The Rover Challenge

To change or not, that’s the question

Here is the thing: our art director and artists really fight with the whole hard science part. It would be so much easier to just design away and to not have to make sure everything makes sense logically and technically. However, we cannot do that because Moons plays in the very close future. It’s something we think is very unique to our Lovecraft inspired horror game and we love that fact but it’s also a little bit of a nightmare sometimes (pun intended!) 🙂

It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid. - Ray Bradbury

In order to create more immersion for players, to instill the feeling they could actually “be there”, Moons is set roughly 40 years into the future. This is posing a constant challenge for us to stay true to what is possible which has been especially tricky in regards to the Mars Rover. We had a lot of different concepts. Initially we went with the one that we liked the most just out of pure aesthetic reasons and went from there..until we realized that a lot of things weren’t really fitting.

Here are only a few examples of some of the issues that we had/have to consider:


Our Challenges

  • The space between the two driver seats is very narrow. Initially we didn’t think about this as an issue but the player has to get in and out of the seat as well as being able to access the main control panel of the rover. We already solved this partially by implying that the chairs can rotate for easier entry and exit.
  • There is only one display in the rover and it would be more logical to have more than only one to monitor all different aspects of the environment and the rover itself. Even though there is only a limited amount of space to include screens, we will most likely add more.
  • The solar panels on the roof seem almost a bit too small to have enough impact or practical use. In this case we sometimes have to go for a compromise between 100% accurate and design approach. In this case it would be an option to just make them bigger, however.
  • The Helmet stand seems overly complicated (as one reader accurately pointed out in a comment). We really like the way it looks and feels if you interact with it but it seems very counterproductive to have it linked to the power for usage. So basically if the power is gone, you can’t get the helmet..hmm, there might be a good reason for that, though 😉
  • There is no decompression chamber. We were aware of this from the start but choose to have the entire cabin de-pressurize. The issue however is that in that case they would have a lot of issues with dust. Sand on Mars is incredibly fine and literally gets in every little nook and cranny. Additionally, it would make sense to have everything sealed up completely within the Rovers interior. You definitely wouldn’t want loose wires and bulky corners to invite that dust to collect in heaps. There are also a few things laying around that are just loose which doesn’t make 100% sense either.
  • Logically, the rover would also have a proper loading space to bring equipment with you. In this case we settled on the fact that the Rover was mostly for a means for faster travel and not really for transporting big equipment.
  • Then there is the whole other issue with the front window. Obviously it looks much nicer to have a big window to enjoy the Mars environment. That would also mean, though, that you have a big glass surface to protect. This is what an actual NASA Space Rover concept looks like. In our case, we need interaction space within the Rover and objectives so we can’t really go full realistic, again. There are also issues with animations and camera angles of the connection beams of the front window. Those beams are prone to obscure your view either by driving or during interaction animations.
  • Last but not least, there is no emergency exit! You actually need power to open the door which is directly linked to a specific part of the game. Very much counter-productive..but again, there might just be a different type of reason for this 😉

We also face similar issues with the Mars Suit the Characters are wearing. Everything would need to be incredibly clunky and “ugly” so in this regard we take the liberty to try to be as close as possible but also have some artistic freedom. This is definitely true with the Rover as well. We do hope to find a good balance between design and function.

2 Replies to "The Rover Challenge"

  • comment-avatar
    Darth Biomech
    February 22, 2017 (12:59 pm)

    It is probably too late for a total redesign, but I think that rover from Last Days On Mars was pretty solid and realistic (Sadly, the rest of the movie is basically just “zombies, IN SPACE!”), maybe you could get some inspiration off it? Mainly, the aft-facing exit could probably solve the “no airlock” problem.

    For the solar panels, maybe you could make them unfolding? Could make it into game mechanic where you can either drive or charge, but doing both have risks of damaging the solar panels.

    Since rovers are meant to be scientific vehicles, I think that Nasa’s variant is not “realistic” but consequence of their “redundancy and safety over everything else” standards. Meaning that large glass panels aren’t unrealistic, just “merely” less safe. The glass itself can be made from some bulletproof material that can be shattered only if rover collide head-on full speed with some really large boulder, and with current design I can hardly see how such collision could destroy the window without also wrecking the rover itself, and apart of such scenario there really isn’t much else that can threaten the glass.
    Alternatively, these large glass panels can be also an emergency exit – turn the lever, push the button, the glass panel ejects and you can climb out. Although, why do you need an emergency exit when there’s nowhere to escape but the cold oxygenless plains of Mars? If your rover breaks far from base you are going to die regardless of if you can climb out of it or not.

    • comment-avatar
      February 22, 2017 (4:13 pm)

      Those are some great suggestions, thank you. Incidentally, Last Days On Mars is among our references, albeit loosely. Funny you would mention it 🙂

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