different places can be given by t = d/v, it satisfies me, regardless whether v > c or not. Although, @Runiat has a pretty striking idea there. You could simulate the voyage of Apollo 8 essentially in real time, and the whole thing would take less than a week. I’m assuming the solar system that will be included in the on-rails demo isn’t going to be ours, but if it were, there’s that.

Someone set up a station (as in computer) with twitch on it now!

I was thinking of a screen on the ship with a sensor to show objects at a certain distance so people would know if an object is small and close or far and large so it can be ignored.
Such as 2,000 kellykams and further is ignored.


The 2010 vid was FTL? Hmm…

Well, that’s a separate thing. The speed of the ship, FTL or not, still totally rips out of the grasp of average viewer. Realistic or not, the speed would accurately be appreciated if there were better visual references for said viewers. Even if that’s just how the filming/camera’s set up rather than actual objects added.

IOW FTL is fine, but in a Kickstarter vid there’d have to be something to make it clear how fast the ship is moving. Speed is equated from distance. You have to keep that equation - even if it’s an unconscious and fairly vague equation for most people - solid, self-consistent.

YES! PLEASE! Practical considerations aside; I’m sick of games like EvE Online listing warp speeds in AU/s. Most of these universes treat earth as long lost mythology! Measuring things in something as arbitrary as AU makes NO sense.

Would intense exaggerated motion blur at speed work to everyone’s satisfaction? --runs–

Only if it was paired with extreme blue-shifting!

1 Like

Yes, implement relatevistic effects :yum: will look so great when traveling trough space … /semi-sarcastic/

No, but…

I would have to see it then digest it for a wile.