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SquareDanceSteve

Realistic Distances in Space Games

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So I was playing around with my space shooter today and I decided to turn the governor off and throttled my space ship up to 50,000 pixels per second. My games scale is 1 pixel = 1 foot The Speed of light is 983571057.9254742 p/s My ship is traveling at 2.5417% the speed of light, It would take my ship 40 years to travel 1 light year Alpha Centauri is 4.36 Light years away from earth. At 50,000 p/s it would take my ship 174.4 Years to travel that distance That might help to give people an idea how fast the speed of light is. Any thoughts?

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You can't see the ship.

BTW my library could find closest position of two ships with error under 100 meters even when they both started at opposite sides of the galaxy. 100000 light years.

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The way I see it, you have only a few choices: Make the universe unrealistic, situate stars closer together, use FTL technology, create some mechanism by which players are immortal or long lived (but why?), or hide the numbers so that such calculations are impossible.

What is the essential feeling you're going for? Ultra-realism? If so, you could dip into extreme physics (mirror matter? virtual particles?) and explain realistic distances away that way.

Personally, I'm a fan of jump technology. I don't want to sit through even 10 minutes of spaceflight if there's nothing to do.

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Hypergates! Create artificial wormholes which link two points in space such that your ship can transverse seemingly long distances instantaneously!!

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The other thing you could do would be to make the entire plot take place inside a single slar system. Why do you have a finite speed? Couldn't you just keep accelerating indefinietly? it's certaintly not realistic to have a particular speed. The best way to do spaceflight if you hae sustainable thrust is to thrust untill you get halfway to where your going, then turn around and decellarate. the apollo missions didn't do that because they didn't have sustainable thrust, Hydrogen rockets can only give bursts of thrust.

In my game, there will be ten minute transit periods, but there will be always something to do, always some way to indirectly attack your enemy.

I think that you will find that your scale will be too small, given the vastness of space. What scale were you thinking of for engagement sizes? how far apart will ships be when fighting?

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Quote:
Original post by NIm
[...]Why do you have a finite speed? Couldn't you just keep accelerating indefinietly? it's certaintly not realistic to have a particular speed.[...]
Einstein disagrees with you. Modern physics claims it would take infinite energy to reach light speed, so you can't go any faster than that. The faster you go, the more energy it takes to accelerate according to theories einstein worked out that have been shown at least somewhat accurate (more accurate than newtonian physics for sure).

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Of course. I apologize for not taking this into consideration. But surely, that is a minor factor at .02c! Furthermore, as you accelerate, youy subjective time changes, so that less time apears to pass than actually does. One interesting effect of this is that as you accelerate, your total travel time as percieved by you decreases, although I am not sure whethter the effect of time dilation exactly cancels the effect of increasing mass. Your speed with respect to an observer, however, approaces c, but never achieves it.

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Some sort of 'jump' technology is the best solution to this problem, in my opinion. I'm slightly biased, though, since it's the solution I'm using. Depending on the ship type, travel in-system is done either via regular sub-light travel or instantaneous jump drives. The design calls for the primary player controlled ship types to all be jump-capable, but other ships in the game universe will be limited to sub-light speeds (mostly commercial vehicles). Some sort of gate technology will allow travel between systems so that I don't even have to consider that particular problem.

One advantage to this approach is that you can realistically limit sub-light speeds. Fuel (or reaction mass for the ship's power source) is heavy and probably expensive to get into orbit. If ships are meant to operate for extremely long periods of time in space, they're probably not going to be burning fuel constantly. Even in a game with psuedo-realistic physics, this effectively limits top speed. You could implement this into the game with some sort of safety that prevents the player from continuously burning for too long or you could actually model fuel/reaction mass consumption over time.

Personally, I'm using a very abstract model for ship reaction mass, but I'm also severely limiting the speed of ships. Since my game design calls for ships to remain in space for very long periods of time, I figured they'd be powered by some sort of fission or fusion reactor. It'd be impractical to rely on chemical rockets for extended space travel, so instead ships use a kind of ion thrusters. Ion thrusters generally provide fairly low thrust, so having the player accelerating constantly to cover long distances with sub-light engines would be impractical. The engines will probably be slow enough that constant burn over a period of weeks or months would be required just to travel between two nearby planets. Even with time acceleration it wouldn't make much sense for the player to take that route.

Another nice advantage to using an instant 'jump' system instead of just a really fast, linear FTL system is that you're not required to model the VAST distances you'd normally encounter in space. You only have to carefully track the position of objects within the player's jump range. Everything beyond that can be modelled in significantly less detail, relative to the player's jump 'sector'. It only becomes important to know exactly where the objects are when the player gets close.

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