- 1 Personal Note on the man himself
- 2 Stranger's World
- 3 OXPs
- 4 Playing Strangers World - tactics
- 5 Playing Stranger's World - conflicts/issues
- 6 Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Personal Note on the man himself
Based in Eastern Siberia, active in the Roolite community and favours an exploration-style game with more scientific realism - hence many of the ensuing oxps!
Stranger has written insightful essays into Oolite for the Russian community (see bottom section below), Fiction & has created an alternative version of Oolite with more scientific realism (planets & suns, trade, workings of one's ship etc). A formidable oeuvre indeed!
Stranger has developed his own Ooniverse. What one sees on the screen differs hugely - as do the mechanics of the game. It is a comprehensive attempt to make Oolite more scientifically realistic. It is recognisable as Oolite unlike Cim's Song of the Labyrinth) which is a radically new game. It might be most enjoyable to explore this after you have acclimatised yourself to more orthodox Oolite - then the combination of different game mechanisms combined with a new-look Ooniverse will be more greatly enjoyed!
• On the Solar System front, the distances between suns, planets et al have been tweaked to make them more realistic - as have been the star and planet sizes, the planetary and lunar orbits etc. Several dozen star types are defined (with some 56 spectral signatures) thus affecting solar radius, colour, solar flares, corona flares and solar wind. The star types are further synthesised with the appropriate planet types and orbital distances.
• There are some 9 texture packs which flesh out the looks of the heavenly bodies. These combine with the oxps tweaking the underlying physics of the suns, planets & moons. The new planet sizes impact on such matters as gravity wells (affecting the Torus Drive), moon orbits etc. These tie in with the description of the planet as technological/agricultural and also with its technology level.
• The emphasis on realism means that there is now only the one large orbital station in each system (of the more orthodox coriolis or dodecahedron varieties, with hanger space for hundreds of spacecraft) as usually only the main planet is habitable and capable of meaningful trade with the orbital station above.
Stranger has also thrown in a new set of Orbital Stations with differing functions appropriate to their location in the solar system and with relevant market demands (hint: alcohol may be much in demand depending on the function and location of the station!).
Conflicts with other oxp's
Note: Stranger's World introduces more realistic distances based more on astronomy than playability but it also introduces a different coding technique for placing objects in a solar system.
- 1) Individual system oxp's: it adds to/overrides such individual system oxp's as Lave.oxp & Diso.oxp.
- 2) Stations:
- in solar orbit: solar stations from other oxp's are often thrown into deep space instead (eg SLAPU & CZGF)
- in orbit around main planet: replacement stations: some of the possible replacements for the main system orbital station such as the Globe & Torus stations are suppressed and never appear.
- in orbit around main planet: secondary stations (eg. Aquarian Shipbuilding Corp. HQ) can end up being a looooong way away!
- 3) In-system activities such as Taxi Galactica and In-System Cargo Delivery: Planets and moons where you may be told to take your fare (or stations orbiting planets or moons) are now so far away that either you cannot actually get there within the time limit or if you can, it now takes so long that gameplay wise it isn't worth taking the missions. Note that Stranger's World does have its own replacement oxp for in-system trading.
- 4) Mission oxp's which rely on placing objectives in a particular part of a solar system and have told you where to find them (ha!).
See here for more detail.
Mechanics: changes due to realistic solar systems
Then there are the game mechanics. The above changes necessitate some modifications.
• Landing on planets is affected by the changed gravity wells - so a customised altimeter is needed for one's HUD (for those capable, instructions for customising your favourite HUD are given in his SW HUD CAI oxp).
• The massively increased distances within the solar system and the lack of other large orbital stations (with their own dynamic markets featuring shifts in the valuations of many different commodities) leads to a tailored demand for a handful of goods in an orbital station which may be over 100,000km away from the main station - requiring specially chartered In-System Cargo Delivery missions.
• There is a new MFD (multi-functional display) which
- lists the planets in the system with details of their general class (gas giant etc)
- and can then toggle to details of the system's sun when that sun is selected on your Advanced Space Compass.
Mechanics: changes due to realistic energy use
All movement and ship operations now consume fuel, as does energy generation.
• This engenders a need for more fuel tanks (reducing the space available for carrying cargo and thus affecting the economics of trade due to smaller holds).
• There is also a need to recharge fuel as one travels the vast and immense distances in the solar systems: hence the Solar Wind Flux modifications.
• Since running out of energy is death, there is also a need to rebalance shields and energy use for combat and for vigorous travel: see Energy Rebalance.
• There is a further need for urgent priority docking at busy Orbital Stations when one is running out of energy: see Traffic Lights OXP!
Economics & Markets
The Vanilla game economics are of a bipolar economy (stretching from poor agricultural systems - buy furs! to rich industrials - buy computers!).
SW Economy replaces this with a more usual triangle: agricultural - mining - rich industrial and different products are produced depending on planet size and wealth (fewer computers from poorer industrials, medicine - a new commodity - from richer agriculturals etc). Luxuries and Narcotics have their size downgraded so they now go in your cabin safe rather than the cargo hold. There are also tweaks to allow miners to always sell their produce after the 127 unit limit has been reached in the market. And missions sending urgent supplies out to the minor planets and orbital stations in the system.
This is a well-thought through set of oxps which comprehensively alter one's immersion in Oolite, and represent the fruits of a decade of hard work. To enjoy the full effect you may well find it necessary to uninstall a number of other oxps which conflict with the experience which Stranger is trying to create (as well as those oxps which the Expansion Manager flags up as problematic!).
Of the oxps listed below, Leesti is Moon, SW HUD DAI (default altimeter), Hard Eject & Here be Dragons do not seem to be essential parts of Stranger's Ooniverse. However, adding in Here be Dragons will help emphasise the very different feel of his Ooniverse.
SW Equipment (a full suite of equipment designed for Stranger's Ooniverse), Planet Land (with several hundred landing sites on moons & planets), System Make Up (which further details the solar systems) and Universal Sky (making the skies more representational of what one really sees) have yet to be made available here (they are available through the Roolite website for Cyrillic readers!). There is also a several hundred page long instruction manual for the world and its oxp's! It might just be worth learning Russian!
Rather than divide these up by the traditional Oolite divisions (ambience, mechanics etc), the list below splits up Stranger's oxp's conceptually, to give you a better idea as to how it changes Oolite.
New versions are available from within the expansions manager.
- Start Choices Addenda adds 2 extra choices: expeditor start (Planetary Landing equipped Transporter) & advanced miner start (fuel scoop & mining laser equipped Bushmaster)
- In-System Cargo Delivery opens an in-system mission interface in the F4 screen for local cargo delivery (for expeditors).
- Mineral Store Reset facilitates asteroid mining by preventing saturation of the main system market (for miners).
- Here be Dragons a Discovery .oxp: deletes all information on distant & unvisited systems from the F6 galaxy map & F7 screen (for explorers).
- SW Economy provides a much more meaningful economy for Oolite, where each commodity (eg textiles) can be valuable and water, oxygen & medicine are added to the mix. Economy and planet sizes are also now relevant (for realists).
- Hard Eject reduces insurance cover so that only half of lost equipment is replaced (ie: shown as damaged on the F5 screen)
Just the two systems - but the best current textures with all the bells and whistles added from Oolite v1.82 and onwards (but not yet with night-lights). These are just two of some 100+ systems for Galaxy 1 covering the Famous Planets - presumably the others are available through Roolite. See Stranger's note here.
- FPO Lave Famous Planets Overhaul (Lave): gives a more lore-based look to Lave, using the new graphics of Oolite v.1.90.
- FPO Zaonce Famous Planets Overhaul (Zaonce): gives a more lore-based look to Zaonce, using the new graphics of Oolite v.1.90.
Solar systems (Moons, planets & stars)
Note that these oxp's introduce new screens/MFDs to show data on stars, solar wind flux, planets & moons.
- Habitable Main Planets redefines planets' radii to realistic values for advanced eco-systems and colonisation
- Moons simulates psuedo-dynamic moon configurations
- Moons Texture Pack contains textures for the above
- Planetary Systems simulates psuedo-dynamic solar system configurations for terrestial planets & gas giants
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack A textures for the above - ice deserts
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack B textures for the above - cold deserts
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack C textures for the above - hot deserts
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack D textures for the above - volcanic deserts
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack E textures for the above - cold Mars
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack F textures for the above - dry Mars
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack G textures for the above - gas & ice giants
- Planetary Systems Texture Pack H textures for the above - Mercury, Pluto & Venus analogs - and super-Earths
- Sun Gear creates more realistic solar systems with solar winds and with main planets in habitable zones. Requires Habitable Main Planets.oxp
- Orbital Stations enables orbital stations to dynamically orbit planets!
- Traffic Lights helps with manual docking at the system's only main station & gives priority docking after 15 mins; also crucial for fuel-less Hard-Way oxp.
- Hard Way: all flight consumes fuel - hence 4 modules - collapsible shields & fuel consumption; gravity wells; solar wind scoop & warp drive
- Dark Ray turns off all laser beam glows - they are not scientifically justifiable in the vacuum of space!
- With fuel now powering everything, including the energy banks, low fuel means low energy, and thus low shields.
- Energy Rebalance rebalances energy between shields & energy banks to prevent damage - unless banks are almost empty and death is imminent
- or Energy Rebalance SCC as above but compatible with Ship Configuration OXP
The changes in Astronomy & Physics have led to some new equipment. Vast solar systems where all travel costs fuel - and where one cannot scoop solar flux due to distance from the sun, means that one needs more fuel (and an MFD to display Solar Wind Flux rating). Further, the gravity well of the planet now relates to its mass/size so the vanilla game altimeter is no longer as reliable. With so many in-system cargo deliveries involving planetary landings, a better altimeter is needed. (Roolite's Planet Land adds more to the planets surface - choices of landing sites, different views, etc).
- Internal Fuel Tank: a single-use fuel tank using 5t of free space in the cargo bay. Select/activate as primed equipment.
- SW HUD CAI: modernised CB HUD with MFDs and customised SW altimeter for Hard Way.oxp (conflicts with SW HUD DAI)
- Not by Stranger! Useful MFDs has been modified by Dybal to include a rating for the all-important Solar Wind Flux (also downloadable in the Expansions Manager).
Experimental (not really "Strangers World")
- SW HUD DAI: modernised CB HUD with MFDs and default vanilla game altimeter (conflicts with SW HUD CAI)
For experimenting with the new planetary depictions in Oolite before updating the older planetary Systems textures (adding clouds & city lights, etc).
- Leesti is Moon 8k converts Leesti to the moon using 8k diffuse & normal maps
- Leesti is Moon LSM 8k - as above but with all lunar "Landing Sites" marked!
Playing Strangers World - tactics
Hard Way and Sun Gear really change the game mechanics.
- The type of sun you are flying to becomes much more important. So, trading between Isinor and Ensoreus, with Hard Way you have little fuel for errors when you arrive at either Ensoreus or Isinor (both tend to be pirate-infested). Stopping off in the Bemaera system becomes much more important - especially since you do not need to dock - the sun type is such that you can scoop fuel pretty closely to the witchpoint beacon, if you have fuel scoops fitted.
- Torus travel is now dangerous. If you fly by accident into a group of pirates, they will scrag you! With your shields down to 25% when you exit torus, you are much more vulnerable until your shields have fully recovered. And when you start adding more shield equipment it has a much greater effect. So the Naval Grids OXP, for example, allows recharging the shields more quickly, but at the price of depleting your energy banks more quickly. With the Vimana HUD, one gets warning signs for low shields, followed by warning signs for low energy. With an Extra Energy Unit, a (civilian) energy grid and shield boosters all installed, it can take 15km of full speed travel in a Cobra Mk.3 (after exiting Torus) to recharge both your shields and then another 10km until your energy banks have recovered! And if you exit Torus, deplete your energy banks and then re-enter Torus, when you exit the second time it can take forever to return to normal. When you combine this with the limited manoeuverability of Torus (pathetic yaw and feeble pitch), it all starts becoming much more of a skill.
- SW Economy changes trading too. Not all high tech industrial planets have computers for sale, but the relative weightlessness of luxuries changes the ability to make good profits at the system which make both. The lack of agricultural products (food, textiles, wines, furs and medicine) from small sized agriculturals (which are now mining systems) changes profits on agricultural exports. The details on the F7 page (GDP, planet radius and TL) gain a new significance.
Playing Stranger's World - conflicts/issues
The vast distances change the nature of the game when it comes to in-system missions. Many of these which involve time-limits are broken by the increased distances. And if one uses the Galactic Almanac which replaces the Planetary Compass, Stranger's replacement for these missions (In-System Cargo Delivery) is also broken as it relies on Planetary Compass.
The distances are created initially by Sun Gear which moves the sun well away from the planet, but then tweaked by Planetary Systems which adds more planets and changes their positions each time one leaves and reenters the system. This means that the sun's position is also changed a second time. Hence some stations which are placed, for example, in solar orbit are left stranded when the sun is moved to another position and end up in the middle of nowhere!
- See the discussion here.
- Alnivel has come up with a partial fix (August 2022) for this which will be found here: it does so at the cost of dismantling the dynamic orbits which Strangers World implements.
SW Economy is not yet fully implemented. The mining/extractive worlds appear identical to the agricultural worlds, with the same icons and the same market prices. The only difference is the lack of agricultural goods and the presence of mining materials. So the trade run between agricultural worlds and "mining worlds" will not yield much of a profit.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript
This article was not written by Stranger!
For insights into his thinking try More real astronomy in Oolite & Preferred .oxps
You might also like to read his summary of Oolite as a game: Roolite in Google Translate and there click on Forum (in green in the red scanner at the top). From the selection:
Discussion of the game and OXP Creation of OXP Author's headings Translations and Russification Elite and other games of the genre On other topics
Choose the first (Discussion of the game and OXP). You will be presented with a new set of choices:
Of public VK ( seventh ) Oolite - questions and answers ( stranger ) Ooniversum [Per page: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ] ( stranger ) Gallery [Per page: 1 ... 15 , 16 , 17 ] ( seventh ) Links only !!! on our OXR ( Tch ) Oolite 1.90 ( stranger ) Joystick selection and configuration ( sanata ) etc
Select the second (Oolite - questions and answers (stranger)) - there is a long and insightful essay by Stranger on both the good and bad points of Oolite.
- He has edited an English translation available here: Oolite essay: game lore, features and mechanics with an introduction post, the 4 posts of the essay and a concluding post.
- Stranger has also written a second essay on the economics of Oolite. Unfinished English translation currently available here: Stranger's Roolite Essay on Economics & Trade.
What is Oolite? Why are the rules so strange in this game?
Oolite is an Object-Oriented Elite. The goal of Giles Williams' project was to recreate the famous classic game Elite in the object-oriented language of Objective-C. Elite was written for machines with an 8-bit processor and 48 KB of RAM, so a huge universe of 2048 systems for that time was procedurally generated within the game. Just keep this fact in mind, and if the historically established rules of the game seem too primitive for, look for another cosmos.
Please note: the main goal of the project is not to give the gamer another free space game which is more cool than the commercial game Elite Dangerous, but rather to replicate the old favorite, Elite, of the veteran gamers of the 1980's. Therefore, the fundamental influence of that contingent on the forum is appropriate. In the same way, the Aleph One project, for example, does not have to play on an advanced game engine which is cooler than Quake, if the project's goal is to return the legendary Marathon for the veteran gaming community.
By the way, about the Russian language. Why is everything so tied-up with the translation of the game?
Translation of the game itself is not difficult and is quite accessible to any amateur who wants to do it. But no matter how you think, the main job is not the translation of the game itself, but that of the dozens of regularly updated additions (oxp's) - it's easier to learn fifty English words instead. But if you consider such work necessary and meaningful - take it on and do it.
There is, however, one serious problem. Many packages dynamically generate the necessary texts according to the situation. The English language is well suited for such a procedural generation of grammatically correct texts. Russian - no.
I want to draw your attention to an important point. Localization is implemented at two levels. At the basic level, support for the Russian font is added to the game. But at the top level, the English text of the game menu and / or message texts, interface elements, etc. must be replaced with Russian text. So, the problem with the Russification of the game itself, as a rule, is at the top level - with each update of the version of the game, this work must be done anew.
The best at the moment and up-to-date basic package for Russification is Tch_Cyrillic_for_English_1.0.1_2013-10-21.oxp (link in the personal section of Tch). Once again: by itself, this package does not make the game Russian-speaking, but only provides support for the Cyrillic alphabet.
Is it possible to make an .oxp package that will allow you to wander around the station or planetary locations? Or a package in which the star map will unfold as you explore, step by step?
Each new version of Oolite brings new features to the .oxp package developer, and some of the "definitely not doable" in Oolite 1.77.1 has become "easy" in Oolite 1.82. So something is possible. But far from everything. Some of it is core game code and cannot be modified through .oxp packages. It is technically possible to make a package with the ability to wander around the station and planetary ports, for example, if you are satisfied with an Adventure with static pictures and texts in the spirit of the early nineties. And it's not at all a fact that this must be a bastard hack. The awesome quest game Myst, for example, is mostly static screens with active zones.
To make an explorable map - yes, starting with Oolite 1.84 it became possible, and two packages (ZeroMap from SMax and my own Here Be Dragons) implement this possibility.
I have a problem! What to do?
At the very least, to clearly formulate the essence of your problem.
And for good reason, upload your relevant latest.log file to the forum, which contains the configuration of your game and displays error messages. An experienced gamer, of course, will quickly figure out "why my military laser is out of order", but not all problems are solved as easily.
The latest.log file is generally a powerful tool for diagnosing a problem. Sometimes with its help it is possible to track down a problem that has not surfaced in the game for years.
Where else can I read about the game? Just don't send me to their Oolite site, I'm not good at English.
And where else is there to send you, if almost all the information about the game is there? Unfortunately, this site roolite.org and our forum on it are not the only sources of information about the game for the Russian gamer. Oolite and this site, Roolite, are not commercial projects: everyone does what they can to the best of their ability and interest. Yes, the site is badly in need of updating. Seventh, who put a lot of energy into this project, does not physically have the time to do it any more. There are now two really active moderators on the forum - myself and Commander Vasig, but the two of us have power only as forum moderators. In real life, people do not pay money for Oolite, I do what I can and what my heart desires. For example, I'm rather more interested in developing my own packages than in reworking an outdated manual for a Russian gamer, so don't get at me!
What can I do for the community?
At the very least, don't be a parasite. Ask questions, suggest ideas, report bugs in packages.
In the first post of the topic, I tried to collect typical newbie tech questions. Now I will briefly talk about the game world - mainly in order to help describe what to expect from the game and what not to expect from it.
First of all, let me remind you once again that Oolite is a game made by Elite veterans for Elite veterans. This is a conscious decision of the game developers: Oolite is, in the first place, the game world of Elite, and not just another amateur cosmosim. In Oolite, the game world of the Elite has been recreated in detail - its maps, economy, technologies, politics, the gamer's battle rating system, a basic set of ships and equipment, and even a package of built-in game missions (however, several additions have been added to the equipment that were not in the original Elite) ... For beginners, with an Elite of strangers, this simple fact, upon first acquaintance, evokes a range of emotions from charm through polite bewilderment to violent rejection. Please, just accept this fact, or if that proves impossible, look for another game more to your liking.
The game world of Oolite is 8 maps with 256 systems on each map. In the old canon of the Elite, it was about 8 "galaxies", now the term "sector" has become established. Each sector is approximately 100 x 50 light years across. There is no transport system of stable hyperspace tunnels connecting the systems. The gamer's ship jumps between systems, independently opening a short-lived wormhole, and can reach any system within a radius of 7 light years. The maximum jump range is determined by the supply of special fuel (witchfuel) and in any case is forcibly limited from above by the same 7 LY. You can also travel between systems through a wormhole opened by another ship, in which case no fuel is consumed. Navigation between sectors is carried out using a one-time "intergalactic "drive, which does not consume fuel. The sectors are as if glued into a ring with one-way traffic only: once, for example, you jump from the first sector to the second, you will not be able to return to it until you jump to the eighth sector - and only from there you will get back to the first ...
Within the system, by default, there is only the sun, one main planet and a main station in its orbit. Actually, the main game object is the station, not the planet - you can save only at the station. There are also asteroids and asteroid hermit bases (rock hermits, starting with Oolite 1.82, you can save on them), but they still need to be found. Therefore, the main activity of the player at the beginning of the game are cargo flights between the main stations in neighbouring systems for a profit reliant on the difference in prices for goods in the markets of these main stations. In addition to free trade, you can also earn extra money with contracts for cargo and passenger transportation to a specific port of destination, but such contracts require a building up of the ship. As the ship is retrofitted and one's combat rating grows, other types of activity open up for the gamer. Events in the game universe of Oolite take place somewhat later than in the canonical Elite, but before the collapse of the single Galactic Co-Operative of Worlds, or GalCop, into three opposing large blocks - the Galactic Federation, the Empire and the Union of Independent Worlds, as it happened in the sequels to Elite. Accordingly, GalCop in the game is the main and, in fact, the only force. Eight types of political systems are mixed on maps without any visible regularity and are linked into a single legal field. There are no large-scale geopolitics as such in Oolite. There are no political blocs, factions or guilds. Large-scale wars, open military confrontation, risky raids on the deep rear of the enemy, sabotage, intrigue, espionage - there is none of this in the game either. The two main challenges of the Ooniversum are pirates and thargoids.
There are also no systems of developing meaningful reputation with different groups and guilds in the game. More precisely, you can earn a reputation for certain types of activities - for example, regular successful fulfillment of cargo contracts opens up the possibility of obtaining more interesting and profitable contracts. But usually these reputation systems operate locally within their area of competence and do not affect the reputation of a gamer outside of it. The basic gamer reputation system only takes into account combat rating and the "clean - offender - fugitive" legal status. The legal assessment criteria are simple. You can not trade prohibited goods, rob and kill peaceful traders with a clean legal status (clean) and attack the representatives of the law. You can kill any targets with a tainted legal status and use weapons for self-defense. Any cargo picked up by a gamer in outer space is considered his legal property (a gamer, however, has no right to start from a station with a prohibited item on board, even if it was picked up in space). These simple rules apply globally in any system, regardless of its political structure.
There is no technological development in the game in any form. Not in the form of a technology tree, not in the form of artifacts. Everyything is initially available to you - any ship and almost any equipment - if you get to the right place with the right amount of money in your account. There are technological bonuses for completing special tasks that cannot be obtained in any other way, but this is really an exception. There is no resource management in the game either: there is nothing to build and develop in the game.
There are essentially no deployed epic missions in the game either. The missions built into the game, inherited from the old Elite, do not approach that of the epic and occupy the gamer with meaningful activity only for a while. Moreover, the Ooniversum is a static world. The activity of the gamer in it does not change anything at all. Despite the openness of the gaming world, declared since the time of the Elite, illegal business in it is simply unprofitable, you will play on the dark side solely out of sporting interest.
Oh yes, I almost lost sight of the most fundamental annoyance. There is no multiplayer and it is not planned.
The main question that really annoys the newbie is - well, Jameson flew out of Lave with a hundred "Credits" in his pocket, and what should he do next? And the answer? Do what you want! This game is a sandbox in its purest form. Nobody sets you tasks: have fun for yourself as you see fit.
I think after listing what is not in the game, it makes sense to describe what is in it.
First of all, Oolite is a constructor world. Yes, the default game is quite austere compared to other games in this genre. This shortcoming is more than compensated for by the multitude of addon oxp's that add new objects that the gamer can interact with, new ships and equipment, and new activities (including large-scale missions!). There are also add-ons that add new planets, moons and stations to the system and, most importantly, new ports on them with their own markets. The game engine allows you to create an interesting game world with locations in which there is an incentive to stay for a game evening, or even for a couple, instead of passing through in transit on the way to the destination port, slowing down only for refueling. The gamer has the ability to customize his Ooniversum to his liking, which has everything you need - and nothing more. For gamer-consumers, who are used to fast food, of course, this approach will not appeal, but for a gamer who loves and knows how to experiment, this "constructor world" will be to their liking.
For the ambitious modder, the open architecture of Oolite allows bold experimentation far beyond the canon. The game engine allows not only adding new objects and new types of activity to the game or changing the visual design of existing ones, but also editing game mechanics and economics. At the extreme limit, it is really possible to implement a completely different game using the Oolite engine but with totally different rules and using very different maps.
Going beyond the default rules of the game, however, is exclusively the area of competence of addon developers: the concern of the game developers is to put in the game engine a degree of freedom to implement these possibilities outside the canon, and this degree of freedom grows with each update of the version of the game. The engine's capabilities, of course, are not limitless. However, this is a separate topic. '
In a previous post, I briefly outlined the Oolite game world as a whole. Now I want to talk about the features of the game mechanics.
Let's start with the fact that Ooniversum is a 3D world. Now this is not surprising, but in the era of arcade platformers, Elite, even with its wire-like graphics, looked incredibly cool. This degree of freedom, where the gamer does not follow a pre-designed single path, actually poses a difficult task for the game developer: how to fill this vast world with objects?
In the Elite, the task of filling the game world with objects was solved simply: the ships appeared randomly within the bubble surrounding the gamer and disappeared after being outside it. The radius of this bubble was equal to the radius of the scanner field. Hence, by the way, such a strange mechanism for detecting objects that migrated from the Elite: the scanner sees all objects, including the smallest ones, within a certain radius - and does not see anything outside of it. All events in the game were tied to the gamer and took place around the gamer; outside the bubble, absolutely nothing happened. I already said that Oolite with default settings looks like Elite and behaves like Elite. But just the populator in Oolite works differently: the system is seeded by ships at the moment of starting from the station after loading the game or at the moment of exiting the wormhole. And these ships live independent lives: they interact with each other independently of the gamer and switch attention to him only when the gamer is within the scanning range and is classified by AI as a priority target. But since the population size is limited from above, the ships are seeded not randomly throughout space, but within certain zones - this is primarily the vicinity of the main station and the entrance beacon, as well as the vicinity of the line connecting the entrance beacon and the planet. A small population of ships is also seeded in the vicinity of the system's sun and along the rest of the planet-beacon-sun triangle. This feature of the popularist's work opens up a radically new survival tactic for gamers: if in Elite the chance to get stuck in a meat grinder was a pure lottery and did not depend on the actions of a gamer, then in Oolite an observant gamer can at least detect a possible danger ahead of time, or even bypass it and quickly and safely get to the station not in the general traffic flow, but in a roundabout way. Add-ons such as Deep Space Pirates and Deep Space Dredgers close this cheating loophole, here in them the ships, and at the same time small clusters of asteroids, are really sown along the course of the gamer, but not within the scanning radius, but at a distance of several radii, which guarantees interesting meetings even at a great distance from the main planet and the main line along which the main traffic in the game moves.
Speaking of interesting encounters, it is worth noting: an open world travel is, of course, great, but an ordinary gamer expects from a game of this genre, first of all, dynamic battles in space at a distance of line of sight. It is believed that Newtonian physics as such is completely absent in the game. There is also an opinion that honest Newtonian physics is not needed in combat space, because real physics is incompatible with the canons of the genre. And it is unfair to make claims in this regard exclusively to Oolite: a crafty relationship with real physics is a birth trauma of the genre of cosmosim as a whole. Demanding real physics from a cosmosim (and demanding at the same time technologies based on real physics) is like demanding that fantasy combat be honest, with pieces of iron and without any magic.
In fact, you will be surprised, the developers of the game didn’t completely leave out physics, and did what they could without sacrificing the gameplay. The fundamentals of Newtonian dynamics are present in the game, and they are simulated quite adequately. Containers and debris of asteroids in open space scatter in a straight line, and ships accelerate to a steady speed and do not slow down instantly, but slow for a quite noticeable period of time, and strictly observing the formula of uniformly accelerated motion. The very phenomenon of steady speed, of course, confuses the gamer who has not completely forgotten the school physics course - it would seem that nothing prevents the ship from accelerating to any possible speed in the absence of environmental resistance forces? But even this paradox is easily closed by a simple assumption that the ships in Ooniversum use non-jet thrust for movement (for the creation of which the consumption of the working fluid is required, which is not observed in Oolite!), and surfing on a wave of space disturbance. And the arcade model of flight "where he turned, he flew there" is explained by the same surfing: the ship glides along the wave where its nose is directed. But there is really no trace of gravity in Oolite. There are zones of influence of massive celestial bodies - flying on a jump drive in the vicinity of planets and moons is impossible - and there is no gravity. For a world-exploration game, it is rather bad, but for a combat spaceship, it is rather good. So there is one significant choice: either Oolite with its dynamics of space battles, or Orbiter with its honest mechanics of space flight. I repeat: for me, it’s better to have an honest absence of real physics than something that is sometimes similar to physics (otherwise, it’s a schoolboy who isn’t accustomed to reading textbooks and will really believe in the existence of terrible gravitational traps, where one is sucked to death).
There is no gravity in Oolite, but ships and stations do have inert mass. True, it is not a basic parameter, but is calculated very approximately through the dimensions of the ship and its density (yes, this is exactly how it is not the volume of the ship's hull that is calculated, but rather the volume of the box enclosing it). The mass of the cargo taken on board and the equipment and weapons installed on the ship is not taken into account in this formula. Fuel consumption does not affect the dynamics of the ship either, so the mass of the ship or station manifests itself only in indirect effects, on which the gamer rarely fixes his attention. Technically, the game engine starting from version 1.82 allows simulating the influence of the variable mass of the ship on its dynamic characteristics (thrust-to-weight ratio, maximum speed, turn rate along the axes), but the implementation of such a model rests on the problems of game balance. The standard equipment is in no way tied to the dimensions of the ship, the entire basic set can be put on even a tiny Adder, even a heavy Anaconda. In this situation, a handicap from the mass of equipment, barely noticeable for a heavy Anaconda, would be prohibitively large for a crumb-like Adder.
The arcade model of flight in Oolite, of course, looks archaic, if not primitive, in the light of more advanced space sims such as the pretentious Elite Dangerous, but much depends on subjective preferences. For a warrior who has been honing the art of stomping keys in meat-grinding sessions for years, it is really a pichalka, for an aviation simmer who is used to a joystick - the least evil. What is the use of an advanced flight model in six degrees of freedom (aka 6DOF), if the gaming industry is somehow not happy with game controllers which provide an intuitive implementation of this very 6DOF? In reality, the opposite trend is observed: avionics relieves the pilot from the mechanical work of piloting, freeing his attention to make critical decisions. Where I turned, I flew - exactly our expected concept of piloting ships in the distant future. If there are objections to this thesis, try flying in Orbiter, where the real dynamics of the spacecraft is simulated, including the aerodynamic forces in the atmospheric phase of the flight, then decide for yourself whether you need real dynamics in combat space. In the exploration world, yes, real dynamics would be an interesting feature, but then you must forget about epic battles with pirates.
Weapons and combat mechanics
Space battles in Oolite take place within the distance of sight. This is the canon of the genre. The main weapon of the gamer is a laser cannon, and this is also a canon. Rockets are auxiliary weapons, rather as a last resort for self-defense. For a jet simmer, who usually starts an air battle with a missile duel, this is, of course, savagery. But it just so happens to be in space: here the exchange of missile strikes outside the line of sight for the gamer is of little interest. There are also plasma turrets on space stations and large ships, but they are almost useless. Again, in comparison with advanced spacemen, the choice of weapons is very ascetic. The veteran cosmosims which replaced Elite are accustomed to the fact that the ship has an armored hull and active protection (force field). Direct energy transfer weapons (laser and beam) effectively burn through protective fields, but are less effective against armor. Kinetic weapons (electromagnetic guns and missiles), on the contrary, are ineffective against a force field, but inflict great damage to the hull. Sometimes you can find selective weapons - for example, burning the electronic circuits of the target ship, leaving its hull and cargo intact. There is nothing of this in the default Oolite, first of all, because the damage to the case as such in the default game mechanics is not handled in any way. The only criterion for the effectiveness of a weapon that is taken into account by the game engine is energy damage. The choice of weapons in this situation comes down to upgrading the starting pulsed firing machine to a military laser capable of pumping maximum energy into the target in a minimum of time. Any wishes of a novice gamer "give me more different weapons" meet a completely reasonable phlegmatic counter question: why? What is there in the Ooniversum (other than the stations) which cannot be eventually destroyed with the appropriate patience with a military laser? The gamer's ship combat damage model actually boils down to accidental destruction of cargo or accidental damage to equipment. After the power shields are burned out, energy is consumed from the energy stack, and when it is completely depleted, the ship is considered destroyed. However, it is worth breaking fire contact and leaving the battle, as the levels of the energy stack and shields are regenerated to their original level, even if the ship was on the verge of death, so repair after the battle is reduced to repairing damaged equipment. Bots are generally simulated as solid blanks with a given level of energy and the rate of its regeneration. Especially this feature of the game mechanics delivers, when an unfinished bot, which a couple of minutes ago was leaking plasma, catching its breath aside, again takes up a gamer with the same fervor and by all indications with the same good health. Add to this an inexhaustible supply of energy to replenish its losses in battle and inexhaustible cannon ammunition - an obvious legacy of arcade shooters. There is nothing you can do about it, the 42 KB of the 8-bit Elite does not allow much option. And laser weapons with instant energy transfer are also from this eight-bit past: there is no need to count the lead when firing, it is enough to check whether the target was in the center of the reticle at the time of the shot. In the updated manual Oolite Reference Sheet, which comes with the distribution of the game, by the way, the speed of ships is given in light waves (LM) - "the maximum speed that a ship can reach without being affected by relativistic effects" (in the game, this is, just don't laugh , 1 km / s). Forget it. The military laser beam reaches the target at the edge of the scanner's field not after 25 seconds, but instantly.
There is no equipment compartment as such. The equipment has no dimensions and does not consume energy. You can easily take the little Adder and turn it into an übership with naval shields and a military laser. You can go beyond this and attach a bunch of add-on oxp equipment to the ship - unless, of course, their authors have provided for checking the ship's class (they usually do not consider it necessary to do this, assuming by default that the gamer will fly the default Cobra Mark Three). The essence of the problem in some cases is precisely this: it is assumed by default that the gamer will start his career on the default Cobra Mark Three. In the Elite it was so: a default ship with no other options and a set of default equipment. It was assumed by default that this entire set of equipment will be in demand one way or another, but there will still be no other, therefore, it didn't make sense to complicate the code by simulating an equipment compartment of limited capacity. In Oolite, the possibility of acquiring another ship also did not appear immediately, but when it was finally realized, it became clear in hindsight that the initial good intention to carefully preserve the spirit of the legendary Elite in the new Ooniversum ended up opening a logical hole. In the Cosmosims of the generation that followed the Elite, where the possibility of customizing the configuration of the gamer's ship was initially laid down, this trap was avoided. Where the ability to customize the configuration of the gamer's ship was originally laid, this trap was avoided.
Another example of playful absurdity is the story of the fuel injector (Witchfuel Injector, WFI). Classic Elite did not have this device, but the thing is really useful. Veterans remember very well that the anarchic systems in the old Elite were avoided as unlucky - if there was no way to choose a safer workaround, the gamer stocked up on an energy bomb, but sometimes it helped only for a while. Then there was only one thing left: to eject, having lost all the cargo. The fuel injector does not give a complete guarantee of safety, since the bad guys often have it too (and rightly so!) And sometimes tenaciously chase the gamer until the fuel is completely depleted. But still, the opportunity to soberly assess the likely outcome of the battle with a dozen pirates and dump away can only be welcomed. There is only one bad thing: with the purchase of a fuel injector, even a low-speed Python easily leaves any rocket (the speed of the Python with the injector is 200 * 7 = 1400, the speed of the rocket is 750, almost half the speed!), which, you see, is somehow strange. Well, that is, you yourself can chase the pirate Python with the afterburner, but the rocket you launched can not. I can’t give you a pruflink for how long ago, but I remember that Giles Williams himself complained on their forum in hindsight that he was too smart with a sevenfold speed multiplier. And again, the problem of an unrealistically overestimated flight speed multiplier with afterburner is quite solvable at the current stage.
The most serious problem of Oolite as a combat cosmosim, in my biased opinion, is not the simplified game mechanics in itself (which can be easily customised through add-on oxp's to a really advanced level, if there is a desire), but a depressingly primitive interface. Yes, it is possible to simulate a customized ship with an equipment compartment of limited capacity with proper patience, but while the gamer does not have the opportunity to fully interact with the equipment through the clickable cockpit or at least through the assigned hotkeys, there is little sense from this equipment.
So, given all of the above claims, can we say that the amateur Oolite as a combat cosmosim hopelessly loses in competition with more advanced games of this genre?
In my biased opinion, no. The important question here is: how do bots behave? Bots in the current Oolite, even in the default configuration, behave quite interestingly during combat contact: they are well-aimed, agile, show the ability to cooperate and sometimes quite adequately assess the degree of threat, and do not stupidly adhere to an idiotic frontal attack. Against this background, attention is somehow focused away from the primitiveness of the flight model, the intuitively simple control is perceived rather as an advantage of the game.
Scanty set of weapons? The issue is controversial. In the space shooter Descent there were five types of guns and five types of missiles. This was not enough for some of the fans of the game, and in the sequel to Descent 2, the developers added the same amount. Aviation simmers shrug their shoulders: two types of missiles (radar-guided and thermal) are enough to kill any aerial target. Here's the truth, the radar in the air combat mode can work in four different modes, each of which requires thorough study and regular practice. Should we strive for something similar in combat space? In truth, the Elite's target acquisition and recognition system is the thing if you like to feel like a fighter rather than an operator of high-tech weapons systems, for the development of which you need to thoughtfully smoke a manual of 500+ A4 pages. There are, of course, a bunch of cheat add-ons that automatically sort targets by threat level and kindly report not only their status, but also the current level of protection (and this is before the first shot!), But fortunately, installing them is purely voluntary. And yes, I said it already, but I repeat: the ascetic HUD interface from the old 8-bit Elite is a great example of how a functional HUD should look: everything you need and nothing more, without these Hollywood design delights that have taken root in modern cosmos.
That's all for now, and next time I'll try to tell you how Ooniversum can be interesting for a researcher.
The endless game world sandpit, in which the gamer is free to choose the path, sounds great, but nowadays it is already slightly worn out. And this journey began in boundless space - yes, you guessed it, it was with the legendary Elite. Let the wire graphics - but the 3D world without barriers, fly wherever you want. And there was somewhere to fly, 8 cards of 256 systems, any of which could become a bright adventure for the evening. The descriptions of these systems were arranged according to the in-built template, but the then gamer, who was still living in the era of text-based adventures, had a vivid imagination and knew how to entertain himself on his own. As one of the old-school gamers recalled at the Elite Veterans Forum: he flew in, unloaded at the station, saved himself and went to bed. And in the passport of the system, a tropical rain forest is mentioned - and now a person, falling asleep, imagines how this forest looks, sounds and smells and how great it would be to fly there on a shuttle. When processors were eight-bit, programmers were heedful of every byte of memory. When I first encountered Elite, I was shocked and fascinated: how the hell did they manage to do this? Just think how many kilobytes a complete catalog of all 2048 systems should take? Let's take at least Diso with her
This planet is mildly noted for its ancient Ouza tulip plantations but ravaged by frequent earthquakes.
I will not bore you with calculations, but according to estimates, it turns out something like 128 bytes for the system and 256 KB for the entire directory. Unbearably huge for a tiny 42 K memory of the Spectrum an array of information.
Procedural generation is the secret.
The entire vast world of the Elite is essentially grown from a tiny six-byte seed, and what looks like a game database is a shell that transforms the bits of the seed into many unique playable locations according to certain rules. 6 bytes is actually a lot, it is 2 ^ 48 unique keys, each of which creates a unique map at the output. In total, there is potential not just 8 maps with 256 systems in each, but 281,474,976,710,656 unique maps, among which there is a map with the planet ASSHOLE (there is one in my working archives!). But the legendary planet RAXXLA in this boundless ocean of probable worlds is not and cannot be - the algorithm for generating the name of the system precludes such a combination.
Nowadays, procedurally generated space will surprise no one, but the situation has turned inside out. Three decades ago, a procedural generator was used to dynamically fill a memory space with content that was too small for manually created and customized game worlds. Now game universes created on the server side can already take up terabytes of memory. Filling such colossal amounts of memory with meaningful content manually is a hopeless task. The current procedural generation algorithms no longer just create unique configurations of solar systems in general terms. They are used to generate unique planets with their own relief, climate and unique biota. Amazing progress ... and mostly pointless. In the truest sense of the word. No Man's Sky. Space, in which a person, by and large, has nothing to do.
I don’t mean to say that procedural generation is a waste of time. It creates the foundation of the world, freeing the game coders from the unbearable volumes of monotonous technical work. But procedural generation only sets the stage for meaningful content. Plot, history, cultural layer, lore - call it what you want, without this there is no game. And it is precisely the persistent misunderstanding of this fact that is the reason for the fiasco of the Parallel Reality 002 project. Some kind of motivation is needed to stimulate the gamer to wander purposefully, not just at random no matter where.
What was the motivation for the gamer in the canonical Elite besides a set of kills, bringing him closer to the coveted legendary rating? Well, at first, the gamer was simply not up to global reflections about the meaning of life, the Universe and everything else. Having grasped the basic rule "we take electronics in the industrial world, we sell in the agricultural world, we collect alcohol or furs, we fly to the industrial world, profit!" the gamer was busy looking for the best route with the optimal balance of profit and risk. Basically, this part of the game was learned quickly by trial and error. Having pumped the ship up to be an “iron ass”, the gamer set off on a free journey. Well, then, in the exciting anticipation of the missions that were legendary (very few people knew at least approximately how many there are in the game, what they would be, where and when they were given!), Whoever could fill the time as best he could. For example, why not cross the entire map diagonally from corner to corner before jumping to the next one? Or even cross all four corners. There is a goal, there is a choice of a route to it, each game session moves you towards its achievement. Of course, no discoveries were expected on the way of the gamer: no matter what system you take, in fact they were not much different. The only sun with a single planet, and even that was interesting only insofar as it was necessary to look for the solitary station of the system next to it. This did not prevent the gamers from filling this world with meaningful content on their own: people were looking for the legendary planet RAXXLA and even an analogue of the Earth, they discussed vague rumors about meetings with generation ships in deep space and wondered where the thargoid home nest was, and undertook ultra-long-distance expeditions, trying to check whether it is possible to get from one system to another through ordinary space, and not through a wormhole.
And what about Oolite? What can the explorer's game do?
Oolite no longer needs the old procedural generator to create a game universe from a six-byte seed. Information about systems is stored in a huge planetinfo.plist, which can be supplemented and edited to the best of your ability. But in the default vanilla game, the first impression is the same as in the old Elite: the sun with a single planet and a single station. For a novice who has looked into Oolite from the outside, such asceticism is discouraging. The base game provides only a skeleton, which the gamer completes with loadable .oxp modules and customizes to his liking. The concept of a constructor world is designed for a gamer who loves and knows how to come up with tasks for himself. Not everyone is willing to understand and accept this approach. And if you look at this ecosystem as a whole, the game plus half a thousand add-ons, you get a potentially rich world. Each of the 2048 Ooniversum systems is no longer just a sun with a single planet and a single station, but a fully-fledged model of the solar system with planets, moons and stations, which now opens up an additional dimension to the gamer - interplanetary flights. The game engine technically allows these systems to be as spacious as you like, and the procedural generator is unique. The question is still how to fill this procedurally generated kaleidoscope of locations with interesting meaningful activity. The procedural generator by itself, as we noted above, cannot do this.
Designing all these 2048 systems by hand, customizing them individually, saturating them with meaning and plot - well, you know, this is far too ambitious not only for a lone amateur, but also for a team of game developers. But the good news is that you don't need to meticulously design all 2048 systems. Cosmic wonders do not have to come across at every step. Interesting hand-sculpted locations, separated by routine procedurally generated intermediate points - why not? Let's drop it offhand. 16 individually configured systems on the map, maybe even only 8 systems - this is already enough to stimulate long-distance flights within the sector. And it will be a completely meaningful game goal as opposed to the meaningless infinity of No Man's Sky, where it doesn't matter where one flies.
Let's face it, the potential of this open world is poorly realized. And here the criticisms are not directed against the developers of the game, but against the community of addon oxp developers. At first, addon developers drew inspiration from the lore that grew out of Holdstock's Dark Wheel. In Ooniversum, in addition to the hermit asteroids, which are in the default game, there are deep space dredgers, generation ships, thargoid craft - all these legends of the old Elite have been brought to life. If anything, now, the legendary planet RAXXLA can be technically created - of course, linking its search with a non-trivial plot. There is a legendary space graveyard in the Tionisla system, there are three more systems with individual settings, and finally, there is a promising, but alas, abandoned project The Famous Planets. There are finally some epic missions like Trident Down. Alas, this is practically everything that now exists and almost all of this has become so outdated that it urgently needs at least a cosmetic update. Ooniversum is not attracted by the concept of world-exploration. The first meeting with the colossal ship of generations, of course, is impressive, but only just - I saw it, took a screenshot as a souvenir, unloaded it into the gallery and forgot. This meeting gives neither answers to old secrets, nor ties to new plots. The pulsar in the Tianve system, the orbital cemetery in the Tionisla system - the same issue. The first time one look's it is interesting, but nothing more. There are no storylines for these locations.
Commander Vasig might remind us: well, since we are talking about Tionisla, the mission of Tionisla Reporter is connected with this system. Right. There are other missions that start when the gamer enters a certain system. But the fact is that in Tionisla herself there is absolutely nothing unique, anything unique which makes it possible to receive the mission only there - except that it is system number 124 in the First Sector. Now imagine that it is possible to get and pass a mission not just by being in the desired location, but by collecting and analyzing a bunch of information in order to catch a pattern and calculate this location.
The default Ooniversum is an interesting world for a fighter or an athlete-traveler. To be registered visiting all the Famous Planets or even all 2048 systems is quite a goal for yourself. But the researcher in this world, by and large, has almost nothing to do. There are mysteries in the Ooniversum, but there is no mystery in it. What mystery can there be if Ooniversum is a densely populated world in which everyone knows about everyone? Gamers do not need to go on long expeditions to unexplored areas of the map to find high-tech worlds in which to upgrade or purchase a new ship. There are no unexplored areas of the map in Ooniversum - the entire map is revealed immediately. All high-tech systems of 13+ gaming level, all agricultural systems that need electronics, all anarchic pirate-infested systems - all this a gamer can discover right away without leaving Lave, and without any navigational database upgrades.
I do not mean to say that Ooniversum is boring and does not provide food for the mind. Due to the stochastic behavior of the popularizer, even a routine trade trip in a well-known system can turn into a bright adventure, and, on occasion, an unplanned profit or loss, it’s as lucky. But skirmishes with pirates and raids of thargoids also become routine over time.
Could there be any terra incognita in this densely populated world?
Why not? At the very least, there is a spacious solar system outside the well-trodden path of the entrance lighthouse - the planet, and in this spacious solar system you can place a lot of things, even while remaining within the canon. Ships and stations of aliens somewhere on the distant outskirts (other aliens, not thargoids), planets and moons, potentially suitable for industrial development and even for terraforming, and maybe even with their own xenobiology.
There was a definite movement in this direction. Interesting planets and moons for the explorer, however, never appeared, but Smivs, with the help of other developers, was noted for his interesting packages Aliens and Star-jelly, in which there really are mysterious alien ships (possibly of organic nature) and huge organisms - inhabitants of open space ... Alas, the potential of these packages has not been developed.
What's wrong with these packages? Yes, in principle, the same thing as with dredgers and with the generation ships: meeting with these seemingly unique creatures is in no way tied to certain locations that a gamer needs to calculate, find and explore. A meeting with them does not portend any secret, but remains a pure whim of roulette.
I think the time has come, from grumbling “this is all wrong,” to finally move on to a concrete conversation: how, at least approximately, do I imagine the world of exploration?
And at least something like in the Star Trek universe. Something about the destination system is known, but only in general terms. There is information about the spectral class of the star and, possibly, about the presence of planets in it. It may be known that this system has a station or colony on the planet, but contact with it will need to be established upon arrival. The gamer arrives at the system, scans it in general terms, approaches the planet and scans it remotely. Launches drones for additional reconnaissance on the planet and finally lands himself (yes, I know, in Star Trek, the budget was poorly allocated for drones and planetary shuttles and we had to invent quantum teleportation, but the train of thought is clear).
And here the scope of imagination runs into tough reality. The problem is not even that such a scenario is far beyond the scope of Oolite's lore. Much worse is the fact that full-fledged development in Oolite occurs only in space. Landing on the surface of the planet as such, or going into outer space, the Oolite engine will not dare to process any of this - instead, a temporary port is created and the gamer's ship is docked with it. So, alas, no trips on an all-terrain vehicle and hiking with a geological hammer or tricorder, no survey of abandoned alien objects, no contact with local flora and fauna. All that can be done is to schematically illustrate the landing process with a package of pre-prepared pictures.
With the generation of beautiful cryptic graphs, diagrams and something similar to the computer interfaces that captivate Hollywood scriptwriters, it is also a complete ambush. But scientific reports in the form of texts and even in the form of tables can be created completely. Of course, they will look archaic, but why not give the gamer an extended passport of the planet, which he will see after exploring it? Not just the radius of the planet, but its equilibrium temperature, gravity on the surface, density and composition of the atmosphere, composition of the soil, the presence of water, the index of vitality.
That's all for now, and next time I want to talk about whether it is possible to fit real astronomy into Oolite.
So, the Oolite engine allows you to create spacious, unique solar systems. You can finally reveal the cards. You can even make full-fledged alternative maps with alternative topology and alternative system passports. But the essence of Ooniversum remains unchanged: it is a densely populated game universe, in which all 2048 systems are just variations on the theme of the solar system with the sun and an inhabited terrestrial planet. Just what you need for the genre of space opera. But if you are at least minimally interested in astronomy, then you will argue: the variety of astronomical objects in the real world is immeasurably richer than the impoverished and wretched fantasies of workers in the genre of space opera.
Let's dare to go beyond the lore and figure out if it is possible to bring at least some of this variety into Oolite? What astronomical objects, in principle, can you try to simulate in Oolite?
The starfield and the Oolite nebulae are not a planetarium. And in the starry sky of Oolite, this fact is clearly visible.
Let's start with the obvious fact that all systems on the map lie in one plane, and do not extend in depth. So the dizzying sensation of space, in which there is no habitual top and bottom, is realized only within local systems. If we add to this that, technically, each system has its own isolated play space and movement between them occurs through wormholes, it will not work to simulate something similar to more realistic interstellar flight, in which the sun of the destination system gradually appears within the star field.
The starfield pattern is pseudo-randomly generated based on the random_seed seed unique to each system in the planetinfo.plist. There is no correlation between the patterns of the star field in neighbouring systems, so the skills of astronavigation for conspicuous stellar configurations work only in relation to this one individual system. Meanwhile, in reality, the skeletal lines defining constellations are usually composed of high luminosity stars, distant from the terrestrial observer for tens and hundreds of light years. If you move the observer from the Solar System to the Alpha Centauri system at a distance of 4.4 LY from the Sun, then the outlines of the Big Dipper's bucket will hardly change. The zigzag pattern of Cassiopeia will also remain recognizable, except that an extra bright star named the Sun will be added to the letter W. The constellation of Orion will also be easy to read if you get used to it, that the bright Sirius will be next to Betelgeuse (this will be a very spectacular configuration!). In general, the skills of orientation in the terrestrial starry sky, after a little adaptation, will work in neighboring systems.
Alas, it is impossible to correct this situation with the hands of an amateur, since the Oolite engine does not support anything similar to the texture maps of the starry sky edited by a juzverem.
The nebulae in Oolite are also pure Hollywood scenery. Nebulae, in general, are a rather rubbishy historical concept, where they dumped all extended objects that are not resolved through a telescope into individual stars. And if the Orion Nebula is indeed a cloud of luminescent gas, then the Andromeda Nebula is a galaxy of billions of stars. The Orion nebula is about one and a half thousand light years away, and the Andromeda nebula is two and a half million, so you can fly not only to the neighboring system, but also walk around the entire map - and their relative position in the sky will practically not change. And here we have our own home nebulae in each system. The only thing that can be done with this meaningless beauty is to turn it off altogether, or leave one nebula with a good quality texture for the entire Ooniversum (alas, it is also impossible to define your own nebula for each of the 8 maps).
But something similar to dark dust nebulae (coal sacks), in principle, can be simulated. A real astronomical fact: for the last 5 ... 10 million years, the Sun has been in the so-called Local Bubble about 300 light-years in size, filled with rarefied interstellar gas (which, by the way, gives very favorable opportunities for observational astronomy). In a different scenario, we could find ourselves in a highly dusty region of the Galaxy with limited visibility. The size of the Local Bubble exceeds the size of a typical map (about 200x100 LY) and it can be assumed with a clear conscience that all 8 maps fit in such a vast area, so declaring the number of sky_n_stars stars and the background illumination level ambient_level as global parameters is quite justified. It is possible, however, to accept the opposite rule - individual maps or even island regions like the worlds behind the Great Rift on map 7 can be located in dense dust nebulae, where it is dark and there are few stars in the sky. But there is a technical problem here. The number of stars in the system can be selectively adjusted using the star_count_multiplier coefficient without affecting the global parameter sky_n_stars. You can selectively correct their colour, bringing them closer to red in highly dusty regions. But the lighting level ambient_level can only be set directly, the coefficients of its selective correction are not provided. This means that a gamer who does not like the default lighting level of ambient_level = 1 will not be able to adjust the lighting level in such systems through the global setting. This is just the thing which I tried unsuccessfully to explain to Tch/Ч - his concept of Dark and Light worlds bends the gamer under the author's vision of the game, which is absolutely unacceptable for me personally.
About half of the stars in our Galaxy are double or multiples. Technically though, the Oolite engine allows only one sun to be identified within the system, so the simulation of close binaries in Ooniversum is impossible. But in reality, the orbits of planets in a binary star system with close components are unstable, so in any case a choice arises: either a close binary system, but no planets in the habitable zone, or a single star with planets.
In the Ooniversum, there are systems separated by a distance of about 0.1 ... 0.2 LY. On the map of the First Sector, for example, these are the Legees and Laeden systems (coordinates 4 253 and 4 254). In reality, stars separated by this distance are often physically connected. Technically, the Legees and Laeden systems are independent and are identical playable locations, but in the alternative Ooniversum they could be interpreted as a wide gravitationally bound pair of Laeden A and Laeden B with a very long orbital period.
In principle, you can also simulate a system with an ordinary star and a brown dwarf if you add a large planet with a suitable texture to the system. This is how the pulsar was added to the Tianve system - technically, in game-code terms, it is a planet.
Since there is only one sun in the system, then there can be no eclipsing variable stars. But what about physical variability when a star changes its luminosity?
Something similar to solar activity can be simulated by changing the size of the solar corona through a script and even adding spots to the sun's disk.
The suns in Ooniversum are coloured. The line of stars in the main sequence, from the Sun's twin stars (yellow star of spectral type G2V) to red dwarfs of spectral type M, in principle, can be simulated with careful observance of relative sizes, as is done in the Sun Gear package. In principle, it is possible to go beyond this line and simulate red giants - but such a system must be made very spacious, since the radius of the red giant is tens and hundreds of times the radius of the Sun. I'm not sure that such a huge system would be interesting in terms of play. But with hot blue and white stars there is a technical complexity - it is difficult to achieve their natural shade of color. The same goes for dim, almost extinct red dwarfs, which shine mainly in the infrared range. Perhaps this limitation can be circumvented, taking the System features: using a Sunspots package as a basis and covering the red dwarf disk with many large spots. But unfortunately, the lighting model in Oolite is primitive: a point in the center of the solar disk is taken as a light source, so the lighting changes according to a discrete on-off principle. Therefore, you should not count on believable lighting in such exotic cases.
What about the fascinating space wonders from popular astrophysics articles?
The pulsar in the Tianve system, as I said, is just a rapidly rotating planet. The only danger it poses to a gamer is from a direct collision. In reality, pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars with colossal gravity and a very powerful magnetic field. An excursion of a living observer to the immediate vicinity of such objects, generally speaking, is ruled out, if only because of the intense ionizing radiation. But if you really want cosmic wonders so much, you can simulate a black hole in the same way - and, in principle, even a passable wormhole, which will transfer the gamer to one of the systems within 7 LY radius-neighborhood without spending fuel (I think you yourself will figure out how this could be done by fiddling through the EliteWiki documentation). But if you definitely want a black hole with the visual effects of a gravitational lens and relativistic time dilation effects, as in the Interstellar movie, then I'm sorry. You can make something similar to an accretion disk around a black hole or pulsar using the System Features: Rings package as a basis, but again, in real life, a living observer will be able to look at this cosmic miracle only from a distance and for a very short time, since the accretion disk is heated to tens of millions degrees and shines very strongly in X-rays.
Let me note in consolation: cosmic miracles are not found at every step. The famous X-ray source SS 433 - a binary system with a black hole - is 18,000 light years away. The stellar population in the immediate vicinity of the Sun is mostly red and orange dwarfs, and these same stars dominate the population of the Galaxy as a whole. However, red dwarfs like Proxima Centauri also have no sugar in their character: these stars produce frequent solar flares with intense radiation in the ultraviolet and X-rays. The flux of ionizing radiation associated with solar activity in the habitat of Proxima Centauri is tens of times higher than that of the Sun at the level of the Earth's orbit, which is fraught with a complete loss of water and atmosphere of the recently discovered exoplanet in this system.
It must be said that when calculating the equilibrium temperature in the vicinity of the sun, the Oolite engine does not pay attention to the color of the star. In the default Ooniversum, all luminaries have the same temperature and the critical overheating of bodies in their immediate vicinity is determined only by the distance to the sun, expressed in its radii. Likewise, refueling according to the default rules begins at a distance from the surface of the sun less than 0.15 of its radius, regardless of its color. So if you want to simulate habitats around the stars, where water on the planet can exist in liquid form, you need to write an .oxp script, as is done in Sun Gear. The same is with the mass of the sun: in the default Oolite, the sun has no mass, and if you want to simulate something similar to celestial mechanics, this must be done through a script.
Planets and moons
The system description that the gamer sees on the F7 screen - is there anything in it which relates to real astronomy? Nothing but the radius of the planet, and this radius in the default Ooniversum is frankly a fantasy parameter. An Ooniversum planet with a radius of less than three thousand kilometers can easily have not only a dense atmosphere suitable for breathing (all 2048 main planets of Ooniversum have a dense atmosphere suitable for breathing!), but also a well-developed agricultural economy. In reality, such a planet would be an atmosphere-deprived dry world like Mercury, or a frozen world with an extremely rarefied atmosphere like Mars, or an atmosphere-deprived ice world like Ganymede with a water-ammonia ocean under an ice crust, or again an ice world with an ocean in the depths but with a dense cold atmosphere like Titan. But to be a small copy of the Earth, with small oceans, continents, lakes, rivers, forests, meadows, fields, gardens, pastures - sorry, this is impossible. A small planet cannot maintain a moderately dense and warm enough atmosphere for liquid water to exist on the surface. The small planet also quickly loses its internal heat and becomes geologically dead, which leads to serious consequences. First, when the molten core solidifies, the planetary dynamo is turned off and the planet is deprived of the magnetic field that protects the atmosphere from the solar wind. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, when convection in the mantle is turned off, tectonic and volcanic activity ceases. Leakage of the volatiles that form the atmosphere and oceans into space is not replenished by degassing the subsoil, and besides, the geochemical cycle of carbon is broken - carbon is removed from the cycle and irrevocably buried in sedimentary rocks.
If we take the planet - the Earth's double in radius, then the space of options is much richer and some of them simply have no analogues in the solar system. A garden planet in the Elite Dangerous classification system, an M-class planet in the Star Trek universe - this is approximately our Earth. Of course, there are vast territories on Earth that cannot be called a garden, but if you look from the outside, from somewhere like the Moon, yes, we are lucky with our home: the planet is blue and green, with a suitable temperature and a rich biology. And there could be an extremely hot world with a monstrously dense atmosphere like Venus. Or the Earth-snowball, completely enclosed by ice from the poles to the equator, with oases of the simplest life in the areas of geothermal springs. Or a desert supercontinent. Or an ocean planet completely covered with water. Or a volcanic world flooded with vast pools of lava. Or a cryovolcanic world with a very cold and very dense atmosphere and lakes of liquid ethane on the surface - a large version of Titan. How about a version of a planet-ocean heated to a state of supercritical fluid? Or planets in extremely elongated orbits, when at the maximum distance from the sun in aphelion the temperature drops so much that the atmosphere completely freezes out? Or a planet whose axis of rotation is obstructed by ninety degrees and a season of extreme heat at the poles alternates with a season of extreme cold, and glaciers are deposited in a ring around the equator, and do not form polar caps? There are many options, because all these Earth twins arose and existed in different conditions. How long ago was the planet formed? What was the composition of the protosolar nebula in this region of space? From what sources was the supply of volatiles on the planet formed, was it enough to form the atmosphere and oceans? How intense was the asteroid bombardment? Have there been catastrophic collisions with large celestial bodies? How did the planet's orbit evolve? How did the luminosity of the sun change?
I think you get what I mean. If you take into account this vast space of options, you get a completely different Ooniversum, in which rare worlds suitable for colonization are separated by worlds suitable at best for the extraction of raw materials on a rotational basis and the placement of robotic production complexes. Most of the uninhabitable systems in this Oneiversum will be too far from inhabited systems to be of any industrial or resource value. There will be other plots in the alternate Ooniversum. Instead of long-distance passenger and cargo transportation - long-distance risky expeditions through the galactic wastelands in search of other inhabited worlds. Or maybe uninhabited, but suitable for terraforming.It may be so - individual colonies will wage fierce battles among themselves for control over strategically important systems or conclude agreements on their joint exploitation, or even unite into clusters that control a significant part of the map. In any case, the Galactic Commonwealth will not exist in its current form.
What are the technical possibilities to implement such an alternative Ooniversum?
At the very least, you can develop the potential of the smart System Makeup, which is able to select the texture of the main planet based on its insolation. Unfortunately, in the absence of support for multilayer texture maps, the planets will still be painted matte balls, but that is what it is.
But with such a variety of relief, geology, weather and climate, the situation is actually much worse. First, as already noted, technically there is no landing on the planet's surface as such - instead, a phantom port is created above the surface. Secondly and more importantly, the coordinate system tied to the surface of the planet, does not allow more. This means that you cannot bind these phantom ports to specific areas on the planet's texture map either. Alas, it is correct enough to simulate the local weather forecast: the best that can be done without hardcore coding is to determine whether the ship has landed on the daytime or on the night side of the planet. So the elaboration of locations is obtained at the level of the lazy imagination of the creators of the space opera: this is an ocean planet, this is a desert planet, this is a jungle planet, and this is an ice world. Nothing like the Earth with its variety of climates and biomes can be simulated within the framework of this model, so when simulating a scientific expedition to the surface, you will have to limit yourself to a pre-fabricated report.
In the real world, these are asteroids and comets, in the Ooniversum - only asteroids. But these asteroids in the Ooniversum, if desired, can be given a quite convincing variety from a scientific point of view.
In the real solar system, asteroid matter has undergone partial separation by chemical composition. By chemical composition, the population of the asteroid belt is divided into groups:
- C-asteroids enriched in carbon (carbonaceous chondrites). They are typical of the outer margins of the asteroid belt and are closest in chemical composition to the primary protoplanetary matter after the loss of volatile ice. They make up about 75% of the number of observed asteroids.
- S-asteroids enriched in silicates. The absence of a noticeable amount of carbon in their composition suggests that these asteroids have experienced heating and remelting. They make up about 15% of the population.
- M-asteroids enriched in metals - sources of iron-nickel meteorites, make up approximately 10% of the population of the asteroid belt. Presumably fragments of planetesimals that partially underwent chemical differentiation and were shattered by subsequent collisions.
- Finally, the rare mysterious V-asteroids enriched in basalt. Basalt is a volcanic rock, asteroids of this class are similar in their spectral characteristics to the large asteroid Vesta (hence the name of the class), but lately there are suspicions that this class of asteroids is associated with several sources.
Unfortunately, according to the rules of the default Ooniversum, only S-class silicate asteroids (Minerals material) and M-class asteroids enriched with metals (Alloys material) can be convincingly simulated, but in principle this is enough to simulate variations in the chemical composition of asteroids depending on their distance up to the sun of the system. A tool for a space geologist, in principle, already exists: you can take the Ore Processor package as a basis and rewrite a piece of code that sets the content of minerals and alloys in fragments of asteroids broken by a mining laser.