A SCANNER DARKLY
How Introversion is harnessing the point cloud to go spelunking
Scanner Sombre represents something of a departure for Introversion, the UK studio behind Darwinia, Uplink and Prison
Architect. Where the company’s previous games have focused on the management of armies, correctional facilities or impersonal fictional operating systems, Scanner Sombre is a considerably more personal proposition. Awaking next to fire, somewhere deep in a cave system, the player must try to escape. But the caverns and tunnels beyond the flame’s reach are pitch-black, necessitating the use of a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) scanner to navigate. A concerning problem for our hero, but the catalyst for a uniquely pretty game.
“LIDAR scanners basically fire out points of laser light, which stick to a surface when they collide,” explains Introversion founder
Mark Morris. “The width of the beam can be changed from wide – for rapidly taking in big spaces – to tight for examining small areas of detail. The points stay in the world, and as you progress you can look back and see the areas you’ve explored. Using the point cloud to represent geometry looks great, but also gives us lots of scope to play around with the nature of that reality and allows us to mess with players’ minds.”
Introversion hopes to release an alpha version of Scanner Sombre on PC before the end of 2016, with other formats a possibility in the future.