Trees and clouds in Battlescape?

Will there be clouds and/or trees on the planets in Battlescape? I think these are important elements since they provide a sense of scale (in addition to looking awesome). :wink:

If we have time we’d like to add one or both of them however it’s going to be lower on the priority list. Our first concern is shipping a quality game.


I’m all for a stretchgoal … Clouds would be awesome.

Stargate always got away with every alien planet being a pine forest. The seeds must have blown through the gates or something. I wouldn’t worry too much about diversity of vegetation, perhaps just do one set well.

I agree with Lucas that vegetation will really help with the sense of scale.

Stretch goals for this kind of thing sounds sensible as well, even if they’re quite considerable stretches.


Clouds and Trees would be great! But to be honest, more important than all this is to make something which is playable. Something which is not just a space-ship simulation with some fancy graphics. It should be a game which is fun to play.

Getting a game which is fun to play doesn’t neccessarily mean, that you have to have 1000 features. Just think of “line rider”.

I agree that making a game that is fun to play is the top priority. But when it comes to all the fancy elements I think trees and clouds are pretty close to the top on that list.

If there aren’t going to be clouds & trees at release, I would suggest not having planets that are otherwise Earth-like in appearance (green and oceans).
If you just have barren rocky planets then one does not expect clouds.

Do you not think clouds and trees would add to the quality of the game?

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Yeah… I kinda put those things together with the terrain in importance.

But Hrobertson is right. If there are planets where you would expect to be clouds and trees then it will be odd if there are none.

I certainly would like I:B to have foliage & volumetric clouds. However, those are “nice to have” features vs. “must have” features IMO.


Just remembering of how often i got stuck in a tree and died while trying to avoid getting shot or just have fun i’d say yes, it would add to the quality. But still not nearly top priority.

I think clouds are rather important, as far as planetary dressing is concerned. Any planet with a substantial atmosphere will have clouds, but the majority of planets will not have vegetation. Earth-like planets would be cool for Battlescape, but clouds have to be a higher priority than trees, as far as I’m concerned, as there will be many more planets in the galaxy with clouds than there will be with plants.

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Clouds just give this imense sense of scale.

We humans, well at least me, see clouds as the middle ground to space. They are the mountains of the sky, the flowers of the wind. The struktures of the sky.

The ground has its mountains, the space has its rings and the atmosphere has its clouds.

I just want to say that for atmospheric battle, which Battlescape should deffinetly have, they should be pressent.

Also they are a big part of aesthetics of earthlike planets.


Trees can wait, I:B don’t need life-covered Earth-like planets right off the bat. But as other said, clouds should have a higher priority than trees. For most planets with an atmosphere they would be expected ; even Mars with its thin atmosphere has some, including massive dust storms.

And as Lomsor poetically points out (nice images there btw), they are very good at both giving a sense of scale and something to look at or interact with in the atmosphere.

Though I wonder how hard(er) it would be to create/adapt 3rd-party cloud solutions for alien atmospheres.

Clouds are only possible if the gravity is strong enough to hold an atmosphere. Furthermore, the type of atmosphere will make clouds bigger or smaller, so that you can’t get a sense of scale by the scale of a cloud. I would guess, that a really sticky atmosphere creates much bigger clouds.

I think the planets should just not look too boring…

The thing is, a planet or moon doesn’t actually need to be very big for its gravity to be strong enough to hold on to an atmosphere. Mercury is the only planet in our solar system without an atmosphere, and if it were farther from the Sun it would have one. The surface gravity on Mercury is approximately equal to the surface gravity on Mars; if its surface temperature were the same as Mars’s, they would have similar atmospheres.

Even Pluto has an atmosphere, something it owes to its extreme distance from the Sun.

Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a significant atmosphere, and it’s very significant. Titan’s atmosphere is approximately 40% thicker than the Earth’s. Titan’s surface gravity, however, is only 85% that of Earth’s Moon’s. If our Moon was in orbit around Saturn, it would have an atmosphere twice as thick as Earth’s, if not more.

As a rule of thumb, any celestial body with a radius larger than 1000 km is capable of holding on to an atmosphere at some reasonable (say, within 50 AU) of its star.


We agree 100% that clouds and vegetation add tremendously to the quality of the simulation however the simple fact of the matter is they aren’t critical to having a fun game. Could they add a lot? Yes. Are they an absolute requirement? No. We want to get them in there if we can, we want these features just as much as you guys, but it’s going to depend on available resources. Lastly clouds in particular are quite difficult and will likely only be available for people with some serious hardware. This also creates a problem gameplay wise where you with your quad Titan setup and a 16-core intel monster fly into a big cloud and can’t see jack while being pursued by a guy with a geforce 560 GTX and a dual core CPU and he can’t see any clouds at all so he blows you away cuz he can see you just fine :p.

Realistically clouds probably aren’t going to happen anytime soon unless we have a breakthrough in getting them to run fast. Vegetation is far more likely, particularly since Flavien had a basic implementation of vegetation working a few years back.


Obviously technical concerns trump aesthetics, but if I were the creative director, I would hold back on vegetation until clouds had been sorted out. Cloudless worlds with vegetation look very peculiar.

I would also hold back on planets with Earth-like blue skies until clouds are possible. Pink and yellow hues would be what I run with. This can be dealt with from a world lore point of view by having Battlescape set in systems with B-type (blue) stars, red giants, white dwarfs, or low mass red dwarf stars (i.e. generate worlds that are either too hot for water vapour to condense, too cold for water to vapour to form, or too irradiated for water molecules to form, or worlds which have had their atmospheres mostly stripped by ultra high levels of radiation).


Kichae, would the atmosphere of Pluton be visible or have clouds? I’m curious.
Also, can visible clouds form with other things than water, and what would it look like?

The problem with Earth-like planets is that people have seen enough images of the Earth (or other Earth-like planets in SF) to expect clouds. So it may be better to not have Earth-like planets at all than having one without clouds ; after all, they won’t change much gameplay-wise compared to a dry world.

OTOH, people have less expectations about alien planets, so even if it should have clouds, we would probably pay less attention to their absence. Come to think about it, I’m not sure that many people would actually feel them missing on Mars.
Without clouds, could atmosphere be made opaque enough to simulate a Titan-like world?

A further step to make atmospheres more dynamic would be to have a certain amount of stratification of the atmosphere. So between 10K and 50K meters you’re flying through fog with a low draw distance, when you emerge below the fog the terrain opens out below you. That could be a very atmospheric (haha) experience.

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We’ll find out about Pluto’s atmosphere in a couple of years (New Horizons in 2015, baby!). As of right now, we’re not even 100% certain what Pluto’s atmosphere is made of, nor do we know what its surface is made of. Pluto is apparently orange, according to HST data (which goes against the long standing traditional illustrations showing Pluto as slate gray and gunmetal blue).

It’s entirely possible that Pluto’s atmosphere has clouds of hydrocarbon haze, in which case they’d be yellowish.

And yes, as that suggests, you can have clouds made of substances other than water. Hydrocarbon clouds are possible in very cold worlds that are rich in those materials (think Titan), and they have a sickly yellowish-brown colour to them not unlike that found in a thick smog. It’s also possible to have ammonia clouds (they’re white), and carbon dioxide clouds (also white). In general, tri-atomic molecules (or molecules of a similar size, such as ammonia) will produce white clouds, since the colour of the cloud depends on the overall size of the molecule. Smaller molecules will produce clouds with a bluer tinge to them (though most di-atomic molecules don’t seem to condense in the same way, and even then they’re not that much smaller than tri-atomics, so the blue colouring would be minimal), whereas progressively larger molecules will produce clouds with a progressively redder tinge.

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