“The bid for the ubiquitous Oxygen Generator design was originally won by a now-defunct sanitation company that had sought to save on costs by adapting existing products. This did not pass muster with the UN and the tender was instead handed over to Dynacore whose sleeker design was quickly added to the repertoire of colonist blueprints.”
Welcome to the Mars4 development blog. Today’s article will be about the Oxygen Generator, perhaps one of the most important machines that a colonist can expect to use on the Red Planet. This machine was one of the earliest to feature in AMAs and faced a few design changes before its current iteration.
It goes without saying that any and all colonists hoping to settle on Mars beyond a single day will naturally need access to breathable air. This portion of the conceptualisation is self-evident, however, this machine was designed to also work alongside the Mars4 building system. Colonists in Mars4 will build shelters to help them survive the martian environment and the Oxygen Generator helps create a pressurised interior by filling a sealed area with breathable air. Part of the Oxygen Generator’s design hinges on the idea that it is a static device intended to create liveable spaces for colonists.
This leads us neatly to a design choice regarding the Oxygen Generator’s name. It was felt that the purpose of a machine in the game should be easy to intuit by players. The Oxygen Generator does not only produce oxygen as a pure oxygen environment would be both toxic and highly flammable, neither of which suit the purposes of colonists looking to settle on Mars. While the machine's name is not 100% accurate to its actual function, it nonetheless captures the idea in a way that most people familiar with video games will recognise.
After the initial brainstorming is complete, the conceptual pieces are finalised and prepared to be passed on to the production team. The original Oxygen Generator aesthetic was intended to evoke functionality with a minimum of embellishment and so consisted of only a reaction tank and a fan. Based on feedback following its deployment in one of the earliest AMAs with Nick, it was decided that the original design might be associated unfortunately with a toilet. As you might well imagine, this was not considered an ideal outcome.
The new version was changed into a more svelte design to make the machine look like it could stand flush against a wall. Inspiration was drawn from modern industrial air conditioning units and this can be seen more clearly around the upper elements of the Oxygen Generator which mimic air outtakes.
‘One of the harder parts of creating near-future science fiction art is designing objects that appear futuristic but also retain enough elements to draw a viewer into understanding its purpose instinctively,’ Spiros.
The production phase saw several subtle changes taken to enhance the machine’s design with an additional thinning of the device to further emphasise the modernity of Oxygen Generator. Depth and additional detail is added to give the 3D model a fuller ‘feel’ to it and you might notice that some elements are shared between this and other Mars4 machines. This is a deliberate choice to make players understand that these machines have a shared design base and this is made clear in the way that the console to interact with the Oxygen Generator and the burner below it are kept the same as other machines. Uniformity of design also lends itself to immersion by demonstrating that these machines were designed to be built and used across the entirety of Mars by each and every colonist.
One of the difficulties with this particular design was the detailing between the components that required significant time to complete. As mentioned before, it is detailing like this that creates an impression of depth and size in a 3D object and helps break the monotony of clean lines and overly smooth surfaces. With the work reaching approval after the efforts of the production team, the Oxygen Generator is then integrated into the game’s engine.
The last step requires the Oxygen Generator to take on the attributes that determine its intended purpose. This involves the development team giving it the standard rules for its physics as a static object, from surface friction to coefficient of restitution. Effectively, the Oxygen Generator is instructed to react to external stimuli in the manner that it should in real life. It is then tied into the building system to allow colonists to construct and place the device.
The Oxygen Generator uses power to generate a breathable atmosphere and so is joint at the hip with the game’s power generation systems. In its current form it is programmed to draw power from energy cells for Mars1, but in later versions of the game (Mars2 onwards) it will draw power from a base’s energy grid. Its power usage is determined by the size of the space it is operating in while the time taken to fill the space is also affected by the volume that must be filled. The machine is also instructed not to function in an unpressurised space and thus a base that loses pressure or the protection of its walls will not continue to enjoy a breathable atmosphere. The creation of a breathable atmosphere also has an important role in the development of crops and the use of more complicated fabricators and assemblers.
It would be no exaggeration to say that a colonist enjoying the comfort of his own base or that of a larger settlement will come to recognise the value of an Oxygen Generator working away to keep his home and settlement pleasant.
We look forward to bringing you the enjoyment of a breathtaking survival game on Mars and the tools to give that breath back.