Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mars in a new light

As mentioned in the previous post, there may be a better way to go about Red Colony - from a plausible point of view rather than a fantastical one. In looking into it I was turned onto this Wikipedia entry (thanks Dylan!) which sounds to me like a lot of really good structure for a game about colonizing Mars!

To paraphrase:

The attractiveness of Mars Direct does not rest on a single cost-effective mission. Envision a series of regular Martian missions with the ultimate goal of colonization. As initial explorers leave habitat structures on the planet, subsequent missions become easier to undertake.

Large subsurface, pressurized habitats would be the first step toward human settlement; they can be built as Roman-style atria underground with easily produced Martian brick. During and after this initial phase of habitat construction, hard-plastic radiation- and abrasion-resistant geodesic domes could be deployed on the surface for eventual habitation and crop growth. Nascent industry would begin using indigenous resources: the manufacture of plastics, ceramics and glass.

The larger work of terraforming requires an initial phase of global warming to release atmosphere from the regolith and to create a water-cycle. Three methods of global warming are best deployed in tandem: orbital mirrors to heat the surface; factories on the surface to pump halocarbons into the atmosphere; and the seeding of bacteria which can metabolize water, nitrogen and carbon to produce ammonia and methane (these would aid in global warming). While the work of warming Mars is on-going, true colonization can begin.

Any Martian colony will be partially Earth-dependent for centuries. However, Mars may be a profitable place for two reasons. First, it may contain concentrated supplies of metals of equal or greater value to silver which have not been subjected to millennia of human scavenging and may be sold on Earth for profit. Secondly, the concentration of deuterium — an extremely expensive but essential fuel for the nuclear power industry — is five times greater on Mars. Humans emigrating to Mars thus have an assured industry and the planet will be a magnet for settlers as wage costs will be high.

It feels almost as if like that article wrote the game for me! I'm going to ponder it a bit, and see if I can build an interesting game system based on the the basic idea of The Case for Mars (the book that article is about).

On the down side, this might play havoc with the original idea of the game, which was to customize your income stream while exploring and building up your colony. But I think a more plausible premise might make for a better product overall, and I'm not sure the basic ideas would have to change all that much.

No comments: