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Dev Diary #1 - Asteroids

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Welcome, Commander!

It appears you requested an update on how we developed the new Below and Beyond project. The name’s Elmer Lexmond designer on the Below and Beyond planning and development team, nice to meet you! I’m here to give you a peek behind the curtain. On the agenda today is Mining Asteroids! Let me start you off with a quick summary. We have developed a new building, the Recon Center which lets us track Asteroids that pass in close proximity to Mars. You can visit these tracked asteroids with our brand-new Asteroid Landers, rockets designed to land in conditions that would be impossible for our standard Supply Rockets. Once there, we have a limited amount of time to mine as many resources as possible and leave the asteroids before it is too far away from Mars to make the return trip. We will need specialized Micro-G Auto Extractors at first, but we can eventually get permits to send the personnel that can populate our more efficient Micro-G Mining Stations.


Why the asteroids you ask? First off, because 86% of colonists think asteroids are “very cool”, and secondly because creating these short-term mining bases in an isolated location is a completely different challenge from anything we have done on the surface of Mars so far. You will have to work with limited resources, irregular building space, and a specific time window, but the reward is also different. You invest resources on a mission to get access to an abundance of materials, such as the newly discovered Exotic Minerals that are exclusive to asteroids. This makes visiting asteroids a perfect opportunity for when you are developing a project on the Martian surface that requires some time to finish. To make our vision come true, we started by developing the asteroids themselves. Our goal was to make each asteroid feel unique. We created various asteroid types based on existing classifications of asteroids. Each type has a different spread of resources available and a different rate at which they can appear. A C-type asteroid for instance is much more common than the elusive X-Type. We also created different looks for the asteroids based on the main resources available on them. Combine this with various pre-authored maps to get a diverse mix of asteroids that require different strategies each time around.


But an asteroid on its own doesn’t get us very far. We needed to decide what new buildings we needed and which existing ones we could reuse. For new buildings, we focused on the ones with specialized functions such as extractors and small-scale living space for colonists that wouldn’t require a full dome. For the existing ones we eliminated the buildings that wouldn’t function in the micro-G environment, this meant that we had to introduce a substitute for the MOXIE if we wanted our colonists to be able to breathe, which led to the new Electrolyzer.


With all this in place, we called upon our test commanders to run simulated missions. We got a wide range of results, but most prominent of all was the sentiment that managing multiple locations at the same time was quite taxing for most commanders. After investigating further, we learned that one of the biggest problems was setting up the Asteroid Landers for their trip back to Mars. To be successful our commanders needed to update the cargo request on the Asteroid Lander frequently to get it loaded before the time on the asteroid ran out. To remedy this, we created an AutoLoad function where commanders can set their preferences and let the rocket AI update the cargo request continuously based on the specifications and what is available on the asteroid. The second problem was the need to launch the rocket manually. To relieve some of the stress of trying to launch the rocket at the perfect moment, we gave the rocket an AI subroutine to launch automatically when the time limit on the asteroid was reached, regardless of whether the current cargo request was fully completed. You should thank our testers, commander, they saved you a lot of stress by running these simulations before we rolled the project out to you! Do you want to know what was my favourite part of creating the asteroids? I must say I had a lot of fun working on the naming convention for them! We took cues from how they are named and classified on earth and tailored them to be more appropriate for our purposes. You will find that our team added some creative new names to the vast list of existing asteroid names already out there! Well, I’m sure I’ve covered pretty much everything, not to mention I’m in dire need of a coffee break. But worry not, there are more dev diaries on the horizon! According to the schedule, the next one will delve deeper into the development of the Martian Underground. I highly recommend you’ll join us again for that one, there will be some very interesting things explained there. It’ll go into further detail on why Exotic Minerals are worth all this trouble. In the meantime, please watch our instructional video on Asteroid Mining, it might help you to not lose some of that pricy new equipment to the dark void of space. Until next time Commander and I hope to see you on our first real asteroid mission soon!

Surviving Mars: Below and Beyond | Asteroids