Ultimate space simulation software

 
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SpaceEngineer
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Gameplay concept

29 Oct 2016 07:52

Briefly

Spaceflights
Use real physics for interplanetary flights - computing orbits, acceleration/deceleration burns, landing on planets and taking off, docking with mothership or space station. All can be done using autopilot or manual controls.

Exploring
Using telescopes, radars, spectrometers, etc. to obtain data about stars and planets from distance. Mapping a planet's surface by orbital survey: landscape model, mineral distribution, atmosphere composition and properties. Launching automatic probes to quickly mp all planets in the system. Deploying landing probes, taking ground/water/air samples. Driving remote controlled rovers. Landing on a planet in an aerospace shuttle, flying under the ocean surface with aircraft-like controls, walking in a space-suit, driving in a rover, and using ground buildings.

Harvesting
Collecting hydrogen from gas giant upper atmosphere for ship's engines with magnetic ram-scoop. Collecting minerals from asteroids/planets with harvester ships and transporting them to building sites.

Building
Constructing modules for the mothership or an entire ship on orbit using minerals from harvesters and nanoassemblers (nano-robots) or "3D printer". Constructing/upgrading mothership with dockable modules. Constructing utility ships or small modules in onboard nano factories. Constructing ground buildings with nanoassemblers using local materials. Self-repairing of constructions using smart nanomaterials or nanorobots. Manual repairing in some difficult cases.

Colonization
Building bases, domes, cities on planets or building space stations. Building passenger ships and transporting NPC citizens to new colonies. Building orbital fuel stations, a fleet of harvesters, orbital factories, etc. Probably: terraforming.

Development
Importing new models and scripts, with moderation on the main site. Development of scripts for autopilot, defense systems, and warships. In-game exchange and trading of created content between players.

Player-To-Player interaction
Exploring, harvesting, building, colonization in cooperation. Help with repair and evacuation. Server database will save the name of the pioneer of a system/planet and names that he/she gives to them. Trading with ships, colonies, resources, new models and scripts, and programs. Player-vs-player fights in space or on a planet using realistic physics (very hard and expensive).

Details

The player starting with a big starship with a certain degree of autonomy. The ship can make interstellar flights to nearby stars (or rather, to the stars whose relative speed is not greater than 50 km/s - more on that below), carries a bunch of probes and 1-2 shuttles to land on the planets, and has a small onboard plant for the production of equipment and modules. During the game, the ship can be upgraded, but up to a certain limit. When a player accumulates enough money, he can buy a better ship, with a greater degree of autonomy and "range" of flight. Some ships have a modular design, i.e. theoretically can be completely reconstructed, some do not allow upgrading (e.g., atmospheric shuttles). A player can have a lot of ships and manage them remotely from the ship or station, where he is today (like in strategy games). Communications are instant regardless of distance.

The center line of the gameplay is research. The ship is equipped with multiple scientific instruments - telescopes, radars, spectrometers, descend probes, etc. To explore the planet, you have to launch several probes into its orbit, and wait a few days of real time while probes will make a lot of turns around the planet and will map the entire surface of it. The longer probed the planet, the more detailed information you will get (eg, elevation map and distribution of minerals). To get detailed information about the surface conditions - temperature, pressure, etc., you must launch several landers, including remotely controlled rovers, or land yourself using the shuttle (if the environment is not too extreme). Probes can be destroyed by high pressure and temperature, acid clouds, etc. The accuracy of the data depends on the equipment available to the probe. It is possible to take samples, including biological, and bring them to the main ship's onboard laboratory for more detailed investigation, or move to the other players or to a planet with NPC scientists.

The main worth are unusual and new discoveries - the planet with extreme conditions, planet with life, planet suitable for colonization, double black holes, etc. The player can give names to stars, planets, geographic features he have discovered, and type descriptions for them. This information is stored on the server and displayed to other players when they come into the system. Through the server, you can search the planets and other objects by any set of parameters, i.e. the ranges of size, weight, distance to the star, etc, like in the Star browser in the current SE version. But in the game, the search will perform only in a database of objects which was studied by players. The player may decide not to add his discovery to the open database system, ie make his discovery private, but then the rights to name the planets will be given to another player if he accidentally discover this system independently.

In addition to research abilities, the ship will have ability to manufacture various stuff using 3D printing and nanoassembly. In particular, good plants can produce the parts of a new plants or a new ship, which then can be assembled by robots. A bunch of various resources are necessary for production - different chemical elements that can be extracted from asteroids, comets and planets using bots or harvesters. The plant can also be built on the planet. In addition to the plant, it is possible to construct various buildings, ranging from the climate station and ending with a full-fledged colony or city. Construction time depends on the amount of work and on the speed of delivery of the resources. For example, a small probe can be made on the ship within 10 minutes, but a colony on the planet is built for many months or years (of real time). Stopping of delivering of some resource suspend the construction.

Colonies are populated by NPC people and can bring certain benefits to the player. For example, cheap or very fast refueling, repair and construction; set crew for expeditions (affects the speed and quality of operation in laboratories and factories). Transportation NPC's to populate the colony from another planet on a passenger ship (including automatic ones) also makes a profit. The quantity and quality of suitable NPC crew members depends on the population of the colony. In dependence on natural conditions and level of development of the civilization on the planet, it may have a small base with two robots or a thousands of cities with a 10 billion population. The most populated planets in the beginning of the game are the Earth and 10-20 its first stellar colonies.

Physics of the spaceflight is the realistic as possible: Newtonian mechanics, gravity, aerodynamics. Main engines are jet, antigravity will not be used in SE universe. The realistic physics yields to the concepts of the specific impulse, the propellant expense rate, orbital maneurs, etc. Therefore, the complexity of any research or resource extraction will be determined by the delta-V quantity - the total changing of the ship's the speed needed to complete the mission. For example, to exit from the Earth's low orbit to the interplanetary flight, you need 3 km/s of the delta-V. For take-off from the surface of Mars to its orbit you need 3.5 km/s (orbital speed) and additional 2 km/s to lift up and exit the atmosphere. To harvest ammonia from that comet, you need 18 km/s and 6 months of time, but to harvest ammonia from this icy moon, you need 45 km/s and just 2 days - the choice is yours. Nearby stars are moving at a speed of 20-30 km/s relative to each other, but there are stars as fast as 100 km/s in solar vicinity. Stars on the other side of the galaxy in general are moving at a speed of 500 km/s relative to the Sun. The hyperdrive allows the fast (several minutes long) flights between stars, but it will save the physical speed of the ship. Therefore, if the maximum delta-V of the ship is just 50 km/s, these fast or distant stars can not be reached (more precisely, you will have not enough fuel to brake your ship near their planets without using air-braking). The amount delta-V is determined by the fuel tanks volume, by the specific impulse of the engines, and by the vehicle's weight (so thin framework constructions are more benefit than heavy shielded hull).

Controls over the ship can vary from hardcore fully manual (in reality it is almost impossible and very risky to control the spacecraft manually) to fully automatic - the player simply selects the target, ask the computer to calculatу the most evvective or most fast course, and launches the autopilot. It also will be an "intermediate" solution - semi-automatic mode, where player will make some actions manually, but with prompt from the computer (like in Orbiter). In some cases, manual control is more convenient (for example, an overview flight over the terrain in the shuttle). During the long automatic flight, player can switch to control another ship factory, colony, take analysis over the data collected by the probes, communicate with another players, etc.

In addition to resources for construction, you need a working body (propellant) for ship's engines. Normally this is a hydrogen, which may be produced or collected in different ways. The easiest way is purchase it at a orbital fuel station near Earth or any advanced colony. But rather good ships can collect it themselves - extract hydrogen from ice of a comets or icy moons using harvesters, or collect from atmospheres of a gas giants with a magnetic air intake. Different methods and different models of the ships could do it at different speed and efficiency. The fastest way is to replace an empty propellant tank with a full one at a fuel station (5 minutes), the longest way is to collect hydrogen from atmosphere of a gas giant (many days). At some point, the player could build their own fuel station with a fleet of automatic harvesters running between the station and gas giant or icy moon, and take profit from other players by allow them to refuel on his station. But in the long expeditions in an unexplored system, you have to carefully monitor the propellant expense rate, to prevent finding yourself with empty tanks without the possibility to return to the civilization.

In such case, you can switch to another ship and bring it to the one which is stuck without fuel, and refuel it. Or you can call the other player to help you. The ship can be damaged or even destroyed, if you pilot it careless. Ship can perform minor repairs by itself, but serious damage may require the assistance of other ships or players (for example, if the ship can not move due to destruction of the engines). If the player's character was in the ship when it was destroyed (for example, by an unsuccessful landing or docking) he dies, and his property (ships, stations, bases) goes "inheritance." This mean what player can create a new character with new name, which will inherit the property of the died one. Also, ships and space station, bases and colonies on the planets can be damaged and destroyed by natural disasters, such as meteor shower or volcano eruption.
 
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Quarior
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Re: Gameplay concept

04 Nov 2016 08:54

SpaceEngineer, I love the concept, but I can not find if the player controls a single character (like Minecraft, Space Engineers) or more (like Age of Empire, Empire Earth) and the view to the first and/or third person (put a keyboard key as V).
So even if I think it's unrealistic, artificial stars, planets, moons like my system Saverous it is possible ?
And also, how do you the modded areas (galaxies, systems) ? For I presume that all players must have the same data, or if it is not downloaded but if the player is close enough to notice, there is a window that appears when he wants downloaded or not, if yes , great, if not, there will be an invisible barrier around the modded area concerned (he does not see the modded zone) or no barrier but does not see it anyway, will be an instanced area, otherwise there I presume would be a problem.
 
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SpaceEngineer
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Re: Gameplay concept

04 Nov 2016 14:37

Quarior wrote:
SpaceEngineer, I love the concept, but I can not find if the player controls a single character (like Minecraft, Space Engineers) or more (like Age of Empire, Empire Earth) and the view to the first and/or third person (put a keyboard key as V).

User will have a single "character" (a human), and not control it directly. There will be no animated human models, because it is too complex for an indie developer. Player will control its ships, can switch between them and take a direct control (in the "first person" mode or "third person" mode, like now) or give an orders (like in strategy games). His "character" can be on board of one ship, or stay on the ground in some building. Boarding will be "virtual", i.e. there will be just a button in the menu: "Board character to the ship". If the ship which carried the character crashed, then character dies, and player must create a new character, which will inherit all ships from previous character, but not its name (it's like forced change of the nickname in the game, so players must be careful).

Quarior wrote:
So even if I think it's unrealistic, artificial stars, planets, moons like my system Saverous it is possible ?

There will be some manually-made systems for sure. At least our Solar system with some terraformed planets and moons. And some extrasolar systems with human colonies, which was established in the pre-warp era (when humanity had no warp drive technology, and starships was sub-luminal).

Quarior wrote:
And also, how do you the modded areas (galaxies, systems) ?

Mods will not load in the multiplayer mode, obviously. They probably will be supported in the single player mode, but not in the online.
 
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Quarior
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Re: Gameplay concept

04 Nov 2016 14:51

SpaceEngineer wrote:
Quarior wrote:
So even if I think it's unrealistic, artificial stars, planets, moons like my system Saverous it is possible ?

There will be some manually-made systems for sure. At least our Solar system with some terraformed planets and moons. And some extrasolar systems with human colonies, which was established in the pre-warp era (when humanity had no warp drive technology, and starships was sub-luminal).

SpaceEngineer, I meant a civilization able to create stars, planets. I did not think the question of terraforming first time.
However I still have one, sorry. I would like to know since you mention if there will be war of weapons capable of annihilating planets (Death Star, Starkiler,...), although in truth, I did not really want the also see unless, for example to prevent a massive object that collided and threatens civilization.
Otherwise, thanks for this information.
 
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Re: Gameplay concept

04 Nov 2016 19:56

If exploration's the name of the game, there needs to be some rare, Stellaris-style anomalies and lore nuggets to keep things fresh and interesting, make the days of travel time worth it, and give us something really worth studying. There'll be billions of deserts and selenas, and even terras with life might get samey after a while. I'm talking some out-of-the-box stuff like silicon-based life, old alien arcologies, glowing crystals, maybe a ringworld or two. Weird curveballs to make you go 'Wow, what else is out there!?'
 
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Gameplay concept

22 Nov 2016 16:06

Hello SpaceEngineer. Long time lurker here. i'm dropping by just to chime in in the part where you talked about the character not being controllable, i am also an indie dev and Space Engine astounds me. i really wish i could use it to make games but i digress. i'm sure you can find talented people to work with in that department. as far as i can tell, you already have proper collisions working in the planets, what would be the obstacles in implementing an actual player character? would it be the art? or does the engine not support skinned mesh rendering? i'm sure you could really crowdsource the art if you wanted, and for free even. hell, i'd do it for free. so, what are the hurdles?
 
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SpaceEngineer
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Gameplay concept

24 Nov 2016 05:27

The terrain collision is not "proper", it is approximate. Collision detection with ship mesh is not implemented. Skinned animated models are not supported. A lot of work must be done :)

Also, how can I animate astronaut models in weightlessness, in Moon gravity, in centrifugal gravity? I think there no motion capture exist for these conditions. And artist-made animations would not look natural.
 
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Gameplay concept

25 Nov 2016 09:27

oh....

well, you could make it simulated when in 0G. basically IK+spring joints. space engineers does this to an extent, also star citizen. it doesnt need to look *perfect*, but an approximation like that would definitely do. 

edit - 

and you can always have a few sets of anims and blend them to get even more anims. thats one of the tricks that my team is using on our current game to get lots of animations done in very little time.
 
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Gameplay concept

15 Dec 2016 01:35

SpaceEngineer wrote:
Also, how can I animate astronaut models in weightlessness, in Moon gravity, in centrifugal gravity?

You could do what KSP does: You always have a jetpack on your back and you use it for moving when you're not standing on the ground.
Yeah, it does look weird when you're inside a spaceship, but, waiting for some good artists to make some quite natural animations, it would not be such a bad thing.  :)
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Gameplay concept

31 Dec 2016 01:16

Have you guys seen Infinity BattleScape?
Space Engineer please don't hate me for asking that. But you could do the same, and you have the whole universe !
And they don't even have VR either. And yours would be better. And, I'm going to stop typing now.
 
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Gameplay concept

31 Dec 2016 06:57

If I recall correctly, SpaceEngineer actually supported the Kickstarter funding campaign. I'm sure his intent is doing better.
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T Man42
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Gameplay concept

31 Dec 2016 10:48

This would be amazing all around.  Not totally dissimilar to what I am imagining as well! 
 
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Gameplay concept

28 Jan 2017 11:55

Imagine building superstructures, Like Dyson swarms or giant artificial rings around a planet.
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Gameplay concept

29 Jan 2017 07:47

Exciting concept. But isn't it too heavy on servers? All these calculations, that are needed for each resource, each ship, each planet, in close to real time, for tens of players, may be a little bit overboard.
There's something, what's I'm missunderstanding?
Too many words.
Too little sense.
 
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Gameplay concept

29 Jan 2017 08:14

As far as I know, server interaction should be limited to bursts of data at most, you'd just need a fast database structure and fair latency for the connections, which I think it's usual in games today. Maybe some mirrored servers, to shorten the routes. The rest should be calculated locally by clients, our PCs, only when something is needed in response to our actions. Just like it's doing now, only with a server storing our actions in case we bump in someone else's doings.
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