~ Efficient Universe Creation ~

June 17, 2021

I’ve been musing over this thought for quite some time now… I was actually rambling on about it with one of my friends (as I’m prone to do with all of my far off ideas that I inevitably get distracted from) when I was made aware of this tweet by Bennett Foddy that expressed a very similar sentiment. So I guess now is as good a time as any to put it all into words.

As things currently stand most games exist on a spectrum between two opposing methodologies:

  • “Indie” - where small teams (usually between 1-10 people) work on lean projects, designed to make efficient use of the limited manpower available to deliver a complete experience to the player, often limited to low poly assets or pixel art.

  • “AAA” - where large teams work on ambitious projects that push the barrier of visual fidelity and spectacle whilst still hitting the requirements that players expect when it comes to a game’s playable content.

I feel like we’ve been missing a key opportunity in recent years as computers have gotten faster and workflows have been streamlined to focus on increasing the scope of projects. Creation of “low fidelity” assets takes minutes as opposed to days and yet modern computing power allows us to create massive, immersive worlds with them that weren’t possible when this level of fidelity was the norm.

With modern rendering techniques, you can still create some stunning and immersive environments this way.

We’ve entirely skipped out on the opportunity to increase the depth of larger games as the industry grew because we’ve been too busy focusing on the superficial elements. Indie devs are making full use of this methodology to create games that are competing with and sometime outperforming what larger studios are doing. Unfortunately they are limited by manpower, so while they are able to experiment with new game design concepts, they arent capable of pushing this concept to it’s absolute limit…

What could a large team of 100 or more people accomplish working on a project with similar fidelity to SPRAWL or possibly even lower?

What would a project like Star Citizen look like if it went down this path? Instead of trying to hit some sort of visual benchmark, all resources were put into nailing the /vision/ of these games… Grand, beautiful, deep.

Imagine the universes we could create, the stories we could tell, the experiences we could give players…

Instead of having a few incredibly detailed spaceports where every nut and bolt has been painstakingly modeled, the player could walk out the front door and explore the city. To me personally, that sense of exploration and wonder - getting lost in a virtual world is what made me fall in love with games to begin with.

At some point, me and Carlos will inevitably be founding a studio, who knows what the future holds but I hope that one day I’ll get the opportunity to really put this into practice and we can make something really special.