Interview with Mars4 GameDev Nick

Hello from the Mars4 team! Last week’s AMA was held at 14:00 (UTC) 20th January with Nick, our game development director. He and his team’s work continues to bring Mars ever closer to your homes.

In this article, we would like to share the summarised highlights of his stream with you. Some of the questions asked have been folded together into a single topic to simplify the summary.

What can you tell us about the development so far? The foundational systems for the Martian environment, colonists, base building, and our vehicle system are functional. However, much of this is not yet at a stage that is “presentable”. For example, our building system is placing white boxes on top of a gray checkerboard. It’s not “sexy” but those white boxes have countless lines of code behind them that handle how durable they are in sand storms, whether they’re air tight, if they would support an atmosphere if an enclosed room was built out of them. The code behind them also handles environmental issues. Are they a door? Do they form an airlock? Which means when opened will the atmosphere escape? Etc. The same goes for the vehicle system which is entirely functional, however, the form is lacking. Fortunately, form is vastly easier to develop than the systems that underpin the game. As you can see from the gameplay footage the environment and colonist character system have reached the point where we have started investing some devtime into their form as well. In summary, I am very pleased with our development progress and we are on target to reach the promised playable state by Q3 or even earlier, but don’t quote me on that.

Given that the number of lands is limited, will the number of players be limited too? No. However, if a land starts to become overpopulated we plan to use server instancing to ensure performance remains high, no matter the number of players joining a particular land. We will intelligently choose what server instance to place a player in based on their friends list and interactions. All chats and trades are linked across the instances, preventing issues with ecommerce and socialisation. Now, it’s very early to say, but we should be able to support 150–200 players in any single instance of a land without a significant drop in performance. It’s a rough estimate at this stage, but still a reasonable one in my experience.

Is there a limit to the number of non-landowner players in the game itself? No. Whether you own land NFTs or not, you will be able to join and play the Mars4 game.

Will it be possible to build more than one city on each land? Yes. We are not looking to restrict land development in any way.

Will it be possible to ‘split’ lands in the future? It will not be possible to ‘split’ a land asset but we are developing a mechanic that will allow a landowner to grant or lease development and construction rights to players on their land. The asset of the land itself is still owned by the NFT owner. In addition to this, we will be encouraging lands to work together at a larger level with trade between regions and zones.

How many colonists can I bring to each of my lands? Your ability to support colonists, or players, on your lands has no strict rules. Your lands are able to support as many colonists as you are able to attract. The attraction of a particular land will boil down to what can be offered in return. This can be anything from provision of food and water, to leasing buildable zones, or providing useful materials or resources.

How can I earn Mars4 Dollars in the game? You will not be extracting Mars4 dollars straight out of the ground. However, all goods and materials are purchased or sold with Mars4 dollars, the ingame currency. To earn Mars4 dollars is as simple as mining a resource and trading that on the game’s global market. You may even improve upon your earning by producing more complex materials and goods or acquiring better tools or choosing to manufacture such things yourself!

What can you tell us about the weather conditions? Mars, and by extension our virtual Mars, experiences variable temperatures, a day/night cycle and several natural weather phenomena which vary depending on the region that a player is in. For example, a position near Mars’ poles is much colder and harsher than the dust-ridden equatorial belt. In addition to the dust storms, Mars also experiences gigantic dust devils, electrical storms, powerful winds and even radiation events. Depending on you, the players, there may one day even be rain on Mars.

What sets us apart from other projects? I have a fairly good insight into what we at Mars4 have to offer, although I am not privy to the other projects as they are separate to us. However, looking in from the outside, the other projects are further behind us development-wise and where they appear to be offering a generic social experience, we are offering a more targeted cooperative survival game experience. As game designers, we are coming at this with the goal of building a fun and immersive game. Mechanically and visually we are creating a game where the environment alone is a constant danger. It is typical in other survival games that there comes a point where the threat the environment creates becomes effectively meaningless and it is at this point that the PVP focus comes in. However, the Mars4 game will be a cooperative survival game and as such, Mars’ environment is a key part to building the necessary depth that challenges players at all stages of the game. You will survive, you will thrive, you will be producing goods and profiting from the market, but the game will still provide challenges.

Will there be VR support and what platforms will the game run on? The first playable version of the game, slated for Q3 this year, will run on PC, Mac and Linux. As development continues towards full release we will be adding support for more platforms and may adopt VR systems based on their market penetration. The dashboard will be accessible via browser on any device and we are looking into porting an optimised version of the full game onto mobile devices in the longer term.

Will there be a native tool to develop unique NFT assets to be leveraged in the game? Yes. We will be supporting player-created NFTs, however, we will be focusing them more on the cosmetic side of things rather than gameplay mechanics. Examples include character skins, vehicle skins, building decorations and props, etc. We will be producing a toolkit for this purpose in the future to allow creators to use a pre-built architecture and format when creating assets to use on Mars.

Will the economy be housed within the platform itself or will it need a third party platform? No. The market will be housed internally on our ingame and website dashboard. Everyone will be able to buy, sell and trade there. The first stage of the dashboard will provide a simplified yield generation system for landowners to profit from and will allow players to begin acquiring colonists, tools and vehicles and manage their character skills. After its initial launch, the dashboard will be expanded upon to allow landowners to access the land governance system and research system.

Can you talk about governance and taxes on land plots? The governance system is still being fleshed out, but the general plan is that landowners have access to a decision tree that affects their land. This governance system is a hierarchical structure that operates top down. The landowner will be able to set permissions for access to treasury, development and building rights, taxes levied amongst different groups and even access to amenities the land provides. The idea is to provide a fairly robust system that allows landowners, or managers they assign, to manage the land how they see fit.

Will the topography of an area be preserved? Yes. This will be discussed in greater detail in a future development blog, but we will be using NASA’s surface data from Mars alongside a procedural 3D generation system called Houdini. The topography of your NFTs will be generally accurate from a macro perspective. For example, if there was a cliff, canyon or mountainous range on the plot, this will be rendered on your NFT land ingame. However, from a micro perspective, we cannot provide 100% accuracy. We do not know the exact shape of every rock on Mars after all. We’ll be able to create lands which are accurate at a larger scale and in turn, this ensures that there is an element of uniqueness around each landowner’s NFTs.

Does the location of land matter in terms of resources available or trade? Yes and no. Each land will not be a carbon copy of each other when it comes to the materials and resources that can be exploited. We intend to mimic some of the actual expectations you might have. For example, ice is more common at the bottom of craters and extremely common at the poles. However, for balancing purposes all lands will still have a general level of resources available to them, but some areas will have their own natural biases. We do not intend to ‘shut out’ any landowners who buy the land NFTs. In terms of trade, the distance between regions is a factor. Regions closer to each other are able to trade at a better rate than those further away due to physical logistics involved, encouraging economic competition.


 

Get to know Nick by reading this article. You can watch the short version of AMA session here. You can watch the full version of AMA session here.

As development continues, we will be hosting devblogs twice a month, alternating between video and written blogs.

To watch the future AMA sessions live, follow Mars4 Twitch. We look forward to seeing you at the next one and beyond that, to putting you on Mars itself!

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