ReRoll: drone-scanning the planet to make the biggest game world ever

By Dave Cook
7 March 2014 11:45 GMT

ReRoll is the ambitious post-apocalyptic game from Pixyul. The team aims to laser-scan the Earth’s total land-mass to make the biggest open world title in existence. Dave Cook speaks with the team to find out more.


Ambition is to be admired, even when it involves mapping the entire planet’s land-mass for the sake of creating a videogame world. ReRoll’s base concept is staggering; and will see developer Pixyul use unmanned senseFLY drones and other techniques to laser scan the Earth, with a view to digitally re-creating it in an apocalyptic RPG setting. You have to admit; on paper it sounds like a madman’s dream.

“ReRoll is the ultimate promise of the open world. Our planet, the one we will recreate, we see it as a platform not only for ReRoll but for future games”

But it’s already happening, courtesy of ex-Ubisoft developers Louis-Pierre Pharand and Julien Cuny. The game beneath Pixyul’s staggering elevator pitch is an isometric survival sandbox experience, with an emphasis on crafting and role-playing. The great draw is, of course, the fact that you’ll be able to see your own home town laid to waste by mysterious mutant forces, and if anything, that’s a level of attachment few games can deliver.

After reporting on ReRoll’s initial reveal, I was keen to understand just what’s involved in such a grand project from both a technical, and potentially legal or privacy perspective. I dropped Pixyul co-founder Pharand an email and we discussed the finer points of the studio’s creation and the ReRoll scanning process, and I was interested to learn that both he and Cuny were brought into Ubisoft to assist Far Cry 2 development, a game that also has a harsh and detailed open world.


Pixyul members look on as a senseFLY drone takes flight.

“I think ReRoll is the ultimate promise of the open world,” Pharand began. “Note that ReRoll will be the first game using the entire planet. Our planet, the one we will recreate, we see it as a platform not only for ReRoll but for future games.”

“The goal is to reproduce accurately at scale the planet. Photogrammetry; using images from the drone scanning, or other sources, will be the main technique for the urban areas.

“We will not do this for the entire planet, [as there’s] no point in scanning the oceans, they represent 71% of the planet surface, same for some forest, deserts, Arctic and Antarctica, to give some examples. We will recreate those accurately at scale using procedural methods. They are already a lot of these resources out there.”

Pharand added that Pixyul’s scanning methods will need to work around legislation in each country, and this process will determine which ‘brick’ of the world’s environment will release first when the game launches for PC in mid-2015. Ideally however, the team wants to launch with an area that offers great diversity within ReRoll’s gameplay mechanics.

As society collapses around them under the emerging mutant threat, players must adapt to the new world unfolding before them. The player will essentially re-roll their lot in life to suit this harsh plane of existence, and can become anything from wandering nomads, farmers, scavengers and mechanics, or militia members sworn to repel the horde, each contributing to humanity’s efforts to endure the apocalypse. Pixyul needs to find an initial area that helps all of these roles function as intended.


Here’s the same mountain you saw in the photo above, now in scanned game form.

“It is not a post-apocalyptic setting like we are used to,” Pharand stressed. “It just happened; the shit just hit the fan! Society is collapsing one region at a time. The threats are other humans, we will see the dark side of humanity, also mutated humans and animals will be always lurking. The players main goal is broken down in three main gameplay pillars: Explore, fight, craft. You need to develop skills, like in reality to use weapons, to craft… There will be no shortage of things to do.”

“The planet will offer so many possibilities,” he went on, “To be honest we still need to figure some of the rules and restrictions. But we believe that people will want to live like nomads and travel all across the globe or settle down and try to rebuild a life. In all cases, you will have to survive. Survive the elements and the multiple threats. You are not alone out there.”

“People will want to live like nomads and travel all across the globe or settle down and try to rebuild a life. You will have to survive the elements and the multiples threats. You are not alone out there.”

To help improve your chances of survival, players will be able to gather weapons to help them fend off threats as well as tools to craft objects and shelters, be it a camping tent or something a little sturdier. Details are thin right now, but it sounds that players, regardless of distance, will have a relative effect on each other. Farmers can tend livestock and generate food, which could be used by nomads who travel far to influence the lives of others.

“You will be the master of your destiny – wow, that sounds corny,” Pharand joked, “but it’s the truth. What I like about ReRoll; it’s the massive skill tree and how you can develop your characters into different specialities.” He added that it’s a single-player title with co-op interaction first and foremost, rather than a competitive title. However; he added that each world ‘brick’ is being designed to support PvP one day.


Here’s the mountain again in game form, as a player scavenges for resources

Until that first brick launches Pixyul is inviting players to get involved in the ReRoll community, as this will bear a significant impact on the direction taken by Pharand’s team. He wants you to get involved to help steer the colossal production effort, because like any MMO, this is a game that will live or die based on user participation. There’s also logistical factors to consider, legal blockades that could interrupt drone scanning, and other factors that aren’t met by other studios out there.

Simply; nothing like this has been attempted before and with it comes a new range of challenges. With that in mind, Pharand concluded, “Honestly, many things could and can happen. They are things you can never control. We have made our due diligence first on the feasibility of ReRoll. It is ambitious for sure. But we have left great positions to do this. We are dedicated to its success and we strongly believe we will get done and it will be awesome.”

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