And Touchdown!!

After many hours of research, code and testing version 1 of Mars Colony Challenger is complete and ready for sale on the HyperKat website. At times there seemed to be no end to the work. Aligning science and research challenges with reasonable game play issues was a huge task. Many gamers want action. They judge the quality of the game by how many bullets they can fire accurately or how much armor their character can acquire. They want to stalk and slay the dragon as their one defining goal for spending the time in the game. The scientist on the other hand wants the totally involved reality of the subject matter and for the most part won’t get involved in the play aspect. They prefer discovery and analysis over running and gunning.

As a designer the first thing on my list was no guns, this is a Mars exploration simulation. In reality, there may be guns when we go to Mars and that is a good subject for discussion, but a distraction from the core game goals. What if one of the crew went nuts and tried to kill everyone? Do we plan to have a jail or containment area just in case and how do we deal with the event? We can’t just push them out the airlock but we have to do something. During the course of testing I discovered that some of the players were getting upset over what seemed to be meaningless events like not filling the water can or placing it in an obscure location. This game could be a perfect test vehicle for psychological evaluations and qualification of required personality and interpersonal traits.

No Martians or Aliens were allowed. Sure that and no guns make for a boring game, but since there are none to be found as yet we didn’t feel like the game should become a discovery saga. However, there is a remedial life form in the game if the users sample the right area. We left it in the game thinking someday it would be discovered and a great surprise, much like the situation we have now. There just may be some form of amino acid deep in the recesses of the planet and it will be an interesting search and wonderful discovery.

We wanted things to be realistic for the circumstance and context. Testers questioned everything we put into the game as far as structure and interactive objects. Most of the complaints about the artwork were aimed at the plain appearance of the objects. They would be plain looking and simple as we could make them. Complexity means failure in an environment hostile to life. Minimizing computer interfaces and integration further reduces failure points requiring in-depth computer electronics and software skills to maintain. I can take a valve or a switch apart and fix it but I can’t repair a computer out at some remote site on the planet. Everything should be as simple as we could make them to be easily repaired and maintained on site. If my life depended on a computer for survival I would live in fear. I have seen the blue screen of death and it troubles me. There are obvious roles for computers to monitor weather and testing samples and even entertainment but the valves and switches I want to control just in case and have manual overrides.

Please visit the website, buy the game and support this effort. We want to make Version 2 and need help from the community. It takes many engineering hours and art hours to develop a product like this and I would like to think there is a desire out there to see what it would be like to survive living on Mars. Thanks to all the testers and the art students that helped with this project and I hope to see you all again in Version 2!

8 thoughts on “And Touchdown!!

  1. John Peace

    You’ve put in an amazing amount of work on this. Obvious question: have you advertised with Mars Society, Mars One etc – who might be eager to use your sim?

    1. Hi Pablo! I tried the free evaluation version – it looks and feels so realistic.

      I have a request to ask you and any other keen gamers playing Challenger:
      I’m a science fiction author and I’m researching a novel on colonising Mars. After you play Mars Colony Challenger a lot, could you tell me ‘how it feels’? And any issues you think might face real colonists? Can you imagine yourself in the place of a real colonist?
      That would be helpful. I could add your name to the ‘thanks’ page in my book.
      Email me here: rjpeace (at) 123 mail (dot) org

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