The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

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The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 2:18 pm

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Hi! I’m Mechanical Ape and do you ever feel as if the world is just too frustrating? Like, you know, you just don't want to

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Then consider this Let’s Play your home away from home. 180 million miles away from home. We're going to tell the story of a Mars colony and it's gonna be great.

There may be a little dust involved.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 2:19 pm

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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Gloomy Rube (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:10 pm

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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Gloomy Rube (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:10 pm

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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:20 pm

Joking aside, i'm gonna follow this because I don't know anything and my attempt at playing it was confusing :-I
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Gloomy Rube (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:40 pm

DaikatunaRevengeance wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:20 pm
Joking aside, i'm gonna follow this because I don't know anything and my attempt at playing it was confusing :-I
same but I didn't play it yet :-I
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:14 pm

The colonization of Mars in 2040 arose from what historians describe as "a geopolitical fluke", the brief window of stability and economic growth that held sway prior to the global recession of the 2040s and the neo-isolationist political revolutions of the following decade.

On 21 August 2034, the Mars Habitability International Initiative (MHII) was signed into existence with 94 member nations and a mandate to realize a permanent human home on Mars.

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Interview: Mahira Marquez, MHII Chief Administrator
Date: 12 March 2038
Source: WeeklyFuture.pub//##wetnet
WeeklyFuture: Let's start with what I imagine you're asked most often --

Mahira Marquez: [Laughs] I've guessed this one already. Go ahead.

WF: Why go to Mars?

MM: Normally this question, when I'm asked it, is a little longer. It usually goes, "Why go to Mars when there are so many problems to solve on Earth?" And I think this question implies a distinction that isn't really there. It implies that the problems we face on Earth -- the problem of scarcity, to choose one example -- that if we go to Mars we somehow ignore those problems, we leave them behind. And nothing is further from the truth. These are challenges which follow us wherever we go. When we go to Mars we won't leave behind scarcity or waste or human misery; we'll have to address those problems, and hopefully solve them, in an environment more hostile than any place you can find on the Earth's surface.

When people ask "Why should we go to Mars?" the answer I give is "Because living on Mars will help us learn how to live on Earth."
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WF: Financially, how would a Mars colony sustain itself?

MM: In the long term, there's no reason why a colony on Mars couldn't be mostly or even entirely self-sustaining. Unmanned missions and orbital scans have shown areas of the surface to be plentiful with mineral deposits. Not merely industrial metals like iron or titanium, but chromium and other rare metals. So mining and exporting would be a viable option for a colony. Other opportunities include funding from patents, and later on, even tourism. It's all very doable.

But all of this will take a while -- likely decades. No colony on Earth has ever been self-sustaining at first. Mars will be no different.
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Although for flavor purposes I'm describing MHII as an international Mars mission, I'm not actually choosing International Mars Mission as a sponsor because that'd be too easy. Instead I picked Terraforming Initiative for a greater challenge, plus its sponsor bonuses will make greening the Red Planet quicker when we get around to it.

I've picked a Mystery rather than leaving it to chance; however, I'm not telling any of you goons which one it is. :spoiler:

There are no rival colonies. It's just us up there.

Also, a quick metatextual note: Surviving Mars doesn't measure dates (time is measured in Sols) but I'm making them up anyway for flavor purposes. We're starting in 2040 and -- very roughly -- each in-game Sol will equal about 6 months of real time. I'll squash and stretch that figure as I see fit for storytelling coherence, but broadly that's what it'll work out to.

It's February 2, 2040 and the first rocket is about to land.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:22 pm

I didn't realize you could have rival colonies.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:30 pm

Yeah, it becomes available with the Space Race expansion. You can choose to have up to 3 NPC sponsors running their own colonies elsewhere on the planet (they don't share the map with you), and you can trade with them or ask nicely for help or send your officers to sabotage them.

Mostly I just ignore them so it's easy for me to play with them disabled altogether.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Fizzbuzz (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 6:17 pm

I see you've picked an appropriate avatar for this thread.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:31 pm

Before Mars is colonized by humans, it will be colonized by robots.

This is a technological necessity but, as a human with an ego, I'm still salty about it.
(Science fiction author Corey H. Spears, blog post, 2039)

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Humanity's first permanent presence on Mars sprang up on a low northern plain near the Hecates Tholus volcano. (Don't worry, it's long extinct -- as is every volcano on the planet. Mars is geologically comatose.)

This site was rated by MHII as likely to contain plentiful deposits of subterranean mineral resources and frozen water. It was also -- though they did not realize it at the time -- prone to some of the most inhospitable weather on the planet.

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A satellite's-eye view of the proposed region. This is the area map, partitioned into sectors which must be scanned one at a time to find resource deposits and science anomalies. We begin with one sector scanned, in the center north -- that blue-and-white icon signifies a concrete deposit -- and our rocket, the Bonaventure, carries two orbital probes, which we use to auto-scan two adjacent sectors.

In the southern sectors you can see areas of permanent surface frost. That is not frozen water, it's frozen carbon dioxide.

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And here's our overhead naked-eye view (well, camera view) of those scanned sectors -- including our rocket's landing site, where our first permanent installations will be built. This landscape you're looking at is where it all begins.

There are scattered surface deposits of metal -- thankfully Mars has these -- and we choose a site with as many in reach as possible.

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Bonaventure touches down with its cargo of robots, pre-fabricated buildings and spare parts. Humanity has sent unmanned expeditions to Mars before, but this time, we are coming to stay.

MMHI's rockets (they currently have two, Bonaventure and one to be named later) are reusable and run on hydrogen fuel. To get Bonaventure back to Earth, it will be necessary to establish a fuel refinery and produce it on-site. Fortunately our cargo includes a pre-fab refinery.

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First out of the rocket is our state-of-the-art remote controlled transport rover, nicknamed Huey. Huey is our workhorse, and not only can carry a large load of cargo, but can extract materials from surface deposits. (I assume it has little robot arms for that purpose, somewhere, not shown.)

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After Huey come our gang of 5 drones. Drones are how most work gets done on the Martian surface -- they can transport goods (but only 1 unit at a time), extract materials from surface deposits, and construct buildings. You'll often see them zipping about the place doing their jobs.

Drones work autonomously, but they need a central hub to operate from and recharge their batteries, and can only operate within range of their hub. Rockets can serve as a hub, and for the moment these little guys are using the Bonaventure as theirs, but before long we'll build a few dedicated Drone Hubs for them to operate from.

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A depot is established, essentially a platform where goods are stockpiled, and the drones get busy unloading the Bonaventure. These are advanced materials (from left to right) Machine Parts, Electronics, and Polymers, all of which are needed to build and maintain our installations. MHII anticipates that eventually a colony will be able to manufacture these vital resources locally. But for now, advanced resources must be shipped from Earth at the expense of the MHII budget. (Actually polymers can occasionally turn up in surface deposits, but only in small amounts.)

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By evening the drones have finished their unloading, and move on to exploit a nearby metal deposit. Huey, having spent the day doing the same, trundles by with its cargo.

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With components from Earth and locally harvested metals, the drones have what they need to construct the first installations: a power generator and a scanning tower. By sunrise they are finished.

The building on the left is a Stirling generator designed for use on the Martian surface. How these function in real life I have no idea, but in game terms they are a reliable source of continuous power (though expensive to build; this initial one is a free pre-fab from Earth). They have two settings, open and closed. When closed, a Stirling generator is maintenance-free. When open, it produces additional power at the cost of being subject to dust and regular repairs.

The true enemy on Mars is dust. Although it's not coarse and rough -- it is in fact quite fine and powdery -- it is sure as hell irritating and it definitely gets everywhere. It's also electrostatic. Nearly everything operating on the Martian surface gets choked with dust and needs regular cleaning, which is performed by drones, and often requires a small amount of materials to do so. Don't overbuild lest your maintenance costs get too great to handle.

The scanner tower, on the right, increases the speed at which new sectors are scanned, and also keeps an eye out for incoming disasters such as dust storms. Like most buildings, it requires power, and you can see the white power cable connecting it to the generator.

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Of crucial importance to Martian architecture is concrete. Luckily, this too can be produced locally. Certain patches of the Martian soil are rich in sulfur, identifiable by its yellow color and "concrete is here" icon. Enter the MHII Martian Concrete Surface Extractor, more colloquially known as "the scraper". This machine excavates sulfur-rich regolith and cures it in an internal oven, producing neat cubes of concrete ready for building.

Concrete production also generates a quantity of waste rock which is carried away by drones to a designated dumping site.

Meanwhile, back on Earth ...

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Using data transmitted from the Bonaventure, MHII scientists theorized a possible advancement in the robotics field which might, in the future, yield benefits.

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This is not actually very useful, but it's an opportunity for me to show the Research screen. For the most part I'll probably mention research only when we discover something, but just know that there are lot of techs (some of them game-changing), research is always going on, and there are things we can do such as build laboratories to improve our research speed.

Research occurs in seven categories: Terraforming, Biotech, Engineering, Robotics, Physics, Social, and Breakthroughs. Breakthrough techs are especially useful and can radically change the lives of your Martian colonists, but they must be discovered before they can be researched.

MHII's "great leap" was to advance in a mid-level tech, Factory AI, which makes factories more productive. We haven't actually learned this tech, we just gained the option to research it without having to discover all the earlier techs on the Robotics track. It's not a huge deal.

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With careful monitoring from Earth, a few weeks into the mission had seen a successful beginning to the project, with a stockpile of construction material, a small power surplus, and a battery to store the excess power.

Finally, on June 8, 2040, came the data the command team had hoped for:

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The confirmation of an underground frozen water deposit, just north of the Bonaventure landing site.

As recalled by Deputy Project Leader Esha Burton in their autobiography: "This was the last ingredient in the recipe. We knew that if we could find water, we'd have the means to not only produce hydrogen fuel for the rockets, but also, of course, to support human colonists. When we got the data in June, we were celebrating. That was a late night."
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:42 pm

it's happening :flail:
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Perrydotto (?) » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:16 am

Yo this is good shit, I will follow this excellent LP
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sat Feb 08, 2020 7:42 pm

:twience: MARS FACT #17: Mars' distinctive color comes from iron oxide in the regolith, or Martian soil. It’s red ‘cuz it’s rusty!

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MHII is ready to expand its infrastructure to prepare for the arrival of humans. Planning teams on Earth discuss likely sites for a habitability dome, with the prime choice being the metal deposit southeast of the Bonaventure (denoted by the blue and red icon). A dome situated near this deposit will allow for mining and a reliable supply of structural metals for the colony.

Drone hubs are marked for construction using the two pre-fabs in the rocket. The operating area of these hubs should cover all the interesting ground for now. The hubs will have overlapping radii and a shared stockpile is placed between them, so that drones from one hub can relay goods to the other. Any work outside drone areas must be left to Huey and other independent rovers.

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The other site of interest is northeast of the rocket, where a deposit of rare metals -- in this case niobium -- has been detected. (Rare metals are never specified by the game, but I'm doing it for fluff's sake.)

Niobium-rich minerals on Mars had been theorized, but the discovery of this deposit is the first proof of their existence in exploitable quantities. On Earth over 80% of niobium is produced in Brazil and Canada and it is essential to mid-21st century industry, used in the manufacture of high-tension superalloys and superconducting magnets. Its discovery on Mars makes real the possibility of an export economy for the Red Planet -- and, just maybe, less economic uncertainty back home.

Some thought is given toward placing the first dome here, allowing for early exploitation of this profitable resource, but in the end, ordinary structural metals are the more immediate need.

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Each drone hub includes 4 drones with the construction package, plus our initial 5 drones are repatriated from the Bonaventure to the new hubs. The colony's drone roster now stands at 13, all of which have a lot of work ahead of them.

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An automated extractor sinks a shaft to reach sub-surface water ice. Melted and filtered, it is piped to nearby water towers for storage. Worthless waste rock is carted away by drones.

This deposit will run out eventually, but with sensible conservation it could last for decades.

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:twience: MARS FACT #4: Mars does have an atmosphere, but it's 100 times thinner than Earth's -- not quite a vacuum but nearly so! This trace atmosphere is about 95% carbon dioxide. Space suits are required on the Martian surface!

To solve the problem of oxygen on Mars, technology has brought us the MOXIE (Mars OXygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment). Scientists are not always great with acronyms. But the MOXIE is invaluable to sustaining life on the Red Planet. It processes atmospheric carbon dioxide into pure, breathable oxygen -- not in huge quantities given the thin atmosphere, but enough for habitats. While MOXIEs are thankfully simple to build, one is enough for our present need. We can store all the oxygen produced until there are humans on Mars to breathe it. (Pictured on right: air storage tank.)

Both air and water travel through a shared network of life support pipelines. They're elevated and so can easily cross over, or run above, ground-based power cables.

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Not only is water vital to human colonists, it's also a source of hydrogen for rocket propellant and other fuels. A pre-fab fuel plant is constructed. This automated refinery combines piped-in H2O and atmospheric CO2 to synthesize methane (CH4), the fuel of choice for Martian industry and rocketry. (I said last update that MMHI's rockets run on hydrogen, but I got it wrong.)

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It's not long before the first canisters of fuel are loaded into the Bonaventure in preparation for its journey home. It takes 50 units of fuel to launch a rocket, and with only one fuel refinery it will be some months before takeoff. We don't (yet) have the technology to build a refinery from scratch, but we can order a second pre-fab from Earth, and that would probably be a good investment.

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All these new buildings demand additional power, so a solar farm is built on a flat patch to the west.

The surface of Mars receives about half the solar radiation Earth enjoys, and much of that is often blocked by dust storms. Even so, solar power is a viable option and panels are simple to construct. They do require frequent dusting, but then again, what doesn't? It's Mars.

Solar panels swivel to follow the sun and produce power during daylight hours.

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With Bonaventure refueling slowly but steadily, and a growing supply of precious air and water being collected, it's time for the next stage of the project, and one anxiously anticipated by MMHI staff: the building of the first Martian habitability dome.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:05 pm

I like that people live in domes. It's not realistic, but it has that old-school sci-fi look.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Fizzbuzz (?) » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:12 pm

What would be the most realistic option? Living underground?
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:34 pm

One thing that Surviving Mars leaves mostly unaddressed is radiation: Mars lacks a magnetosphere so its surface gets pelted with cosmic rays to a degree that's hazardous for humans. So habitations will need to be radiation shielded. (The moon has this problem too.)

Proposed solutions in real life often involve underground habitats, and you wouldn't even have to go very deep -- five meters of Martian soil provide as much radiation shielding as Earth's atmosphere. Above-ground buildings could be protected with ceramic or other shielding materials.

In Surviving Mars I think we're just meant to assume that the domes handle it somehow. Whatever polymer they're made from is transparent while being opaque to cosmic rays, I guess. But yeah, in real life most of the colony would be covered up.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by ToastGhost (?) » Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:50 am

Rainbow Dash, you are still the laziest pony on mars. :effort:
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:49 am

2041 was "the year of the sandstorm", as recalled by MMHI analysts.

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Sector scans had revealed a second titanium-iron deposit near the first, cementing Site Alpha as the ideal location for the dome. Project Kukulkan, the operational name for the dome, began in earnest.

To provide the needed polymers, a fresh shipment of supplies was prepared. MHII's second rocket, Shangyang, was loaded at CIEES facility near Hammaguir, Algeria. (Algeria would withdraw from MHII the following year for budgetary reasons.)

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Shangyang, of an identical make to Bonaventure, was laden with advanced materials for the colony, as well as a pre-fab for a second fuel refinery, a spare drone, and an exciting new arrival, the remote-controlled exploration/research rover nicknamed Dewey.

Launch date was March 4, 2041, with an expected six-month travel time. (Although the distance between Earth and Mars varies with their relative orbital locations -- anywhere from 34 million to 250 million miles -- in Surviving Mars, rocket trips always take the same time, roughly one Sol.)

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In August 2041, the colony's sensor tower gave advance warning of the first of many "weather" disasters to strike the area: a dust storm. Fortunately, it was estimated that Shanyang would arrive first, but no landings or takeoffs could be possible while the storm was in effect -- a wait of weeks or months, potentially.

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Dust storms are a frequent occurrence on Mars owing to the planet's dryness and all the loose, fine dust particles covering the surface. These storms are visually quite spectacular, often visible from Earth telescopes, and they can last for months and reach wind speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour.

Please keep in mind, however, that Mars has 1/3 of Earth's gravity and only 1/100th of its atmosphere, so there's not actually a lot of energy behind these storms. They aren't anything like Earth hurricanes, however impressive they might seem to Earth eyeballs. Our colony isn't in danger of being blown away or anything like that.

The danger of dust storms is, well, the dust, which plays havoc with our fragile Martian machinery. During a dust storm all buildings require extra maintenance, and our solar panels won't function at all. Worst of all, the ubiquitous dust has a tendency to get into our pipes and cables, causing leaks and faults that our drones must repair. Any Mars colony requires a healthy reserve of water, power and oxygen to compensate for the losses from storms and other disasters.

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To prepare, MMHI sets the two concrete scrapers to only operate during daylight hours, conserving power.

A scheme to supplement the colony's power with wind turbines is approved, with four such turbines planned, but they will not be operational until well into the storm.

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Shangyang lands safely a week before the storm hits. (By this point the drones have built a proper landing pad.)

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Dewey the research rover is equipped with an array of analytical sensors. Its job is to investigate the ever-growing backlog of anomalies uncovered by sector scans. This little gizmo is the eyes, ears and nose of the science department back on Earth, and over the following years, a peculiar love-hate relationship with the vehicle would arise.
Well, imagine you're trying to give directions to a very small child. And it takes you 45 minutes to get your instructions to the child, and then it takes 45 minutes for him to call back and acknowledge he heard you properly -- or that he didn't. Also you're yelling your instructions through a cardboard tube, and there's a thunderstorm.
(Assistant Communications Director Chuck Calhoun, 2041)

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There are a few different flavors of anomaly. The most straightforward have a beaker icon; these, when scanned, give you a one-time boost of research points. In the early game, when techs are cheap, it's often enough to auto-finish what you're currently researching, and give you a good head start on the next tech.

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Being the first sponsor (which is easy; we're the only ones here) to scan an anomaly gives us an extra research bonus. There are many such milestones and I don't see why we can't reach them all.

Incidentally, the techs we've researched with this breakthrough are Decommission Protocol (we can demolish buildings) and Hygroscopic Vaporators (an upgrade to Moisture Vaporators, a machine we haven't built yet). Both useful, but not particularly sexy. Science is like that sometimes.

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The dust storm arrives and for the next few months, our visibility looks like this.

Scanning continues, however, and the latest results show a small surface deposit of ancient volcanic obsidian. These are useful finds, as valuable polymers can be extracted from them. Huey is dispatched to retrieve it.

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Dust storms are far from the only hazards. Small meteors, which would burn up harmlessly in Earth's atmosphere, are free to pelt the Martian surface. They'll destroy any building they strike, except for domes which merely crack and rockets which are thankfully indestructible. Even a near miss will kick up an annoying amount of dust.

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Meteors aren't all bad, though. They sometimes leave behind a small deposit of metals or polymers, or -- as in this case -- an anomaly.

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The experience yields another advance, Explorer AI. This allows explorer rovers, such as Dewey, to generate research points directly. They don't even need to do anything -- just by existing they're processing data and transmitting only the juiciest bits to the researchers back home.

Remotely programming Dewey with this new functionality was a major headache for the science team, but all agreed the effort was well worth it. Of course, none of this compares to what real human scientists could do if they were here.

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Machines toil away while a dust storm rages, and far in the distance, a meteor falls. Just another day on Hecates Tholus.

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By December 2041 the wind turbines are operational. Even with Mars's trace atmosphere, wind power is feasible with ultralight materials. These provide a steady source of power at all times of the day, and a little more during dust storms. They're a little more expensive to maintain than solar panels, though.

However, we'll need the extra power for the people!

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Around Christmas, in the waning days of the storm, Dome Kukulkan is completed and the MMHI team on Earth celebrates. Here's what it looks like from the inside. For now, only some artificial turf, a spoke of roads and a few plastic benches and streetlights. The interior buildings come next. Power and life support are hooked up, but shut off for the time being -- the drones don't need to breathe after all.

The first colonists will be expected to spend the rest of their lives in this dome. Not everyone is up to the challenge. Would you be?

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Well, be that as it may, the dust storm has passed. It's clear skies and Bonaventure, now fully fueled, is given the green light to make for home.

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When Bonaventure returns -- in about a year -- it will be carrying the first humans to set foot on Mars.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:56 pm

Shangyang, however, has a different itinerary. When it refuels, it will not be heading directly to Earth, but to another part of Mars.

Let's check out the planetary view.

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Though we can only have one colony, we can dispatch rockets to points of interest that have been discovered. There are several planetary anomalies available (new ones appear periodically), and while we need a fully-fueled rocket to investigate one, it's a relatively quick mission because the rocket is only traveling to another point on Mars and back, rather than all the way to Earth.

For each anomaly, we're helpfully told what we need to send as well as what sort of reward awaits for investigating it. Some are out of our reach because they require human specialists or a type of rover we don't have on Mars yet. But here's one that looks promising. Project Fahrenheit, near the south pole, is a site requiring up-close-and-personal investigation by a science rover. Our rover Dewey can be flown over there, and completing the mission will unlock a rare Breakthrough tech to research.

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Other special missions are available from the planetary view. For instance, we could deploy a high-speed comm satellite to solve our bandwidth problems communicating with Earth. This provides a very agreeable research bonus (+400 per Sol) but requires a lot of expensive electronics. Still, it might be worth doing sooner rather than later. MHII promises to look into the budget to assess cost/benefit feasibility.

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Other missions relate to terraforming. These normally have to be researched but since MHII is technically a Terraforming Initiative, we get a few available from the start. For instance, we can dispatch a rocket to Earth, load it with pressurized greenhouse gases, and bring them back for release into the Martian atmosphere. It's something to consider when we have the time and funding to spare.

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February 2042: Fuel refinery #2 is operational and drones begin assembling Kukulkan Dome's interior buildings -- the residences, farms and facilities that the human colonists will live and work in. "Kukulkan" remains a placeholder name which MMHI expects to be overwritten by the residents themselves.
Mahira Marquez wrote:It seems presumptuous for [MMHI directors] to impose a name. After all, we're not the ones who'll be living there.
Late February, monitors light up in Mission Control and printers hum: an incoming meteor shower is detected.

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While individual meteors can and do strike Mars at any time, showers are a sustained period of heavy meteor activity. There's little that can be done to protect against them; colony planners must accept the risk of damage to buildings and vehicles and reserve materials to make repairs as necessary. (Some have envisioned a network of high-energy lasers to "zap" meteors as they fall. This could work in theory, but actual implementation of such a system remains, at present, science fiction.)

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Setting aside the destruction, however, meteors bring resources. A good shower will leave behind a wealth of fresh metals and is often a net gain for the colony. Less a true disaster, more a bonanza with a side order of collateral damage.

Heavy meteor impacts are expected for a few months. While these will not prevent landing and takeoff of rockets (and indeed Shangyang and Dewey launch without incident), the Earth colonists find their journey postponed so as not to arrive in the thick of it. They'll have enough to worry about.

The first impacts hit westward of the colony site, gradually moving closer and closer to facilities. MMHI analysts observe anxiously as the weeks pass.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:22 am

Oh neat, didn't know you could launch satellites
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:30 pm

Closer and closer ...

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I sense an increase in this LP's special effects budget very soon.

At about this same time, Dewey completes its research mission on the other side of the world. At Project Fahrenheit it discovers [REDACTED], with the scientists at Mission Control gaping in disbelief as the rover transmits images of [REDACTED] and what appear to be rocks but are actually [REDACTED].

Shortly afterwards, MHII opens a new avenue of scientific research.

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On Mars, the Future Is Microscopic

(EDINBURGH) - Researchers at the Mars Habitability International Initiative announced a three-year plan to test a prototype system of miniature assembler robots on the red planet.

The MHII, which is sending human colonists to Mars later this year, will also be sending a "starter pack" of 30,000 robots -- each the size of a pin's head -- programmed to perform small-scale construction tasks. Working in coordinated clusters, the robots can build large structures piece by tiny piece, allowing uniformity in design down to the microscopic scale.

That's the goal, at any rate, said MHII Director of Engineering Jeannine Gachet. "Mars will be our testing ground for this exciting and revolutionary technology," she said. "The lower gravity of Mars makes it easier to test the robots' propulsion system, which would not be able to get them off the ground on Earth."

Dr. Gachet stressed that the technology is at an early experimental stage, and that a fully-functional network of "nanobots" -- whether on Mars or on Earth -- likely remains years off.
As I mentioned before, unlocking a technology only makes it available; we still need to actually research this. I've added it to the queue, though.

Enough reading, let's get Michael Bay up in this joint! :sweetielarm: ACTION MONTAGE! :sweetielarm:

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BOOM!

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KAPOW!!

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KA-BLAMMO!!! These and other impacts create a never-ending series of headaches during April-May 2042. Several facilities undergo what are euphemistically logged as "extreme unscheduled maintenance cycles". The most spectacular casualty are the fuel refineries, which take some fuel with them when they go, though the lack of oxygen on Mars prevents any sort of catastrophic explosion.

Also a drone gets flattened while doing repairs. RIP Drone #13, you were the bravest of us all.

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The aftermath of the shower sees the area littered with rocks, most of which will be buried in dust and sand in a year. From the iron-rich meteorites Huey extracts useful material, while Dewey scans the more scientifically interesting finds.

All of the destroyed buildings are rebuilt, though Drone #13 is beyond saving, and all in all the colony survives, a little richer in metals and a little poorer in machine parts.

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Meanwhile the dome is completed and ready for human occupants. Power, oxygen and temperature levels are nominal.

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We'll explore the interior and all its fascinating features when the colonists do. For now it's enough to note that the dome, as currently outfitted, can house 28 people -- though initial colonists will number twelve -- and it is designed for comfort (acceptable levels of it, anyway), farming, and laboratory research. After the first wave of colonists proves the feasibility of dome life, a second wave will bring geologists to exploit the nearby metals, providing resources to build the next dome, and the next.

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On Earth the lucky (?) twelve are chosen from 65 potential candidates. Here we can select individuals, filter for traits, or just let the computer pick. I always hand-pick my founders because the early days are the most demanding, and I want to weed out maladaptive traits as much as possible.

We will meet these brave Earthlings, the Dusty Dozen, in detail in the next installment. For now, it's enough to note that they represent a multinational team of highly trained individuals, physically and psychologically prepared for the challenges of the new life awaiting them. But before that new life can begin, they have a six-month rocket trip ahead of them. By the end of that, any solid ground, however frigid and dusty, will feel like paradise.

On 16 August 2042, Bonaventure launches from Kourou Space Center in Guiana. Its twelve passengers say farewell to Earth and toward a journey further from home than any human has ever ventured.

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I am pleased to report that the following six months are uneventful, for the colonists as well as the colony. No noteworthy difficulties occur and all systems are in working order. It's a fine day to make history.

Mars welcomes Bonaventure back.

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The gangway opens and the colonists disgorge one by one (you get a sense of scale now that humans are present). This procedure has been rehearsed so many times that it almost feels normal. But the view -- the first glimpse of the Red Planet through human eyes -- cannot help but give pause to the new arrivals.

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Mark it in the history books: at 4:06 am UTC, 19 February 2043, colonist Cheng-gong Yang, at the head of the procession, becomes the first human to set foot on Mars. This is the view that awaits him, and the eleven who follow. The Stirling generator gets in the way a bit.

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One by one they exit, marveling at the home that has been prepared for them by robotic servo-appendages.

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We now enter the Founder Stage, a 10-Sol evaluation period during which no further colonists can be sent -- this initial team needs to survive and demonstrate to the world that long-term survival on Mars is feasible.

(In the words of Mahira Marquez, "Our astronauts are boldly going where no one has gone before. It's fitting they have a five-year mission.")

By the way, the Founder Stage finishes early in the event a child is born on Mars. This is fairly easy to accomplish if you've got a reasonably comfortable dome and medical facilities. We won't be doing that here, however, for story reasons -- it's just not believable that the astronauts would land and immediately get to work raising a family. There's plenty of time for that later, for goodness' sake. For now: use protection, everybody, but aside from that have fun.

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The colonists' home awaits ...

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... and one by one, they decontaminate and prepare to begin their new lives.

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And what are those new lives like, you ask? Well, we'll see next time!
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:25 am

Drone #13 :jingo:
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Fizzbuzz (?) » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:26 am

Mechanical Ape wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:30 pm
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The gangway opens and the colonists disgorge one by one (you get a sense of scale now that humans are present).
No kidding. I'd assumed the rovers were about as big as Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover (photos of the latter for scale), with perhaps about the same footprint as an SUV, and that the drones were knee-to-waist-high to us at best. Instead it seems like the drones are as tall as us and the rovers are bigger than basically any vehicle we have here.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:15 pm

The Mars mission was fortuitously timed, since at the moment the colonists were settling in, Earth was seeing the early days of the 2043 spirovirus-C pandemic. While not particularly deadly, spiral-C and its resulting quarantines disrupted everyday life and global markets, a precursor to (some say a cause of) the general recession to follow. Despite containment efforts, the virus managed to "tour the globe" for two years before the development and application of vaccines reduced it to an inconvenient, if persistent, part of the global landscape.

In some countries, the end of quarantine transitioned into general organized strikes, as workers demanded reforms such as labor rights and guaranteed income as conditions for returning to work. These strikes began in Asunción, Paraguay and were copied in a dozen other countries, including several developed nations; in the end, their successes were varied and their gains marginal.

None of these events directly affected the twelve Martian colonists, as far removed from spirovirus-C as any humans could be. 140 million miles of vacuum is already the ultimate quarantine.

Anyway, let's begin our dome tour!

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Towering above all are the two hydroponic farms. Atop these multi-tiered facilities, botanists work tirelessly to make the colony food-positive. Although the group arrived with enough Earth supplies to last a while, and although more can be imported cheaply, any long-term Mars venture must learn to farm for itself. Martian soil isn't suitable for agriculture, and it isn't cost-effective to ship a rocket full of dirt 140 million miles, so hydroponics are the solution for the moment.

What's grown in the towers? All the most exciting stuff: leaf crops such as lettuce, spinach and kale; fast-growing and nutritious wheatgrass; and water-efficient microgreens. Yum!

Needless to say, the early years of the colony will rely heavily on Earth imports to round out the menu. Mars: you don't have to be a vegan to live here, but it helps.

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Lyndon Garrison, Botanist (Enthusiast, Gambler, Hippie) is, at 27, the youngest member of the team. He's immensely proud of contributing to the colony's self-sufficiency, and the sight of green leaves on the Red Planet calms his soul. Off hours he plays Texas Hold 'Em against anyone willing.
INTERVIEWER: Describe Mars in five words.
LYNDON GARRISON: All sand and no beach.

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Meals are taken in the dining facility called The Circle, also a center for socializing (not pictured: socializing). Somebody has to prepare these meals, obviously, so the Circle has a staff of two colonists who cook, clean, and perform other maintenance tasks around the dome. One of these is Zhuang Hsu (Enthusiast, Nerd, Workaholic), not pictured because he's busy rinsing the plasticware.
Zhuang Hsu wrote:On Mars, nutrition is local. Flavor is imported.

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For those who'd rather pick and prepare their own meals, the food dispensary stands ready to ration out fresh produce. Humans, it turns out, possess an innate need to shop.

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It would be a mistake to undervalue so-called "nonspecialist" colonists such as Inaaya Khatri, Grocer Supply Distribution and Inventory (Survivor, Workaholic). No one in a Mars colony is truly unskilled; every resident must be intimately familiar with the workings of their home and be able to diagnose and address problems. When an emergency happens it's all hands on deck, and everyone has to do their share, whether you're a medic with 30 years of experience or the gal who counts the eggplants. Not having a "skilled" job just means you're doing the hundred other jobs that keep the colony running.
Inaaya Khatri wrote:One problem we don't have on Mars is food storage. We are surrounded on all sides by the largest, coldest freezer any human has ever owned.

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Emily Alexandre, Medic (Rugged) thought it would be a lot tougher than this, to be honest.
INTERVIEWER: Describe Mars in five words.
EMILY ALEXANDRE: Red, red, red, ... brown? ... red. [Laughs]

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In low gravity, regular exercise is key to maintaining bone density and muscle mass. The dome doesn't have a designated gym, so just pick a place and do some calisthenics. Chang Lee, Botanist (Melancholic) also works out to lift her mood; the artificial pond is a favorite spot.
INTERVIEWER: Despite everything, are there times when it's beautiful?
CHANG LEE: Every day.
INTERVIEWER: Really?
CHANG LEE: Yes. Every day it's beautiful.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:35 pm

They look like they're having fun,
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Tue Mar 31, 2020 10:20 pm

DaikatunaRevengeance wrote:
Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:35 pm
They look like they're having fun,
They'd better! This is no misery simulator, this is luxury automated gay space communism and we're on a rocket heading straight toward it.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Thu Apr 02, 2020 12:54 pm

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In the early years, the colony's main output is scientific research. The Science Lab is where this happens. Here, the science team conducts on-site experiments -- utilizing Dewey's eyes and ears for the outdoor work -- compiling data with far greater fidelity and speed than MHII's earthbound research staff. Remote-controlled robots are fine, but if you want real science done there's no substitute for genuine human brains. At least, till someone invents a better robot.

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Darsh Ahuja, Scientist (Nerd) is researching agriculture -- specifically, a process for growing edible fungus in pressurized low-G greenhouses, which would improve food variety. He is literally the Egon Spengler of Mars.
Darsh Ahuja wrote:I hope humanity can finally quit speculating "is there life on the Red Planet?" There is, and here we are.

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Near the science lab stands the dome's security station, staffed by the colony's emergency officers.

EOs are like most emergency personnel: easily overlooked when there's no emergency, indispensable when there is one. Their daily job is to monitor the workings of the dome (both mechanical and interpersonal) and respond, or organize a response, when problems occur. They watch for potential leaks and shutdowns. During disasters such as dust storms, they keep stress from overwhelming the colonists. They are trained in conflict resolution and carry nonlethal stun guns as a last resort. But despite the title "emergency officer", they do not wield authority -- no one on Mars has authority as such, because there is no law as such. There's no need for it. Everyone in the colony knows their responsibilities and, in turn, relies upon everyone else knowing theirs. The role EOs play is to observe, coordinate, and de-escalate.

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Lin Lin Yu, Officer (Party Animal, Melancholic, Nerd) fulfills EO duty among the twelve founders.
Lin Lin Yu wrote:I am equal parts paramedic, counselor, and receptionist.

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The infirmary, staffed by the medical team, maintains the physical and mental health of the colony. In game terms they are where colonists go to replenish health and sanity, and they also increase the birth rate if your dome allows reproduction. Physical injuries and illnesses are uncommon, things have to go seriously wrong for those to happen, so most clinic patients are there for low sanity. Stress is a constant factor in colony life -- particularly for those working the night shift or in outdoor buildings -- and without a place to recover, they'll eventually snap and develop bad personality traits, as well as tanking their productivity.

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are by far the most commonly prescribed treatments in the colony.

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Additionally colonists with the Hypochondriac trait, such as Marla Wolf, Botanist (Hypochondriac, Sexy), regularly want to see a medic regardless of their health. Here she is getting yet another checkup from Doris Pressley, Medic (Gamer, Sexy), who is using this opportunity to collate data and play Minesweeper.
INTERVIEWER: Would you ever have children?
MARLA WOLF: I'd like to, someday. There's still so much we don't know about the impact of Martian living on the human body. Even for plants, we've had to learn new methods to make them grow and thrive. In this environment, how would human pregnancy change? What risks, to both child and mother, might be involved? [Long pause] I'm the wrong person to answer that.

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In case you were wondering, colonists with the Sexy trait are just more likely to have children; they increase the overall birth rate in their dome. "Parental" might be a more accurate term. After all, no one looks sexy in shoulder pads.
Doris Pressley wrote:I can't play most online games because of bandwidth restrictions. The 45-minute latency is an issue as well.

Dr. Pressley is ready to head home after a long shift; her DLC will take all night to download. In the next post, we'll take a look at the living space.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Thu Apr 02, 2020 2:35 pm

Maybe there are shoulder pads out there that look sexy, you never know :ponder:
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Tue Apr 07, 2020 11:27 pm

We'll do our best to research Improved Sexy Jumpsuits if it comes up.

All right, I'm as ready to move forward on this as the rest of you, so let's wrap up our tour with a glimpse at the living quarters. We've seen where our colonists work and play, now let's see where they sleep.

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Colonists work for one shift (morning, afternoon or night) and take the rest of the day to see to their well-being. Here we see Marla Wolf entering a standard home; a residential complex or "block" consists of 3 such homes and can house 14 people. With two residential blocks in this dome, there's room for 16 more colonists and our founders have lots of living space. Even at full capacity, living standards are comfortable: each residence contains beds, a kitchen area, shower facilities, personal computers, and a living room with TV monitor and sweet speakers.

Everything you see in this picture is plastic, even the stuff made to resemble wood.

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JuiceUseless omg i cant believe they live like this
Drspaceman7420 this is nicer than my apartment
yttrium39 mine too
xxRedWatcherxx and
MIMElink and
timme AND
wrx45782 wanna move to mars
Clockwork0rangutan big and
Uriah &
Myra Balakrishna, Scientist wrote:I'm told the picture of me sitting on my porch went viral, prompting some jealousy and even a little anger. I'm also told that "and" is some new online slang for "me too" -- I'll have to ask Doris about that.

What we learned in early simulations was that humans were not built to live in boxes. Test habitats such as HI-SEAS in the 2010s were efficient, functional, and spartan. In a high-stress environment, this leads to problems. Long-term simulations became successful only after planners put away their calculators and began focusing on aesthetics ... a lesson which sadly took decades to learn. It turns out that for human well-being, luxury is itself a necessity.

For those outraged by our "luxurious" housing here, I sympathize. Everyone deserves and is owed a comfortable life; this is as true on Earth as it is on Mars. No one, on any planet, should live in a box.

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Axel Dayton, Unspecialized (Loner, Workaholic) wanted to get away from it all, and he made it, but even introverts need conversation every now and then. He has a PhD in structural engineering and is an amazing chef.
INTERVIEWER: Describe Mars in five words.
AXEL DAYTON: [Thinks a moment] I understand how goldfish feel.

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Cheng-gong Yang, Unspecialized (Religious, Workaholic) works at the food dispensary. A trained nutritionist, he helps ensure colonists receive the proper dietary intake, a task of no small importance in a place where meals are carefully rationed. No one can afford to get rickets when the nearest proper hospital is 140 million miles away.
INTERVIEWER: You were the first human being to set foot on Mars. How did that come about?
CHENG-GONG YANG: We disembarked in order of our spacesuit designations -- A through L. I was assigned suit A, so I was first in line. In training, we had drilled this procedure many times. The order was assigned long before we left Earth. As far as I know, it was assigned randomly. You would need to ask somebody at MHII for the reason.
INTERVIEWER: On Earth, your name is a household word. Are you treated like a celebrity in the colony?
CHENG-GONG YANG: It's rather arbitrary, don't you think? It's not important to us at all. From our point of view, we all landed at the same time. Who was first out the door, by two seconds or three seconds, is not something we dwell on. No, I'm just a member of the team doing my job. I prefer it that way, I think. If on Earth I am a celebrity, then it's just as well that I'm not there to experience it. [Laughs] I have enough to do here.

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So that's daily life for the founders, and in January 2044, just short of a year into the mission, things are going smoothly and morale is high. The colonists' exploits are no longer daily headlines on Earth (to be fair, spirovirus-C is quite the spotlight stealer).

Then, weather sensors on Hecates Tholus detect an oncoming climatic event. At the same time, MHII mission control, monitoring from Edinburgh, observes the same pattern. Earth and Mars notify each other, their messages crossing in the 45-minute interplanetary void.

The conclusion is undeniable:

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Winter is coming.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Apr 12, 2020 8:09 pm

Keeping this update short because no one should work hard on a holiday! :party:

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Mars is always cold, but sometimes it gets even colder. The planet's thin atmosphere retains little heat, and temperature changes can be extreme.

In game terms, Cold Waves last for several Sols, longer on average than any other disaster. While one is in effect, outdoor buildings demand more power, which can be extremely nasty if your power infrastructure is short on slack. You can turn off buildings to conserve power, but during a Cold Wave, any building that stays idle too long freezes solid and can't be restarted until the Cold Wave lifts.

The colony has some time to prepare: they have plenty of materials for repairs & maintenance, but don't want to risk a power crisis. It's agreed that the colony can go without concrete and fuel production for the short term, so the two concrete scrapers and the two fuel refineries are shut down and allowed to freeze. Additionally the Stirling generator is opened to increase its power output.

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The water towers are another problem. During a Cold Wave, water towers freeze solid for the duration. This is theoretically fine for our colony, since our water extractor produces enough to supply the dome, but if that supply gets interrupted -- by a pipe leak for instance -- we'll have no reserve to tap into, and our colonists will be forced to drink from the lake or worse.

Fortunately, MHII had anticipated disasters like this, and in 2041 had researched a prototype Subsurface Heater. This is a building which radiates warmth, countering the effects of extreme cold, using heated-water pipes in the soil to conduct heat in a short radius. It uses a small amount of power and water, but protects facilities that absolutely cannot afford to shut down during the long cold waves.

MHII’s contingency plan now goes into action. Edinburgh transmits the schematic to Mars and the drones get to work assembling it near the water towers.

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The drones are still at work when the cold wave hits. The frosty landscape you see above will last the entire year.

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Good news though, the heater is online within the first week, creating a zone of relative warmth and keeping the water tanks usable.

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Within the dome, the daily routine continues, but the view outside is grim. You can actually feel the cold if you get close to the windows.

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As weeks and months pass, the relentless chill takes a toll on the colonists' mental health. What if a pipe bursts? What if power is interrupted? What if a dome panel cracks and falls off? The airless Martian surface is always deadly, of course; but that danger seems far more present when you can actually feel it through the panels. At these times, the polymer bubble seems unnervingly thin.

The vigilance of Emergency Officer Yu helps maintain optimism.

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But at night, she stays up, looks outside, and worries.
Lin Lin Yu wrote:The joke we tell ourselves is "if the dome had curtains, we would close them".

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Rocket travel is not hampered during cold waves, so MHII prepares a shipment of resources, including extra drones and extra food. This is timely, since the colonists' original provisions are beginning to run short and the hydroponic harvest is still a ways off, despite the hard work of the botanical team.

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Months pass in frozen silence.

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Bonaventure's return in September 2044 is greeted with warm relief, seeming to signal a turnaround of fortunes. For the first time in many weeks, looking outside isn't depressing.

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The colonists are cheered by the delivery of fresh groceries. Incidentally, in this shot you can clearly see that drones are, indeed, about as large as humans. You could probably curl up and fit in their cargo receptacle, but you shouldn't do that because you'd die.

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And not long afterwards: the first harvest! The botanists have succeeded in growing lettuce on Mars -- the first Earth food grown on an alien world.

In celebration the colonists vote on an official name for their dome, and they name it Abundance.

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We're making good progress on our milestones.

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An arty shot of Abundance in November, as MHII decides how best to expand. With the cold wave in recession and the colony stocked with supplies, optimism is high for the success of the five-year evaluation period. Although that milestone is still a couple years off, planners are already at work deciding the future path of the colony.

The Abundance site had been chosen because of its proximity to underground metal deposits, but in the intervening years, MHII has been pleasantly surprised by the easy access of surface metals, which Huey has been dutifully scooping up wherever they're discovered. As a result, the colony's metal supply is richer than expected -- the need for mining can be delayed a while yet.

Instead, it's planned that the second wave of Martian colonists will be engineers. Abundance will house a factory to turn metals into machine parts, reducing the reliance on Earth imports and the associated costs. That factory will go in the space left open behind the science lab.

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Finally in December, the thaw comes. The heater is shut off and the scrapers and fuel refineries are back online. Bonaventure will be ready to launch before too long.

In other news: in the course of 2044 three nations, Pakistan, Chile and Ukraine, officially withdraw from MHII, citing economic pressures from the spirovirus-C pandemic. Nearly a dozen members are in arrears on their dues, and over twenty have withdrawn their personnel for health and security reasons.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Thu Apr 16, 2020 4:11 pm

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March 2045: With skies clear and Bonaventure fully fueled, Mars prepares its first manned excursion to a science anomaly. Six volunteers -- half the Abundance personnel -- will board the rocket and spend a few weeks investigating a [REDACTED] not far from the colony site. I'm afraid that's all the detail I'm allowed to share.

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Over salad and wheatgrass smoothies, lively debates are held at the Circle over who should go. Despite what is likely to be cramped and dangerous conditions, most are anxious to take the trip, as much to break the monotony as anything else. "After flying 225 million kilometers," reasons Axel, "what's a few hundred more?" Yes, I'm on a first-name basis with all the founders; get jealous.

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The selected six (Axel, Cheng-gong, Lin Lin, Doris, Inaaya, and Chang) blast off in May. They spend five weeks at the pole, living out of Bonaventure and crummy pre-fab outdoor shelters. Meanwhile, the remaining Abundance team continue their normal routine, as best they can, in a dome even more sparse than usual.

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Lyndon adapts well, performing the work of two with surprising gusto. During the Founder Phase, random events can fire that apply new traits to colonists. "Enthusiast" is a good one, improving job productivity.
Lyndon Garrison wrote:When life gives you lemons, design superior lemons that can grow hydroponically.

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The explorers return in June. They are required to keep confidential about the amazing [REDACTED] they discovered ...

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... but whatever it was, the MHII Science Department is abuzz with new possibilities. It's around this time that MHII begins to speak seriously about terraforming as a practical, not speculative, future path.

So let's also speak seriously about terraforming in Surviving Mars. And while we're at it, let's look at our sponsor goals, since they relate to terraforming.

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Each sponsor gets a set of 5 goals related to their priorities, which when achieved yield rewards. They don't have to be done in order, although the easiest ones are listed first. For the Terraforming Initiative, the goals relate to various milestones on the long slow path to Martian livability. Mars will never be a tropical paradise, but it is possible (in the game, anyway) to make it habitable enough for humans to walk outside unassisted. Minnesota, perhaps.

:pinkiewindow: Where we're going, we won't need domes to breathe.

How is all this to be achieved? Mainly through technology we don't have yet. But terraforming progress is measured in four categories: Atmosphere, Temperature, Water and Vegetation. These are all currently at 0%, with 100% being optimally Earth-like. There are benefits to be gained at intermediate stages, for instance when it gets warm enough Cold Waves won't happen anymore, and of course it's always nice to look outside and see trees.

I chose Terraforming Initiative for MHII because they get bonuses that make terraforming easier, and I didn't want to have to wait too long to show off this content. Even so, the bulk of it is mid- and late-game stuff, for self-sufficient colonies flush with resources and cash, so don't expect much focus just yet.

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A year passes uneventfully. Earth continues to slouch toward economic recession.

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August 2046: With 18 months till the end of the five-year evaluation period, MHII prepares for a second wave of colonists. Providing all continues smoothly, the Founder Phase will conclude in February 2048 and we will have the green light to send more humans from Earth. Since goods are only getting more expensive, Shangyang is sent to Mars with more supplies, as well as three new pre-fabricated buildings: a Machine Parts Factory and two Moisture Vaporators to extract water from the Martian atmosphere. We'll get a look at these things later.

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September 2047: Another dust storm descends over Hecates Tholus, once more transforming the scenery to a rusty haze. It is understood that this and other disasters will be a regular feature of life in the colony. Both rockets are grounded until the storm lifts, which is not expected for some months.

The new moisture vaporators remain pristine and unwrapped in their original shipping containers. They can't function during dust storms so there's no point in hooking them up.

Martian dust is electrostatic so dust storms often feature lightning, but despite all efforts I couldn't get a screenshot of any.

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Everyone knows the drill by now.

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The dust is still raging when the long-awaited date comes, February 19, 2048, the end of the five-year Founder Stage. :pinkietoot: And so the mood at MHII headquarters on Earth is all sunny smiles. Long-term survival on Mars is officially feasible, and further colonization is authorized.

Also, I love the cheese in this popup. Like to imagine Mahira Marquez going to the podium on international TV and saying :fancyhat: "Looks like we've got a serious adventure ahead of us!" and maybe doing a little fist pump. And because this is my LP that's exactly what happened.

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Then, the unexpected happens. It's love on the Red Planet.

Seems Cheng-gong Yang has fallen hard for a coworker -- whose identity is, frankly, none of your business or mine. These things happen. And our boy's got a thing for big romantic declarations.

Now love is the strongest, most wonderful force in the universe. And $10 million is a drop in the bucket on MHII's ledger. And "First Man on Mars Has First Wedding on Mars" would make a dynamite headline.

But, my man ... have you looked outside? Fireworks during a dust storm? No. That's dumb, Cheng-gong. That's absurd. We're not doing that. You'll have to win over this person with your personality.

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Since we later see him moping around with a huge morale penalty, I'm guessing the proposal didn't go as planned. And he probably blames MHII for not authorizing the fireworks.

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So as we move into mid-2048, the mood in the dome is extremely awkward.

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Everything's weird right now, you know?

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Despite the end of the Founder Stage, which should be a time of elation, Abundance lies under a heavy cloud of dust and regrets. Our friends would really like some new faces right about now, but with both rockets stuck on Mars, the second wave of colonists is delayed who knows how long.

Nothing to do but stare out the window at the vague, indistinct scenery, munch some kale ... and dream.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Thu Apr 16, 2020 4:24 pm

First the cold now the dust :ohboy:
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;) ❤️ :twasnothin: ❤️ :fancyhat:

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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sat Apr 18, 2020 6:36 pm

The population of Mars triples in the course of this update. Things are starting to pick up now.

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June 2048: When the dust clears, Shangyang and Bonaventure are out of here.

It'll take the better part of a year to return to Earth, and the same length again to bring new colonists. Mars is not idle in the meantime, though.

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October 2048: Dome #2 is sited on the north side of the colony; this is near the rare-metals niobium deposit, and the main function of the dome will be to exploit that deposit. Construction starts immediately, and since there are plenty of building materials in storage, it won't take the drones long.

Although the two domes will be visible to each other, they'll be too distant to marswalk between. Drones can deliver items between them but the residents will not be able to meet in person, or relocate from one dome to another. That's just how it goes.

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More domes mean more water demand, so we install the moisture vaporators finally.

Most water on Mars is frozen on or below the surface. The atmosphere is just 1% that of Earth, and less than 1% of that is water vapor; but there is some, and vaporators condense and extract it. They provide a modest, but steady and -- this is important -- inexhaustible supply of water. The drawbacks are: they don't function during cold waves and dust storms, they need to be spaced apart to work at efficiency, and it's late-game tech to manufacture them so when we want one, we have to import it.

Smart planning allows us to space the vaporators apart while keeping both within range of the heater, so they'll continue to function when it gets frigid.

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Finally the machine parts factory is assembled in Abundance, with a little park in back and a solar panel to the side for extra power. Yes! You can build solar panels inside domes if you choose.

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Back on Earth, Shangyang loads up with twelve volunteers: six engineers, two scientists, a botanist, and three nonspecialists. They'll be working in Abundance with the others.

One of the engineers, Khushi Balakrishna, shares a name with our founder scientist Myra Balakrishna, so I've decided they're sisters and their reunion will be heartwarming. :ohboy: ;)

Shangyang blasts off in February 2049.

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Simultaneously on Mars, the drones have finished building Dome #2 (code named Akongo; the settlers will vote on a real name when they arrive) and now start work on the indoor and outdoor buildings. You can see the mine going up next to it. While the Abundance staff can stay inside their warm, air-filled dome 25/7, doing science and growing cabbage, Akongo's miners will need to don their suits and step out the airlock each day to work. And you thought your job was uncomfortable.

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August 2049: Shangyang lands and Abundance makes room for the twelve newcomers. Will they adjust?

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Engineers wear yellow jumpsuits and are the factory workers of the colony. They're the ones who'll keep Mars self-sufficient in machine parts and other advanced products.

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The arrivals spend their first night on Mars taking it easy ...

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... and in the morning get right to work. Our six engineers are enough to fill both day shifts in the factory, and soon the colony's banging out 3 machine parts each Sol. Since the current needs are 1.2 machine parts per Sol, we're running a mild surplus.

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The other newcomers get settled in their own jobs. Nonspecialist Ping Chen takes the afternoon shift in the security station. In Surviving Mars anyone can do any job, but if a job needs a specialist and you don't have that specialty, you work at reduced performance. Ping Chen isn't a certified Emergency Officer but it's better than leaving the tower empty half the day.

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Lyndon gains a coworker in his hydrofarm, Mascha Fedoseeva (Sexy). They seem to be getting along all right.

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And of course Myra and Khushi catch up over a nice sisterly lunch.

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With 24 residents in Abundance, the place is really buzzing. Most daytime shifts are now fully staffed, and the Circle and the grocery are always packed (except at night, when everything closes). There's housing for 4 more colonists if desired; it might be nice to have extra staff working a night shift.

You might suppose that everyone goes to sleep at night, but colonists only need to rest sometimes and it's not synced to the day-night cycle. Sometimes they'd rather stay up and shop, or grab a snack or whatever. So if your service buildings are filled up during the day, maybe open a night shift so more people can use them.

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September 2049: Akongo Dome is furnished, wired up, and open for business. Like Abundance, it's designed to house 28 people; unfortunately MHII's rockets can only fit twelve. MHII sends Bonaventure with a dozen new colonists, ready to mine and so forth.

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March 2050: And here they come now! Abundance calls to welcome them to their spanking-new home.

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Next time, we'll see how the Akongo staff lives. You may already have spotted some newish-looking buildings.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Fizzbuzz (?) » Sat Apr 18, 2020 8:13 pm

Is there any effect on each person's morale if they think they're being made to do an unfair type or amount of work, especially if the people in the other dome aren't getting the same apparent treatment? The first thing I imagined when you said they can't visit each other in the two domes is interpersonal relations deteriorating into some kind of a civil war, writ small.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sat Apr 18, 2020 9:52 pm

Fizzbuzz wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 8:13 pm
Is there any effect on each person's morale if they think they're being made to do an unfair type or amount of work, especially if the people in the other dome aren't getting the same apparent treatment? The first thing I imagined when you said they can't visit each other in the two domes is interpersonal relations deteriorating into some kind of a civil war, writ small.
No; interpersonal relations are not modeled, and when you catch a whiff of it that's generally me RP interpreting. In that vein I think our colonists will be OK for now with this enforced social distancing; at least with their fellow Martians they can communicate without a 45-minute delay, which is huge. Doris Pressley will finally have someone to play Battle Fight Royale 3 against. :ponynet:

Future domes will be close enough to link up, and in the long run we'll likely have a chain of habitats all connected.

As for jobs, colonists take a Sanity hit if they work the night shift or work outside the dome, or if you've set their shift to "heavy workload". Sanity feeds into Morale which is an aggregation of various factors. But in terms of certain jobs being seen as inherently better or more desirable, that's not a thing. Colonists will try to organize themselves for max efficiency; generally they'll stick to their specialties, but they'll make exceptions if there's not enough workers and a shift would otherwise go empty. That's how you sometimes get people working a job outside their specialty. You can set a building to "Specialists Only" if you want to ensure they don't do that, even if it means understaffing.

These issues may well come into play from an RP fluff standpoint, though.

DaikatunaRevengeance wrote:
Thu Apr 16, 2020 4:24 pm
First the cold now the dust :ohboy:
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so. awesome.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Sat Apr 18, 2020 10:00 pm

Haha, perfect
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;) ❤️ :twasnothin: ❤️ :fancyhat:

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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Apr 20, 2020 3:45 pm

Caroline Kent, Botanist wrote:Welcome to Mars, where even the miners have PhD's.

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Residential blocks -- technically I guess they're "wedges" -- in this dome use an alternate skin. MHII loves experimenting with architecture. These homes employ ultramodern synthetics to create a lush décor reminiscent of walnut or ebony, until you get close and realize it's still plastic. Their shape is more traditionally house-like in contrast to the tubular design of the Abundance homes.

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From ground level you can almost pretend you're in a nice neighborhood on Earth.

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At night, if you don't feel like socializing or calisthenics you can lounge on your patio and watch the stars go by. Visibility is superb since there's almost no atmosphere.

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What she's seeing.

The night sky looks the same from anywhere in the solar system, though of course there's no moon (but see below). What does change is the apparent motion of the stars, as Mars has its own axial tilt and the sky rotates around a different celestial pole than it does on Earth. Mars has no "north star" equivalent to Polaris for us.

While I've never dug into Surviving Mars' skybox, I'm pretty sure I've spotted the Pleiades during play so for all I know, the game may offer an accurate night sky.

What else would be visible from the Martian surface? You would see Earth as a bright dot (pale blue, I presume) not unlike how Venus appears to us. You could also see Earth's moon, if you squinted, as a much smaller and dimmer dot. No idea if either are rendered in game.

Mars has two satellites of its own, Phobos and Deimos, though neither are anything like the gigantic anomaly that is Earth's moon. For one thing, they're really tiny. Phobos, the larger of the two, is just 22 kilometers across (that's 14 miles), and it orbits Mars very quickly at a very short distance of 6,000 km. It would be visible from the Martian surface as a vaguely potato-shaped lump about 1/3 the size of our own moon. However it orbits so fast -- faster than Mars rotates -- that to an observer it would appear to rise in the west and set in the east. Deimos is even tinier, being only 6 km in diameter (4 miles); from the Martian surface it appears starlike without any visible features. Again, no idea if the game includes either.

See this article for more about Martian skywatching.

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The Rare Metals Extractor, which is how we get that lucrative niobium, is essentially a giant piston that lifts and falls, hammering into the crust all day. To get to work, the geologists have to put on their suits and bounce over there. Like all out-dome work, this is stressful.

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The interior is sealed, so once inside the extractor you can remove your suit and get comfortable. Ear protection is recommended, however.

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As metals are extracted, drones relay them to rockets for export to a resource-hungry Earth. On receipt, MHII unloads them on the world market and adds the revenue to the initiative's budget. A full rocket's cargo can yield over $600 million.

There's a whiff of colonialism about all this; but on the other hand, the colony is still young and the goal of self-sufficiency depends on greater investment. MHII is reluctant to mention it, but the economic situation on Earth is not great and the enthusiasm of its member states cooler than it once was.

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After a hard day's mining, where can a couple of fun-seeking professionals go to unwind?

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There's the diner (known locally as "The Diner"), a retro-styled alternative skin to the Circle eatery in Abundance. I say "retro" but at this point the 1950's were a century ago; I don't know if that moves us into "vintage" territory or perhaps even "antique".

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Regardless, the view is nice! There's not much to see on the other side besides industrial buildings and a lot of red sand.

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For those who want a little kick with their wheatgrass juice, there's also O2, the first bar on Mars. Open all day and all night, this establishment offers music, socializing and a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Alcohol is strictly rationed, probably through some kind of nontransferable voucher system. It is in no one's interest for anyone to get drunk, and O2's staff carefully monitor all patrons for signs of impairment. There is no section of the dome more securely monitored than the alcohol stock.
Alena Prosser, MHII Human Resources wrote:This was, I won't dispute, a controversial and long-debated decision. But in the end we recognized the fact that alcohol on Mars has always been, and would always be, a reality. It is a very, very difficult thing to prevent.

We were aware, without naming any names, that some of the founders were getting the odd bottle of champagne smuggled aboard the supply rockets. O2 is an experiment in self-regulation: instead of banning and stigmatizing the use of alcohol, the colonists are permitted, if they choose, to have it in their lives and moderate its use.

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"Listen honey, if he can't see how terrific you are then he doesn't deserve you."

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August 2050: A second shipment of colonists arrives, bringing the total population of Mars to 48, 24 per dome.

The residents of the second dome vote on a name, New Edinburgh, after the site of MHII's Earth headquarters.

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A sketch of the colony as of March 20, 2050, more or less ten years after the first landing.

Plans for future growth include "companion domes" for both Abundance and New Edinburgh, close enough to connect with pressurized walkways allowing foot travel. These are intended to expand the colony's research, food, and industrial output, with possibly some very early terraforming experiments.

Mostly, MHII is making a big investment to push the Mars colony toward self-sufficiency. In the long run, it's either that or ... the lifeless red wasteland we started with.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:54 pm

IN THIS UPDATE: creating nanobots.

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In late 2050, scientists on Mars construct a titanium Earth globe 1 meter wide using a swarm of tiny assembler robots. This feat completes a project years in the making -- the first macro construction with micro technology -- and the potential impact of the breakthrough is enormous. But it's a technology still in its infancy.

Right now, though, Mars has nanobots. Of a sort.
Current predictions give eight to ten years before nano-assemblers become commercially viable on Earth, replacing as many as 4 million construction jobs in the United States alone. If you read that sentence not with joy, but with worry and dread, you have come face to face with the paradox of our economic system: that technologies intended to make our lives easier so often make us poorer. In a world where one's livelihood is achieved through labor, machines that eliminate labor are viewed, not as the futuristic marvels they ought to seem, but as threats.

We might well question the morality -- and indeed the sanity -- of an economic paradigm which teaches us to fear progress in this way.
-- Economist Martin Stanger, Prosperity's Shadow: The Global Economy and How to Survive It (2051)


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The fluff. How does it work? You start with a schematic for the thing you want to build, generated through computer-aided design (CAD). The template has to be complete to the smallest detail because that's the level these robots work at. You load the schematic into a central controller/transmitter, pile your raw materials nearby, and switch it on. The work is done with thousands of tiny self-propelled assemblers, nicknamed "bees", who have just enough processing power to perform a simple sequence of tasks: bring a tiny speck of material from point A to point B. The fine-detail work they are capable of, if the design specifies it, is incredible. Upon completing their jobs, the bees lose power and go inert, becoming part of the Martian dust.

The game mechanics. Despite construction nanites being a huge deal if they existed in real life, the tech in-game is not much to shout about. Some breakthroughs are literal game-changers ... this is not one of them. Basically it allows buildings to construct themselves without drones, as long as materials are stacked nearby. The thing is, though, nanites are pretty much redundant where you've got drones, which build things perfectly fine on their own, so you'd only ever use this if you wanted to build outside of drone range. Which does happen sometimes, but bear in mind that most (not all) buildings require maintenance, which is performed by drones. Obviously it's no great value to build something on the other side of the map if you can't keep it in working order.

So it's by no means a useless tech, but it does require you to be resourceful in employing it advantageously. Luckily, I've found an excellent use for it which I will share anon.

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Here's our current map of Hecates Tholus. All throughout the game we've been surveying sectors one by one, and as you can see, we've scanned a good chunk of the top of the map, which is where our colony is. Scanning goes quicker when there's a Sensor Tower nearby, and having more Sensor Towers in general improves scan speed.

Now as it happens there's an early tech, which we've already researched, which makes towers not require power or maintenance anymore. You just build one and then it runs forever autonomously.

So the plan is to send Huey to build us a Sensor Tower network. Five or six, evenly spaced around the map, should do it. We'll load him up with building materials; at each stop he'll drop his cargo, and the nanobots will handle the rest. At the end of it our map will have nice, even coverage and we'll be scanning sectors like whoa. Plus we'll get plenty of advance warning for disasters.

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Speaking of which: it's cold again.
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Re: The Pale Red Dot: A Surviving Mars LP

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Thu Apr 30, 2020 10:46 pm

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Unconnected to anything, I'd taken this screenshot of New Edinburgh and I just really like it. :good:
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