Re: Propulsion and rot, was Re: Orbit calculations

Date: Fri Mar 09 2001 - 07:36:03 MST

I've never been involved in role-playing games (in fact, I only have the
vaguest idea of how they work), but the notion of making a maximally
realistic space-development simulation environment - yes, a "game" - has been
one I've thought about over the years more than I care to admit. Back before
I went cold turkey on sim games (because of the inordinate amount of time and
energy I devoted to them), I was always on the lookout for really good space
simulator games. The two best that I recall were a relatively early
DOS-based space shuttle flight simulator and then Microsoft's "Space
Simulator". The first of these had the fairly primitive graphics of its day
(c. 1992 or so?) and the second had a lot of sad shortcuts and shortcomings,
but was still a lot of fun to play with. Neither did what I had always
envisioned, which was a full-featured spaceflight and space development

The "dream sim" I have imagined would have at its core a very realistic
digital orrery as the basic ground within which the rest of the system would
operate, just as modern flight simulator programs have come to have
increasingly realistic aerodynamics simulations at their core. In its full
iteration the game would have two or three distinct levels of access. In one
mode, you could get "in" a spacecraft and pilot it through all phases of its
operation. At another level, one could play with strategic scenarios.

One scenario I've envisioned I call "Space Race". In that scenario, the
player starts at some actual point in history - say 1955. In this mode,
there is a political and economic overlay in which the player - choosing the
US or Soviet "side" - makes annual project development choices, allocating
her budget to development of different facilities and capabilities, from
launch complexes, to boosters, to spacecraft. The player also develops and
"astronaut team" and has to train the individual characters in that team and,
eventually assign them to missions. A system of "experience points" is
accrued to specific astronauts and ground teams that have to matched to the
developing technical capabilities of the hardware and other systems being
developed. Depending on the "difficulty level" chosen, extrinsic factors
will impact successive total budget amounts, as well as the iterated
achievements and failures of the program the player develops and guides.
This could be played against another player guiding the competing space
program or a game AI. The system would allow you to explore the possibility
of following alternative development paths: Build the X-20, the Nerva-powered
super-Saturn, go for a big orbital station early, etc. All of this is played
out against the real configuration of the orerry, so that launch windows open
and close, come and go, etc.

Scenarios could be developed and started at different points in history or
future history. This the scenario you're developing for your game, Anders,
could be a starting condition for a sim. Likewise, a player could shift
levels, being both program manager and astronaut at different times. In
later scenarios, one could distribute resources on the moon and in the
asteroids to be "discovered" and developed.

At one time, I wrote up a detailed system design for this imagined system
that grew to many dozens of pages, but I long ago abandoned that idea when I
realized that the coding would be equal to or greater than the most elaborate
games available today. I suppose no one will ever develop this game.
There's too much of a market for "spaceship" shoot-em-ups where "fighters" go
"whoosh!" and bank through turns, firing energy weapons that work like the
machine guns on a P-51. Oh well . . .

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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