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Star Control: So you want to build a planet?

Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 By Frogboy In Star Control Journals

In preparation for the Game Developer's Conference we wanted to put a polish pass on the planets in Star Control: Origins.

There's about 3,000 unique planets that are split into roughly 75 different classes.  Each class of planet has its own challenges as well as its own mineral deposits that you might want to collect (along with ruins, cities, smugglers, creatures, etc.).

Today, I'm going to walk you through how we create our planet classes.

Unique, Procedural and Hand-Crafted

You can't hand craft 3,500 planets.  And it would not be a good thing for every plan class to be the same.  So how do we solve this?  Through a mixture of procedural generation and designer balance.    And this gets me up to "Programmer art" level.

The Primordial world

One of the planet classes is known as a Primordial world.   These are worlds that are still simmering with active volcanoes and have a variety of minerals and occasionally have life.

A humble beginning

Yea...not so pretty


But that's ok.  We can fix all that.


We start with our planet template which is called...wait for it...Primordial.   This file refers to materials (what thinks look like) and stamps (what things are shaped like).

In the game they're located here:

  1. In assets\PlanetTemplate are the types for every planet

  2. In assets\Terrain is the default.terrainmaterial set.

  3. In assets\Stamplists are the stamplists available

  4. In assets\Stamps are the stamps the stamplists use.

Setting it up

From my Primoridal planet template I set up the stats and choose my stamp list.  The stamp list is a series of stamps with weighting on them that helps determine the odds of a given stamp being chosen for a particular planet at a particular time.  This way, every planet looks different.

Choose our stamps and weights

Now that I've set up my stats (the weather, what minerals are likely to show up, odds of life, temperature, gravity, etc.) I now choose what stamps will be on there. Now the fun starts.


Code: xml
  1. <stamplist>
  2. <stamp asset="Mountain01_Basev05" weight="1" />
  3. <stamp asset="TextureVariation_Grass" weight="1" />
  4. <stamp asset="TextureVariation_Flowersv1" weight="1" />
  5. <stamp asset="ForestA_v1" weight="1" />
  6. <stamp asset="Volcano01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  7. <stamp asset="Hill01_WispyRockv01v02" weight="1" />
  8. </stamplist>


That's just me picking 6 stamps and putting them up.  Just curious what that will do.  I hit F5 on the planet and...

Mmmm. Bumpy.


Trial and Error

Over the next several minutes I pick various other stamps and end up with this:


Code: xml
  1. <stamp asset="ForestA_v1" weight="1" />
  2. <stamp asset="ForestA_v2" weight="1" />
  3. <stamp asset="CanyonCap01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  4. <stamp asset="CanyonOpen01_Basev01" weight="1" />
  5. <stamp asset="CanyonStraight01_Basev01" weight="1" />


Time for some atmosphere

Back in the planet template file I can set up my atmosphere.  Basically it's what color is it, how transparent it is, and how thick is it.


Final Result

My Primordial planet


Now it's ready to leave the designer's "programmer art" state and move to the artists for further polishing and iteration over the months. 

Now this is just one class of planet.  Each planet of this class will be different.  But you can also create specific, individual planets if you'd like that look like anything you want. 

I suspect there will be a big library of planet classes made by fans (As well as specific planets) that will easily blow away my quick work here or even the final effort based on what I've seen people do in other games.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Galactic Civilizations III v3 Preview: Strange new worlds

Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals


The premise of Galactic Civilizations is that you have united your homeworld and are now ready to send your first colony ship off into space.  What kind of alien worlds do you think we can settle?

The reality is, many worlds are not going to be safe for us.  We'll have to live in environmentally sealed enclosures at first.  Not because they are too cold or lack the right atmospheric conditions (though that is an issue), but rather because many worlds will have microbes that just aren't compatible with our biology.

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Offworld Trading Company Journal: Privatization of Space

Published on Thursday, March 15, 2018 By Zultar327 In Offworld Dev Journals


Greetings Offworld CEOs! Work continues on Offworld, but we don’t have anything to show off just yet. However, with the recent launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, this seemed a good time to touch on an idea that’s core to Offworld Trading Company: the privatization of space back here on Earth.

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Dev Journal: Designing Alien Units

Published on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 By GeneralsGentlemen In Ashes Dev Journals

Art design is one of the many components of video games that's subconsciously appreciated but rarely expressed and understood. If a game's art direction works, it just works, and the player isn’t required to dwell on it. I had little regard for unit design until I started as a designer on Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, where I am now required to be cognizant of the many subtleties of game design which gamers take for granted.

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Intrigue Journal #1: Space-Time is unforgiving

Published on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 By Frogboy In GalCiv III Dev Journals

image13 minutes, 48 seconds.  That’s how long it took the Curiosity rover’s signal to reach Earth from Mars - and Mars is in our own solar system.

Intrigue is the name of the upcoming expansion pack to our best-selling space strategy game, Galactic Civilizations III.  It’s not called “Government” or “Politics”. It’s Intrigue.  13 minutes, 48 seconds between responses for radio signals in our own solar system leaves a lot of time for uncertainty, for doubt, for fear…for intrigue.

Let’s walk through how colonization might actually work.  Let’s presume humans get to Mars in the 2030s.  Let’s also presume that at some point in the not so distant future, we actually plant a colony on Mars.  Are those colonists citizens of Mars? Or are they citizens of their respective, Earthbound, nation states?  How long would that work? How many generations would that work for? Would it survive the first crisis?  Would humans, born and raised on Mars, care about the political maneuverings in Washington DC? Berlin? Beijing? London? I suspect that there would be point where the government would need to change in order to deal with large populations of people living off world.

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Star Control: Origins - My trip to Jupiter

Published on Friday, March 2, 2018 By Frogboy In Star Control Journals

Captain's Log: March 2, 2086…

There are 69 known moons of Jupiter. 

Jupiter is the first planet we’re sending Star Control’s prototype ship to visit. Powered by the Darius Robotics Emdrive MK I, the prototype can get from Star Control command to Jupiter in a matter of days, rather than months.  It is ironic that the prototype is powered by a drive made by Darius Robotics, given that Darius Erdmann is now gone, lost to the Lexites.


The prototype closes in on Jupiter, March 2086.

Some people have speculated that Jupiter was meant to be Sol’s twin in a binary star system.  In reality, Jupiter is not even close to having enough mass to be a star.  You would need at least 80 Jupiters to have a chance. Jupiter was chosen as our first test because of the various types of moons that will allow for a good measure of the lander’s capabilities.

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