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Preview: Limit Theory

Limit Theory Screenshot - A station amongst an asteroid fieldA limitless space game – boundless in both size and scope.

Take a spaceship, unlike any other ship ever imagined or made, whether in-game or any other place. Plunge into a new universe, inhabited with new NPCs and factions, sprinkled with new planets, stations and ships, and never populated with the same content.

Every time you start a new game.

This is Limit Theory.

A game that aims to give you a new experience every time you play, a different, unique story for each and every player that knows no bounds. Add in incredible graphics and gameplay along with built-in scripting language that will make a customizable game incredibly moddable and you have the ultimate space sim. I use sim in a loose sense of the word, as some games attempt to be more realistic, LT goes for fun yet semi-realistic gameplay.

I’ve been wanting to do a preview for this game ever since I discovered it about six months ago. Sadly it has flown under my radar until then… but it is probably a blessing. If I’d have known of it when Josh Parnell, Limit Theory’s sole developer, started his video dev logs at the start of 2013, I would have been driven crazy to still be waiting for it.

That’s right. I said sole developer. And no we aren’t talking about a game like Minecraft (as impressive and lovable as Minecraft is). We are talking about a game that looks and feels like a big-name developer created it. Parnell has been creating Limit Theory full time since the beginning of 2013, where he stopped working to pursue his dream in making a game. This isn’t a sort of hobby, it is now an awesome job for him and he is kicking ass at it.

Limit Theory Screenshot - A Ringed PlanetLimit Theory, in it’s most base sense, is billed to be a very moddable, procedurally-generated open world game set in space. Parnell describes it in the easiest way as it being a continuation of his favorite game, Freelancer. Except on steroids. If you don’t know what Freelancer is, it is a great space combat and trading simulator that has quite a cult following. The record-breaking Star Citizen is also said to be a successor to Freelancer, but there are many differences, and not just Star Citizen’s payment scheme.

Before we delve deeper into the game’s best features, we need to talk about procedural content. For those who do not know what procedurally-generated content is, it basically means using algorithms to make things random yet realistic in nature. Many games use this, and you might be familiar with it, such as  random-made maps or worlds, like Minecraft. The game generates a random world using certain algorithms to make it realistic while keeping in the confines of the rules it is given. For example, the ground is usually around a certain height and mountains can be x high, don’t put trees over water, don’t put a pit of lava floating in mid air, spawn these trees only in this area, etc. More often then not, world generation is simply all procedural-generation is used for. But Limit Theory takes it much, MUCH further. I’ll get more into this later on.

So part of the reason I was holding off on this review is the aforementioned video dev logs he releases monthly. If you’ve ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at how a game is created from start to finish, or what a day in the life of a programmer is like, Parnell gives you that. His monthly videos really detail the polish of what he’s been up to, from UI coding, graphics enhancements, AI, gameplay additions, you name it. If that isn’t enough to sate your curiosity, he does a daily blog on his forum. They’re great and interesting reads, too. Here’s a link to the dev forum. I, however, wanted to release this to coincide with his latest vlog, #21 which you’ll find a link to at the end of the article.Limit Theory Screenshot - A ship amongst an asteroid field and station.

Slated for an early 2015 release (originally he was intending late 2014 but pushed it back) the game hopes to really make modders and in general, anyone who wants to edit their game, even on the go, happy. The highlight of this is LTSL: Limit Theory Scripting Language. He goes into this in-depth for the first time in Dev Update #20, about halfway through the video. He highlights just how powerful and simple it is. He starts by showing, in-game, on the fly, how he is able to simply tweak the code and change things like the UI, whether color, shape, layout or style. All of this in realtime, without needing to exit the game, recompile code and reload the game engine.

“Sure that is cool, you can change how some of the stuff looks,” you’re thinking. That is just a start. In the same video, he implements a completely new feature all with this LTSL, in game, with everything running. He creates a completely new widget that he will end up using for the final product of the game. A scanner-type system for the player to pin down objects and their material makeup. For example, wormholes might show a lot on the middle spectrum, while ships another, or asteroids in a very specific range depending on the types of rocks or ice.

While he is doing this though, he fails a few times and some errors arise, as is like to happen when coding. But the beauty is the language does an excellent job “marking off” the code so it does not crash the game, but simply ignore it and spit out an error in the console for debugging.

As stated before though, the potentialities of procedurally-generated content is as limitless as the game’s name implies. Not simply an infinite number of systems with the same populated worlds, asteroids and space stations. No. We are talking procedurally-generated factions, with varying traits, like aggression, lawlessness, growth. Growth on its own planet versus other factions on its own world, or how it expands to create new warp lanes, space stations, you name it. We are talking procedurally-generated planets of different types, colors, and sizes. We are talking procedurally-generated structures like space stations. We are talking procedurally-generated ships. We are talking procedurally-generated markets and modules. Different weapons with different characteristics. Do you get it now? Around the 27 minute mark of Vlog #21 he showcases his newest tool that helps him tweak code on the fly and generate a new entity in-engine. It enables him to see how brand new objects are created.  You can seem him generate brand new ships, stations, planets and rings.

Limit Theory Screenshot - A mining ship mining an asteroidParnell has stated that anything the player can do (and he hopes there is very little the player cannot do) the AI will be able to do as well. So as a faction expands, it will look to build more ships for its fleet, more stations in revenue-generating areas (or perhaps defensible areas) and create warp rails (the primary means of getting between areas in-system). He plans to allow the player to create and manage massive fleets (one of his vlogs shows the awesome projection map), create entirely new ships, launch stations, and in general just make money while flying a small fighter-sized ship or commanding a gigantic capital ship.

The player will be thrust into a seemingly open sandbox world, a bit similar to Freelancer’s approach. There will be missions a player can take; procedurally-generated missions of varying difficulty and reward. Of a backstory to accommodate the game, there’s no word, however it does not seem likely. The beauty of LTSL though is a story arc, or series of missions would be extremely easy to add.

Look for continuous major updates (usually monthly) on Josh’s youtube channel: Limit Theory. Here’s a direct link to his latest video, which was referenced a few times in this article. Thanks to Dinosawer on the LT forums for great screens, most of which were captured from the latest dev video.

I invite you to discuss this preview, the game and other games like it on our forums here.

1 comment… add one
  • Elmira February 8, 2016, 10:24 pm

    Good to find an expert who knows what he’s tanlkig about!


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