“There is a wealth of resources buried beneath the surface on Mars, untapped minerals and metals that could become the basis of our new homes and cities. Mankind has come to Mars to create a new Earth and the Caripen GPRV will be critical in establishing it. The future is yours to seize.” - Caripen GPRV operating manual.
Hello and welcome to the last of the development blogs covering the Caripen GPRV’s production. The Caripen Ground Penetrating Radar Vehicle is a heavy-duty exploration and survey vehicle designed to weather the worst that Mars has to throw at colonists and discover the large deposits of mineral wealth that lie beneath the red planet’s dusty surface. The establishment of large colonies and development of lands will require a good amount of resources and the Caripen will take to the task of finding those resources with considerable ease.
The last and final stage of any vehicle that is created by the Mars4 team to roam across the red planet from blue sunset to blue sunrise is the integration stage. This stage revolves entirely around taking the finalised 3D product and introducing it to the game’s engine and systems by coding in its appropriate stats and physics. This stage also involves a period of testing for the vehicles to ensure they are working as intended and that they ‘feel’ right.
The first step involves tying in the vehicle to the physics of the game. For the beginning point this includes, as mentioned in prior development blogs, the attribution of the Caripen GPRV’s weight, friction, and coefficient of restitution. Most of these will not be immediately noticeable by colonists who will use the vehicle as these seemingly minor details are easily taken for granted. The weight of the Caripen determines its responsiveness to external forces including gravity. Colonists will no doubt be aware that the Caripen’s size makes it unsuitable for stunts. Applying friction to the surfaces of the Caripen is a slightly longer process as each surface of the 3D model must be handled appropriately. Naturally, you’d expect the smoother, rounded edges of the survey dome to have slightly less friction than the heavy-duty wheels designed to find grip across the Martian surface.
Friction and weight work together to give each vehicle a relative momentum when impacted by forces and help create immersion by matching what a player expects when the vehicle is operating.
The team then goes on to set the CoR (coefficient of restitution). The CoR determines how ‘bouncy’ a surface is. If this was to be set extremely high, for example, a collision between a colonist and the vehicle might propel the vehicle away at high speeds. For the purposes of determining the vehicle’s CoR, the team has to handle each surface and component separately. The heavy-duty wheels of the Caripen have a relatively higher CoR than the vehicle’s chassis or metal suspension. The CoR also helps the physics engine determine the right response when one object interacts with another, this can apply to actual collisions at speed or just a simple effect such as one object lying atop another.
From there, the team moves to establish the vehicle’s in-game handling. This segment of work covers all the statistics that govern the Caripen’s performance, from top-speeds and acceleration rates to torque and turning circles. This section has the greatest visual effect on a player’s immersion and it goes without saying that the Caripen’s performance is weighted towards giving a sense of its scale. The GPRV will not accelerate as fast as the Click-Beetle for example, nor will it handle as well. These efforts help ensure the Caripen’s role as a heavy and durable surveyor will be felt even when operating the enormous vehicle at speed. As the Caripen is designed to be an all-terrain vehicle, it will also feature better off-road handling and hill-climbing capabilities, though please bear in mind this does not mean it can drive up a cliff.
The penultimate stage has the team work on the Caripen’s game-based statistics. In this case, these are the interactive elements of the model. At the most basic level, the Caripen needs to be accessible by colonists who choose to enter it and must follow the same rules that other Mars4 vehicles use. The GPRV needs a fuel burn rate, effectively an energy consumption rate for the vehicle’s power source as well as an interactable inventory with which to display and hold the vehicle’s fuel. The team then needs to ensure the Caripen can be driven by colonists who enter the vehicle and that its most important feature works: the survey dome. The Caripen’s main feature is its ability to scan large areas of Mars’ landscape to detect resource-rich veins and minerals.
The final stage of the Caripen’s creation sees the finishing touches applied in the form of immersive feedback. When a colonist operates a vehicle on Mars or uses a tool, there needs to be some visual and audio cues to inform them when actions are taking place. This can include running lights along the cockpit, engine sounds and differing timbres to indicate various stages of speed or force. However, this can also include the more subtle effects. If a colonist has driven onto a rock formation, the feedback should be obvious visually and audibly. When enduring a Martian radiation hazard or driving through a dust-devil several kilometres tall, again the colonist needs to be given appropriate visual and audio feedback so that at any given time the player can feel as if he or she were truly at the wheel of this industrial rover.
Once the final stage is completed, the vehicle is considered ready for deployment and addition to the Mars4 game. However, while it is functionally complete, the team will rely on player feedback to determine whether any additional tweaks are needed to better perfect the GPRV.
The Caripen GPRV represents the first step towards building a better world on Mars and will allow colonists to search every nook and cranny for the red planet’s rich rewards.