Hello from the Mars4 team!
Today we are delighted to introduce our third AMA with Nick, our game development director. This month's AMA stream also featured live gameplay with Nick and an introduction to Machines. These craftable devices govern a colonist's survival in various ways from the arc furnace that helps refine materials harvested from Mars to the heaters and oxygen generators that make a space habitable and provide sufficient atmospheric pressure. The questions brought up by the community can be found below.
You can take a look at the recording of the AMA here.
Will food have an expiration date?
No, probably not. We do have the systems in place to do this and technically it would be easy to implement. However, as a game developer, I think it is important not to be malicious towards our players and this is one of those design choices that might feel unnecessarily cruel given the fact that food can be bought and sold as a commodity on Mars4.
That being said, I could see some situations where expirations might come in use, for example leaving crops on the vine indefinitely would cause them to expire. This would punish and reward people and encourage putting energy into harvesting their crops etc. I could see an argument there, but I am not a fan of the idea of a player having food in their storage, expecting they can make use of it, only to discover that it has expired and their character will starve to death.
Will it be possible to buy finished buildings without building them yourself?
That is also something I am not really a big fan of, though for different reasons. We may figure out some way to incorporate it. However, in general if you want something and don't want to do it yourself therein is the beauty of Play-2-Earn games. You give the community tools so they can pay other players to do it for them. I would prefer to provide systems for players to deal with each other and create their own bases rather than just buy prebuilt prefab bases from us.
It is still early to make a final statement on that. There are plenty of ideas that sound great on paper in game development, but end up executed poorly, so we may make changes in future based on feedback we receive. I would always prefer to test things live than to rely on theory only.
Will it be possible to build things in craters and is it possible to carve roads out of Martian soil?
Yes, you can build things in craters and move into and out of them, provided you build access to them. We still need to get elevators working and some craters are harder to enter and exit than others, but even at its most basic level, you could build a tower and ramps down into craters.
You will be able to create roads on top of the Martian terrain in a manner similar to elevated highways and this will be able to be done quite easily across the length and breadth of your lands.
Specifically with "carving" roads out of Martian soil, most likely not. We have to deal with 100,000 high quality unique maps that need to be stored and this is a major challenge, but we will discuss in a later AMA how we already plan to deal with that. If we were to add terrain deformation and allow people to actively modify and dig into every inch of these maps we would turn a hard, but solvable problem into a basically unsolvable problem.
Will the time in the game run at the same rate as realtime?
It won't. We will be speeding up the time in the game for several reasons. First of all, if we stuck with realworld time, needs like food and water wouldn't change much day to day and would remove food and water as a consumable commodity. Secondly, it might be unenjoyable for players to be locked in. A Martian day is almost identical to ours and is longer by only 37 minutes. If time progressed at its realworld rate, it's entirely conceivable for players on Earth to find themselves stuck permanently playing at night or day due to their own schedules.
The current plan for Mars1 is to have a 60 minute day/night cycle with 30-45 minutes of workable daylight and 15 minutes of full darkness where the temperatures drop the most. As I've said before, Mars1 will be testing this and based on feedback we may make adjustments to the timescale, but I am confident we'll stick to that.
Will it be possible to build at night or will we freeze?
As you have seen live, you can build at night but you have to keep a weather eye on your colonist's temperature. This is where different suits and equipment will come into play. For Mars1, this mechanic will not be included, but the full character systems such as upgrades and equipment will be featured in later versions of the game.
Will it be possible to sell electricity and what kind of electricity generation will be available?
There are several forms of electrical generation that we're working with from hydrogen producers to solar and nuclear power. You will be able to sell electricity easily in the form of batteries that are used by different equipment, but we are also looking into ways to sell and trade electricity directly though we're not sure yet how to implement that as this would require some form of global linked infrastructure. One idea we are considering is being able to trade a significantly larger battery, something the size of a car for example, that can store vastly greater amounts of electricity. This battery would be charged by power stations and usable as a placeable temporary large-scale power source for several days.
For what time period will it be possible to rent out land plots and will binding be in real world or in-game time?
How exactly we deal with that is something we need to playtest. The binding would be in real world time as there is no practical reason to use in-game time for that. There are a few concerns in terms of balancing freedom, allowing players to design contracts how they please while providing a system that is robust and easy to develop. Referring back to the land governance system, we would like a simple and robust contract system where land rights or plots can be contracted for periods of time to be used or worked on and for that contract system to be left as open-ended as possible to allow players to negotiate directly rather than provide a fixed template.
Will it be possible to walk on Mars like in Sand or Decentraland without having to engage with the survival mechanics?
I think the unique selling point we are offering is Mars as an immersive survival experience. We don't want to limit players and prevent them from being able to explore the surface of Mars, but you will still need some measure of supplies such as food, water and air. As you saw in the recent AMA, you actually have quite a lot of time before finding yourself in dire straits. In fact, the current burn rate of oxygen is a little high. In addition to that, it is not too difficult to produce smaller quantities of supplies while Mars4 will also include vehicles that can help mitigate the dangers of the environment as well as specific vehicles designed for exploration and surveying which can also be valuable to identify rare resources or useful materials. The goal is to not only allow players to passively explore Mars, but to also allow for potential profit in doing so.
How will the transfer of goods between players work in the game, will there be NPCs that handle this or some sort of self-service system?
The idea is to have as much of a self-service system as possible. The reason we built the Mars Control Centre in a browser was to allow people to be on their phone or any platform and still interact with the game and economy without needing the game client to be running. This means it's necessary for the game client to be able to enact those trades smoothly. This ensures the economy is made more fluid and as quick as possible to improve profitability for our players.
Can you tell us more about Exoskeletons?
While their terminology is not set yet, there will be several Exoskeletal suits from enhanced versions of the standard suits to heavier devices that are more akin to miniature mechs. There will also be upgrades to suits directly, allowing players to further improve their effectiveness and stats. These suits have multiple functions, but their primary purpose is mining with the expectation that the highest tier of mining is handled mostly by these mini mechs.
For colonists that need food, water and air will people need to sell it directly or will there be some kind of vending machine and can you tell us more about refueling the suits and resupply?
In terms of oxygen and refilling your suits, we've demonstrated that in the AMA earlier. You can craft them or buy them. I would like to implement self service systems that can be set up by anyone that would allow players passing by to make these purchases themselves and avoid forcing the seller to have to wait around to enact such a trade.
In Mars1 and Mars2, can we have multiple colonists on the same plot?
Probably not. In Mars1 there isn't any point in having additional colonists as there isn't any colonist customisation yet. In Mars2, we will have to see if there's an in-game reason for additional colonists, but we don't expect there to be a need for that. In Mars3, we have coop and there will be a value in having different specialised roles while working with other players and so, we will see additional colonists introduced.
If I'm renting out a plot, but then I decide to play with it privately and terminate the leases, what happens to colonists playing on the land and do I need to compensate them for it?
This is part of the discussions around the land governance system. The idea is to give a framework to players where they can work out these details between each other. Primarily, the colonist isn't linked to anything. Colonists themselves are not tied to the lands and so cannot be lost. What happens to land is complicated. What we will expect to happen is for there to be a grace period after a lease is ended, allowing a player (if they chose) to deconstruct their base, recover resources from that and move this elsewhere. This shows a reason why colonists will not want to invest too much of their time and resources on lands that they themselves are renting in a temporary fashion. This is why, as I discussed in a previous AMA, I intend to make use of my slumlord policy on lands I own. No limitations, first come, first served. This will draw non-landowning players who will not worry about evictions and increase trade flowing through the lands but no doubt result in construction anarchy!
For an economy to function properly there needs to be winners and losers, can you tell us how people will lose Mars4 dollars in the game?
Similar to the real world, the primary way of losing money in the game comes in the form of purchasing things you need such as food, water, oxygen etc as well as purchasing things you want such as rare resources, colonist upgrades or vehicles. All of the Mars4 dollar loss comes from purchasing from the market, the same place where Mars4 dollars are gained. Just like in the real world, money isn't lost but exchanged for goods and services. The only way you "lose" is really if you exchange for things that lose their value relative to your purchase.
As an example, buying a car costs money, but if you use that car throughout its service life, you haven't really lost out.
If you buy a car and crash it immediately without insurance, then you have truly lost.
Can you tell us more about how and when players can develop their own games and how will this be integrated into the game?
The ability for players to design their own mechanics in the experiences is very far off in the future, something after Mars4. My priority is to first create a functional, fun, play-2-earn game and allow players to interact and expand on it step by step. The first stage of player-built content would include things such as creating items for the game, paint jobs for vehicles, and decorations all of which would be sellable on the market. From there, the game will go on and grow to include greater options. My priority remains to create an enjoyable foundation for everyone. I would prefer not to only rely on other people to provide fun for players. We'll create a foundation that is fun and go on to expand from there.
Will there be an official historian for Mars4, someone to document the evolution of the game and planet as well as important events and decisions?
Yes. That's something that we'll be handling by keeping track of events in the game and specific things that happen that will affect the entirety of the planet. Such occurrences will be recorded and commemorated as part of the evolution of the game, becoming part of the annals of Mars4.
Will there be a central bank for Mars4, a body responsible for lending out Mars4 dollars and setting interest rates or will players have the ability to establish such things?
This would fall under the contract system that we've mentioned in the past. I want to give players the ability to create contracts between each other that can be adapted to provide anything from payment for goods and services to theoretically lending agreements. There are no plans for us to develop a central bank, but the systems are in place to allow players to create such a body should they choose to.
How will road systems work given the distance between colonies could extend for thousands of miles and differences in road construction?
This is a real world logistical problem that we want players to face. The simplest solution is to make greater use of off-road proficient vehicles, but naturally they have their own sets of disadvantages. This is why it may help to communicate and cooperate with your neighbours to set up logistics that come together seamlessly. These are part of what you might call the 2nd tier of challenge. The first tier is survival and establishing oneself on Mars, profiting from your own actions alone. The 2nd tier boils down to establishing even greater communities and interacting with your neighbours for mutual benefit. As an example, if people coordinate their road networks so that they align between land borders and extend across several lands, this will help divert trades through these lands and boost profitability.
This is, in effect, a real world political challenge that we will give players the tools to surmount and in turn profit from, literally and figuratively. We're not expecting roads to flawlessly interlock between lands, but we would expect to see agreements on where to end roads at points between borders so that the time spent off-road is minimised. Landowners will also need to explore their land to determine the best places to build roads, naturally you may want to avoid having to detour around craters or mountains. In the event that neighbours don't build roads, there is still a benefit to your lands containing roads as it will increase the likelihood of being selected by the market's pathing system, routing trade through you as well as providing the benefit of making internal transport and movement in your land easier.
Will players have to drive their goods for days to deliver them?
No, you will not have to, but if you want to, you can. As we discussed in previous AMAs, there is a transportation system built into the market so you can pay to have goods delivered passively. You can also work as a transporter and be paid for it, but it isn't necessary should you not wish to.
How will a driver know the best route between lands?
Players will need to figure this out themselves. This is what separates the more profitables drivers from the rest. If two players charge the same rate to transport goods between the same two locations and one of them knows a more efficient route than the other, he will earn a greater return for himself as he will expend less time and fuel for the same job.
Will drivers be able to cross all lands?
If a landowner has his land set to be enterable by anyone, then yes, drivers can. If a land is set to private, then drivers will not be able to, but neither will trade be able to cross that land. There are a lot of economic incentives to allow people to cross through lands and not much for the inverse.
Are we going to be able to grow crops on Mars?
Yes, you'll be able to grow potatoes as well as a wider variety of vegetables that haven't been decided yet. Naturally, potatoes are necessary for vodka on Mars and thus have the highest priority. Jokes aside, other vegetables will be introduced based on their viability for the Martian environment.
The farming system will not be in Mars1, so we haven't finalised this list yet. From a game design point of view, the difference between a carrot and a potato is minimal, so this is not considered urgent as the architecture is the same.
How are flights between lands?
We intend to have a light-load rocket system, something that players will need to build with its attendant fuel and launch platforms that will allow players to hop around Mars, however, that is intended to be late-game and quite expensive. It will also be able to transport goods, but its speed is offset by its small payload and cost.
What other benefits will craters provide besides water?
Craters are the result of meteorite impacts and meteoroids tend to be quite high in metalloids and other resources. The vast majority of gold in our Solar System for example is found in the Asteroid Belt and so you'll find resources that were on the meteorites when they struck. We're also considering what effect and protection they may afford from dust clouds and inclement weather conditions, however we expect craters to have much lower temperatures. This is an example of something that will be put in Mars1 and Mars2 with changes depending on feedback.
Will there be an ability to plan out structures or objects virtually?
This is actually how the scaffolding system works already. Scaffolding is extremely easy to place and cheap to craft, requiring only iron ore, an unrefined material. The idea is to allow people to easily plan out and mark areas using scaffolding for low cost and the upgrades to change scaffolding into higher tier, more permanent structures is greater.
Will my character die if I don't play for a period of time and what happens if they die?
No. When players are offline, their characters are not taking damage from sandstorms or losing food and water. As I mentioned earlier, I don't wish to be malicious as a developer and I feel that allowing colonists to expire because their players weren't logged in would be wrong. In Mars4, colonists won't die, but their suit will cryogenically freeze them and they will remain where they are, able to be revived. In Mars1 colonists will respawn. The consequence for 'death' can be considered minor rather than severe.
What happens to the game world and our bases and colonists when we are not in the game for an extended period of time?
Bases will take minimal damage when you are offline if they are affected by weather conditions although higher tiers of structure take reduced damage. A lower tier base will not last as long as a higher tier base with improved shielding. In a similar fashion, vehicles that are exposed to the elements can take damage when offline as well, however, vehicles will never be destroyed. Their durability may be at 0 and thus not work in-game until repaired, but you cannot lose your vehicle NFT. It will help to construct garages to store vehicles to prevent damage to them as higher tier bases especially will last an extremely long time before breaking.