Games, movies, and teaching science through entertainment

Hi there INS. Been lurking for a while and I decided to make my first post after reading a really neat article recently on black holes and special effects in the movie industry. Sorry my first post is so long. :stuck_out_tongue:

There have been a number of discussions here on the subject of how much realism we want in our space games. Much like authors of science fiction novels, there’s no doubt the developers have to walk a fine line between delivering a fun and thrilling experience while also staying within the realm of possibility, lest gamers find themselves unable to suspend their disbelief.

That’s why I got pretty geeked when I read a recent Wired article about designing black holes for the upcoming movie Interstellar. The movie team reached out to Kip Thorne, an actual astrophysicist who is an expert on the subject, to help them design a black hole for the movie. It would have been easy for them to make something up and say “nobody really knows what black holes look like so we just pulled this out of our ass”, but they took the time, money, and resources to do it right.

While the visual of the black hole is breathtaking by itself, the thing that really gets me going is it’s also a scientifically accurate depiction of a black hole in space. In fact, the very design of this black hole lead to new scientific discoveries about black holes! This only came about as a result of Kip Thorne’s dedication to taking something as concept as black holes and trying to make it into something simple and powerful that the masses of moviegoers will be able to understand with only their eyes.

Coming back to Infinity, I know the team puts a lot of effort into building real science into the engine but they also have to strike a balance between realism (fact) and fun (fiction). What I wonder is this: is it possible we can make Infinity a game that teaches its players about the wonders of space and science without sacrificing fun to do it? How hard would that be? What kind of sacrifices, if any, would need to be made to achieve this goal? Do the players really care or do they just want to pew pew in space?

No doubt there is a segment of the population who cares a lot about these kinds of questions. I’m sure there is at least one person here who is like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who couldn’t get over the fact that Spielberg used the wrong sky in the Titanic. But how much effort should be spent catering to this group of players?

Personally, I like some reality in my games. For example, the team works so hard on the lighting aspects of its engine. Come launch time will we be able to look at light in Infinity and say “this is the way the light would actually look in space”? I might just fly around looking at shadows and reflections rather than playing the game if that’s the case!

Anyways, I reckon this has gone on long enough. If you made it to the bottom, thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions too!

Oh, and can we have a black hole like this in the game, please? :smiley:

Welcome! Things may be a bit quiet at the moment, as the dev team is working very hard to prepare the Kickstarter for I:B, and as such don’t have much time for communication. Don’t worry though, it should liven up as the campaign launch day closes in.

I wanted to go and see Interstellar today, but caught a cold so it will be at another time. I’ll report on the older Interstellar thread after that.

How much realism is always an important question in games indeed. There were lengthy discussions lost on the old forum about it, but things may have changed depending on what gameplay decisions the dev team makes for I:B.
That said, here seemed to be the consensus IIRC :

Gameplay > Realism, or the videogame version of “Don’t let reality stop a good story”. If an element of reality prevents gameplay to be good, it has to go.
For example, realistically, drones would fight each-other far, far beyond visual range with little to no human input beyond strategic decisions. While this may make for a good grand strategy game on itself, it would kill the gameplay of I:B. As such, there will be space fighters and space cruisers ducking it out at visual range with shiny beams and explosions.
However, there will still be realistically-sized (and shaped) planets and orbits, and combat will be Newtonian. In fact, Newtonian combat makes it for a better gameplay IMHO.
There will probably be some max speed during a combat, though, or it will cause gameplay problems.

Note that realism is not believability - believability is far more important. So things have to follow consistent rules, and hopefully with all the possibilities it opens thought about. For example, there will be a “warp” system for moving at several times light speed in deep space (or it would literally take hours, if not days, to move from one world to another). To be consistent, this warp will be inhibited by large bodies (no grazing the Moon at 3c), and some form of interference will be there to make Newtonian combat possible (no zipping past each-other at 3c) - this warp may also be what forces an absolute speed limit relative to the combat “arena” formed by interfering warp.

So if there is an interstellar personal teleporter, there should be a reason somewhere about why it can only be used there, and why it doesn’t make starships utterly obsolete (I’m looking at you, Star Trek Into Darkness)

I’m sure there is at least one person here who is like Neil DeGrasse Tyson

must resist must resist
You mean a hypocrite putting answers before searching for proof and throwing platitudes about science from the height of his self-awesomeness?
Damn, didn’t resist. (Yeah, I’m one of the few people to really not like him.)

Hrm. Anyway, there should be nothing wrong with the stars. One of the aims of the I-Novae Engine is to have accurate galaxy generation, including actual neighbour star positions from the Hipparcos catalogue. Interstellar travel won’t be in the scope of I:B (and it probably won’t take place near the Earth, so the Hipparcos stars won’t be visible anyway), but the skybox will probably be accurately generated using the existing galaxy generator.
Similarly, there are probably lots of efforts to make planets and stars as they should, for example no Sun-sized blue star, liquid water only where it is warm enough for it and so on.
And if there are any mistakes, I sure hope someone will catch them early enough so they can correct it. We do have a resident astrophysicist @Kichae fortunately.
Titanic did get patched, after all.