Alpha 0.14 was a big update with a lot of new content and now that it’s out the door I’m back to the grind stone working on the next major content update. Something that has been asked a lot, and that I’ve teased in the past, is how and when surface/planetary exploration will be added to the game. There is still not a concrete answer to that, but I’ve been putting a lot of work into getting the planetary content out of prototype and integrated into the core game. I wanted to cover the progress so far and go over various aspects of the how and what of planetary exploration.
Planetary surface exploration will be handled on a separate planetary map that will be accessible via the Facility Management interface. The goal of the planet map is to offer a good deal of variety as well as a somewhat accurate, and fun, representation of an alien world with a variety of biomes, details and events. Similar to the players primary facility the planet map is procedurally generated to offer a good amount of extended game play and replay value. The map itself is a large hexagon grid where each hexagon represents a location on the map.
I decided to base biome generation on the Holdridge Life Zones which uses temperature and moisture levels to define biome types. For any given cross section of temperature and moisture a biome can be determined, for example the hottest and wettest areas would be akin to a tropical rain forest and the the hottest driest areas are desert. The first step was creating temperature, moisture and elevation maps using procedural noise. The temperature map also considers elevation and latitude so that areas at higher elevations or further north/south are colder. The elevation data is also used to determine both mountains and sea level.
The final break down is a 5×5 grid to divide temperature and moisture values ranging from hottest to coldest and driest to wettest. Sampling the temperature/moisture values for each hexagon grid location into the biome chart gives a biome sector. Additional biome sectors are generated for oceans, fresh water and mountains for a total of 28 biome sectors. The final biome for a tile is based on a biome definition that is mapped to a biome sector and has a predefined frequency of occurring. Using this method I can have some biomes that very commonly generate within a sector, but also include special rare biomes that have a lower chance of generating within the same sector.
The final biome definition also defines the color, texture and details that occur for that biome as seen in the image above. The above image only shows part of the 48,000 tiles on the complete map. Map size may vary depending on game starting options, but testing is being done on large scale maps.
Additional biome details are currently being added to provide more visual distinction between the various biomes.
Upon first opening the planetary map screen the only visible area will be immediately surrounding the players primary facility. Building and sending out exploration drones will allow you to explore the map and uncover new resources, story content, points of interest and expansion opportunities.
I’m still working on designing the systems for exploration and expansion, but it’s coming along very well so far. Stay tuned for further developer logs where I’ll cover points of interest, outposts, expeditions and more.
The new planetary map game play will take a bit of time and releasing all of it’s content all at once is not the goal. The core of planetary exploration will get added first with further updates to add additional content. I have quite a lot of content planned for the planetary aspect of Mercury Fallen and it won’t come all at once.
I’ll also be focusing on releasing smaller game updates while work continues on integrating the planetary map features.
More developer logs will be coming to cover the planetary map as they get implemented so stay tuned. I’m really excited about the new planetary map content. What are your thoughts on planetary exploration/expansion?