Friday, January 28, 2011

Working on the Text

          With only four days left until the release of the Monarch Courier, It's crunch time. 

          Today I hope to get the entire text for the PDF finished.  Yesterday was pretty much a wash, so I'm kind of behind.  Still, I'm enjoying what I do, so I can't complain too much, can I?

          One of the stumbling blocks to writing the text on this project is it's purpose.  By that I mean, since the Monarch is meant to be a Star Wars deck plan, I'm having to write a history that fits in with that universe without using any of the information, events or names from that universe.  It's an interesting challenge; Lucasfilm Ltd's franchise is one of the most valuable Intellectual Properties in the entertainment industry, and I absolutely cannot use any of that IP in my third-party products.  So the write-up for the Monarch is deliberately vague.  Mostly, this is no problem; after all, I've been GM-ing Star Wars campaigns since 1992 and have been designing planets, people, and of course spacecraft for the galaxy far, far away just as long.  For example, the holo-star Vega Rialtair, who is featured in the Monarch PDF, is actually older than all of my kids put together. 
           Where the conflict arises is in the "For the GM" section I usually include in my PDFs.  Most of that info is going to have to be generic, and I can't help that.  That being said, there is nothing at all stopping me from releasing Star Wars-specific information on the blog here for free.  So, in addition to Saga-edition stats for my Starships of the Galaxy, there will also be a free "For the Star Wars GM" section posted within a couple of days of the PDF's release as well.  I'm also planning on releasing stats for specific ships of that month's class and maybe an NPC as well.  These will be released in both D6 and Saga-edition rules, so you can pick your flavor without screwing around with conversion charts and such. 

         When I first started marketing deck plans, I had intended to release a free PDF every month as well.  That plan kind of fell by the wayside, as my health and related work flow issues during the holiday season made demands on my time.  So consider these free Star Wars supplements my apology for that.  You're Welcome.

          Anyway RocketFans, I hope you are looking forward to the Monarch's release as much as I am.  I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Monarch Graphics Done!

          I managed to get the cover and both maps for the Monarch project finished yesterday.  Unfortunately, I was up late making sure my lovely wife had work clothes and have been cleaning house all day.  So, rather than giving you some pithy commentary on our latest ship's progress, I'll give you a couple a thousand words worth of pictures instead.  Enjoy, RocketFans!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

That 70's Space-Opera Chic

          One of the things that I've discovered really makes or breaks a set of deck plans is details. For my Black Desert plans, I've developed an entire library of scratch-made interior detail pieces that I use (sometimes with color changes) over and over again in my designs.  This makes sense within the context of The Back Desert; different governments and countries in the present-day use similar technology, so they probably will in the future.  For the new Starships of the Galaxy series, I'm having to make new consoles and stuff to reflect the purpose of the plans.  These new ships are meant to be dropped as-is into a Star Wars game; therefore, the interiors reflect that 70's Space Opera chic.

           Star Wars computers have a definite design ethic that has been preserved and re used across the saga (Star Destroyer bridges come to mind).  These computers are long on the flashing lights and short on anything resembling a reasonable user interface.  Whatever we may personally think about these red- and-black monstrosities, they serve as an instantly recognizable detail of a Star Wars spacecraft.  The map pieces made by Wizards of the Coast for the Star Wars: Miniatures game are an excellent example.  If you want to make your own Star Wars maps, you can download these map elements and make your very own locations from a galaxy far, far away.

For example...Download this and other tiles at

          Not that this helps me very much.

          Those handy dandy map elements are not only under the WotC copyright, They are under the Lucasfilm Ltd. License, which means I will never in a million years think of using them for any of my Blue Max Studios products.  But I remain undeterred; after all, I have a Wacom tablet, GIMP, and enough imagination to invoke that 70's Space Opera Chic without stealing it.  So here is a look at one of the interior consoles for the Monarch project that I custom designed my very own self:
Enjoy, RocketFans, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Working Right Along...

         If you're suffering from a winter cold right now, I'm with you and certainly feel your pain.  But there's nothing like a self-imposed deadline with my street-cred on the line to motivate me to continue working despite feeling slightly more-than-FAIL.  They say that the best thing about being your own boss is not having one; I counter that with the observation that if one is an asshole and one is self-employed, then one's boss must be, logically, a... not very nice person.


          Just to show that I'm not slacking off, here is a shot of the Monarch with color, texture, and shading added.  As you can see, The wings on the courier are in fact radiators, and the pretty colors they turn while venting heat are what inspired the name of the ship (as in butterfly, not king). 

           I hope you enjoy, RocketFans, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still More Monarch...

          Happy Monday, RocketFans!  I managed to get a good bit done on the Monarch project over the weekend.  I also got an awesome review on the Conestoga from Megan Robertson, one of the featured reviewers over at RPGNow.  Check it out! 

          Here are some more views of the new Monarch-class Courier.  Remember, the Monarch will post on February first.  I also have the next in the Ships of the Black Desert series designed; As soon as I finish the Monarch, I can get started and have it ready by the 16th.  This last week has been busy, busy,busy!  As I kind of expected, the double work load has made me more focused and productive, rather than just overwhelmed.  I'm one of those people that only really hits peak productivity when I'm so busy that I have to.  Go figure.

           Any way, Enjoy the pic and the review, RocketFans.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Monarch

         Sorry about yesterday, RocketFans; another bout of toxicity caused me to miss out on making a post.  Or pretty much do anything else.  The upshot is that my CBG (concentrated blood glucose) has been stable within the normal range for five day now.  This a record for me since being hospitalized in July of 2009, so I'm thrilled.  It means I'm finally starting to get better.

         Anyway, here is a dorsal view of the new Monarch, with its wings folded up.  Things are moving right along. 

         In other news, tomorrow is the three-month mark of the blog being up and running; which means that I can now apply to become a member of RPG Bloggers, an RSS feed of many the outstanding RPG Blogs on the Internet.  I'm pretty excitied about that; it means more exposure for the site an my work.  Expect the Monday post to have some more about it.

         Anyway, that's my post for this lovely if chilly Friday.  Enjoy, RocketFans, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Monarch Reveal

Not much time today, RocketFans; I've got things to do and people to see.  I did get two views of the new Monarch- Courier finished last night.  I'm pleased with how it's coming along.  Here's a peak at the line work; it shows the Monarch in flight and landing positions.  Hope you like it and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coming February First....

          ...The first in our new Starships of the Galaxy series, the Monarch-class Courier!

          I just started working on the plans for this ship last night, so I don't have any cool pix to show my RocketFans today.  I hope to have a teaser ready no later than the end of the week, so be on the lookout.

          I will also be releasing an official announcement of the new project later today, both by email to all of my customers and on all the forums I've been known to haunt.  I haven't been on the forums much at all lately, so I need to do that anyway.  Forums are very important to any independent game designer, and especially important to one that lives in the middle of nowhere like I do.

          Excitement is running high here at Blue Max; I'm really looking forward to the new series and getting the core book up and running.  Which reminds me, I've got a lot of work to do!

          That's all I have for you today, RocketFans.  I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Conestoga Officially on Sale!

          That's right, RocketFans!  January's offering went on sale late last night, and already we've gotten some awesome reviews!  Check it out...
           It gets better; The Conestoga will also be the first of Blue Max Studios' products to be offered in PRINT!  The hard copies should be available for ordering in a few days.  As soon as they are, I will make an announcement.

           I also have an important announcement today for all of you Star Wars fans out there.  Starting next month, We will begin offering a new series of deck plans: Ships of the Galaxy!  This new series will feature soft sci-fi spaceships more suitable the worlds of Star Wars, D20 Future and other science fiction franchises that focus more on epic storytelling than plausibility.  I've always been a fan of Star Wars (that's how I fell in love with the D6 System in the first place), and now, by popular demand, the ships that my own players used to travel the galaxy far, far, away will be available to everyone!  I'm excited about this; it's an opportunity to support OpenD6 and design even more new and interesting ships.  The new series will feature the same quality deck plans, histories and descriptions that all of our product do, and they will be published with classic D6 and D20 Future stats.  Because of the inevitable Lucasfilm and WoTC licensing issues, specifics of settings like Star Wars, Star*Drive, and other Intellectual Properties will not be a part of the Ships of the Galaxy PDFs.  Each month, when a new ship in the series is released, I will post a special article here on the blog giving setting specific backgrounds and Star Wars: Saga Edition statistics, all FREE!  This way, you RocketFans can get the most out of the deck plans and I avoid getting sued...

            Fans of The Black Desert need not despair just because I will be making a new series of ships.  The Ships of the Black Desert series will continue to feature new spacecraft on the 16th of every month just as they always have.  Because of all the support material for the new series, there will be less blue-sky blogs on the world building aspects of the The Black Desert setting,  but that might actually be a good thing.  I haven't actually added any material to the Core Book in quite a while, so maybe I should stop blogging about the game and get to writing it.

            We'll give it a try.

           So, to sum up, Ships of the Black Desert will continue, be available in print, and in addition there will be a whole new series of  ships for more movie sci-fi campaigns that will be available...probably around the first of the month, so that there is a space between offerings.  That's the plan anyway.

           By the way, I'm sorry about last Friday.  As I've said before, I have diabetes, and it is very difficult to control.  I started a special new diet last week, and I began to get detox and get sick for a few days.  Nothing major, but when your pancreas weakens your gall bladder and you lose six pounds in two days, you are in for a fairly miserable time.

           The bright side is, of course, that I lost six pounds in two days.

           Anyway, that's all for now, RocketFans.  Enjoy, and I'll see you tomorrow! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Employment Opportunities on Luna and in the Military!

          Sorry about not posting yesterday.  I leaped out of bed to answer the phone and fell on my hand - damn near breaking my thumb.  It's still swollen but the pain has lessened enough to allow me to type today.  So, let's talk about Luna...

          Luna will be home to the oldest inter-planetary settlements in the system.  In the context of The Black Desert, Helium-3 will power the Lunar economy and justify colonization in the long term - though there is evidence that this will turnout to be just another species of McGuffinite in real life.  Anyway it's plausible enough, and absolutely necessary to making rockets cheap enough to be used as a plot device in an RPG.  So Luna is a collection of mining towns, with sponsor nations funding outposts to mine out the valuable isotope that makes stable fusion reactions possible.

          At least, until the Great War...

         In order to maintain a reasonable gold-standard in Hard SF goodness, I must theorize what the Lunar landscape will look like in the year 2210.  It's like this:  Luna will be home to outposts from a dozen competing - and hostile - nations mining the most valuable resource in history on a planet with the surface area of Africa.  Those who have studies WWII will recall that the North African theater was home to some pretty fierce we must imagine the effect on Luna's geography and more importantly, on the Lunarians themselves.

         Thanks to the L-Drive, travel to and fro the Moon is fairly cheap.  Because of this, working on Luna will be roughly analogous to working on an oil-rig in the Gulf today (minus the hurricanes, of course) There will not be many "lifers" living on Luna; most people will work specified period (say, one month on, two months off) and live on Terra.  Those who have permanently settled on Luna, most likely as part of the Destiny Foundation's colonization efforts (more on that in the Conestoga PDF), will be poor and spend most of their time eking out a living either through independent mining, subsistence hydroponics, or in the service industry supporting the mining towns' Terran populations.  Like any colonial culture, the native Lunarians will most likely be at the bottom of the socio-economic totem poll.

         Then, of course, there is the poor man's traditional way to earn money and visit exotic places, the military.

         Unfortunately for the poor in the Twenty-third century, the Black Desert and other locals off-Terra will not be friendly, and the military will most likely not be a viable option.  With the advent of robotics and quantum computing giving said robots at least canine-level intelligence, the enlisted sailor/soldier/airman will all but cease to exist.  Military personnel in space will be highly trained officers that supervise the robotic and computer-based elements of the war machine.  This is dictated by physics; the less air-breathing, eating  bodies on a spacecraft, the better.

          How few?  Well, the Missile Craft I mentioned in a previous post, including a Company-level Espatier dettachment, will total about 160.  This seems like a lot, but a Guided Missile Destroyer in the present day requires a crew of about 320 and a company of Marines has another 180 for an impossible total of 500.  So that's a reduction of 68%; you'll see this kind of thing across the board in jobs in space.

Really?  I mean, really?
          The next important question would be, "how long?".  Doing some math gives us a travel time from Terra to Mars of about a month.  Modern navy submarines, while totally wrong space travel, have certain traits we can rip off use as a starting point, such as the 90-day cruise.  It makes some sense for us; one month there, one on station, one back.  I haven't completely worked out how to use IPVs in this fashion yet; I doubts they would be wasted stationed among the cyclers when it's faster and easier to sail back to Earth for fuel and resupply.  But assume an Officer in the Space-Force-of-Your-Choice will spend three months in their ship, get combat pay, hazard pay, etc. at 2010 pay levels divided two to get an estimation of how much in LSU they can spend on shore leave on Mars or an asteroid.

        Okay, my hand is hurting pretty bad again, so I'm gonna go.  Tomorrow, for fun, I'll discuss military orginization in The Black Desert briefly before the weekend.   Enjoy, RocketFans!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Economics in the Black Desert: Emplyment Opportunities...

It means something different, in space...

          It's another lovely day here at Blue Max Studios, RocketFans!  By burning some midnight oil, I managed to get the Paladin uploaded before bed last night.  It should reach the publishers in 3-7 days, meaning it will be available for purchase by the 15th.  That's the good news.  The not-as-good news is that I will not be able to order a test proof of the product before the 15th, so it will be the 20th at the earliest before I can review the proof and determine that it lacks any major flaws.  I'm 90% sure that everything will turn out fine, but I can't be 100% sure until the 20th.

         Caveat emptor.

           So, anyway...when last we met, we had established a monetary system, exchange rate, and minimum wage for those who would be working in space.  Today, we will discuss what kind of work people will do to earn that money.
           First of all, we need to discuss three things:  Location, location, location.  where in space are the jobs?  For normal Humans and other species that would actually use money, the places in space one can work are in Terran orbit, on the Asteroid cyclers, Martian orbit, and Mars itself.  Let's look at each category separately, to begin with.

           If the buzz is any indication, Terran orbital space will be home to the oldest and most highly developed space infrastructure in the solar system.  Stations, habitats, research facilities, and hotels/vacation spots will abound in LEO and there will be a constant stream of people going to and fro for both business and pleasure.  There will be constant resupply from Earth, Terran money will be the standard...and jobs will be scarce.  The easy access to labor from the surface and the comparatively short time of contracts to work in space will combine to make orbital employment highly sought after and with the entire population of Terra available (or, at least, a high enough percentage of the population), It will be an employer's market in terms of who has the advantage in negotiating contracts.  Pay will be the lowest in space and the contracts will be short.  They will also be terminated at the drop of a hat as the workers can be easily replaced.  What can I say?  I'm trying for realism here, and benevolent labor relations are rarely realistic...
          Available jobs will include pilots, aerospace engineering, construction and materials experts, scientists, and military professionals.  Like I said above, pay will be the lowest in space.  Contracts will last for only a week or month, for many individuals, as cheap access to the surface and competition allows for a high turn around.

           Asteroid cyclers are a different animal all together.  The minimum turn around time from and to Terra will be two and a half years.  Conditions will be analogous to camping or serving on a submarine for that long- and the max tour of duty for a submariner is currently 180 days.  The jobs available are as numerous and diverse as in Terran orbit, with the exception of tourism being impractical.  Think about it; at 150 USD a day, a 30 month round trip to Mars and back would cost a minimum of 145,000 USD.  Even if you have that kind of cash, who has the time?
          Pay will be better, to reflect the working conditions and the extreme length of contracts.  This will only be slightly ameliorated by the use of transient colonists going to Mars.  Call it one- to two hundred grand a year, USD; a profit for the worker of a quarter-million at the end of the tour.
          This is also assuming the worker keeps their job the whole time.  Suppose they get fired?  It's a hundred and forty-five thousand just to keep them alive.  I would assume, since they cannot walk home, that they would owe a lot of free, nasty labor to the company once they are back on Terra.  Even better, the Plasma Sail expresses can take bad workers back, and exchange them for better ones for, lemme see... for less than a fifth of that!  Hey, we've justified the use of IPVs to visit the cyclers! It will only cost a couple month's worth of docked pay from a disgruntled worker home!
           This may beg the question, if IPVs are that much cheaper, why use the cyclers at all.  Because the asteriod cyclers are literally made of gold.  And platinum, cobalt, helium-3, water, cardon and everything else that Mars needs to terraform and Terra needs to support it's massive tech industries.  The cyclers pay their own way in resources; that and cheap radiation shielding are why asteroids are used instead of space stations to cycle between the planets in the first place.

          Once the cyclers of the Black Desert make their way to Mars, you have a similar set up in orbit as the one around Terra, only on a much smaller scale and without the nearness of a fully habitable planet.  Therefore, turn-around time on the job is much longer than in Terran orbit, and the pay is higher.  Not as high as the cyclers; there's less profit in the Martian stations even though the majority of them will also be asteroids donating much needed matériel to the terraforming effort.  Call it a hundred grand for a 30 month tour, on top of the fifty-five thousand needed for life-support.  But, a worker in Martian orbit need not be from Mars, so they can work a tour on the cyclers to get to the Red Planet and back and pocket 345,000 USD when they make it home.

           On Mars itself, there are more different types of jobs available than anywhere else.  In addition to needing every type of job one would need done on Terra (it is a planet, after all) there are also the additional jobs related to full-scale terraforming and the study of an alien ecology.  For those that aren't already aware, Mars in The Black Desert was already inhabited prior to human exploration with a full, if small ecology complete with intelligent life.  Scientific study of said life is another huge business on the blue shores of Mars.
           Pay-for-play on Mars is a little different.  In the technical and industrial sectors, the money would be good, as without such skills Terran life cannot exist on the Red Planet.  The study of Mars, especially it's native life, is something that many biologists and ecologists would sell their souls to participate in.  Needless to say, Mars will have a substantial population of "starving academics" who have given everything just for the opportunity to study there.  On top of that, there is a large expatriate artists population on Mars as well, and they make anywhere from nothing to a mint, depending on how popular their work is.

           You know, I forgot about the freaking Moon!  I also haven't covered the military presence in space and it's effect on the economy.  But that can wait until tomorrow.  In the mean time, enjoy RocketFans, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, January 10, 2011

January Announcements

          Good morning, RocketFans!  I lost power early today, so I'm thankful I'm able to post at all right now...
           Anyway, I mentioned last week that I would be making some exciting announcements today.  First of all, for those of you who frequent the DriveThu RPG and RPGNow, you may have noticed the big red link off to the left that says NOW IN PRINT!  That's right, you can now get you favorite indie game PDFs in real-life hard copies, just like they were real books.  This is totally awesome for me, because it means that the last barrier to making D6 RPGs, just like I dreamed of back in the Nineties, has been removed: I can now sell physical copies of my work!  And the best part for me is that it costs me nothing up front to print.  Even better, my exclusivity contract with the above websites does not apply to third-party sales of my print products.  I can order print copies and sell them at cons and to brick-and-mortar gaming stores!  According to OneBookShelf, the parent company of the above websites and my publisher, by next year vendors will be able to order my books (and everyone else's) directly from them, while I still get paid!  It is definitely an exciting time to be in the indie publishing business.

         So in light of the above news, I am happy to announce that after the Conestoga's debut in PDF on the 16th, it will also be made available in print, hopefully before February.  I haven't gone through the process yet, so I can't tell how long it will take to get the hard copy on the virtual shelves.  In addition, I am also converting my old titles into print as well, starting with the Paladin and then continuing every month until all the old designs are available in Print and PDF.  There will be an option, once the print copies are available, to buy both the hard copy and PDF together for those who haven't purchased either one yet.  The print copies of the older ships will also go through an additional editing process to correct any mistakes that have been found and all will feature new artwork in addition to the graphics already in the PDF.  I'm thrilled about this;  I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to hold my books in my hand!

          Anyway, that about wraps it up for today,  tomorrow, we'll talk about the wonderful employment opportunities in the Black Desert.  See you then! 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Economics in the Black Desert: What do We Use for Money?

          It's a question I've been asking since I first thought about making the game, RocketFans.  Think about it; money may make the world go 'round, but you can't breathe it, so what good is cash in space?  I have some ideas about what to do, which I'll share.

          First of all, money only counts if it's worth something (obviously).  There's hard currency, which is usually based on gold, and there's the paper crap we use use that's based on governmental authority.  The fiat stuff is most likely here to stay, barring an apocalyptic disaster.  Electronic currency will most likely be the norm in the future, with even paper going the way of the dodo.  Coins are worse than useless in space; they mass too much and the metals they are made of are probably found in such abundance on an asteroid in orbit that using metal money makes as much sense as using dirt for money on Earth.  Metals are cheap in space, it's air and food that's worth something.

            That gave me an idea; what if food and air became the basic unit of exchange in space?  Bear with me, I'll try to make sense.

           Its like this:  As for back as Heinlein's time it was suspected that money, as in the green folding stuff, would be worthless wastepaper except on it's planet of issue.  During the course of my research, I began to accept that money would be equally useless on space colonies and the like - not space stations, thanks to the cheapness of orbital flights, orbital installations should handle money and imports as easily as, say, Hawaii does now.  Assuming you find ten dollars for a gallon of milk easy...  Anyway, actual space colonies will operate differently.  The price of imports and the fragility of self-sufficient, artificial ecosystems being what I suspect they will be, it's unlikely that an outpost in deep space will let precious food, water and air go at any price, much less for a few scraps of paper or bit of data.  If you want an asteroid colony to part with any of their precious life-support capacity, you'll have to have something that's really worth trading.
Spaze Munny: Ur doin it rong!

          Therefore, when traveling in open space or while on Mars, I would say that your total wealth is what ever trade goods you brought with you.  Money may be irredeemable, but vacuum-sealed kobe steaks will fetch a high price from beef-starved colonists.  Luxury foods, items that are either difficult to manufacture off Terra or proprietary, and of course alcohol, pharmaceuticals and other traditional trade goods will be your "money" on the frontier.

          Okay, not really.  "Money" is nothing more than a representation of wealth, and your "wealth" is all that stuff I just listed.  So I imagine that there will be a credit account for transients that can be used to buy and sell - minus a commision for the colonies' authorities and all that good bureaucratic nonsense.

          All of this implies a rate of exchange is needed for the equitable trade of goods and services between colonists and visitors.  In order to have an exchange rate, one needs a base for their currency.  Like I said above, our fiat dollars are backed by economic authority and exchanged via esoteric systems of blah blah blah.  Rather that all that, I propose something simple. I propose that the only reasonable unit upon which to base colonial trade in space is the crew-day.

          A crew-day is simply the amount of life-support consumables that a single individual will use in a single day.  As I said in my last post, a crew-day will equate into about USD 150.  Divide this by eight (the time one would actually be working) and you get a minimum wage value of USD 18.75 for our homeless spacer.  Let's take that number and decimate it to get 10 Life-Support Units per hour of work at USD 1.85  So, if we want to make addition easy, and account for inflation and vagaries of the economic system, we can plausibly but arbitrarily say that a single Life-Support Unit (LSU) is equal to USD 2.00 in 2011.

         I'm making such a big deal out of getting back to present-day dollars because that's the unit of currency I think in.  I can now use the exchange rate USD 2: LSU 1 to figure the costs and values of equipment, necessities and services in the the many colonies of the Black Desert. 

          That wraps up the rants for this week, RocketFans!  On Monday, I will making some important announcements about where we're going in 2011 and the new products we'll be offering this year.  On Tuesday, I'll finish up this topic (for now) by discussing the kinds of jobs people in space will be doing for their LSUs.

          Have a great weekend and enjoy!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Economics in the Black Desert: Why Bother?

          Good day to you, RocketFans!  Today we begin tackling the mostly boring topic of economics.  Hopefully, the fact that it's Space Economics! will make it more interesting...

          With that kind of introduction, you may be wondering why I am choosing to discuss the topic at all.   Again, this is one of the banes of Hard SF.  I must at least go through the motions of providing plausible explanation for what are really arbitrary prices and costs.  In doing so, I am also adding another layer of structure and definition to The Black Desert, which means that I have an easier time with the game development side of the project.  In short, a little brain storming now on economics means moving forward with equipment lists and spacecraft costs.  You know, the value of treasure...

           A little more interesting now, isn't it?

           Seriously, when it comes to logical prices for space tech and transport into space, the outlook is fairly bleak.  First of all, let's define the primary cost; that is, the most expensive part of providing our spacemen with stuff.  In real life, and in most plausible future scenarios, the biggest piece of the overhead cost pie is the cost of launching something into orbit.  Even the most expensive items in today's world are downright cheap compared to their cost to launch.  That's why satellites use such state-of-the-art micro-miniature electronics; it's cheaper to pay for the advanced computer gear than to launch the cheaper, bulkier stuff.

         Thanks to Winchell Chung and  indispensable Atomic Rockets website, we have some real world figures to work with as a base.  These figures are not promising; the current cost to send a stuff (any stuff) into orbit averages around USD 8000/kg.   Yes, that's eight thousand dollars.  So an average person with a minimal amount of gear (like a starting PC, for example)  would have to pay a minimum of USD 880,000 to reach orbit.  The PC will arrive as a corpse, however; this cost does not cover food, water, or air.   This means that a starting PC must shell out about a million dollars in order to get into orbit in the year 2011.

           But we're not going into orbit until 2210...

          While having weapons-grade lasers built into the backsides of all my rockets was reason enough to choose Laser Propusion as the primary method of getting a rocket into orbit; the main reason I chose this species of engine was the cost to launch is only USD 20/kg.  This is low enough to make space travel for our starting PC affordable.  Using the same figures as above, the "corpse cost" of John Q. Average and his stuff is only USD 2200.  Figure in the average daily consumables of said PC, and the cost for a four-month stay in orbit, launch cost included, is around USD 3000.  That's doable.

All this for only $55,000 a year!
          It also gives us a base cost of living; which in turn gives us a minimum wage standard  Assuming a mass of 6.2 kg of consumables per day for an average person, we can figure the minimum cost of living in space at about USD 150 a day (this assumes a 20% mark-up for profit).  Which means that any job a PC gets in space that is not an adventuring job, no matter how menial, must at least pay around USD 150/day.  Better to think in terms of weekly wages; even if our PC doesn't work everyday, they'll need to breathe  everyday, so call it USD 1,050/ week.  That's about fifty-five grand a year.  So space living is still expensive, because the above salary is the cost of living for a homeless spacer that has no spare money for any but the cheapest of non-essentials, but it's in the realm of plausibility, which is all we can ask for.

          You'll notice that none of the above calculations account for inflation, the nature of currency, or the expense of non-essentials.  That's what we'll be discussing tomorrow.

          See you then, RocketFans; Enjoy!

          N.B.: Image courtesy of the aforementioned Atomic Rockets website.  Thanks Winch!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Virtual Worlds in The Black Desert: Deadly After All...

         My daughter's birthday went very well and she enjoyed herself and made cute excited faces and all that good stuff.  Happy day...

         But back to the issue at hand.  After reading some more from the comments section (you guys know you can comment, right?), A very good point was made: It would take a hard-link, magnetic fields or other invasive techniques to transmit pressure, pain and other touch sensations.  I hadn't really thought it through, but apparantly anything that can make you feel artificially can kill you if it it's overdone.  Not in the "your mind makes it real" way but more in Gibson's Black ICE model from the early eighties.  Go figure huh?

I Can Haz Blak Ize?

       That being said, it also occurred to me that if you put a surge protector on your computer to protect against lightning, you sure as heck would have something similar for you ever-loving brain.  Some sort of combat buffer would be available for military hackers to allow them to protect themselves from virtual threats.  Perhaps multiple ones in series, like circuit breakers...

          Anyway, the point of such musings is that, yes, I will admit that you can have your virtual deadly combat in The Back Desert as it is not only popular and protected by the Rule of Cool, but also plausible.   The combat buffers are also treasure-tech, something that PCs will have to adventure to get, so that's pretty good too.  So BD will have multiple virtual worlds that are completely realistic with the exception of physical sensations being less than perfect.  AI, cyborgs and Trans-Humans will naturally be adept operating in the virtual worlds, but mainline Humans can acquire such skill with practice.  Combat will involve all the realistic attacks possible in the real world, as well as direct pain induction and flashy magic-looking attacks (why not? physics only applies in the real world).  There will also be programs that hack virtual systems and remove the pain-threshold fail-safes from otherwise benign applications and buffering hardware that protects a hacker from the same.  That's about all we've got so far.
         And it's decent, as far as it goes.  But it irks me a little bit.  Not because there is anything boring or inaccurate about BD's virtual worlds as the idea stands right now, but because it doesn't feel really unique.  None of the ideas above are original;  by using such common tropes and themes my virtual worlds seem rather generic.  I don't know...I think that the best thing to do is maybe to leave the idea on the back burner for now and see if anything else develops.  Besides, I have plenty to keep me occupied in the mean time- I've got a PDF to finish, game stuff to write, and other odds and ends and goodies I will share with you at a later date. 

             As for blog topics, I believe I would like ti begin a discussion on space economics, so that I can start making equipment lists and prices for stuff in the game.  Anyway, that will start tomorrow, and probably continue the rest of the week.  Next Monday, I have some awesome announcements about new and exciting projects coming your way for 2011! For now, have a good evening and (as always) enjoy, RocketFans!

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Reveal!

          Once again, the best laid plans of mice are thwarted by the Vogons.  It is the first of the month, a time I traditionally show off a teaser of the latest project from our studios.  Also, my wife and I are having friends over this evening.  Tomorrow is my little girl's ninth birthday, and I'm not going to waste such a awesome day on writing a lengthy post when I could be tickling her.  So, I will not be picking up the Virtual World thread until Wednesday.  Sorry about that.

          I only hope that this sneak peak of our latest project will make it up to you. Allow me to introduce, the Conestoga Rover!
You could be tooling around on Mars!
Hope you enjoy, and I'll see you later, RocketFans!