The idea of the project originated about 7 years ago, but actually has its source in a much older gamers dream: create a virtual world that would be so realistic and unbound that you could do anything, build anything, go anywhere and become anybody you wanted. There are countless references to this dream in SF literature or movies (by the way, I just finished “Ready Player One“, and I highly recommend it!). When I first started to write ideas about the game design, the technology was not ready to implement it. You needed high speed Internet, advanced graphic cards to handle huge voxel worlds and voxel rendering technologies to make the world beautiful, and you needed a scalability infrastructure that was very hard to imagine at the time. Today, I believe we are ready to make this dream come true. If you add new technologies like the Oculus Rift to the equation, you can really start to think about a dual world where people would be free to reinvent themselves and live fascinating adventures.
Back to the origins. I kept thinking about these ideas for a while, writing pages of game mechanics that I could only run in my head. Anyway, I was actually busy starting a robotics company at the time, so I couldn’t dedicate more time to it. But about two years ago, having sold my robotics company, I began to write the first prototype of the game. I had two challenges to deal with.
One was to create a planetary engine capable to render the entry into a planet’s atmosphere in a fluid way, without precalculating anything because the world is editable and everything can change. A first version has been made with a simplified cube world, managing in a simple way several updatable level of details. It worked surprisingly well and fast. Introducing spherical planets would add some more complexity, but I thought I would deal with this later (actually, the team is dealing with it now!).
The second challenge was to design a very fluid load-balanced network architecture to handle possibly hundreds of thousands of people living basically in the same place. This is a very different problem from what you find in traditional MMOs, where the world is segmented into instances (local copies) or physically separated areas (typically: star systems). With giant planets that are habitable, like the one you find in our game, you cannot make the assumption that one server will be enough to handle the whole planet. You need to split it into zones. And you need quite sophisticated load balancing techniques to manage this zoning, with smart stitching at the borders so that players don’t fill the split.
The first prototype, somewhere around mid 2013, was able to solve these two challenges in an acceptable way. I started to convince myself that maybe the time was right and that this crazy project might actually be doable. A few months later, I founded Novaquark and started recruiting a great team of passionate people, who are apparently as crazy as me and believe this can be done! We give ourselves one year to move the prototype to the alpha stage, where the core game concepts will be implemented and ready to be tested by the community. Clearly, the road is still very long, but we are brave!