Solo player online

There’s been a lot of controversy in the last few days generated by the announcement from Elite:Dangerous that they are dropping offline solo play.

I am a fan and early backer of the game, and I like what they are building so far, but I do want to make it clear that TorchShips will have a solo offline mode at launch. I won’t release a game that is completely unplayable if we go out of business in the future or a server provider goes offline.

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Rosetta Pictures

The 'dark side' of the comet
Unbelievable pictures on Flickr from Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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Initial Scenario Environment, UI Update, Scaling, and Demo Schedule

torchships_demo_screenshot_11_12_2014

I’ve uploaded a new video. The initial scenario in the demo will take place around a Neptune class planet (about 20 times the mass of Earth – approximate radius of 25,000 km) with an extensive ring system. The system star is now much closer to what it should look like – white (our sun is yellow to our eyes because of the atmosphere – it looks white in space) and with a smaller apparent size than we see from earth.

I’ve updated the HUD to give me more screen real estate – the indicators on the top left and right are live. Your suit HUD will show you remaining deltaV, maneuvering propellant (attitude thrusters), life support, and power remaining.

Most of my work over the last few weeks has been dealing with scale issues in Unity3d. Several other developers have written about this (Dave Newson, Sean O’Neil, etc). The basic problem is that Unity3d uses floating point variables for object placement and physics and that doesn’t give me enough accuracy to model a scene that could be 500,000 kilometers across or more, with scales that need to handle a person in a suit (2 meters) to a very large spaceship (500 meters) or asteroid (5 km) simultaneously.

What I’ve done is write my own basic extension to the Unity3d transform and rigidbody module that uses double precision variables. I’ve also incorporated some of Sean O’Neil’s ideas for handling the display of large distant objects (like planets) that are past the Unity3d camera far clipping plane (I’ll probably post a more detailed explanation of this with code on my product7 blog in the next few days). Units in Unity are arbitrary, in the demo I’m using one unit = 1 kilometer – so in render space the the demo the player camera starts about 40,000 kilometers from the planet within the first ring system. The demo and video have not been reconciled with realistic physics yet, the movement from thrusters is definitely overpowered at this point for example.

I do plan to release a very simple demo to the early access backers by the end of this month. The first public demo should follow a few weeks later. This demo will consist of a small part of the first chapter of TorchShips – beginning in your damaged suit with low remaining consumables, then your search for resources and a ship to captain…

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Screenshot – Asteroid

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 1.14.23 PM

Nice asteroid from Unity3d Asset Store. Great discussion on the forum about what space should look like – good points all – so I’ve dropped the ‘fancy’ stuff – no nebula, whirling galaxies, or pink gas clouds. Visual style is hard shadows, reflective surfaces in sunlight ‘wash-out’ the stars.

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Updated Control Scheme

torchships_spacesuit_10_22_2014

As you can tell from the earlier videos movement in your suit was pretty ponderous. I was basing this on other spacesuit simulators and what I’ve seen on videos of actual spacewalks.

After a lot of internal testing, frustration, and additional research I’ve changed the control scheme. Attitude change is much faster, you still have inertia and mass but you can change orientation in pitch, roll, and yaw relatively quickly. These changes are done with a single-gimbal control moment gyroscope mounted in your MMU. The gyroscope approach can produce a lot of torque for small power amounts and doesn’t waste precious reaction mass.

I’ve posted a video of the new control scheme – mouse for orientation (left/right yaw, up/down pitch,  left/right with right mouse down for roll) and wasd keys for thrust forward/port/starboard/aft.

I believe this is approach more accurately reflects the future maneuverability of spacesuits and combat spacecraft.  Ships will be able to change facing and orientation very quickly to unmask weapons or to use armored or less vulnerable sections of the ship to absorb incoming damage.  Of course changing orientation does not affect your velocity vector – changing that will always take time and reaction mass.

I’m a week or two from releasing the first technical demo to early access members, with the first public demo to go out in late November. These demos will not have a lot of ‘game’ in them – they will mainly serve to introduce the initial control scheme and look and feel of TorchShips.

(Note on the images and video, still a lot of placeholder art, including the hud frame which was created by Entereri)

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PBS on the Physics of Space Battles

PBS short film on the Physics of Space Battles – some good points…

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Spacesuits and new Video

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 2.08.18 PM

I’ve posted a new short video of the updated spacesuit helmet cam. You wont’t spend a lot of time in a spacesuit in TorchShips but you will need some basic instruments to navigate and check status before you acquire a more capable vehicle.

Displays are at chin level. Left side is consumables – power, deltaV, maneuvering thruster fuel, and life support.  Center display is courseline, your current vector. Right side is selected target display.

I’m assuming ~50 years ahead (equivalent not calendar time) for initial suit tech – most common comfort/usability issues  are solved (gloves, flexible joints, etc) . It will be a skinsuit with attached armor over critical points. The armor is mainly to protect against impacts and/or tears. You can see more info on spacesuit design at Atomic Rockets.

The challenge I’m facing is finding good 3d models of this type of suit. I’m using one of the free NASA spacesuit 3d models for the POV (the camera is inside the suit helmet bowl) right now, but would like to have a more realistic look for the demo. Please contact me directly if you know anyone or company doing interesting work with spacesuit 3d models – I’m looking for a realistic design with skinsuit, some armor panels, and a manned maneuvering unit with appropriate thrusters attached.

Some initial thoughts on the capabilities of your suit.

  • 500 m/s available deltaV (for comparison sake – the NASA SAFER system has a deltaV of 3 m/s, MMU is ~25 m/s, the Air Force AMU had 76 m/s deltaV)
  • life support good for 48 hours
  • basic thermal and optic passive sensors, no active systems in base suit
  • each individual suit can have very different color schemes and heraldry

 

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