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Heat Signature gets pretty with "infinitely scaling vapor layers"

Heat Signature

Heat Signature, the space-borne stealth game-slash-carjacking sim being developed by Gunpoint creator and former PC Gamer editor Tom Francis, isn't really the sort of game that screams "luscious eye candy within." But the recent implementation of "infinitely scaling vapor layers" has it looking a lot prettier than you might expect.

The problem, as Francis explained on his blog, is that when the camera automatically zooms out to maintain a view on multiple on-screen objects, "the star layer tiles very obviously and soon the vapor layers stop showing and it’s all a big blur." The solution? Let the layer detect when it's using too many tiles, then create a new, larger-scale layer, fade it in, and destroy the old layer once it's fully faded out.

The process is probably more technical than that, but the important thing is that it looks good and Francis is happy. "It works! I love it," he wrote. "Feels like a real victory of code and art: we had this big scary problem, a gap in what we could do to a good standard, and we dodged around it for a while, and then [artist John Roberts'] perfectly tiling dust layer and my new autozoom system came together in a way that suggested a smarter approach, and it just solves it completely."

Francis released a "better" video of the infinitely scaling vapor layers here, but I prefer the one above: It's slower, it's got a little bit of a soundtrack going on, and it zooms both ways, which I think showcases the feature more effectively. And not only does the new system look great, it will also allow him to use the autozoom function more liberally. "Turns out that once those zoom levels look good, there are a few gameplay uses for them!" he added.

Heat Signature is still in alpha testing, which you can sign up to take part in at heatsig.com. The scheduled release date is, officially, "no idea."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.