Greetings Lord Dirkson and fellow ScrumbleShip enthusiasts!
I am exceedingly pleased and immensely excited to see that this game is still kicking and has taken such wonderful directions in its development! Particularly interesting to me is the attention being paid to the physical characteristics of the various construction materials and the potential this represents for some truly amazing and innovative gameplay features. A prime example of such a truly novel and awesome gameplay feature (and one that is relevant to the suggestions I will make below) is the heat engine; it allows for some of the most important engineering challenges for space ship design and space travel to be represented, challenges that almost every game having to do with space (with the exception of a notable few) actually pay attention to, and without it lose humongous opportunities for interesting gameplay.
That said, I am wondering about how mining will be implemented in this game and whether it will take advantage of the heat engine, along with other planned features (like collision physics, air and air pressure, possibly magnetism, etc.), as well as the relatively high resolution of the voxel engine. So far from what I have seen in the live-streams, mining will simply consist of pointing a magic torch that allows you to collect materials without much consideration for the physical characteristics of the materials being collected. This is a departure from one of the core mottoes of ScrumbleShip, namely "Be True to Reality". Also, and I believe more importantly, I fear this will simply re-trace the same boring gameplay (with regard to mining) of games like Space Engineers (what a waste of potential!) and Starmade (a good but different game), where there is virtually no difficulty or enriching gameplay or problem solving with mining.
I wish to suggest that some real-life concepts be eventually explored, which is similar to what I suggested to Space Engineers a few years back, that I believe could inspire a much richer and more fun gameplay experience when it comes to mining, and that I believe this game is actually pretty close to being able to feasibly implement in some form.
tldr; I want the game to be such that building devices like this, this, this, and this this among others would all be possible and be valid, practical strategies to efficiently and effectively harvest resources in ScrumbleShip.
So, what would the game need in order to get to make this a reality?
- 1. Proper collision physics (I understand this is planned :) !!!)
- 2. Gas-related physics (this might be planned already, right?)
- 3. Stuff being able to be broken up into consituent free voxels without being picked up (like what was mentioned by Dirkson in 19:15 of the Easter Livestream!!!)
- 4. Ship-based collection devices
- 5. Applying the heat engine to mined objects in addition to the stuff doing the mining
- 6. Phase transition of materials (solid to liquid to gas, or solid to gas… the latter would be the most relevant I think)
- 7. Representation of rubble and dust
- 8. Moving parts
- 9. Representations of certain key technologies
What would be nice to have to make it even more interesting and realistic?
- 10. Wear-and-tear
- 11. Detachable parts
- 12. Magnetism
- 13. Being able to build fabric-like structures
Tunnel Boring Machines
- In-situ vaporization and microwave “drills”
- Magnetic rakes
- Scoops/Archimedes screws
- Cutting lasers/particle beams
Possibly similar in concept to what we have now
- Microbes designed to break down ores (this would be a cool thing for "organic" ships, no? :D )
- Magnetic anchors → useful for any magnetic surfaces
- Microspine grippers → useful for asteroids with more solid surfaces
- Augers → useful for anchoring into dust and rubble
- Harpoons (and cords and winches) → useful for more solid surfaces
- Ability to weld ship to metal on asteroid?
I will now cover each of these items sequentially:
I will not explain item 1 futher, since this is pretty straight forward.
As for item number 2…
I am not sure how this will work. But the one thing that I wish to emphasize is that in order for some of the ideas proposed here to work, there will likely need to be a way to make fluid-tight seals between two different constructs (i.e. between an asteroid and a ship).
As for item number 3…
I pretty much want exactly what Dirkson describes in the Easter Livestream with regard to free voxels. If one is using a device that breaks apart whatever it is supposed to be mining, it ought to deconstruct the mined block into free voxels that then fly around based on the energy and forces applied to the voxels through mining and the physical characteristics of the free voxels (mass).
This leads to item number 4…
A human should not be the only entity that can collect mined materials. Constructed objects like ships ought to be able to as well. This would be accomplished by having some sort of intake block that would have a small collection radius radiating from one of the sides of the intake block. This block should be able to feed into whatever storage container(s) is(are) attached to it.
Items number 5 and 6…
This game models heat very well, I think, and has much of the framework needed to represent the kind of heat stuff relevant to mining in space. Mining can be particularly heat-intensive, and even in terrestrial mining, heat is absolutely something that can affect performance of tools and people in mining situations. It is also something that could be exploited for efficient harvesting of ice and other volatiles from asteroids in some proposed asteroid mining technologies. Therefore, I would like to see heat management be a feature of mining in addition to ship-building and operation.
As an example of what I mean, check out some of the concepts I linked to earlier. Some proposed mining technologies implement what is called “in-situ volatilization” to harvest ice and other volatiles from comets and asteroids. Essentially, something is used to heat up ice or whatever solid is within the regolith of the asteroid, which vaporizes the desired material (it doesn't melt into a liquid… it sublimes directly into a gas in the vacuum of space!!!). This vapor is then collected as it either flows out of the porous regolith (in cases where the asteroid is porous enough) or flows into a cavity and into whatever colleciton device is cleverly placed by the player. Alternatively, a heated fluid or gas could be pumped into a cavity in the asteroid to vaporize whatever. This connects with item number 2 in that, depending on how gases and other fluids are modeled, pressure differentials could be exploited to guide the volatiles and fluids to wherever you wish them to go. Also, this connects with regard to the ability to make fluid-tight seals between two objects. Also, this depends on if porosity/permeability of materials is simulated somehow.
This also connects later to item number 10, since mining generally involves friction, and friction generates heat, and this heat could cook the mining machine to the point of damaging it if heat isn't managed.
Item number 7…
Dust and rubble need to be a thing! There is very good evidence that suggests that most asteroids found in our solar system that are under a km in diameter are actually composed of what is essentially dust and rubble. Also, ice comets may have a thick layer of dust on their surface. Therefore I suggest that at least for some materials, there be a representation of this. Kicking up dust is serious business in space. Keep in mind that space dust is often composed of very small, razor sharp, very hard glassy shards that could really hurt stuff if travelling at a relatively high speed or if it gets into moving parts and abrades them. This is one of the foremost considerations for mining in space and dictates many aspects of design of different mining strategies.
How would I represent dust and rubble? Think of how ScrumbleShip has its large blocks consisting of 16x16x16 voxels. Imagine if in some cases, for a given material like ice, the voxels that make it up, when disturbed by a percussive force (like impact from a crashing ship, or vibration from a drill) end up dissociating from the block and start floating or darting off (much like how those errant voxels from the current iteration of mining do, and like was suggested in the Easter Livestream). How hard of a force is needed to dissociate the voxels from its parent block could be dependent on how packed it is supposed to be. For example, dust and loose rubble of a given material could just take a nudge to dissociate into its voxels (or in the case of dust into some sort of “puff” particle effect or something”), while a solid, densely-packed block of the same material would take more force. Those loose voxels that are disturbed radiate outward at a given speed depending on the energy imparted to them for a given distance, until they hit something or reach an arbitrary distance after which they disappear (which the game currently has the ability to do). Depending on the energy imparted to these loose flying voxels (or dust particle things), and depending on the collision physics implemented in ScrumbleShip, these voxels could impact and damage other things, like you or whatever ship or structure you have built that comes in contact with them. Dust and rubble would essentially behave similarly, but dust, instead of dissociating into constituent voxels, would dissociate into expanding “puffs” (perhaps represented by a particle effect) and because of the low mass of the dust particles would go much faster for a given amount of kinetic energy imparted to them. I am still not entirely sure if and how dust and rubble should be differentiated and how differently they should behave… Perhaps some materials could be more harmful to certain things like objects with moving parts than others (simulating the abrasion caused by dust of small particle size abrading and gumming up things).
If anyone has better ideas about how to represent dust and its deleterious effects, and/or if anyone thinks I am overblowing the importance of dust, lemme know, and lemme know why!
Items number 8 and 9
Additional mining techniques other than a laser/torch ought to be in the game, as well as anchoring devices should be introduced to take advantage of the suggested features, as well as enrich mining strategies. These include magnetic rakes, scoopers, drills with drill bits optimized for different materials and that have different costs, etc. Here is a list of cool mining technology proposed for use in actual asteroid mining, some of which would be more meaningfully useful in the game if the physical characteristics above are implemented:
As almost all of these techniques require physically anchoring a tool/vessel/installation to the asteroid to be mined, I would suggest various anchoring techniques as well!:
All of these techniques/technologies I have mentioned so far would require some other key features to make it into the game, such as movable components (telescoping devices, rotors, etc.), as well as some physics features (magnetism, collision physics, some sort of gas physics) in order for them to actually be useful. As far as I understand, a lot of these features are in the pipeline.
To expand on anchoring a bit, drills and saws, for example, should require force behind them (force on bit (FoB)) to be able to dig into asteroid materials, and this FoB should depend on the drill type itself, and the material the drill is trying to drill into. Some drills used outside of their intended use ought to either fail entirely or get damaged. For example, a drill intended for use on softer or looser materials ought to wear out much more quickly if used on hard materials.
Item number 10…
This is related in part to items number 1, 6, and 7. Wear and tear should be modeled for certain things, particularly machines that involve moving parts, and generation of friction and heat. This is a very important design consideration for any sort of mining endeavor in space, let alone anywhere. No matter how perfectly things are made, stuff breaks down. The main wear-and-tear factors I would like to see in the game would be damage due to abrasion by dust (stuff getting into moving parts in particular), heat, physical impacts, and neutron radiation embrittlement. Neutron radiation embrittlement is a bit of a far-fetched idea for the game at this point... Anyway, these damages should factor into efficiency of the things that are damaged in addition to making them eventually break down. Examples for at least dust and heat will be included below.
Item number 11…
I mention detachable parts separately, but maybe it should be included with items number 8 and 9. Anyway, the ability to have detachable things like, say, a detachable cargo container, detachable rocket stages, or detachable heat sinks, might be nice to have for mining as well as other things, not to mention realistic.
Item number 12…
Magnetism isn't strictly necessary or whatever I suggest here, though it would be swell for things like magnetic rakes, which might be a useful strategy for harvesting iron from loosely-packed asteroids!
Item number 13…
Fabric-like structures have been proposed for things like bags to contain an entire small asteroid for the purposes of in-situ volatilization to collect gases. It would be cool to have this somehow in the game, though I am not sure how it would work...