Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Making Planets

When I set out to create planets I had two goals:

a) I wanted the planets to be totally random, so that when I play the game they are just as new to me as they are to the other players.

b) I needed an application that could do this in significant volume, there is a need for about 375,000 planets.

So I offer a screen shot of a program I call Planet Builder. Using a handful of numbers, the tool creates randomized planets at a rate of about 1 per minute. Luckily I am able to run 5,000 iterations of the tool at a time making it possible to create all the planets needed in less than a day.

The example shown is actually only a partial planet. What you see is a water based planet (all the blue) with the solid land masses defined. Black is just plain land and the white are mountains.

Additional passes would be made in the tool to create resource areas. For example, parts of the map may have gold, iron, platinum, diamonds, etc that players can setup mining camps to harvest.

In terms of gameplay the concept is pretty simple. Speaking only for advanced players with significant skills, it is possible to scan a planet remotely with a probe that will return a list of materials that are available on a planet. If it is decided that there are desirable materials then the player can explore the planet with a landing craft. Flying around the planet the player can survey areas of the planet for specific classes of materials like metals, gems, gasses, etc. The survey computer will then return maps that indicate the areas that could be mined for resources.

The player would then send out additional probes to sample the quality of the resources to determine if it is worth mining.

Players have a choice in the level at which they wish to collect resources. Casual players may use robots to harvest materials, this inexpensive method would return enough material for a player to make some lightweight items for their own use but would be too slow if you plan to build items in mass for resale.

Alternatively you could build a mining camp. Camps have some requirements including security, power sources, transports for the materials, employees and the mining equipment. Other expenses may play a part such as life support for the employees if food is not easily obtainable on the planet or if there is no atmosphere. But the investment may be well worth the extra effort involved in creating a mining colony.

In case you are interested in what parts of the interface mean:
drops = the number of land masses created though the way land is generated 2 drops could run into one another and appear as one drop
passes = the number of moves the tool makes once the cursor hits the canvas
range = a random number is generated between the two numbers and acts as the distance between the current cursor location and the next
size = the brush size that is drawn on the cursor location

In the upper right the numbers refer to the randomness that takes place. Without some alterations to favoring the direction the cursor randomly heads in next, the numbers are even. But it is possible to manipulate it so that the cursor tends to "go south" more than "go north" which can help create planets with funky patterns. 

In practice most numbers in the interface will be randomized within a set of constraints for all planets that are created. Again, I want to play the game and experience every planet seeing them for the first time like any other player. So there are likely to be some really strangely laid out planets in the game. 

Multiple passes are made which draw the planet in a random sort of smudge pattern. The canvas is 1200px square (though this image only shows a 516px version of the app). 

When players locate planets they want to land on or survey an image will be offered that is 300px square (because that's the size of the interface onboard the ship that allows you to view terrain of a planet). The same small image will be used as a "mini map" when traveling on the planet. A horizontal and vertical line will overlap the mini-map to indicate your current position. Even though the planet is displayed as square, what you see if the entire planet flattened out, so when you travel to the right and reach the end, you start back all the way on the left so simulate the square being a round planet. 

Yes, it is a little unrealistic that all planets are 1200x1200 but things can change over time.

As far as exploring the planets, 1 pixel will equal 50px of terrain where your crew takes up 1 pixel. This means that planets are essentially 60k units square. This means that it would take about 15 minutes to circumnavigate a planet in your landing craft and about 3 weeks to walk around it on foot (assuming you can, there's no swimming allowed). 

Thursday, May 22, 2014


From the start the game has been about space exploration. But I've really wanted the game to be about planet exploration. So I've setup the systems to begin planet creation and combine what I consider the two most significant inspirations in creating this game, Exodus Ultima III and Odyssey the Compleat Apventure (spelling is correct).

The premise behind the game has not changed. The ability to place mining colonies on planets and the ability to both harvest natural resources and the need to defend your mining colonies just got added.

More to come...

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Wikipedia is a really odd company or whatever. I post my info here:
Then take the time to create two articles, one for the company, one for the game. I matched the writing style and format of other games posted but they chose to remove my pages.

I understand that they have this problem where people just trash pages all the time putting misinformation. I just think it's lousy for them to pull my content when it is no different than other articles.

I'd still like to be listed in Wikipedia but they also said they prefer someone else to write the article that is not connected to the game/company. So if anyone would like to write it, feel free. Contact me if you would like more info. surrealcoder @

Thursday, May 1, 2014

the story behind release candidate one - part 1

I remember a group of older kids that hung out in the park my house overlooked. They frightened me or maybe it was that my mother made me frightened of them. They smoked, that made them seem cool. They drove beat up cars, that made them seem tough. But I was afraid to go near them. I was told stories about how they do drugs, steal, hurt people and the list of bad things went on for miles. I watched them from my bedroom window but they were pretty far away. At night I could see the glow of cigarettes, hear faded laughter and an occasional beer bottle crack against a wall. I was afraid I would grow up to be one of them but I could not stop watching them. When I stopped watching I wondered what it was like to be in their group but when I watched I was overcome with a feeling of sorrow and regret.

There were times when I would ride my bicycle near enough to get a closer look but far enough away to avoid conflict. I would try and look at them out of the corner of my eye, hoping not to be obviously gawking at them. As I grew up I became bolder, riding my bike closer and being more obvious that I was staring at them. As they grew older my opinion of them changed. They were ugly people, physically and just not people I would want to spend time with.

It was very clear that the rumors of drug use were true. I witnessed the use of heroin, not realizing that's what it was. The thought of sticking a needle into my arm was so foreign to me I couldn't understand why they thought nothing of it. I began to make up names for them, but odd names that evoked the feeling I had when looking at them. There were two girls that stood out the most in the small crowd, an older one looked strange, like an odd face I cannot explain, I called her Glorby, I've no idea where the word came from, but it was her. Another girl, very pretty early on, I called her Summer. I suppose at one point I had a crush on her, but that passed quickly.

I cannot recall when I stopped bothering with them, I'm not even sure why. But I stopped watching, I moved on, I grew up. High school turned into college, then grad school, then a job at a university. My work in experimental physics consumed my life. For years I worked on ideas that I could not easily explain to others and became very secluded in my research. It was very science fiction, even to me.

My research led to an experiment that changed my life. Whisked to an alternate dimension, in an alternate universe that was somehow completely flat, I found myself on a planet identical to earth in every way, at least up until 1966. That's when the hippies took over the planet and changed the rest of history. Or in some ways, didn't change it. I don't really know why or what happened but it took the planet about four hundred years to get from 1966 to 1981. I traveled to the planet a number of times but I remember my first hours there clear as day.

I was in the middle of Central Park in New York City. There was some sort of concert taking place and I can only estimate that it was around 1967. There were hippies everywhere, I was completely out of place. I started to walk away from the festival and found myself winding my way down a path through Strawberry Fields.

As I walked over a small hill I stumbled into a small group, mostly doped up on some combination of LSD and I don't know what. To some extent they reminded me of the group I avoided I the park growing up. But I was drawn to them, or rather I was drawn to the spaceship that was resting on the grass behind them.

The ship was beat up, rusty, a bucket of bolts that looked like instant death if you were to launch it into space but it was covered in the most interesting and colorful blend of day glow paint, swirls, random images and words that I had to walk up and touch it. "Go inside, it's more fun in there," I didn't look at her but I wandered inside, she followed.

I was immediately overcome with a sense of sorrow, fear and anxiety. "Try it out, sit over there," waving me in the direction of the captain's chair. It was not what I expected. Clearly this was not like space ships I ever imagined. She came over to show me the controls, I guess it was obvious to her I had never been inside a ship before.  The control panels were oddly familiar, like mainframe control panels I saw in vintage computer books. It was nothing I expected, no steering wheel, no windows, just a bunch of computer terminals and panels with switches.

"One day you will be experienced, maybe even beautiful, savor the memory of the days you were not," soon after I found myself barely able to stay awake. I walked over to a couch and watched the others file into the control room and take their positions and realized they were preparing to take off. My head felt like it was filled with water. I bobbed back and forth, the feeling was nothing I've ever experienced.

I felt like I was treading water sitting down. I might have been kicking my feet. I was very aware of people staring at me because I was doing stupid things, but I was unaware of what I was doing that was stupid. I started to absorb the reality of where I was sitting and started to understand the different stations on the bridge. I asked lots of questions, nobody answered, they just stared, I wondered if I asked the questions out loud or not.

"What's her name," I just sort of shouted out, I didn't have much control over the volume of my voice and I startled the captain a few feet away. He walked over and put his hand on my shoulder, "the ship? We call her Summer of Love. A little optimism goes a long way in naming a ship that is less than reliable. Cross your fingers, we think she's almost ready to fly. Last couple times didn't go so well. I'm the new captain, this is a new crew, we're really glad you came along for the ride."

"What's going on with my head?" I asked the captain. "Don't worry, that's just Ayam. He's the computer that runs the ship. There was a malfunction before, he put LSD in the ship's water supply and did something screwy with the ventilation system. He's a great computer but has a sick sense of humor."

"Why the name Ayam?"

"It's short for AM3100, Action Man Elite series of talking computers. He doesn't talk much but when he does you ought to listen."

I was feeling the effects of the drugs, nobody else seemed at all phased by the predicament we were in. We were about to take off into space onboard a ship that I really don't think would make it more than ten miles up before crashing back down that was run by a computer that decided it would be fun to drug the crew. I was horrified to think of what could happen next.

There was a loud bang, I think it woke me up, I think I was asleep. The drugs were really winning the war between reality and surrealism in my brain. I could not tell if I was sleeping, dreaming or wide awake. I guess only a minute or two had passed, the captain called across the control room, "Ignition!" and turned to me and said, "you may want to close your eyes."

I took his advice. I imagined I was inside a Ferrari out in the salt flats. I slammed the gas pedal to the floor and was drilled back into my seat. For a brief moment I snapped out of my drugged stupor and was overcome by the same sorrow and regret I used to feel watching those kids in the park. But that quickly passed as I drifted back into a state of amazement realizing that I was zooming through space with a group of hippies aboard the ship "Summer of Love."

It was all I ever wanted.