I took a break from Past Infinity development to work on the GPU-accelerated “Qrack” quantum computer simulator framework, available at https://github.com/vm6502q/qrack, but now I’m back with finishing touches on the physics module, and an announcement about a new team member!
Here’s a video/audio update on new functionality. (I’ve been pulling my hair out with this for two weeks! ) The OpenRelativity engine now has handling for acceleration as well as velocity. I explain in depth why this is important and what it means for the game in the video, as well as physics features likely to appear in the game:
That was exhausting, but well worth it! We’ll have an update on “Physics Exploration Mode,” next week.
Past Infinity is a puzzle game, based around a time travel mechanic. You could consider it a sole-developer, indie project homage to another very well known property, Portal. That series defined its own genre, but here’s a distinct addition with a unique mechanic. I’ve thought about how gravity would work with portals, but I realized you could get a subtly different set of mechanics out of faster-than-light travel. I’ve enjoyed playing the two games in the series, and designing Portal II levels that try to use the physics in novel ways, but here’s a totally new physical mechanic! I don’t have the budget for the level of production of Portal, (with maybe over an hour of voice acting, and minutely detailed props and environments,) but I can achieve relativity and faster-than-light travel in first-person mobile VR, basically by myself, with a little help from the open source community.
The puzzle elements I have in my library already, and those which I plan to add, leverage the time travel mechanic in a cohesive way, to produce an indie game that adds new things to the genre and presents a totally different experience, rather than an attempt at a clone. I can’t do “triple A” perfectly detailed environments and voice acting. However I can give you a game that has totally new physics to explore, using a platform you already have in your pocket to the fullest of its unique capabilities. I can give you a singular sensory VR experience that’s rich in ways besides polygon count, with a widely available accessory that might cost less than your lunch.
That’s the concept. I also want it to be accessible to the casual player, with the mobile phone hardware you already have–“Just add Cardboard.”
(By the way, for the physics sticklers, I mention in the video that relativity is a “second order theory.” Those who study physics might know that this is usually referring to two orders of partial derivatives of the “metric,” including the spatial derivatives as well as the time derivatives. However, for a video game, and in general, we have to introduce these concepts to people via things they already have direct experience with, and my explanation, while simplistic, is not essentially wrong, at a pedagogical level.)
Apparently, if you make the best game in the world, and then hide it under a rock in a dark corner of the internet, it’s like a tree falling in the woods when nobody’s around. I’m coming late to this, “actually give the world half a chance to find out your content exists” thing, but at least I brought content.
What happens when you travel faster than the speed of light? You can’t, with your tomfoolery nonsense. Well, what if you could?
Forget how it could happen, for a minute, and let’s just ask, “What would happen if you could?” If there’s a target somewhere over there, reflecting light to my eyes, and I suddenly “jump” faster than light over to the target, it’s not clear how I could do that, but special relativity suggests I arrive before the last light in my frame from the target was emitted or reflected,* before I “jumped.”
I get there before the last light at my time “coordinate” left the target; I’ve time traveled. That might be “why” it probably can’t happen, because we could break causality. Well, causality is going out the window, today.
Actually, it doesn’t even have to. When you’d arrive at the target, after the “jump,” you’d be outside the “past light cone” of yourself before you jumped, but now we’re launching into a physics lesson, and you want to see game play.
Well, here it is:
What if you could experience hyper-relativistic time travel in virtual reality, on the mobile phone already in your pocket, with a simple accessory that costs you less than $15?
It’s done, already! No, the game still needs a good bit of work, but the physics module is basically already done and mobile-ready. The hardware-limited development has already been implemented and tested. Phew! The physics descends from the OpenRelativity project by the MIT Game Lab, (who, I should say, I have no affiliation with or endorsement from, but I have to thank them profusely for their awesome open source physics module). Beyond the work by the MIT Game Lab, though, I’ve added a couple hundred repository commits worth of new features, including:
Relativistic collision mechanics,
Handling for acceleration and gravity (with Einstein’s principle of equivalence,)
Generalized space-time geometry support, (like for black holes,)
…and mobile-ready versions of all of the above, along with many general optimizations and improvements. Oh, and time travel. Let’s not forget what the game is about. (Much of the relevant work went back to my open source fork of the OpenRelativity project—infinite thanks, MIT Game Lab—but not the time travel, yet.)
What does that leave? Well, mostly level design and other playable content, but also something for you: beta testing!
I’m not quite ready to announce when the beta will start. It might take a couple of months. I’ve added a contact page up in the navigation bar, though, and anyone should please feel free to reach out to me to be considered for joining the beta test. (Please do not leave these requests in the public comments.)