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Monthly Archives: February 2014

This is the first post in the “Tangent” series, wherein I spew a short ramble about an intended (or in progress) feature to help better explain the finer details of numerous intended features of the game.

Quite quickly after the decision to move the game back to an unspecified time in the early 70s came a new idea in how to handle in-game music: vinyl. That is to say, as opposed to a normal ingame soundtrack of randomly played pieces of music, the player can freely pick and choose from a collection of vinyl records, and assemble a “playlist” of sorts via their Legmann 9600 Automatic Multi-Disk Turntable, which will then go through them in the order chosen by the player (and loop back around when it’s done). These records come from a “starter collection” of a variety of genres, but more can be purchased with in-game money via a phone-order system from the local record store.

Internally, this is intended as a very flexible and moddable system. A record, in the file system, is simply: 1. a collection of audio files, divided into two “side” folders, 2. a label image, 3. a sleeve image, and 4. a config file linking all of the previous elements together. This means that any music can be put into the game by the player inclined to do so, as long as it’s in the correct format.

On a side note to this, I also hope to release the game’s soundtrack in lossless format via bandcamp or something, with a means to put those files into the game to replace the inevitably-low-quality ones distributed with the game.

In this post I’m going to be talking about some stuff not covered in the game info page. Specifically, more detailed workings of the microverse, both in-game and behind the scenes.

 

Universe Map

 
To start off, at the top level of existence, there are two known universes – our universe[1], and the Microverse. The two are completely separate, both living out their lives in peace with the dimensional gap between them undisturbed until the player’s advanced technology forms a bridge between them. Below each universe is the familiar hierarchy of space, with galaxies, stars, planets, and so on. For purposes of the game (and sanity), the only area of our universe the player has access to is the MEA complex just outside St. Louis. Most areas of the Microverse, however, are accessible to the player’s spacecraft.

To begin the process of ripping space a new one, a set of coordinates (or a text string) is entered into the Universal Translation Matrix (or whatever it’s called), which locates the nearest galaxy to those coordinates, then a star roughly near the middle of that galaxy, whereupon it spits the player out into open space. Due to the nature of the UTM, however, each coordinate is only linked to one location – as in, entering that coordinate will always bring the entry point to that location. Each galaxy, in effect, has a “home base”, that any incoming traffic will end up in.

From that point, the spacecraft is now considered to be inside the single massive space that is the chosen galaxy, and is now free to fly around. Given intergalactic distances here can approach real-world light years, galaxies are, internally, considered to be wholly independent from one another, and no travel between them is possible without retargeting the UTM and sending things through the new portal. While intergalactic travel isn’t possible, interstellar travel is. As interstellar distances are only on the order of hundreds to thousands of kilometers, they’re easily navigable over non-geological timescales by properly-equipped small spacecraft.

When leaving[2] a solar system to go visit another, at a certain point the current system will quietly be unloaded, vessels in it frozen, and the time of departure marked. When arriving at a new system, the new planets will be loaded up, and any vessels have their motion in your absence (from the last saved time up til now) calculated. If a vessel is found to have intersected a planet, it will be stopped, “backed up” a bit along its trajectory, before being simulated normally in a quick, low fidelity fashion (accuracy is less important in this case given you aren’t watching)[3]

Near the bottom of the hierarchy lies the humble planet. In this case, a collection of fluff and rocks[4] and stuff grabbed by a gravity core that vaguely resembles what we call in our universe a “planet”. As could be expected, in comparison to interstellar travel, interplanetary travel is trivial – minimal delta-v is required given the small dimensions of solar systems (although, more may be necessary in the event rapid transit is desired). Planets, as one might surmise, come in a variety of flavors – airless balls of rock, balls of rock with a bit of gas on them, balls of rock with a lot of gas on them, balls of semi-molten rock, balls of rock with trees and animals and angry grass, and so on and so forth.

Lastly, at the very bottom of the space barrel, are all the bits of fluff drifting around in deep space. These range from pebbles to full-blown asteroids, as well as extremely volatile, explosive rocks that have come to be known as “comets” due to the tails they make when approaching a star. That’s not to say there are only rocks out there, however. Even in the Microverse, space is a big place, so who knows what you’ll (figuratively and/or literally) run into…

 

[1]Technically not our universe. The actual designation is UnivPrime4, a similar but distinct and different version of the real world (UnivPrime1). Among differences are a strange continent layout for Earth, Apollo having 19 missions, and the Beatles not breaking up until the early 1990s.

[2]“Leaving” is determined from distance, based on the overall system size – after you’re past the most distant planet plus around ten kilometers.

[3]This is only a preliminary concept for how to solve the problem of spacecraft crashing while you’re away… we’ll see how it works in practice eventually.

[4]Destructible fluff and rocks~

Umbra