The secret behind seamless space exploration in Star Control: Origins
Ashes of the Singularity developer Stardock Games is gearing up for a new sci-fi adventure with the reboot of Star Control, the series that gave birth to the 1992 classic Star Control II -- a game that's widely regarded as one of the greatest PC titles ever made.
By anyone's standards Star Control II was a veritable video game buffet, combining interstellar exploration and resource gathering with starship combat and intergalactic diplomacy. With the reboot, Stardock wants to build on those foundations while adding a modern-day twist.
According to company CEO Brad Wardell, who was speaking to PC Power Play, that doesn't simply mean making things bigger and better. In engineering terms, it's about building a seamless galaxy. A vast star ocean that pulls players in and never lets go.
"From an engineering point of view it’s an interesting challenge, because this game has many different parts to it, but it has to be seamless. No-one wants to sit there and wait for a planet to load," explains Wardell, referring to the 3D reboot's planetary exploration mechanics, which do away with loading screens and give players the ability to instantly hop down to a planet's surface.
"You need to be able to go to the spherical planet, land on it, do stuff, have interesting adventures, and then be able to leave in one swoop, and it has to work on a reasonably powerful machine."
With that goal in mind, Stardock opted to built the game with Nitrous, the versatile 64-bit game engine from Oxide. The studio chose Nitrous, which it also worked with on Ashes of the Singularity, because of the engine's ability to support huge amounts of multi-threading.
"Most engines today are designed with one scene, altogether," continues Wardell. 'So when you’re switching between these very different views, you’re bouncing between lots of hardware resources, because you can almost accomplish anything if you throw enough hardware at it, versus what Nitrous brings to the table.
“For example, if you have at least a four-core machine, we can do all kinds of stuff to all the different scenes simultaneously, while the player’s playing, without it slowing down the main game. That allows you to seamlessly transition to a planet, or back to a battle, or to another completely different scene. From a technical point of view, that’s what makes Nitrous exciting for us."
To hear more about the Star Control reboot, check out the full interview over at PC Power Play.