The Inside Scoop: 3D and Levels

As our first project here at the revived Planets Magazine, we wanted to touch base with Joshua and get a look at some of the coming events we have to look forward to at Planets Nu. He’s agreed to let us see a little bit of what he’s got in mind for the coming months.

(The following has been condensed from a rather lengthy email chain. Just, you know, kinda imagine we’re in a comfy studio with nice cups of tea and a plate of cookies, chilling. -Editor)

Hi! I’m Gnerphk and this is Talespin. (Pretend you can see him wave. He’s waving now.) We’ve tracked down the enigmatic Joshua to ask him a few questions about Planets Nu: how we’re doing, where we’re heading, and what we’re likely to see in the future.

So, how are things going in general? Activity seems off in the Feed. Are games on the decline? Has League helped? OK; that’s four questions — I’m kinda nervous. Pick and choose.

With regard to the site itself things are going very well. I guess the current world situation has brought back a lot of players; Planets Nu is at record levels of activity and engagement. The feed is perhaps slightly slower, but part of that is that a lot of conversations have moved into the league teams. Overall site communication is up.

League has been a big hit in Year 1 and we’re hoping it’s going to help with long term retention.

There is another big project on-going and relatively under the radar right now – the new Single player levels. Which include a Storyline – as you play through the history of the Echo Cluster over 240 years. To support this we’re really developing a much more comprehensive world view with details of the races, characters, etc. This is another topic that might be interesting to start addressing as the picture of this world is starting to come together.

That’s the stuff Beefer has us playtesting.

I’m excited to learn more about the Storyline. I’ve enjoyed the playtesting levels so far! Can you tell us more?

Beside the 3D modelling and league, this project is our big undertaking this year (and next). The Storyline – or timeline – project is planned as a new set of levels, 11 for each race, that will take you through the history of the Echo Cluster from 241b (before Nu) up until the start of the Nu Calendar (0001 on the site).

The primary functional goal of the first stage of the project is to create a new, fun way to introduce Planets to new players a tiny bit at a time. By passing through time and space with the Feds, we can introduce new Planets concepts with each level – all while building a real connection to the races and characters who inhabit the Echo Cluster.

For both new and old players this gives us a fantastic platform to really bring our own unique world to life. We will be bringing a lot of new ideas, characters, history, and lore to our universe.

What is one Storyline event that you thought was a very exciting moment?

This is a tough question to answer without too many spoilers. I will say, we’ve already developed the story for all 11 of the Federation levels and there are a lot of twists and turns you are going to enjoy along the way as you journey through time and space from the edge of the Echo Cluster 241 years before Nu all the way to Charmed World in 0000. For veteran players you’ll learn a lot of exciting things, like why the Lizards can build Lokis, why the treaty of Nimbus 7 was signed, why the Feds have 200% taxing and many other little tidbits of fun knowledge – all while being challenged with some fun levels.

We’ve been getting some great feedback already from our small playtesting group – whose help is invaluable. It takes a ton of time to playtest these levels.

How will the Horwasp fit into the developing/ongoing Storyline? Or is that a secret to be unveiled?

Well, the Horwasp do not arrive in the Echo Cluster until 0068 (after Nu) and this project aims to build the world history from 241b (before Nu) up until 0000. So they don’t make an appearance in this set of levels. However, if this project is successful we’re planning a followup story that will take us through the next big historical period featuring the Horwasp Invasion.

So will these replace the present Levels completely, or accompany them?

The current levels may get retired at some point, or kept around as a side diversion. But this project is meant to be a much more complete single-player experience and will receive the focus.

Is Tim at all involved?

It’s strictly a Planets Nu endeavor. However, as we sculpt the story we are always looking for ways to explain existing game concepts, and to incorporate the few tidbits of canon that already exist. While the game mechanics were created in great detail by Tim [Wisseman], the concept of the world has mostly been left to our imaginations and connections to existing sci-fi. This project aims to change that.

Which brings us to the 3D models — part of the same project, I’d think. Why did you decide to do this?  Is it an effort to distance ourselves from original sources for copyright reasons, or something more?

It’s been a goal for a while. A few years ago we started the 3D version of planets and one of the biggest barriers to that project was being able to produce 100+ 3D models that had a consistent feel and quality. This would make revisiting that a possibility – but it’s not our primary goal at the moment.

For Planets Nu to take the next big step forward we do recognize a need to truly establish our own identity and to put copyright concerns behind us. This is one step toward that goal.

More importantly though, this project, like most of the big projects we work on, is geared toward making the game more attractive to a wider audience. Creating 3D models means being able to really bring the Echo Cluster to life. There are going to be a ton of cool things we can do with them — and they are going to really bring some “eye candy” to Planets Nu.

Super Transport Freighter

How is it progressing?

The 3D modeling project is super exciting for us. It has been a dream of mine to create 3D models of all the ships for a number of years. Now in 2020 we were approached by Alan from Resurrected Starships, an extremely talented 3D modeller who specializes in starships. How incredibly lucky! We hired him immediately and he has formally joined the team. Now every week we’re seeing new designs coming out of his shipyard and we’re loving it.


There are quite a few models already designed that haven’t been released yet. We’ve been working on building the actual models for the entire Fed fleet first to support the Storyline project. We’re close to having the entire fleet modelled and then we’ve got the work of texturing, lighting and preparing the models for production. We’ll be seeing more of these ships coming out soon.

Can you give us a hint or two about how this is going to impact game play?  Where are we likely to see the models?

The models will start to come into the game a little bit at a time. The most obvious place will be to replace the ship pictures with new snapshots (or 3D views) of the models. The second, and probably most exciting, will be bringing them into the VCRs. We’ve already run some experiments and they look awesome. These 3D battles will be more exciting and intense – we hope to really bring the battles to life.  There are quite a few other opportunities we may be able to use them for: marketing materials, cut scenes, in the spacedock, et cetera. But first we need the models, and that’s not a small task.

We expect the project to take 1-2 years to complete. Each model can take a week or more to produce. It’s a significant investment; fortunately we’re able to run it in parallel with the other projects we have on the go.

We’re very much looking forward to watching the results as they happen.

Thanks for doing the interview, Joshua! And thank you to all the Planets Nu players out there who are reading it. We’ll be hard at working bringing you more fascinating stuff, all about Planets!

(We’ve got another Inside Scoop we’re preparing for next month. I won’t give you too many hints now, but we might just have some inside information on the new Championship setup. Keep checking back! -Editor)

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3 thoughts on “The Inside Scoop: 3D and Levels

  1. Lots of exciting news here. The best news from a player perspective is activity being high. Thats always good to here in a niche game.

    The new levels is an inspired idea. Storytelling and establishment of canon is for sure something that will make the game more appealing to new users.

    I do wonder about the ships though. I get that we have to change them for copyright reasons (shocked it has lasted this long TBH) but I will be sad to see the classic designs go. I love the look of the new ships, but I would be lying if I said I didnt want the ship pics to change.

    The 3D combat sounds interesting. I assume that just means the same VCR with 3D ships torps and fighters?



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