On the Beach in Kalpana One

Last week we posted about placing water in the High Frontier internal colony prototype.  Since then, we’ve improved that feature quite a bit, as you can see here.

Beach scene in High FrontierWe’ve developed a custom shader that draws much nicer grass, without the usual tiling artifacts that made it look so artificial before.  And, we now switch to sand for any land below the standard “grass” level.  This is combined with a much nicer user interface that makes it easy to paint smooth, gentle coastlines and beaches.

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Creating Mods for High Frontier

Version 0.10 of High Frontier added support for “mods” — modifications that can be created, shared, and installed by players to change the behavior of a game.  We promised a few more words about that… so here we go!

First, we decided early on to support mods in High Frontier as much as possible.  That’s why we added them now, while the game is still in the very early stages of development, rather than trying to tack them on later.

However, earlier versions of High Frontier used the native binary file format that’s built into the .NET framework.  This turned out to be an unfortunate choice.  It was expedient, but fragile; it happened at least once that we added or changed something in the way colonies are represented, and older files became completely unreadable.  It’s possible to work around this, but doing so is difficult and expensive — that is, no longer expedient at all.

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New paper on radiation shielding

Al Globus and I have just released a pre-print of a new paper on radiation shielding for space colonies.  It contains some important new insights about where the first space colonies are likely to be built, and what sort of shielding requirements they will face.  Here’s the full abstract:

We examine the radiation shielding requirements for protecting the inhabitants of space settlements located in orbit. In particular, we recommend a threshold of 20 mSv/year based on the most relevant existing standards. Space settlement studies in the 1970s assumed that lunar regolith with a mass equivalent to Earth’s atmosphere above high altitude cities, roughly 5 tons per square meter, would be sufficient to meet a 5 mSv/year threshold at the Earth­-Moon L5 point, their recommended settlement location. Using OLTARIS, NASA’s online radiation computational tool, we found this to be far too little for their 5 mSv/year threshold. Even at our 20 mSv/year threshold about 10 tons/m2 of lunar regolith is required. Fortunately, radiation shielding mass requirements can be radically reduced by using better materials and/or by placing settlements in low Earth orbit (LEO) rather than above the Van Allen Belts. Specifically, 6­7 tons of water or polyethylene radiation shielding per square meter of hull is sufficient in free space and settlements in a circular 500­-600 km equatorial Earth orbit may require no shielding at all to meet the 20 mSv/year threshold. This has strong implications for the best paths towards space settlement as the first settlements may not need extraterrestrial mining and processing. For settlements in LEO, transportation to and from Earth is (relatively) easy, implying a smaller step between large space hotels or low­-g retirement homes and the first settlements. It is important to note that there are significant uncertainties in our understanding of the effects of low-­level continuous high-­energy particle radiation on human tissue that, when resolved, may invalidate these findings.

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First Traffic Simulation

We’ve begun early prototyping work for the internal colony management.  You can see one of our early graphics tests here.  But this week, we’re thinking mainly about the city simulation itself.

The growth of a city is primarily a function of demand for housing, jobs, and services; and transportation of people and goods.  Transportation will be especially interesting in High Frontier because available land is constrained, but we have lots of options to choose from.  Roads will certainly be possible, but we’ll also have things like monorails, moving walkways, and good old-fashioned walking or biking. Continue reading

First Peek at Internal View

We’ve started prototyping the internal colony management mode for the High Frontier video game.  This is where you’ll actually go inside the colony you’ve designed, and help the residents lay out roads, parks, public works, etc.  (Building houses and commercial buildings will be up to them.)

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