(No) Limits: The Development of Limit Theory

The truth is that sincerity in art is not an affair of will, of a moral choice between honesty and dishonesty. It is mainly an affair of talent.

– Aldous Huxley

Josh Parnell is the sole creator/developer of the upcoming procedural universe realm Limit Theory, to be released sometime before 2015 is half concluded. Successfully Kickstarted, Parnell has been chugging away on the game now for nearly two years. And he is really on to something…

Part of his development routine this past year involves recording monthly dev updates and uploading them to his Youtube channel. These updates serve many functions. They are evidence of progression for that past month, which Parnell is almost skittish to provide to his backers, always hoping it is sufficient for them (which it always is). They are also a fascinating look into not only the evolution of the game but into Parnell’s thought processes as well. Each update provides the details, glimpses, modifications, restructurings of a game that is sure to be a work of art – and the most recent one is a whopper.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with LT, this latest update, update #20, is the perfect crash course. Update #20 includes two months worth of work (Parnell had to skip a September update) so naturally it is bursting with juicy details. Not only that but it is adopting a new format for presenting the game’s progress. As in previous updates, just about every angle is covered: Grahpics, UI philosophy, game theory, and, most importantly, the code.

Indeed. The code. The heart and soul – a term I am not using frivolously here – of Limit Theory is Parnell’s own Limit Theory Script Language (LTSL). Much of his efforts continue to be placed on perfecting this language and its utility. Now, I am not a programmer – my language ability takes on a more traditional function (although the structure of both code and written word can achieve similar effects of subtlety and beauty. A comparison that interests me greatly, and a possible ButtonMashing post later on). But in my ignorance I can still identify Parnell’s confidence in the motivations of creating LTSL, and of creating a procedurally generated universe game.

I can likewise sense and understand the trepidations of other Limit Theory followers. The main concern being this: Is there a game here? Parnell’s intense focus on LTSL is creating a fantastic and vast exoskeleton, one that will support easy modabilty. But, come release date, will there be anything of substance inside? I have pondered, and hoped against, the possibility of Parnell burning himself out on LTSL and then being forced to cobble together some form of rickety gameplay. This concern is legitimate and sound…

…But also incredibly short-sighted.

I trust Parnell. I trust that he will deliver because he knows the risks. But he is confident in the code he is creating. His confidence, and mine in him, rests in the very name of his game. Limit Theory is a philosophy which adheres to overcoming just that: limits. Intellectual limits. As a developer, LTSL is his way of overcoming the limits of game creation and grasping on to the ideas that spark as a result. This is how the development of Limit Theory has felt organic, personal and compelling. Parnell is riding high on the freedoms his work has created.

And his enthusiasm is contagious! I want to see just what I can do, what self-imposed limits I can overcome. I trust that the gameplay will mirror its own development in that same sense of freedom, space and creativity – a sort of call and response to a randomly generated virtual universe.

As can be gleaned from update #20, the technical foundations of Limit Theory are now fairly secure. Now is when the floodgates burst open. “Everything in time… as always,” he says. Now Parnell can focus his efforts on the creation of a game. No. Not merely a game. Something… higher…

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