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Building the basics of an impossibly large game
This is an ongoing development series about CHAOTIC ERA, an upcoming interstellar strategy game set in a procedurally generated universe. Subscribe below to join our beta waitlist and get more behind-the-scenes updates from the world of CHAOTIC ERA.
How do you make a game that is incredibly simple in gameplay, but impossibly vast in scope?
That’s the core challenge of Chaotic Era and, frankly, one of the key things that makes it so exciting to work on. It’s the duality of making a minimalist civilization simulator that also pushes time and space to its absolute limits.
As some of you may know, the concept of Chaotic Era was initially inspired by The Last Question by Isaac Asimov; a beautiful, short read that takes the reader on a journey from the near future to the end of time, told from the perspective of sapient beings at each stage in between.
That’s the idea that got our wheels turning. What if we expanded the classic archetype of a Civ-style strategy game to its natural conclusion? What if we let players push their reach to the edges of the universe, not just the edges of a continent or planet?
And what would that look like for a player on that journey? For a being experiencing life at such a massive abstraction?
First, we built a universe—a procedurally generated, massive space for the game to exist in. Now, we’re focusing on finalizing the mechanics through which a player interacts with that space. The skeleton of our game; the rules that govern actual gameplay.
This month, we revisited a lot of the basics of Chaotic Era; including foundational improvements to our terminology, focus engine, and central game loop.
Previously, the game consisted mostly of Body objects (eg. planet, star, galaxy cluster) and Territory objects (eg. a game concept representing player land), where a Body's physical attributes would determine the energy and habitation potential represented by a Territory. When introducing ship units, there was the realization that ships should have similar properties to a body with a territory, while being neither; a ship has both physical and population/energy attributes but you wouldn't say a ship is a planet.
The physical characteristics of a Body have been extracted and are now represented by the Entity class, and the population and energy potentials of a Territory are now represented by the Ecosystem class. A ShipUnit is now derived from an Entity, Ecosystem, plus two more classes unique to ShipUnits - GarageUnit and Dispatchable.
GarageUnit is a kind of more concrete Unit which can be parked in a Garage. The delineation from Unit is to enable future types of units which can't be parked in a Garage. For example in real life, the ISS is technically a "unit" of humanity that can't be "parked" on earth, which instead orbits earth and actually enables smaller units to be parked at it.
Dispatchable is a new class used specifically for the Trip class, representing something that can travel through space. For example, when creating a new Trip, an object which is both Dispatchable and Ecosystem is able to provide information about it's velocity and acceleration, but then also how much distance it is able to travel. Similar to in real life, a basic rocket carrying humans has its own acceleration and energy, where it's "current energy" can be represented by how much fuel is used in acceleration, how much electricity is used to support its passengers, and how many humans will exist over time (population growth), should its trip last multiple generations.
Improving our focus engine
Various improvements to make identifying a single node more reliable. In the following visual, crosses are segmented and floored by distance from the camera, then ordered once more by distance from screen center, to best identify the entity a player might want to zoom in on.
Closing the loop on dispatching ship units
We’ve made the adjustments necessary to close the core game loop of Chaotic Era, now giving players the ability to open the garage of a territory, build a new ship unit, and dispatch the unit to a distant body. There are some rough edges and experience/performance regressions, which will be resolved over time.