Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Infinity: The Search for Earth

I've been watching this privately developed game Infinity: The Quest for Earth for several months now, with the result that I have developed a major league love/hate relationship with it.

On the one hand, the technology is doing something that I've been pleading to see for years, which is to procedurally generate millions of star systems, including planets with detailed surfaces. This is a requirement for a science fiction game universe in which players can lead entire careers traveling among the stars to explore new worlds. Infinity proves that it's possible.

On the other hand, the decision that Infinity's gameplay will be completely player-driven -- we're talking full twitch-mode, zero RPG -- leaves me utterly and absolutely cold. While there's been some talk of non-combat gameplay, the focus on the combat prototype before anything else suggests that Infinity will quickly become a Hobbesian fighting game. I know that's appealing to some people, and that's fine; it's just not for me. And it seems like an awful waste of a technology that could make for an incredibly immersive RPG environment.

Finally, I find the Infinity forum rather depressing. I've watched people show up there excited enough about the prospects of a procedurally-generated universe to offer enthusiastic suggestions. But the response is almost always to shoot down these ideas with an "I've already thought of everything" attitude by the game's developer, or with a "how dare you question the developer" attitude by the local courtiers. It's unfortunate and unnecessary -- and in my opinion, unprofessional -- to squash the hopes of potential players in this way, especially when they bring so much goodwill to a game in development.

All that said, I remain very impressed with the technology behind Infinity. My hope is that the developer will choose to license it for a reasonable fee so that someone else can develop a different game around it.