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The player is manifested in Noctis as a physical intelligent being in charge of a fantastic spacecraft called a Stardrifter, capable of instantaneous interstellar travel. This allows travelling between stars, refuelling the Stardrifter from Lithium ion-ejecting stars, approaching planets in star systems and their moons, and even landing where it is physically possible. Many planets feature atmospheres and weather effects. Some harbour plants and animals, or even mysterious ruins. No goal or measure of success is imposed by the game: it simply allows to catalogue and annotate the player’s discoveries in a common database of stellar bodies called the GUIDE, which is to be synchronised over the author’s Internet server. The player can explore the Stardrifter and even walk on its roof.
In the game’s sci-fi setting, a fleet of Stardrifters was left behind by a race of sentient cats known as Felysians who abandoned their home world (planet Felysia, star system Balastrackonastreya) long ago for unknown reasons. The Felysians were the only sentient beings in the Noctis galaxy, so there are none to find in the Noctis game.
History of Noctis
The Italian programmer Alessandro Ghignola (better known simply as Alex) began creating Noctis on 9 October 2001, and is still working on the program's fifth incarnation. Noctis versions I-IV were written in C and Assembly, but Alex is currently writing a new version (to be released as Noctis V) in his original low-level programming language, called Linoleum.
Past versions (Noctis I-III)
Noctis I through III are still available on the AnywhereBB website, and in some cases contain features that were abandoned with later releases, the most famous of which was the Fationic Cannon, present in Noctis II and capable of destroying worlds, and was abandoned as this misrepresented the Felysians' peaceful society. Noctis II also featured an experiment in the use of sound, but this didn't function at a high enough quality and was too disruptive to the normally silent ambience to be included in later versions. Noctis III was the only version to have a target preview screen, and carried the first implementation of The Guide, which was refined and implemented into the current-day Noctis IV.
Current versions (Noctis IV, NICE)
Noctis was originally based on DOS, and with that come some natural limitations of the DOS platform. The most obvious limits are the display resolution, which is fixed at 320 x 200, and an upper limit imposed on the walking distance from a planetary landing site. (This does not restrict your ability to explore the planet, because you can freely take off and land on a different part of the planet.) These limitations do not apply to the Noctis galaxy because it contains over 78 billion stars, most of which host many planets and moons orbiting them.
The current version of the game is called Noctis IV. In the release of Noctis IV, Alex included a facility to have planet names and notes sent back to him and then compiled into a central database of information called the GUIDE. People playing the simulator (also called Stardrifters) could then share their findings with others, and a community of explorers soon developed (on the Noctis forums) around that, vying for a wide range of discoveries, such as the planetary system with the most planets or the biggest tree in the Noctis universe. This is currently the only way to interact with other players, since Noctis, being a single-player game (not including other Stardrifters summoned in the game, which are NPCs), has a protagonist who does not speak.
For some time Alex regularly compiled a new GUIDE based on emailed submissions of players of their "Outbox" and allowed the compilation to be downloaded as an "Inbox"; the GUIDE has not been updated for several years since 2005, but since December 2008 the service has been restored again. A more automatic system of "massively single-player" content sharing is used in 2008's Spore.
The game gained popularity in early 2000 after receiving a very favourable review in Home of the Underdogs's list of worthwhile free games. Noctis earned a score of 9.43 out of 10 as well as the site's "Top Dog" award. The reviewer noted amongst other things the magnitude of the galaxy to explore and the total size of the simulator, which weighs in at under one megabyte.
The source code for Noctis IV was released to the public in 2003, which has led to the creation of a fan-made "mod" to Noctis called Noctis IV CE (commonly abbreviated NICE). NICE includes bug fixes and additional features which increase the playability compared to Noctis IV. The terrain generation code has also been altered in the NICE version, which means that remarks made in the Noctis IV GUIDE are largely invalid for NICE.
Future version (Noctis V)
A future version of Noctis (tentatively named Noctis V or Noctis NoVa) is currently under development. Noctis V (sometimes abbreviated as NoVa) promises to relieve the restrictions of the current Noctis platform, as described above. This is because the new version of Noctis is being developed in Linoleum (which Ghignola has developed himself), a low-level programming language that is currently being shaped to better suit Noctis. (However, this also results in a slowdown of the program's development.) To paraphrase the official Noctis webpage: Linoleum and Noctis have evolved together.
Not much is known for sure about Noctis V, but much of what is known about Noctis V is based on screenshots and details that Alex has revealed. (Such information is collected here.) It is known for sure that the rendering engine has been completely redone from scratch. (Alex first attempted to simply translate the Noctis IV engine into Linoleum, but gave up and rewrote it.) Alex has also mentioned experimenting with weather and particle effects (possibly things like snow and dust storms).
There is no set release date for Noctis V, but Alex has repeatedly assured the Noctis community that he has not given up on the Noctis project, and has no intention of doing so. The most recent assurance was posted on 2 July 2009 .
Development of the project began on 11 October 2001 .
The Noctis galaxy, Feltyrion, is approximately 90 thousand light-years in radius, approximately 45,000 more than the Milky Way. With the exception of landing on some world types (being gas giants, Substellar Objects, and—although these have been made landable in NICE—unstable worlds), this galaxy is entirely open to be explored. Billions of worlds can be explored despite the program's relatively small size, due to its content being generated on the fly. The Noctis universe contains several types of planets and 11 types of stars, noted in-game with an S in front of the number of the star.
Types of stars in Noctis
- S00: A yellow star that is suitable for life, such as Earth's Sun.
- S01: A blue giant star.
- S02: A white dwarf star.
- S03: A red giant star.
- S04: An orange giant star such as Pollux.
- S05: A brown dwarf, not really a star but more of a Substellar object.
- S06: A grey giant star, no real-life examples are known of this type of star yet, but along with some S05 "stars", may provide lithium ions that your stardrifter uses as fuel.
- S07: A blue dwarf star, similar to a Neutron Star.
- S08: A star system, not particularly common in Feltyrion but quite common in the Milky Way.
- S09: A young star that is still a system in formation, similar to Vega.
- S10: A runaway star that has escaped the gravitational pull of Feltyrion, usually ancient and similar to S03 stars (red giants) except usually lacking planets.
- S11: These are pulsars.
Types of planets in Noctis
Substellar objects: giant worlds, larger than gas giants, that emit heat and are sometimes failed stars similar to S05 systems.
Quartz worlds: Worlds that, as the name would suggest, have a surface consisting mainly of quartz. They are medium-sized and carry a pure oxygen atmosphere. No world like this is present in our solar system.
Thick atmosphere worlds: Medium-sized planets that have a rocky surface and an extraordinarily thick atmosphere in the tens of Felysian Atmospheres. Temperatures can vary widely from planet to planet of this type. Two examples of this type of world would be Venus and Titan.
Felysian worlds: Medium-sized planets that are suitable for, and in many cases contain, life. These are usually found orbiting S00 stars but can also be found around S03 stars and others depending on which version/mod of Noctis you may be using. These planets are similar to Earth.
Thin Atmosphere worlds: Worlds that are about medium sized, rocky, and have a much less prominent atmosphere, such as Mars.
Dusty, no-atmosphere worlds: These are worlds that are small, rocky, and lack any significant atmosphere, such as Earth's Moon.
Craterized, no-atmosphere worlds: Worlds that lack a significant atmosphere and are also marked with numerous impact craters, such as Mercury.
Unstable worlds: Internally hot, volcanically active worlds. These worlds are unlandable in the standard versions of Noctis, but in certain versions of NICE, landings for these worlds are being implemented. These worlds are similar to Io, one of the moons of Jupiter.
The Noctis universe notably lacks black holes since it is based on the Wave Theory of Field, a model of physics that doesn't provide for the existence of such entities. This model is also the basis of the stardrifter's faster-than-light drive. It is a drive fueled with lithium ions predominantly harvested by "scooping" for lithium while orbiting S06 stars, using a device that seems to work like a Bussard Ramscoop, and operates by creating a maximass (another feature of the Wave Theory of Field) that expands space near the stardrifer, creating a wave for the drifter to "ride" upon. The drive is operated by selecting a target, and either engaging the drive, or in the case of a planet, beginning a fine approach. Manual control is not available in Noctis IV, but is planned for Noctis V. The stardrifter itself has a hull made out of quartz, which can be made opaque by polarizing it, or left to be transparent (or rendered entirely invisible if NICE is being used). The hull needs no maintenance from the player, and it is assumed that the landing pod gathers resources for maintenance while landed on a planet, and that maintenance operations are done automatically with no involvement from the player. The stardrifter can store 120 grams of lithium fuel, which is sufficient for journeys totalling several thousand light-years.
The units of measurement used in the game are Felysian units, not Human units. One Felysian gravity unit is slightly less than 1 g. One Felysian astronomical unit, called a Dyam, is about 0.64 AU. The Felysians use a galactic coordinate system known as the Parsis system, where one parsis unit corresponds to about 0.000045 light-years. Parsis coordinates can be entered manually into the drive system to designate a target point in outer space, especially useful for very long distance jumps.
Time is measured in a relatively simple manner. There are 5 units in time, 4 of which are commonly used in clocks, Triads Dexter, the same length as one Second, Triads Medii, which is 1000 Triads Dexter, Triads Sinister, which is 1000 Triads Medii, and Epocs, which are 1000 Triads Sinister, for a total of about 31.5 Human Years per Epoc. The fifth unit of time is the Sithra, which is 50 seconds in length, and is used to measure heart rate as Pulses per Sithra.
- ↑ Web Archive records of the earliest Noctis' homepage. Retrieved on 2009-04-30
- ↑ Noctis Inbox Download (2010-07-01).