STUDIO RELEASES HIGHLIGHTS OF REDDIT AMA ON THE HARD SCIENCEOF THEIR PC & VR SPACE COMBAT SIM BUILT WITH UNREAL ENGINE
Impeller announced that their hard-science space combat simulator, Starfighter Inc. has joined the small number of computer games to have been awarded the coveted “Seal of Approval” by the renowned hard science fiction reference site Atomic Rockets, and joins the illustrious company of Kerbal Space Program, Independence War, and Children of a Dead Earth. See details here: http://www.projectrho.com/
The studio also released details on two upcoming opportunities to interact with the development team: a Starfighter Inc. Q&A is scheduled on Twitch this evening at 9PM Eastern (Fri., 03/31) at https://www.twitch.tv/
Some highlights from the dev team’s recent Reddit AMA (aka Ask Me Anything) titled: “How do you make hard science space combat fun?“, which lasted several hours and shot to the 2nd most popular AMA last weekend:
- How realistic is Starfighter Inc. going to be?
Spaceships move according to Newtonian physics – no friction to stop you once your engines are off, you need to use your engine to decelerate and it takes just as long, etc. Components are modeled according to their physical properties which influences their mass and destructibility – they have the expected density, yield stress, heat capacity, sublimation heat and so forth. Waste heat is treated according to actual thermodynamics – all parts that use power generate waste heat which has to be moved to radiators, which emit according to their emissivity and temperature according to the actual Stefan-Boltzmann law. Weapon requirements are based on conservation of energy – projectile weapons are modeled based on the requisite kinetic energy, the strength of a bomb or nuke is according to its real-world yield, etc. The pilot reactions are based on medical data – you can be knocked out by centrifugal force from rotating too quickly or suffer from radiation sickness… Our job is to figure out the implications of the relevant principles, and figure out how to express that in an intuitive manner.
- Why are starfighters being used instead of long range missiles or unmanned drones?
Long range missiles can be shot down, disabled or outrun just by running for long enough, and if you’re willing to give a missile a more fuel efficient nuclear drive to keep up, you might as well strap a gun on it to turn it into a drone/fighter and save the cost. Moreover, both missiles and drones can be hacked or knocked out via EMP, where a human pilot could at least serve as a failsafe.
- Why are the starfighters fighting at such close ranges?
Current missions take place in the gaps of the rings of Saturn which really are only tens of kilometers across, and carriers can deliver fighters on-site eliminating much of the distance anyway. All weapons do better at close range – projectiles (from guns and missiles) because there’s less time for the target to evade or attempt to shoot down or disable them, lasers because they lose focus and intensity with distance. Improving this involves upsizing so much that only capital ships could carry them, ships which are overkill for almost any situation and whose involvement could spark open war.
- How do spaceships fly?
There’s no friction to slow ships down, so once you take your hand off the throttle, you’ll keep flying in the same direction. Slowing down is accomplished via retrothrusters or flipping 180 and using the main engine, and takes just as long as getting up to speed. As a result, ships do not bank; instead, they must persistently thrust towards the center of the desired arc, with an enormous turning radius that only grows with speed. They can point any way they want while moving; motion is independent of heading. Best of all, there are no artificial speed limits; you can accelerate as long as you have propellant to thrust.
- What governs ship design?
Several physical principles must be respected – radial symmetry must be maintained for balance which impacts engine placement, kinetic weaponry must be placed near or through the center of mass to reduce recoil-induced spin, and the same goes for the cockpit to reduce centripetal force on the pilot – all the while keeping ship system placement and modularity in mind. Furthermore, each ship must have a unique aesthetic while still maintaining the feel of the intended corporate manufacturer.
- How do the various game mechanics arise?
There are pretty much two deciding factors on game mechanics – does it describe something that is physically possible, and is it fun? If only one applies, fix until both do. Most mechanics arise from studying the actual physics and exploring the implications.
- Sound in space?
That’s the Decision Support System (DSS) at work, simulating visuals and audio to improve combat awareness. As a system it can be disabled like any other, at which point the gameplay returns to the bleak eerie silence of the void – or at least, as close as it gets. Some sounds are transmitted from within the ship.
- Have you heard of these titles?
A lot of good media references were brought up in the AMA – novels like Honor Harrington and the Hyperion Cantos, games like Allegiance, Independence War and Freespace, and TV series like The Expanse. Starfighter Inc.shares elements with several franchises that everybody has been waiting to see come to life.
About Impeller Studios & Starfighter Inc.
Starfighter Inc. is a hard-science PC & VR multiplayer space combat sim in development by Impeller Studios, a 20+ international team. With rigorous attention to scientific detail, this game is set in a plausible future 200 years from now. Players are mercenary pilots who fulfill contracts for corporations and other organizations that have settled into our solar system. A rich background narrative provides context for the events and battles the players are part of. The development team is led by industry veterans Jack Mamais (MechWarrior 2, Crysis), David Wessman (X-Wing and TIE Fighter series), Rusel DeMaria (original X-Wing and TIE Fighter fiction), and Tim Hoffman, who is overseeing the overall look and feel and renowned for his visual effects work on film and television projects like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Thor: Ragnarok, Spiderman: Homecoming, Serenity and Game of Thrones. Tim has also worked in the games industry for many years as an art director and visual effects specialist on games like MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy and Heavy Gear 2.
For additional information on the project, please see: