AI’s Inspiration

So what inspired Approaching Infinity? Lots of people claim it was something called  “Prospector”. And yeah, that had something to do with it. But not in the way you might think… And of course there’s my own development history and my life-long immersion in science fiction.

Here’s the story:

I was coming off a month-long obsessive binge of playing Borderlands 2 (as Krieg the Psycho). I had leveled my character about as high as he would go, and found all the cool stuff. But I still wanted more stuff! I’d been making games for 10 years, and roguelikes for over 6, so I started thinking. I want a game where their is no level cap. I want the next awesome weapon or shield! I want MORE!

I’ve done tons of fantasy Rogue-Likes, and what kept me in that world was the availability of free tilesets. I’ve loved science fiction since I was a kid (Doctor Who (My first doctor was Tom Baker!), Star Trek (TOS), Star Wars, Babylon 5,  and writers like Orson Scott Card, Peter F. Hamilton, and Neal Asher). And there has been a marked shortage of sci-fi roguelikes. So I thought, yes, I’m finally going to do it! After a few weeks of preliminary design work, where I went from “never-ending planet” to “never-ending spaceship”, I thought, wait, I can do both! So I bought the Oryx sci-fi tiles, and started coding.


Perhaps the story really starts in 1983, with Ultima III ? My first real enormous world-roaming, dungeon crawling, story-telling adventure? Or maybe in 2000 with a space 4x called Reach For The Stars, which was a remake of a game by the same name also from 1983, which I also had back then. Or maybe in 2002, with Space Empires IV, another space 4x game which I played for hundreds of hours. Create your own alien race and try to take over the galaxy. My love of this game and my attempts at modding it, were what got me back into programming!

And do I really need to mention that, being a kid in the 80s, I had tons of Dungeons & Dragons manuals, modules, and dice Dice DICE! I even had another less well known sci-D&D-like called Star Frontiers ! That was awesome!

Then came Morrowind, Oblivion, Mass Effect, and Skyrim…but Morrowind is still my favorite!

Then In about 2010 I played a game called


It was a roguelike set in space! Wow, what a great idea! I was amazed that I never thought of that before. But someone had. And here it was. I was very excited. So I played it. And died of unknown reasons in about 5 minutes. So I tried again, got bored of wandering aimlessly without knowing the myriad controls, and suicided. The idea went to the back of my mind. I tried it again in 2013 and found the same thing (although the game was prettier than the last time.) You can read my forum thread about my related experiences at rogue temple.

Return to the present:

When I started work on Approaching Infinity, Prospector had been  ‘abandoned’ for a while. Unknown to me at the time Matthias (aka Magellan) had started work on it again. I eventually found out and sent him an email, stating that I respected his game, and obviously lots of other people did to; I didn’t want to infringe.  And I was making my own similar game. I even told him I had plans to kickstart.

This is Matthias’ exact response to me, taken from my email:

“Let me quote Thomas Jefferson at you:

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

I haven’t looked at approaching infinity yet, but if it was inspired in some ways by prospector that’s very flattering, and I say thank you! And If I do look at it rest assured that I will mainly be looking for stuff that I can steal 🙂

So yeah: No reason to explain yourself. Good luck with your project too.


Prospector came first, and it deserves the “pioneer” credit. But Prospector was not created in a vacuum. I don’t know Matthias’ exact inspiration, but I bet it’s something very similar to my own. 30 years of roguelikes, coupled with 30 years of a love of science fiction.

I will admit, I got oxygen and data from prospector. But oxygen is also a sci-fi trope. Half the movies have people in suits in hostile environments. And it makes a good “food clock” too. (M Just let me know today that he got Oxygen suggested to him from a forum!) And Spock has been scanning for data for 40 years. And Redshirts are a ubiquitous idea in our culture!

I have been making roguelikes since 2006, and I made Random Realms, itself a pioneer in the field of “Completely procedurally generated monsters”. I’ve been researching “quests” in RPGs for years. I read gamasutra articles about game design, and just about every article on roguelikes at roguebasin.  I made space 4X and RTS games long before this.

Approaching Infinity is its own game, set in it’s own universe, with a host of stories to tell. I have tried to make it accessible and highly playable. You will always know what is killing you in AI. The command set is as small as possible. It has mouse and keyboard support. It has sound and music, and beautiful graphics by David Gervais. It also has lots of different environments, procedural quests, skilled officers, and a randomized crafting system. It has tons of loot, monsters, and items.

I love my game. Please try it. If you love sci-fi or roguelikes, there’s a good chance you will like it too. If you find my game enjoyable (or you like the idea, but aren’t crazy about the execution), by all means, try Prospector!

EDIT 2015:

Approaching Infinity has now been released, and it’s published by Shrapnel Games, the same folks who brought you (and me) Space Empires 4! There is even a beautiful boxed version complete with printed manual. I am in great company!

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