I agree that a Universe full of pines would indeed defeat the point. Procedural generation of unique flora and fauna could be done once the player gets close enough to a planet. Couldn’t the seeds for their generation be kept and used again the next time the player visits? Considering that only a relatively few planets would have any kind of life, even players that visit many different worlds would not amass too much data to effect gameplay, would it?
Couldn’t the seeds for their generation be kept and used again the next time the player visits?
Well the way Pioneer works you wouldnt’t have to keep anything, as seeds are always the same for a particular system and will never change no matter what happens during your game. Thats what keeps planets looking the same even after you leave the system and come back.
The only time you have to save the data is when you change something, so perhaps you explore a system then you must save that information so the next time the game loads it knows that system is explored.(Although exploration isn’t implemented it’s just an example)
So it sounds like the capability for generating planetary flora and fauna in already there in a way. There would have to be a module written to handle placing planetary objects like trees and grasses, but then the variables needed could simply be added to a planet’s description and voila! The same module handles placing rocks and trees on each planet when the player gets close enough for it to matter.
Speaking as an ignorant noob, the module might check to see if the planet has life. If so, what kinds of life are appropriate for the planet in question? How many are there, and do they differ by terrain? As Pioneer is based in the future, terraforming is a possiblity, and a credible reason why it may be common to fine pine-like trees on a few planets. Alien life could also be created by simply changing the color of an existing model, or exaggerating the proportions of an existing plant, cacti, fungi, etc. Of course, additional content could later be created and merged with the existing data to expand the number of species inhabiting the cosmos.
While I can see the point of not faking alien life because we have no idea what it looks like, exploring a galaxy full of something, even if not legitimate xenobiology, is better than an infinite wasteland of dead rock.