Nov 4, 2006

Tasks that we need help with

How is the concept for the game?

  • Is it fun enough?
  • How do we make it more challenging/dangerous/aligned to the objectives of learning?
  • Should we introduce more danger?

Find 10-20 images of moon terrain

  • Pictures of rocks
  • Realistic colors of ground
  • What footprints look like
  • Concentrate on getting things that look dusty

Find a realistic height map of moon terrain

  • This should be from a scientific source, so we can build a realistic ground
  • Is the terrain I currently have good enough?
  • Try to find some that has craters in it

Find pictures of different rovers and moon vehicles

  • Should we use existing rovers?
  • Something that we design?
  • Something more sci-fi ish
  • We could have up to 3 vehicles, as they take a long time to get correct

Describe each vehicle

  • How tough would it be?
  • How fast would it go?
  • What’s it’s exact purpose? Collecting rocks? Erecting buildings?
  • How should vehicles behave on the moon where there is 1/6 gravity?
  • What happens if vehicles freeze or get too hot? Not work? Engines wont start? Seats melt?
  • How much oxygen can each vehicle have? How does astronaut breath this? If a astronaut can hold 100 oxygen in his suit, and vehicle can hold 1000 or 5000, does vehicle transfer oxygen to astronaut when he leaves? So, I can recharge my suit by climbing into a vehicle?
  • Can vehicles “jump” or have a speed boost? Which ones would be aimed at going over crater walls?
  • Should we have some sort of drone that’s remote controlled for exploring or pushing a vehicle or pulling it out of a hole or for carrying resources?

Describe each building

  • How many should we have?
  • What should each do? Things without animations are ideal… so if the texture on the outside explains what it does, the better.
  • How much resources should each cost to build?
  • How long should it take to build them?
  • How big are they? Hundreds of feet? Man-sized? Ginormous?
  • Does the building have any “pre-requisites”? Does a mineral processor need an electrical plant first? If so, how do we make the first buildings?

Describe the minerals

  • Are the ones above sufficient? Is a “minerals gathering” game fun?
  • Should all minerals be mined from rocks? Some from the ground?
  • Should the player be able to mine directly from the rock or only in a rover? Can the player carry resources?
  • Once resources are close to a building or site, is that enough to create a new building? Does the astronaut need to carry them in? What can we do that’s realistic but not boring?
  • What colors should each resource be?
  • Should there be an icon of each? Should each have a specific weight so that the rover can only carry X total?

How should we interface with the Moon Base?

  • Do we drive up to it and then get an overhead (SimCity-like) screen? Do we have each building be a big 3D object or an icon on a map?
  • What does the interface to the moon base look like? How do you pick which buildings to create?

What do you all think?
Is this fun and educational?


Sophia said...

I think that the person should have to go out on the moon and collect moon rocks, fix things, ect. Once you get a certin amount of rocks, fix something or answer a question you should be able to upgrade your equipment.
Incoming messages from earth should tell what the mission is.
One side of the moon should have rockets coming from earth with supplies that you should have to bring back to the moon base.
After a day of working on the moon you should be able to go inside a moon base to sleep and maybe eat.

Jay Crossler said...

I like the idea of having rocket supplies coming from earth, I'll add that.

Maybe having the astronaut have to mine the moon rocks would work as well as having a specialized rover to do it... possibly pick up the rocks, then bring them to the rover and drive them back to base.

Mike said...

If the main goal is to provide an educational tool as a precursor to a space camp, then I have a couple of suggestions for you to consider:

1. Resource management is the key element they'll need to learn as an astronaut. In space, there's no McDonald's or Quik-E-Mart, no Rockets-R-Us or any neighbors to help hoist that broken engine out of the rover. Consequently, future manned expeditions would not likely require astronauts to lift minerals, haul supplies - rather, such items would employ automated and autonomous machinery. Such items would require careful consideration of deployment - strategic and tactical - in order to avoid damage and to maximize their efficiency. There was a game out in the early 80's put out by a company called Binary Systems -- the game was called "StarFlight" and it involved a similar concept: Go explore the surface of the planet(s), exploit the resources, blast off and sell the resources for profit...outfit your craft with better equipment.

So this brings up humbly suggested item #2...

2. Unlike the "beat-the-commies" theme of the 50's and 60's, space exploration today is more of a scientific endeavour. Recent deployments support the notion of less manual labor and more automation. Additionally, if there is to be a future moon base it'll most likely be a joint venture between government and private industry due to the costs and _nature_ of the goals. The nature of such exploration / base building would likely be less science and more industry driven, since science acts more like a scout for industry. Industry would follow a discovery of something new and valuable - valuable enough to drive a very costly and dangerous mission to distant planets. Therefore, to keep the game interesting, I don't see why you couldn't add a 'corporate' spin to some of the lunar operations. Instead of simply battling the wildly dangerous elements that kids / youths / untrained adults would be hopelessly ill-equipped to face, provding a competitive incentive in addition to some of the elemental forces would help keep kids focused.

Kids aren't going to enjoy dying six times over just to watch an animation.. but they will glue themselves to the computer for hours if you reward them by opening up new realms - new areas - new ships - new capabilities. Things that allow them to explore further, faster, with less effort (danger etc.)

I'd also want to try to work in an early decision process that requires each player to choose a company to work for. Each will have its plusses/minuses. e.g. Company A has an affiliate aerospace sub-contractor that enables them to outfit their machines and rockets with bigger boosters and faster engines...but the pay is miserable, or the equipment tends to break down if mistreated. Whereas Company B has slower craft, but their affiliate is a military sub-contractor, enabling them to build HUM-V sturdy rovers, better shielding and less fragile craft. Pay still pitiful ;-)

This way, the players make a choice what advantages / disadvantages more suit their own personalities and independant dispositions.

For instance - I played Dynamix -come Starseige - TRIBES years back, and always played as an engineer in a defensive position. Our 'tribe' made it to #8 on the OGL; few could win a battle against me as an engineer...but if I outfitted as a scout or heavy, I was easy pickings.

Jay Crossler said...

The ties into industry are very interesting ideas. I want to minimize the amount of art assets and 3D objects I have to create -- they take quite a long time. So, I'd like to convery some of the same concepts of making choices with large ramifications, but reduce the amount of graphics added.

Also, we might be able to sell sponsorship to the real defense companies to get advertising within the game -- something I'll work on with our sponsors.

The goal definately is to teach the choices involved in this -- that it's not childs play, and that there are reamifications. But, this needs to be done with the least amount of programming/coding possible to make sure we meet our Summer deadline. Of course, we could get creative and have things like different light colors be used for different factions... and have each faction have different goals.

Any suggestions for what those goals should be?

Mike said...

Hi Jay

I understand the digital asset problem - they are time consuming, and just like the real thing, the sim you're building will be impacted by your choices. I might be of some assistance with the digital assets, let's see where this goes anyway.

I don't know that the goals need be all that different between factions. We all enjoy competition - this is the theme I'm trying to convey - and as such, our goals must be somewhat in alignment. If I'm racing my hotrod truck against yours, I want to make it to the finish line _before_ you do, and your goal is much the same.

Having a moon base would be useful for a launch pad for deeper space missions: overcoming earth's lovely gravatic well costs lots of energy. The moon offers a viable launch site only if the energy used to propel/drive the exploration/mining craft is developed or produced on the moon itself, and not brought from earth.

I'm sure you're well aware of all this, but I tend to think as I type ;-)

I gather you already have a goal, but if it's not already a goal or a part of the game, how about energy development? Transport viable fuels could be synthesized from material derived in mining operations - and the synthesis plant(s) could be powered by everything from those suspected volanic fumaroles, solar power to imported mini nuclear generators. Each option of course, has pros and cons. (e.g. Solar is only good in the hostile climate of the sun, puts out less than nuclear but costs less to deploy. Nuclear costs a lot, takes longer to deploy but will run on the dark side of the moon. Fumaroles are free, but subject to intermittent power generation etc...)

Ultimately, the goal might be to produce enough fuel to power one or more manned space flights to mars or other locales. Factions compete to be the first to launch their craft, thus being able to stake an early claim on the resources of the destination.

Part of the fun with the TRIBES game was being able to fly over the terrain in addition to driving over it. A similar concept might be employed using a small lunar hopper - a single occupant vehicle with the capacity to lift some equipment and strategically deploy it to tap into power sources or mineral deposits. This item wouldn't be cheap to create obviously - 3D modeling and some scripting would be involved, but the result would prove to be a good dimension to the game. You could reward the player with one delivered by their employer / government for being ahead of schedule in their production efforts, or they could choose one over a land rover plus additional equipment at the beginning...

Mike said...

Just had one last thought.

Perhaps the largest single goal would be to gather a newly discovered material. One so valuable that the benefits of gathering it must far outweigh the cost and risk of going to Mars in order to get it.

Ideas in this vein:

A new metallic element so light and so abundant that enough material to replace the golden gate bridge could be brought back in a single mission.

An energetic material that makes nuclear power obsolete

A magetic ore that when concentrated has enough gauss to levitate heavy objects off the ground...

Jay Crossler said...

Mike, I like your ideas. I'll rewrite the Game Design doc to include many of them.

I think having a set of goals is good - rather than just first to build enough 'stored energy' to launch to Mars. I think you're onto something with having a goal for "explorer archetypes", where people get rewarded for finding more minerals. Perhaps for finding them, marking them, and selling the maps of those deposits on a market for future miners? Another goal could be to have an economy of sorts (possibly completely simulated), with buy-orders coming in for mineral orders from Earth. Possibly other points for 'testing out' new equipment?

I admit when I started the design, I thought 'one big NASA-like organization being the sole benefactor'. But, I'm starting to like your multi-pronged approach.

theoE said...

the game needs to have more risk for the character. the character should lose energy and when he does he should have to go bak to base and eat or eat something he has in his supply. and you should be able to design your own astronaut.

theoE said...

i think you have a solid base for a good game.For a first draft, i think its turning out great,

As for the questions, i like the concept (though it is evident that its not completly original) and as development continues, i think it will be more fun. I think by adding detail (hunger,fatigue etc) you could make this game more challenging. Perhaps several difficulty levels? As for danger, i think there are alot of realist things you can add into this game posing as a possible threat (how about meteors and maybe even aliens?)

As for the design, ilove the fact that it is in 3d. the textures are pretty realistic and i see this project becomming more and more realistic as time goes on. I think the buildings could be a little taller and the vehicles still need alot of work.

AS for the camera, i like the default veiw however, when entered a vehicle on the map, i hated the default view and in thats case, i would use more of a birdseye view camera.

I think this project has alot of potencial, can't wait for more improvements

theoE said...

No speed boosts for the car. Definitely have a drone!

Jay Crossler said...

Thanks. I'll see what I can do for changing the perspective with the vehicle. I'm working on adding a few vehicles, and trying to get mining to work correctly.

I'm also putting a radar in, so that you can tell where base is.

What should vehicles look like? Can you draw some pictures?

Anonymous said...

i think there should be diffrint bases for example, energy base, health base, diffrint others to run your base. also have other people walking around the base doing jobs.
have weather in the game so it look more alive. also make diffrint cars, jetpacks,spaceships. also add other bases around the planet so you could become friends or trade things to help you with your base. you could also have visiters from other planets so you could make money to buy things you need.

neftimiades said...

The kids I have spoken to do not like thidea of an overhead viiew.

neftimiades said...

How abour havinng the astronaut go to an automated base to pick up refined materials e.g. oxygen from soil, minerals, helium 3. etc. He/she could transport materials back to the main base or repair broken machines.

neftimiades said...

The terrain is excellent.

neftimiades said...

I think the vehicle should be a bit futuristic but realistic - meaning it needs to be a "frame" to save on weight. It should be used to move to places to transport sceitific equipment and to haul mined materials. An optional plow could help create some roads.
The rover should be tough but not indestructable. Perhaps a jet packtype "short hop" vehicle could transport astronauts short distances when they don't need to carry materials. I'll check for some rover pictures and some of short hop type vehicles.

Jay Crossler said...

I'll work on rethinking how the bases would work, maybe so we can have multiple bases. I agree that we need lighter vehicles, as transporting mass is unnecessary when small and light vehicles would work well on the moon.

I won't do an overhead city view of the base (or, do you mean that you don't like the over-the-shoulder astronaut view?)