Mars4 is developing a cooperative survival play-to-earn game set on Mars that incorporates NFTs, Crypto and Metaverse. This virtual Mars makes use of the Mars4 dollar, tradeable on Sushiswap, Bittrex and MEXC as its sole in-game currency while using the NFTs held by landowners as the core behind each server land. The first playable state of the game is planned for Q3 2022.
The project seeks to link the thrill of visiting and living on Mars, something currently well beyond the reach of most people's lifetimes, and the prospect of earning a passive income for both landowners and players while enjoying the challenge of survival on the red planet.
Our game development director, Nick Nieuwoudt, has held two AMAs about the development process and we would like to share the best of his Q&A with you here:
What can you tell us about the development so far?
The most recent AMA, we demonstrated the building system we will be using in the Mars4 game. If you are familiar with games such as Rust, Valheim or Conan Exiles, you will be familiar with the core mechanics around constructing a base. Players have a series of scaffolding that they place to create foundational elements and then upgrade them to higher tier pieces. Scaffolding has a very low material cost and allows the players to ‘block out’ their base very easily while upgrading the scaffolding will add increasing levels of functionality to the base that ranges from being able to contain a pressured atmosphere to providing protection from Mars’ harsh weather systems.
We’re aiming to give players a robust building system that gives them the creative freedom to build how they please. The system is split into two parts, structural constructions and props. Structural items are the walls, foundations and load bearing supports that define a building’s general shape and space, while props contain all other items from life-support equipment and lights to casual aesthetic items such as carpets and sofas etc.
Mars is not a friendly environment, so players will be rewarded for smart design choices that help preserve their resources (for example, an airlock helps keep a pressurised environment from being depressurised).
In a future devblog we will discuss more on the protective suit that colonists wear and the resources that determine survival on Mars, from food and water to air and power.
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 in-game 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 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.
Can you talk about governance and taxes on NFT 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.
What can you tell us about vehicles?
Vehicles will be a fairly big thing on Mars. We have several different types already in production and are excited to share our vision for them. Vehicles, like suits, will also require some protection from the elements, though in a lesser capacity than the suits that colonists wear. Players will be rewarded for organising their colonies from the ground up and factoring in the necessity of providing garages for their vehicles while making those areas easily accessible by the very same vehicles.
One of the concept pieces we’ve introduced recently is for a heavy miner vehicle. On Mars, you can mine resources by hand but there will also be EXO-suits that make mining easier. Due to the rugged nature of the Martian surface, it is harder to build typical mining systems like you have on Earth. It’s a problem that exists on Earth too, while a location might be a perfect spot to extract resources, the location might entirely lack any form of infrastructure or support network.
We will be having the progression system for miners go from hand-tools to EXO-suits and even mini mining mechs. EXO-suits can easily get into locations that vehicles can’t, but they still need some way to be transported quickly to and from a site. One of the vehicles under development aims to resolve this by providing a large transport capable of ferrying groups of EXO-suits. The design of this vehicle underpins our desire to foster cooperation on Mars by having player roles rewarded through interactions with each other. The other vehicle under development is a large industrial transport that can ferry goods across Mars under the control of drivers.
Can you tell us more about the Command and Control panel in the browser?
The Command and Control panel will be one of the first interactions players will get with the blockchain and their NFTs. It will include systems for interacting with your inventory and the marketplace as well as character progression systems.
There will also be additional features that I’m not familiar with. I believe there will be some staking or yield farming capabilities, however don’t quote me on that. I’m not the one developing the Command and Control panel.
From the game design perspective, the panel’s purpose is to allow players to interact with the game’s progression even if they aren’t in the game. You can be out and about and still interact with the game’s market via a mobile phone to trade or buy resources or even manage your land and colonists.
How many colonists can a player have?
Each player (whether a landowner or not) will have access to 3 colonists for free. If they want more, they can buy additional colonists for themselves. These are separate to the land NFTs. It is entirely possible to play Mars4 without owning any lands (by playing on other people’s lands) and equally possible to own many lands and choose not to play (by assigning a manager to handle the in-game land on your behalf).
Regarding levelling the colonist through the Command & Control panel, how will that work?
The current plan is to allow character progression in real time. Progression in this case means selecting abilities and skills to train, similar to how EVE Online’s progression system. The C&C panel lets you make those choices and progress towards acquiring new skills will happen whether or not you’re in the game. Colonists will also be able to be bought and sold via the Command & Control panel which will add value to the earliest colonists (as they would potentially have the most time spent gaining skills).
Is it possible to exhaust the resources on lands?
No. Resources on lands will be renewed via a respawning/refreshing process, however, it will take time. If you have more lands you could mine it barren, then proceed to the next and repeat until the first land was replenished. They won’t ever be permanently exhausted though, otherwise this would limit how much of the game players could play. If resources were limited, we could quickly reach a point where Mars runs out of resources entirely and thus, no further game.
What types of resources will there be in the game?
The exact list isn’t finalised yet, but we’re taking inspiration from the resources you would find on Mars in real life which includes raw metals, ores and even clays. There will be production chains that will refine these materials into more useful composites and alloys.
How will the game handle the volatility of the Mars4 dollar, for example, what will happen to the in-game prices if the Mars4 dollar rises or falls 20% within a single day?
Personally that is something I would prefer to leave to the free market as much as possible. The majority of the Mars4 economy will be player-built with the exception of the original land NFTs and our goal is to ensure almost all trades in Mars4 will be between players. However, this is still underdevelopment.
Is it possible to build infrastructure such as highways across lands?
Yes it is. Not all of the vehicles on Mars will be suitable for all-terrain environments. The heavier goods transports will benefit from well-developed road systems. This will be a method of developing your lands by bridging ravines and building road networks to improve the efficiency of transporting goods through your lands. The market on Mars is a global market where players can freely buy and sell products and items, but the goods still need to be transported between where they are purchased and where they were produced.
When goods are purchased, colonists can opt to have them delivered by the automatic market or by players and landowners will receive a transportation fee for goods transported across their lands.
Shouldn’t some lands stay public for roads built connecting critical infrastructure, if all lands are privately owned, couldn’t people restrict travel to people who don’t own those lands?
In game design there are two ways to resolve this, either by banning it or making it not beneficial. We would prefer to go the latter route as we do not want to interfere with the governance of lands by landowners.
Trade fees in the game are based on logistics movement between A and B. If your land is completely private, that means you will not benefit from tolls earned by transported goods because both drivers and the global market will not be able to use your lands for transit.
Restrictions on your lands for the flow of people and goods will also mean you will potentially lose out on profits from the global market’s trade.
Wouldn’t the market’s automatic transfer of goods negate the job of transportation drivers?
It sets a maximum price for transportation drivers as transporting via the market is quite expensive and that allows players to undercut and deliver goods faster than the market’s standard rate.
The market’s slower and more expensive automatic trade exists to ensure that players do not ever end up in a situation where nothing is able to be transferred due to lack of drivers online at the time etc.
Will it be possible to decorate your bases with your own uploaded designs?
For vehicles, this is already intended and we will allow players to texture or paint their vehicles which can be sold as NFTs. In addition to that, for bases we want as much customizability as possible for players and this will very much be the case for props.
So overall, yes with as few restrictions as possible.
If someone wanted to explore the planet and had a vehicle and enough fuel, could they go anywhere?
Yes, fuel is not your only requirement though. Storms and intense conditions will negatively affect the vehicle and the player will still need food and water. However, these should be achievable. There’s no technical limitation stopping a player from circumnavigating the world. There is however, a loading screen between each owned land. Loading areas were a necessary compromise to keep the game size down and to boost performance. Simulating an entire world to scale would be unfeasible.
What will be happening with rare NFT lands?
We’re still in the process of designing and preparing the rare and super rare NFT lands. We want to do something very unique with them, but we don’t want to announce anything yet as the current stage of development for them isn’t finalised.
Development continues unabated and on-course to release the first playable state in Q3 2022 where we look forward to bringing the community onto our virtual Mars.
Are you ready to touchdown on the Mars4 Metaverse?
Watch full AMA with Nick here.
Watch the short version of AMA here.