“It’s a huge relief if I’m going to be honest. When I first landed on Mars, I didn’t think I’d need a transport that large for myself. Then I experienced my first dust storm on a mining trip. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that prepares you for that. Alone in the dust, afraid that at any minute something will break or piece your suit. Now, I’m with a team. The dust storms are still scary, but I’m not alone and we bring our shelter with us.”
Hello and welcome to the last of the development blogs for the Karkanda Exo-Transport. This vehicle was designed with the intention of carrying colonists and their heavy mining equipment in large numbers across the surface of Mars. It is in this stage, the integration stage, that the Karkanda ET takes up its designed role.
The last and final stage of development, integration is about bringing together the 3D production of a vehicle or machine and working with the conceptual ideas that underpinned the production. These two positions are sometimes conflicting and it falls to the team responsible for integration to make sure the final product is workable in the game and follows the principles that called for its creation.
Like all objects, whether vehicle or machine, the first step on integrating something into the game starts with the rules that govern it. Vehicles take longer to integrate than machines as they have additional conditions and rules to code around, most of which we take for granted on Earth. The Karkanda ET starts with the same physics that we apply to machines in the game. Surface friction determines another object’s response to contact with the vehicle’s surfaces with the amount differing by location (as one might expect given that the Karkanda is composed of different materials and angles). However, unlike machines, surface friction also governs interactions between the vehicle and the ground it rests upon.
The coefficient of restitution determines how ‘bouncy’ an object is, or effectively how much initial speed is retained after a collision. This can involve a good amount of testing and research to fit correctly. The easiest real world example of this would be bouncing a tennis ball on the ground versus bouncing a brick. In Mars4, vehicles need to be able to collide with other objects (vehicles, the ground, colonists, walls, machines or anything else they might bump into) and respond appropriately and the relative strength of a response also helps shape a player’s interpretation of the vehicle. This means to highlight the Karkanda’s relative mass, its CoR is lower than other vehicles.
The team then prepares the vehicle for mobility, assigning its speed, acceleration and friction with the ground. For a vehicle like the Karkanda, its relative mobility is lower than other vehicles, but these rules go on to govern its handling, anything from turning circle to ease of control and braking distance. This in turn is partially handled by its mass and the physics surrounding its suspension system.
With its general physics sorted out, the Karkanda is then folded into the game proper. This includes the interactions with players such as being able to access it, to drive it as a colonist and the ability to have other players enter and have their colonists held onboard as passengers. The interactivity extends to being able to access its inventory and transfer items between colonists and the vehicle which leads to the smaller issues.
Part of providing access to the Karkanda’s inventory is the systems behind providing fuel (energy) sources for the vehicle and the burn-rates or consumption of those resources to keep the vehicle moving and functional. This, alongside the Karkanda’s relative ‘health’ or resilience to the inclement weather on Mars are prepared but may change depending on feedback as they have a direct effect on the Mars4 economy and player experience.
When these stages are complete, the finishing touches boil down to the special effects that are used to give feedback to a colonist regarding the vehicle’s operation. Sounds that can be heard onboard and offboard to indicate when the machine is at rest, moving or in use as well as lights for illumination during the night and even running lights, passive effects that help colonists (and players) know the vehicle is running.
With the final product ready for use in Mars4, the Karkanda is considered complete. The Exo-Transport is capable of carrying a large number of colonists and their mining tools around as well as the Exo-suits that they might choose to bring with them. In this respect, the Karkanda is itself a core part of larger industrial processes and a canny group of colonists can no doubt envision a way to profit from its capabilities as they settle across the surface of Mars4.