Unity Focus: Star Trek Infinite Space

Unity Focus: Star Trek Infinite Space
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

August 4th 2011 at 2:00PM

We take a look at the tech underpinning Keen Games' new project

To fit the vast world of Star Trek and the ambitious make-up of an MMO into a web browser might sound like a daunting task, but it’s one the staff at Keen Games are tackling undeterred.

Using the Unity Engine, a team led by creative director Antony Christoulakis, lead programmer Daniel Groh and producer Sarah Steffen has spun a vast online world from the familiar fabric of Gene Roddenberry’s creation.

It’s one that runs without the need for a cumbersome client download, and delivers a game focused on tactical space combat and exploration.

THE NEXT GENERATION

“It was clear from the start that we wanted to do a ‘next generation’ browser game that offers high production values,” explains Christoulakis. “We’ve looked at a couple of other options and Unity was clearly the best choice in terms of flexibility to extend its rendering technology.”

And so began work on the MMO, with the Keen team quickly familiarising themselves with the elements that have made Unity a favourite for those making online games.

“First of all, Unity comes with a great ease of use for our players,” says Christoulakis of the benefits of working with the engine. “All you have to do is install the Unity browser plug-in, which is a very simple procedure.”

Certainly the famously popular Unity Web Player remains an alluring proposition for developers, and it was a fundamental reason for Keen Games’ adoption of the tech. A major draw for the Infinite Space team was that it also blends well into a webpage, without sacrificing the ability to leap to full screen, letting developers further blur the disappearing line between web-based games and boxed products.

“From a development perspective, the Unity engine provides you with a rich set of features, like the powerful rendering engine, particle system, physics, content streaming and many others, so you are able to focus on developing the actual game,” adds Christoulakis, staunch in his position as an advocate for the platform.

SET FREE

But what Unity offers studios like Keen Games isn’t just a feature set that, in recent memory alone, was the exclusive territory of triple-A console and PC development. It also provides games makers with what is arguably a far greater weapon to their arsenals; namely complete creative freedom on their individual projects.

When asked in what way Unity defined the atmosphere and aesthetic character of Star Trek: Infinite Space, Christoulakis is quick to reply: “You could say Unity shaped our game by not shaping it.

“Its great flexibility and extensibility allows developers to decide how the game should be and avoids limiting visions by technical constraints. Also, the Unity Editor allows rapid prototyping, which is very helpful to find the features that are most fun to play. From a graphical perspective, the freedom to achieve stunning visual effects and shaders comes in handy.”

Last month Child of Eden creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi told Develop that the imagination is the final frontier. If that’s the analogy of the moment, then Unity has equipped Keen with everything it needs to boldly go to that creative boundary.