Outerra made a lot of attention lately, halfway between simulator and pure technological innovation, the concept looks like it contains a wealth of possible future opportunities. Thomas Gasser/simflight.FR asked a few questions:
First of all thanks Brano Kemen for answering my questions, can you briefly explain for everybody what is Outerra ?
What most people recognize behind the Outerra name is the Outerra engine, a special 3D “world engine”, meaning a 3D graphics engine that’s capable of rendering whole world with full range of details, from space down to the ground level.
Apart from that, Outerra is also the name of our company, founded in 2010 in Slovakia.
Who is behind Outerra ? Can you tell us who is working for Outerra ?
We are a small team – the core is made of just two people: Laco “angrypig” Hrabcak and me. Our tasks on the engine are quite intertwined, but the main areas that Laco is handling are the low-level OpenGL-based rendering engine, input handling, integration of physics and embedded web browser, tree generator. I’m mainly focusing on the environment: terrain generation and rendering, atmosphere and water.
We have also a couple of external co-workers that cooperate with us on various aspects of the development.
Today, what are Outerra Engine’s features?
Outerra engine (referred to as OT) is a procedural engine: it uses procedural algorithms to generate the world. Unlike many other procedural engines it can also use real world data very effectively. As the result it’s capable to render our planet using available global elevation data (currently 90m resolution), that it then further dynamically refines with procedural algorithms, creating centimeter-sized details.
It also uses procedural algorithms for things like texturing, tree placement and much more.
While the procedural layer will be eventually capable of recreating natural Earth environments, a planet without humans, the engine also integrates a vector-data stage that allows it to overlay things like roads, land-type definitions etc, enabling it to incorporate the effects of civilization into the world.
In addition it integrates two physics engines: JSBSim for flight dynamics modeling, and Bullet Physics for vehicles and object interaction. But basically these two are just demoing the possibility to integrate physics and other libraries with OT.
What is about weather rendering in Outerra ?
The engine is still in a relatively early “alpha” state of development, and as such it’s still missing many features it’s supposed to get ultimately. Weather is one of these areas, together with additional biomes and urban area generators it’s the stuff in development.
And addons ? (sceneries and aircraft)
What we’ve got there so far is basically for demo purposes only, but we are now also working with other developers to get their models into Outerra. We’ll be releasing a model importer that will allow people to import their stuff, optionally tying it with physics models either from JSBSim or the built-in vehicle physics.
Are you creating a new Flight Simulator ?
A short answer would be no, as we aren’t trying to make a flight simulator comparable to what these devs are/were doing. We aren’t large enough for the task (yet), and we are no dedicated simmers either. Our domain is terrain rendering and connected areas, and that’s what we are focusing on currently. Of course, with the global simulator platform in mind, we are adding some simulator-related features even now.
So, which are Outerra ambitions ? Purpose ?
There are many, but with relation to simulators, one of our goals is to create a global simulator/game platform that can be used for development of planet-wide games, but also for a global simulator world where other developers could provide their content – models, scenery, simulation cores that can be plugged into Outerra. All interoperable and running in one world. Imagine a world where all types of simulators can be combined and experienced seamlessly: rockets and spaceships, aircraft and gliders, ships and boats, trains, all kinds of ground vehicles. Outerra brings this possibility, but of course it is still a long way there.
But things are evolving quickly these days, after the release of tech demo people are realizing the potential that’s here, so things may change and develop in near future.
Are you heading to develop all this system on your own or is the ambition to sell or cooperate on a global project ?
Well the project as such would pretty much rely on other developers jumping in and developing for it. However, the core of the system – the engine – must become robust and feature-full first, and that’s our goal and focus now. We have released a technology demo together with alpha-version of “Anteworld”, our first game running on the Outerra engine. It’s meant to be a test bed for Outerra technology, and to lay down the foundations for the future game/sim platform. It’s also helping us to fund the further development, as our supporters can buy the game in alpha state for a reduced price, getting access to regular builds and being able to play with new technology additions and even influence the development.
Other possibilities to expand more rapidly and to speed up the development are being considered as well. For example, crowd-funding via sites like Kickstarter is becoming increasingly popular and could be used to fund the development of a new simulator based on the Outerra engine. It would actually interest me to know how the sim community would react to an initiative like that.
Anyway, we are already cooperating with a few developers who see the potential and want to participate on it early, and we will be posting work-in-progress shots from it regularly.
Thanks Brano for you answers,
For more information visit the Outerra Website
This interview was conducted by Thomas Gasser and originally published on simflight.FR -> click