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Making a game? What the hell am I doing?

So… I’m an idiot…

Right in the middle of my Production Company’s big project for 2017/2018, The 30 Second Initiative, I had some down time while waiting for other artists to finish some work. So to keep busy, I decided I would mess around with making a game.

I had just finished the latest season of “The Expanse”  and had been playing a game called “Rebel Galaxy” on steam, so was feeling inspired. And I got to wondering why space games didn’t do realism more often… Of course there is Kerbal, which I love, and I’m sure there are others, but wondered if there was a game based on The Expanse.

I was aware that the writers of the books were originally working to make a game but then turned it into a book, but I couldn’t find anything like it at the time. So, I opened up Unity and started tinkering….

6 months later, I have had to learn a lot about vector math, gravitational effects on space travel and just some basic run-of-the-mill Rocket science. But I do have the early beginnings of a little something-something….

At this point I should mention that this would not have been possible with out the help of 3 colleagues of mine from the college I lecture at: Matt Dodd, Adam Clarke and Richard Stern. Without the help of these guys I would not have gotten even half way to where I am. I have asked thousands of dumb questions about programming and maths, but they still give up their lunch time and even stay back late sometimes to help me out if I’m in a bind or stuck on a particular juicy logic problem. So, Thanks guys! Coffee is on me.

Anyway, The basic premise of my little venture (this has changed a lot over the last few months, but I think this is the pretty much the Idea) is that you are a Truck Driver, but in space. You own a ship and you take contract to deliver cargo all over the Solar System.

The Goal:
Still locking this down, but I have settled on 1 or 2 things (or both). You either need to get to the outer planets (beyond the pathetic excuse for a planet, Pluto) and reach the mysterious Alien Gateway that will take you to another solar system where adventure and fortune awaits you… OR…. get the highest score possible until you die of space sickness and/or old age. Or maybe I’ll combine the two ideas…

Travel is based on the most efficient way to “realistically” get somewhere the fastest way possible in zero G… and that is to continue speeding up until you get half way, then spin the ship around spend the rest of the trip slowing down. The benefit of this is that if you continue to accelerate at a constant rate you will be pushed into the back of your ship and you will have what feels like Gravity. So the ship in the will be like a building, with engines at the bottom…. that way you will always be pushed into the floor as long as you are either accelerating or decelerating at a constant rate.

That means that instead of a “speed” reading on your U.I you will have an acceleration rate (in “G’s”). Speed is useless in space anyway, because of relativity. If you and your ship are going the same direction at the same speed in zero G, then relative to each other, both you and your ship are stationary. So you don’t set the speed of your ship. Instead you set how long you want to take to get there… You want to get to Jupiter in 5 days? Well then you will have to travel at a certain acceleration/deceleration rate to do that.

I just came up this today, and I’m sort of excited by this one… The Basic mechanic will be Age.  You have a starting health score, minus the cumulative damage from all the perils of space travel divided by your Character’s age…. This gets calculated on a yearly basis. Here’s the Deal….
As you go about your life making deliveries across the solar system there will be 5 main things that will slowly build up and affect your health:
1) Radiation (R): Every time you do an EVA you are not as well protected from the sun’s radiation as you would be in your ship. And the closer you are to the sun the more this will affect you.
2) Gravity Sickness (GS):  Although born and bred in low G, you are still human, and therefore need gravity. The longer you spend in gravity below 0.3g’s then you will add more points to your overall damage.
3) Physical Stress (S): This one is the opposite to gravity sickness. If you push your ship hard and travel at high acceleration rates then you will spend more time in higher gravity… growing up in Low G means that your body is just not equipped to handle too much over 0.3g’s and therefore, although you can survive long trips above that amount, it will take its toll and slowly add to your overall damage
4) Food (F): Pretty simple, for every day your ship’s food reserve are at zero… you add a pretty large number to your overall damage.
5) Water (W): The same as food, for every day without water on your ship, you will add to your damage score… but no water will add a HUGE amount of damage.. so stock up and don’t run out.

Now, with that total damage score we take the starting Health score…lets say, 10,000 and each year, (on your birthday?) the game will minus the damage from the health then dived the answer by your characters age.

So just to run that through an example…. Let’s you are 25 years old in the game when you start so the game says you have 10,000 divided by 25 – So you start with a health score of 400 points…
Then on your first trip to Mars you travel at 0.4g and on the way get hit by a micro meteor and need to do an EVA to patch up the hull. So, lets add 1.3 to your radiation. Plus an hour in Zero G welding up the hole, so for arguments sake, call that 0.1 for gravity sickness. And lets say it took 5 days of travel so that’s 0.1 over your comfortable gravity. So you built up 0.5 (5 days x 0.1) damage on Physical stress. You had plenty of food and water so no need to add any points for that. That makes the Total damage so far : 1.3 + 0.1 + 0.1 + 0.5 = 2

Lets plug that in to our equation:
10,0002 / 25 =  399.92 That would be your health after the first trip to Mars. But that same trip would take a much larger toll when you are 100 years old!

OK, I need to move on, because this post is huge and I still need to talk about the other 2 main mechanics:

The ship will break down. Pipes will bust. components will fail. Micro Meteors will puncture your hull. These will all need to be fixed.. by you. But If you are making all haste towards Europa to pick that load before the contract expires you may need to push the engines and travel at 3 g’s… try getting out of your chair and walking over to that access hatch while you weigh times your normal body weight! So that will mean you need to stop then engines or at least slow down and get the job done. As mentioned earlier, EVA’s will be a part of keeping your ship it tip-top condition.

Loading and Unloading Cargo in different levels of Gravity:
The final game play element will be that at each end of the trip you will need to jump in the forklift and unload or load cargo… but you might be docked at space station that has 0.3g spin gravity…. which means if you go too hard on the forklift controls you might toss the goods in the air and damage them…. uh-oh client wont pay you now… how will you buy more fuel? Ah crap… you loaded all the cargo for stop 2 after loading the cargo for stop 1… which means you need to unload everything to get the back of the shipping container then reload for the next stop… and you are on Earth… the gravity here is killing you…. that’s going to take its toll on your body… especially now that you are 50 years old. (Space is big…. it takes a long time to get places).

This is tied into health, I guess… but since travel to planets could take weeks (and a standard game day might be 10 minutes) Then the game will have a speed up function that will let you sit in your bunk and either sleep or read a book or something… Then game time will be going 100 times faster. BUT… if an event happens that needs your attention the game will revert back to real-time and you will need to solve the problem before heading on your way again. Better get your helmet on… you are venting air and need to find the leak!

Anyway, Hope you like the Idea, I’ll do more posts later, after I have more to show

Stay Frosty!

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