Thursday, July 12, 2012

Soundtrack for Firefly

Every now and then a song would make me think of Firefly (I know, I’m such a geek).  I’m not sure why, maybe something in the tone of the music, or the sound mixing, or the instruments.  So I skimmed through the contents of my iPod and picked out all the songs that just seem to fit the show.  Here they are, in no particular order.

Note that the first one was written with Firefly in mind, so maybe it’s a bit of a cheat.

2. “Clouds”, Bruce Kaphan
3. “My Lagen Love”, Kim Deschamps & Tim Clement
5. “Hymn For Jaco”, Adrian Legg
7. “High Desert”, Bruce Kaphan
8. “Ocean of Storms”, Charles O’Connor
9. “Alton Air”, Darrell Scott
12. “Heal Over”, KT Tunstall
13. “Cattails”, Kevin MacLeod

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Want a Game

The problem is that it isn’t one specific game I want. All the pieces of the game are out there, but no one has put them together yet. Let me try to describe it.

It starts with a solar system. There are several programs that can generate a solar system in a semi-random way. In fact they’ve been around for decades. The game will use a key (that it saves) to create a star, planets, moons, asteroids, etc. It doesn’t actually have to create the detail just yet – not until you go and look at them.

The solar system can be explored with a program like Celestia (an awesome program – and it’s free). Already at this point there could be spaceship battles and the like – that’s not the point of the whole thing, just a bonus.

When the player chooses to get close to a planet and examine it, the surface is generated in detail (using the same key) with a program like LunarCell. It uses various fractal algorithms to create a realistic geography. If the planet looks inviting, the player can choose to land and explore it.

The planet may have inhabitants and a fully developed culture. This is also algorithmically generated using the same key. There are several games already out there which have aspects of what I’m thinking of here (Doom, SecondLife, PlaneShift, Spore, Warcraft), but none have the variability or scope I have in mind. Imagine having an entire planet to explore – all of it – complete with people and places.

Here the player has a choice: either they and their spaceship can change form to blend in with the environment, or they can retain their normal (user customized) form. Of course if their normal form is too alien to the inhabitants, then the reaction may be unpleasant.

While on the planet, the player may fight monsters, solve puzzles, fulfill quests, etc. I’ve already made up a very simple plot generator for silly, one-off RPGs, so I know something bigger and more complex is possible.

The whole thing could be opened up to multi-players as well. You could send a friend the key you used, and you could connect over the internet and play in the same world. It could also be played like a tabletop RPG with several friends, maybe using something like the funky surface interface that the team over at Carnegie Mellon University.

If the key includes a timestamp, then the whole thing could be continuously enhanced with new textures and algorithms, while still allowing the player to keep previously explored worlds like they were. The worlds would only be updated if the player wanted them to be.

If the game were developed as open-source, then it all could be free. Small companies and developers though could make money by creating and selling extensions to enhance the look and feel of the worlds. They could also provide servers where in-progress games are stored up in “the cloud”. In fact, the whole thing could be kept there, with at most a thin client on the player’s computer.

Of course, someone may have already come up with such a game and I’ve just missed it. If so, let me know and I’ll spend all my free time immersed.

[this post was taken from a note I put up on Facebook some time back]

Update - 09/09/2014:  Hello Games has announced their upcoming title, "No Man's Sky", and it looks at least in part to be what I was looking for.