|Hohmann Transfer Orbit|
For some time now, I've been giving a lot of "thought exercise" to my "Gold on Mars" concept for a space-mining game. One thing that I'd really got stuck on was how to model interplanetary spaceflight. I'm something of a physics geek but only an amateur astronomer, so I felt as though I had to reinvent the equations for Hohmann transfers from scratch. (That's kind of dumb, actually, as the equations are relatively common knowledge and generally available online. But, you know, I'm a mathematician, and I like deriving my own stuff.)
I had something of a breakthrough last night, and with the aid of MSExcel and some internet research on planetary distances, I was able to establish relative amounts of fuel necessary to travel from earth to each of the planets as far as Jupiter. (For reasons of game scale, I've elected not to include Saturn or the other extremely distant planets in the game. After all, I need to leave room for an expansion.)
|Mars image courtesy of NASA|
National Space Science
Data Center (NSSDC)
I mentioned earlier that Dr. Lewis Pulsipher (designer of Britannia and Dragon Rage) led a seminar on game design at WBC last week, and he said a couple of things that stuck with me.
- First, a game design idea by itself is worthless. What is worthwhile is a prototype that can be played, and until a designer has one, he's got no more than anybody else with an idea for a game.
- Second, whenever a designer does get ideas, he writes them down and makes them real. He doesn't risk forgetting them, but captures them and puts them in his toolbox for future consideration as he assembles the prototype.
One last consideration: If I try to incorporate all of the ideas I have for "GoM," it will be a big, complex, cumbersome game. A recurring theme in Dr. Pulsipher's talk (and a quote that he cites on every page on his website) is
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'eryIndeed, he very recently posted an essay specifically on a comparison between simple and complex game designs. I have a feeling that a significant portion of late design work for "GoM" will consist of pruning, trimming, and cutting back all the baroque detail that I will be inclined to add in the early design phase. My hope, my vision, is that what will remain will be a 24-karat ingot of a space game.