A problem you have now is that your performance in producing the Kickstarter video will be used as a benchmark of your ability to produce the finished game. There are a number of deadlines that have been missed for one reason or another and those failed aims are in the public record.
The good thing is that if the Kickstarter video is so amazing that it blows everyone away then all that will be forgotten.
And there is the added problem that people have already backed quite a lot of money in other space sims.
Will there be enough interest to back another one.
The window of opportunity could have been missed.
I disagree, the great majority of the potential audience for the Battlescape Kickstarter will never have even heard of Infinity. And most of them most certainly won’t go checking the forums and reading months old topics. Some definitely might, however they won’t significantly impact the success of the Kickstarter. This problem is a non issue.
And regarding the interest being sucked up by other space sim games. Well that is most certainly an issue, there is absolutely no way that Battlescape will be a break away hit in the amount of Kickstarter pledges. Too much interest/money has been sucked out in this niche market by high profile successes and various other smaller projects. That means that a lot of people who have never played a space sim in their life will not back Battlescape, because they are already waiting for 1-2 space sims which they have already backed. So the remaining audience are established fans of space sims, such as everyone already here on this forum. These people will provide the bulk of the funding. And that is why it is reasonable to expect that Battlescape (depending on the funding goal) will be a modest hit at best, clearing 1-2 stretch goals.
And that is exactly why so much care must be placed in the videos I expect. It is impossible for Battlescape to attract backers with the wow factor, too many games have been presented which do something similar to the game and the wow factor has been used up on them. So Battlescape needs to convince people of its quality, that it will do things better than what came before. And the only way to showcase quality (especially for a new studio) is to have very well constructed videos.
The only hope for Infinity is by gradually convincing people that it really will be the definitive space sim game and that will take time, which is why it is actually very smart to have a smaller product out before (Battlescape). The way the combat prototype built hype for Infinity: The Quest for Earth (what is it now, 8 years ago, wow :D) that will also be the path for Battlescape to build hype for Infinity.
As the success or failure of the Kickstarter pretty much entirely rests on the video, are you getting people from various backgrounds to give feedback on it before you launch it? I think it would be incredibly risky not to.
You’re probably right, I have certainly backed projects on impulse on Kickstarter without checking the background. The delays in the project prior to the campaign will certainly have some effect though, and probably on the people that would have potentially been the biggest backers. A few whales are worth a hundred minnows.
I’m afraid that boat has been missed now. I can’t see a way that I-Novae can compete with Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen given the resources available to those players. I-Novae can still be a player but they have to exploit their strength, which is their planetary engine. If they can do that effectively before Frontier release their planetary landing expansion I think they have a chance of gaining a foothold in the market.
I mostly agree with what you are saying, however there’s just one thing to remember. Not all planetary engines are built the same. The reason I am here checking on Infinity for 6 years straight now, is because I believe that the procedural algorithms in place will provide unparalleled variety in experiences and gaming.
So I am not worried if even Frontier comes out with their planetary landing expansion, because I believe that it won’t be on the level of what Infinity has. And people will see that with time.
It is not an easy road for sure, however I-Novae studios definitely have a chance.
How difficult it would or wouldn’t be for a competitor to replicate our planetary tech is an interesting thought exercise in my opinion - one I’ve had to undertake with many potential investors. While I’m certainly biased I believe 110% that we currently have the most advanced planetary engine on the market today. Some people think Space Engine is more advanced. We’ve thoroughly investigated Space Engine and I’m confident this is not the case. What Space Engine does better than us is galaxies, not planets, however their galaxies are based on data from NASA so in a sense they are cheating. Galaxies, particularly those based on data from NASA, are a much easier problem to solve than planets and our procedural galaxies still look pretty darn good if you ask me. Their planets come nowhere near ours.
Next there’s No Man’s Sky - the new indie darling of the game press. There are a couple issues with NMS based on what they’ve showed publicly so far (which is of course the only stuff I can base my opinion on). Firstly they have not released a single video that I’m aware of that’s free form flight instead of a scripted camera sequence. This is likely not an accident as scripted camera sequences are carefully chosen to prevent bugs and other unpleasantries from showing up. It also allows them to paste together different shots in a way that makes it look like there’s a seamless transition. Every video we’ve ever released has been unscripted. Our tech’s capabilities and weaknesses have always been on display therefore when you watch our videos you can be 100% confident that our tech does what we say it does.
Secondly all of the planets in NMS’s videos look quite small. In one of the interviews with their lead programmer he mentions that they can produce planets up to the size of earth. I have yet to see this in any of their videos and it should be noted that our engine is capable of handling celestial bodies many, many times larger than earth. In fact in our last video there is a gas giant that makes the to-scale earth-like planet look like the head of a pin in comparison. Their art style is very simple and their atmosphere is very dense because it’s probably a simple exponential fog algorithm. This allows them to cut a tremendous number of corners because visual realism is hard.
To summarize what NMS really has is cool vegetation. Their vegetation looks great. This is not a hard problem to solve which is why we haven’t bothered to implement it - yet. The hard problem is creating planets of any size with stunning and varied visual detail. Combining those planets with space stations that are 30km in diameter while allowing a seamless and smooth transition, that’s really freaking hard and that’s what we’ve been working on solving - the hard problems. It should be noted that a single map in CryEngine is limited to 30km by 30km. We have space stations that are the size of an entire CryEngine map.
This naturally brings us to Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. Both have promised to bring planetary landings at “some point in the future”. Quick and dirty planets is not the most difficult thing in the world, Space Engine has shown that, however truly immersive, visually interesting planets are very difficult. The bigger issue for both E:D and SC is likely the fact that they are working with existing code bases. This can be both an asset and a liability. Depending on how their respective engines are built, and in the case of SC they’re using CryEngine (which seems to be going out of business atm) so they didn’t even build their own tech stack, it could be a huge, complicated mess for them to make the appropriate changes required to handle planets.
All of this leads me to believe that we currently have a comfortable lead. The bigger long-term issue is that well-funded companies are now starting to become competitors of ours. If this continues, and we are unable to acquire similar levels of funding, it’s likely that our advantage will disappear at some point. Exactly when is difficult to predict and likely depends on how well their products do in the market place. It also depends on the outcome of our Kickstarter. If our Kickstarter does well and Battlescape does well I’m confident we will be able to continue to be the leading source of innovation in creating environments on a celestial scale. There’s a tremendous amount of cool R&D we want to do down the road once we have the resources =). If we’re unable to create something that generates revenue for us within the next 2 years or so then it’s likely we’re going to start to have serious problems keeping up with our better funded counterparts.
Now that’s new. IIRC from the old forum, the last official numbers were around 5 or 8km for the biggest stations.
Do you intend to have 30km stations in the Infinity universe, or is it simply to illustrate the engine’s capabilities? I think having bigger ships and stations than in, say, Eve Online, would actually have an effect on sales. Nevermind that Eve’s ships are neither as detailed nor with detailed physics, there is something strangely compelling about bigger numbers.
OTOH, it has to make sense gameplay-wise, and someone has to actually model the damn things…
Also, watching videos of the PvP module from Star Citizen, one of the two maps is around a station throwing a big beam at a planet, with other ones further away. Taking it as a reference point and comparing it to the player’s ships, the planet itself doesn’t look like it’s bigger than a dozen km in radius, possibly less.
Our last space station numbers are at least 4-5 years old. We’ve been keeping info on our new station secret since it’ll be featured in our KS video but I guess I’ve let the cat out of the bag . Yes we intend to have 30km stations in the Infinity universe, possibly even larger for the MMO but the largest that Battlescape will feature is 30km. Large space stations take a tremendous amount of work on the part of our art team and we’d rather have a larger variety of smaller ships than 5 types of massive space station.
Keith thank you so much for this lengthy post, especially at such a busy time for you. It is very refreshing to see a developers honest view of their direct competitors.
Regarding the galaxy map that you talk about. IIRC from the old forums, it was mentioned that Infinity: The Quest for Earth would have the latest data on our galaxy and integrate that into the game, so the galaxy in the game would mirror our real one as much as possible. Has this changed for the Infinity MMO, or are just talking about the possibilities of the engine?
No, what IA said was that the game would include approximately 100,000 real stars. This would be the Hipparcos catalogue, as it’s freely licensed by the ESA. It’s 17 years old now, and has been in the public domain for years.
The more recent Tycho-2 catalogue (it’s only 14 years old) contains ~10 times as many stars, but its current license is rather ambiguous. The current distribution centre for the catalogue (The Strasbourg astronomical Data Center) says that, and this is a quote I found, “Companies including such data in their commercial products cannot charge their clients for the data,” but it’s not at all clear to me what that means. They’re apparently pretty quick to respond to inquiries, if INovae is interested. Also, the original license holder (Erik Høg, emeritus at the Niels Bohr Institute) has apparently been fairly happy to grant developers permission to use the catalogue, so long as they’re not charging for distributing the catalogue itself.
I’ve seen the Tycho-2 catalogue rendered in 3D, and it’s rather ugly due to the fact that the distance measurements for the stars is somewhat crude. On large scales, it looks like spokes pointed away from the Earth. If INovae were to use the Tycho-2 catalogue in the future, I’d recommend applying a modest randomization factor to the position coordinates of stars with visible magnitudes of less than 6 to smooth out that artifact in the data.
No problem =). Correct me if I’m wrong @INovaeFlavien but every galaxy we’ve shown so far has been procedural. Battlescape is also currently using a procedural galaxy, though we could always change that, and it’s a bit premature for me to comment on what we’re going to do for the MMO as we’re currently focused on Battlescape at the moment.
Having followed this project for about the same time as you, perhaps longer (I forget too), I can understand where you are coming from, but I am nothing if not patient. For every time the potential kickstarter date has been pushed back I’ve been able to reason with myself that the delay does not equate to the devs having stalled on development. With such a huge amount of effort having been put into this already I doubt the idea of it not actually leading anywhere is one that Flavien (or any of the other devs) could possibly entertain.
However I will say this, while the motivation is there and constant work is being done it does sometimes feel like the devs are perhaps a little… hesitant… in regards to the kickstarter. No doubt that a funding campaign takes a lot of planning and preparation and you would of course want it to be perfect, but as a bit of a perfectionist myself I know how that goal can often get in the way more than it helps. I’m more concerned that this perception of timidness does not hold true for development after a successful funding campaign.
Well, yea it’s been quite some time looking at Infinity to get developed. Although I’m not inpatient, I am just sad because for me, I realized that I will not buy a new PC at home. This bulky stuff belongs to the past. I really can’t wait to see the important software (Photoshop, Cubase,…) getting compiled for ARM…
I would tend also to agree that having people outside of the project to give their opinion on the video is always nice, especially with people knowledgable of video-making. However, I do also understand that hey do not want to take any chance of a leakage, which can end up in a good or bad buzz, or a mix of.
The real question is about trust, and if any of us guys thought we might have a look on the video … well let’s say that’s very cute
If they want external advice, best course of action would be hand-picking a happy-few americans and make them sign an NDA (I understand I-Novae is based in USA ? Suing works better inside the country than outside ).
Anyway, tanks to @INovaeKeith for giving us his point of view, I really hope you keep your technological advantage to give us, the players, the best experience possible
Star Citizen isn’t even worth mentioning. They started with the wrong engine and they only have some vague plans to examine procedural technique’s long after release. Their planets are static objects and a loading screen for landing/docking.
I be more interested what you think about E:D their approach.
They do have an engine that can handle 1:1 space and are relying on procedural techniques.
Their space stations are huge and more so for the planetary rings.
They obviously don’t have the planetary details down yet, but is there a good reason to assume they won’t be able to?