Here’s how the ‘cellular automata simulation’ in Raph Koster’s new sandbox MMORPG Stars Reach works


In the wake of the announcement of Stars Reach, Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster has been making the rounds of Reddit and the gaming blogosphere – and now, he’s heading to the studio’s YouTube channel to begin dishing out the string of promised explainers on the MMORPG sandbox’s many standout features. Today’s video is all about the living world, and when Koster says those words, he means something pretty different from Guild Wars 2’s storyline updates.

As he noted during our own interview last week, the game’s environment is not voxels or a static mesh; it’s a genuine simulation, not a theater set. “What you’re seeing is the output of a real-time simulation running in the cloud,” he says. “Technically, the right term for it is cellular automata simulation.” The idea is that the designers procedurally generate worlds using a combination of inputs and fine controls to avoid “generic, samey planets,” then then simulation begins.

How? Well, the short version is that each cell in the game carries around a set of states and data that tell it how to function based on player behavior and in conjunction with the other AI. You can see the character in-game laser-beaming and climbing through different materials like sand, shale, lava, ice, and water to drive home the point that each of these resources behaves in accordance with its ruleset. Even the plants in the game haul around their own individual AI, which ultimately helps propel not just the crafting game (as players pull down trees for harvesting) but the seasons on each planet and ultimately the terraforming systems that drive the game’s storyline.

Finally, Koster says, even the critters on each planet run their own AIs that determines how they respond to players and to each other. “If you leave these creatures alone, they might take back their planet.”

“The living world isn’t just about having cooler digging or chopping down trees. It adds a fresh layer of interactivity to pretty much everything in the game.”

There’s a ton of in-game footage to go along with the narration, all banded with a reminder that the visuals are pre-alpha. “We’ve got plenty of work left to do,” the studio’s disclaimer vows.

Source: YouTube
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