Saturday, September 17, 2011

Also Sprach Zarathustra

Well, now that the regular game is working well, and 5150 New Beginnings is (hopefully) only days away, I decided to work on another big aspect of the game thats been more or less neglected up to this point: Orbital Mechanics. 

So, I decided to do a simple game using the rules I'd written (fairly simple, though complex enough that any game involving a planet WILL focus on the planet and a few ships, most likely). Not a wargame: A peaceful game of a space station orbiting Earth (or a similar planet) once along an ellipse, and then, after a full orbit, a rocket is launched to meet the station.

It should be noted that the fact that the planet is moving, the Oberth effect, gravity (of course), and so on are all taken into account in the game (in a simplified way- they capture the essence of the thing, even if it ain't a perfect representation of reality), meaning that you have a pretty good representation of real life... and for orbital games, that is a VERY good thing. 

Orbital games (in a game mechanics sense, not in a narrative sense) are sorta under the category of 'advanced rules.' They complicate the games, make player decisions harder, and are better with less ships. So I see these being a cool addition to 'spice up' the games of experienced players, while inexperienced players will want to ignore most near planetary actions (though they could just say that a fight is in orbit, and just use normal rules- works pretty well for very close range fights, as its all relative). 

Honestly, I can't wait to see how players use these... trips to the moon? Space War games? Cold War gone hot satellite warfare? 


Astute viewers will notice the the space station 'fell' slightly towards the planet. I kept playing (it wasn't very interesting) and noticed that after several more orbits it did, in fact, slip into a more irregular orbit that eventually caused it to crash.

Thats why you need to occasionally thrust a space station, in real life too. Also, more careful initial placement would negate that- i just plopped it down in the gravity zone I thought would look nicest, but if I'd placed it on the edge of the '1" pull' zone then it possibly could've gone even longer with no change to the orbit... though the orbit would've been more circular.

Live and learn. 

So... pretty cool.


  1. So how are you doing gravity zones and their effects on vector? Passing through a zone pulls you a certain distance toward the planet at the end of your drift?

  2. Interesting. When I first saw "orbital game", I expected that maybe you would have the planet be effectively larger than the playing field, and the ships moving in one of various intercept orbits (from below/faster, same altitude/various angles of orbital plane intersection, etc.)

    I'm looking forward to seeing this game in print!

  3. The affect of gravity on vector (slingshot) and atmospheric/gravatic interference with weapons would be my primary concern.