Limit Theory (opens in new tab), the ambitious space sandbox which ceased development in 2018, has written the final chapter in its long-running development saga. Creator Josh Parnell released the source code for the beleaguered project, allowing the community to play what exists of the game.
“At long last, it’s time for the source code release that I promised years ago,” Parnell wrote in a final Kickstarter update (opens in new tab). “Today, I’ll be releasing four open-source repositories on GitHub, representing three different times in LT’s development history.”
The first of these is a Limit Theory Prototype from 2013, which Parnell states is “actually the most playable thing I’ve got to show”. The prototype lets players “buy & outfit ships, take simple missions, and control a fleet.” The remaining Github repositories, meanwhile, are from Limit Theory’s later development, with the packages split between engine code and gameplay code. “The Phoenix Engine may still be of interest to anyone who cares to figure out how to use it,” Parnell says. The other package contains the LUA code written during the game’s final years of development, but the actual playability of the code is limited to “some flying around and aimless shooting.”
Limit Theory was successfully Kickstarted (opens in new tab) in 2012, receiving $187,865 in funding. Development initially progressed well, but came to a screeching halt (opens in new tab) in 2018, when Parnell ran out of both funds and the will to continue the project. “I am beyond the initial investment and have exhausted most of my personal savings. But significantly more troubling is that I am entirely out of energy—emotionally, mentally, even physically,” he wrote in 2018. “Every year that passes sees me becoming more desperate to make good on the dream with which you entrusted me, but each such year I grow less and less capable of doing so.”
While the project has been defunct for years, the release of the source code marks the official, final end to Parnell’s work on and relationship with the game. “I’m ready to finally close this chapter of my life, a chapter onto which I’ve been holding in angst for the past three years,” he writes. “I imagine you have all moved on, and it’s time for me to do so as well.”
While it’s deeply sad Parnell was unable to fully realise his ambition for Limit Theory, the release of the source code at least means all his work wasn’t for nothing, allowing the community a taste of the developer’s vision. And who knows? Maybe someone will take Parnell’s engine and build something more comprehensive out of it. The Internet can be surprising like that.