Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Space Engineers: Super-large worlds, Procedural asteroids and Exploration

Today we released three large features and we want to tell you more about how they work and how we implemented them.

We are really happy to be able to deliver this to you as a Christmas gift :-) Hopefully there won’t be any major problems.

Super-large worlds


Even before we implemented “super-large worlds”, the size of a world in Space Engineers was not limited, but for practical reasons it was recommended to stay within a 10km radius of the origin. The reason for this was that floating-point calculations (vector and matrix multiplications) were gathering numerical imprecisions and after 10km you would experience shaky movements and rotations.

Super-large worlds are increasing this safe radius up to 1,000,000,000 km, which equals to 6.6 AU (AU stands for astronomical unit; 1 AU = 150,000,000 kilometers and it’s the distance from the Sun to Earth). For your illustration, 6.6 AU is slightly more than the distance from the Sun to Jupiter.

If you decide to use your ship to travel from one side of the game world to the opposite, and you will fly on maximum speed (115 m/s), it will take you 552 years (checking calculation: 2 x 6.6 AU / 115 m/s).

For all practical purposes, “super-large worlds” could be considered “infinite worlds”, but the limit is still there and we don’t want to lie to you.

How did we increase the precision of numerical computations? 
  • Until now, Space Engineers and its physics engine (Havok) were using single-precision 32-bit floating point numbers. This data format has a certain precision, leading to visible imperfections on objects located further than 10km from the origin
  • We have modified all game objects to support double-precision 64-bit floating point numbers -- this was the easy part
  • The harder one was to change the integration between Space Engineers and Havok (so Havok can keep using 32-bit floating point numbers). We solved it by clustering the game world into independent clusters of objects (minimal cluster size is 20km). Depending on dynamic objects density, cluster size can increase its size without limits. Common cluster size should be 50-100km. A clustering algorithm guarantees that no dynamic object can be closer than 2km to the cluster border. Clustering is totally transparent to users, it runs in the background and you won’t see it.
  • In other words, the world in Space Engineers is split into independent clusters, wherein each object has its own coordinates relative to the cluster center. As a result Havok doesn’t need to use double-precision math (physics calculations are faster in single-precision mode).

 

Procedural asteroids


The “procedural asteroids” feature adds a practically infinite number of asteroids to the game world. On top of that, all these asteroids are fully destructible and don’t consume RAM/memory.

Until now, Space Engineers supported only asteroids that were fully loaded during the loading phase and then kept as voxels and triangles in memory. There were only a few basic asteroid shapes.

From now on, there are two types of asteroids:
  • old version - that can be used for handcrafted asteroids in future scenarios/missions
  • new version – asteroids that are procedurally generated at the moment they are required (player enters an area near the asteroid, random floating object gets in a collision with the asteroid, etc.). This type of asteroid doesn’t occupy memory (except some small data for noise seed, position, etc.). Even after it’s generated and inserted to the game world for physics simulation, the voxels are not kept in memory. Only if something alters the shape or material on the asteroid then these changes are made permanent. Unaltered asteroids are removed from the memory, but when a player returns they are re-inserted with the exact same shape. Players won’t see a difference, for them all asteroids appear persistent
This new asteroid type should also reduce saving and loading times (because these asteroids are represented by a noise function, instead of an array of voxels).

We also implemented a new voxel LOD system (LOD = level of detail). The old one had only two levels of detail and required voxel data in memory. The new one has many levels of detail and helps with optimizing polygon meshes and voxel data as well (e.g. when generating geometry for procedural asteroids at a distance, the game requests only coarse low-detail procedural generation which is faster than high-detail voxels). In other words, distant asteroids  use fewer polygons and fewer procedural generation calls.

There’s also an “asteroid field generator” – which is used to allocate and deallocate asteroids as you travel through space. We can configure it to generate dense or sparse asteroid fields, or areas with no generated asteroids (this will become useful once level designers start creating scenarios).

We had changed the background skybox to not contain those “fake” asteroids anymore. We still keep quite bright fog, but you are free to alter it through modding.



Exploration


An exploration feature adds a practically infinite number of ships and stations to the game world, so there will always be something to discover, explore, acquire and conquer. You can imagine it this way: you are traveling in some direction and there is an asteroid, so you decide to check it and see if there’s something in its tunnels, in its proximity or on its surface. Or you just fly around in empty space and boom, a lost wreck shows up near you.

Almost all ships used in this first phase of the exploration release are player created content downloaded from Workshop. Everyone can find his name in game credits.

More info in my previous blog post: http://blog.marekrosa.org/2014/12/space-engineers-exploration-call-for_3.html

Conclusion


“Super-large worlds, procedural asteroids and exploration are among the largest and most complex features we have implanted in Space Engineers / VRAGE engine.

This is just a first phase; we plan to keep improving after your feedback.

--

Thanks for reading this! For the latest news, follow Space Engineers on Facebook or on Twitter.

105 comments:

  1. I love your christmas gift. Add concrete and the game is complete.

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    1. there is a mod called the concrete block mod

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    2. I'd prefer it be vanilla so my shit is compatible everywhere.

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    3. We need to be able to basically place asteroid voxels, not concrete blocks.

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    4. Oxygen, plants, dirt ,and food THEN and only then will Space Engineers will be the best game in the world

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    5. I don't understand the need for concrete. It is a semi-porous material with terrible tensile strength. It only excels in compression strength. All in all, it isn't a suitable material for use in space.

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    6. A trash system would be nice so I don't use my precious objects when I jettison the extra stone from mining. I want to burn up that stone and smoke it as fuel from my thrusters.

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    7. Thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    8. I wouldn't build ships out of concrete but do you really want to devote that much steel to asteroid bases? I'd rather build heavy armor out of my metals.

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    9. Look up the process of making cement, and you will find that it requires carbon dioxide to set. Using concrete (which contains cement) in space would be far more difficult than utilizing the mass quantities of iron already present in most asteroids. To put it bluntly, maybe not steel (which uses carbon to make) but iron itself would be the cheapest most abundant material to build large structures out of. Concrete would be impossible.

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    10. And not to metion micrometeroids what would bunch that concrete full of holes if there was any way to make buildings out of it.
      Now shields would be interesting tech.

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  2. planets would be cool too

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    1. How do you figure? I can pretty much guarantee that's where they'd ultimately like to go as long as optimization allows it.

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    2. I don't like floating around in space. It would indeed be awesome if there were planets

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    3. why is that unreasonable

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    4. Planet would be cool as a visual improvement... like, you can go around it and all but you cant descent into its atmosphere. That make it more reasonable ...

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    5. Is it though? With these new changes to how the asteroids are rendered and held in memory, I feel like planets are much more feasible now. Specifically the new voxel LOD system.

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    6. Still would be nice to land on a planet - Noctis IV anyone?

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    7. well, one could make a unreasonably big asteroid

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    8. planets would require orbital paths that were cleared of asteroids. Which would mean, you'd go through a lot of empty space just to find a planet.

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    9. Planets are a good idea. Some people might mistake "worlds" for "planets" since the space you play in isn't a "world" per se.

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    10. Tell me how you would find them.,. xP

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    11. Planets are unreasonable because the world is only 6.6AU, as stated in the post, that is only slightly larger than the distance between the Sun and Jupiter so the game world isn't even as big as our solar system and most of our solar system is empty space as the planets have cleared everything out of their path.

      If you had planets you would be very unlikely to find them and, if you did find one, you would very quickly lose track of it and never see it again as it would be travelling much faster than your pathetic (in relation to a planet) 115m/s max speed...not to mention the complexity of space travel and the gravitational forces that planets impart on objects in space.

      To leave Earth's orbit and enter the Sun's orbit you have to be travelling 11,200m/s, large objects would impart gravitational force on you and you would no longer be able to point and shoot to get anywhere without calculating where the object will be by the time you reach it because static planets with no gravity would just be silly.

      If you want to understand why planets would screw everything up download and play a game called Orbiter, it's a free space flight simulator.

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    12. Well its a game after all. Planets can be what we decide it to be. What if they were much smaller like our moon or even smaller? Also they don't have to move as fast as they do in reality (or not move at all like everything else). The game also have spherical gravity already that could be used for them and it could override any gravity fields that enter it for simplicity. The sun could also just have gravity and do damage to everything that gets to close. Its doable as long as we can compromise.

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    13. id like to see asteroids large enough to have some gravity. but planets with atmospheres are not even worth taking on for this game. even then said asteroids would have to be actually smaller than they would be in real life to not be extremely annoying.

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    14. Want to land on a planet? KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM game.

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    15. StarMade pulled off planets. Dodecahedron planets no less. taking off and landing on one could be as simple/easy as that. you dont have to make everything exact. if you want to play real life space/nasa then play Kerbal. then you got real speed, gravity, physics, etc. but I agree planets would be cool. right now all i do is build on my asteroid as it is. it would be cool to have more than just a starbase. Active AI would be cool too. get some pirates or something to make me actually want to put up defenses other than to keep griefers away.

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    16. I would like to play mashup of Kerbal space program with Space Engineers :)
      Seems KSP has better fly physics with planets etc.and Enginner is better for building and crafting

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    17. You could give planets gravity, just weak gravity. It doesn't have to be realistic. You could add larger engines and rockets, landers, capsules and other things for landing on and taking off from planets. It doesn't have to be real, just enough to add something new to the game. You could have defenses and stations that orbit. And they don't have to be big, just big enough to be different from asteroids. Their gravity doesn't have to extend beyond the atmosphere. Their motion could be slower than in reality too.

      Travel between planets would be a reason to have some kind of on board computer that could calculate a course to intercept the planet and get you there as an automated system and put you into orbit (think Star Trek). The whole system being in motion would be really neat. I have been playing for a while now and the static universe is kind of boring, but thats just my opinion. :) I also like the idea of pirates/NPC stuff to defend against or find.

      I think it could be a cool idea... a big undertaking, but cool

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    18. Gravity. That's the reason why not. At least from what I remember when I checked the game out the last time – game's world absolutely lacks realistic physics model. Everything has linear and angular drag... Like there is some friction in vacuum. Planets without gravity would make me throw up.

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  3. I can't wait to play

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  4. Very nice information, keep the awesome flowing...

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  5. YAY. YAY. YAY. I love you guys. I really do. :)

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  6. I have been a massive fan of the space engine game from its very release and this is one of the updates I had been hoping would be published eventually and I have to say it is one of the better christmas gifts one can hope to get from a game, cheers and well done guys and gals

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  7. As a software engineering student who loves programming videogames i love how you show the way you implemented some features, the problems you had to face and all those things.
    Space Engineers quickly became my favourite game, not just for the gameplay and the game mechanics, but because of how it is developed.
    I hope one day i'll be as good as you guys, keep it up!

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  8. Nice take on procedurally generated worlds - reminds me of how the old Elite game did it.
    I guess tricky part is making damage to procedurally generated asteroid persistent, but probably takes less memory to hold that info than full 'roid.

    Well played Sir.

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  9. Very very nice explaination and fantastic changes

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  10. :D~ REALLY!? COOL!
    A very big world allows room to design.

    Does the switch to all 64 bit mean that Space Engineers no longer runs on 32 bit OS'es?

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    1. I was going to make a lengthy post about 32bit terminology but then i'd have to be accurate and able to translate properly so i'm going to post a short sentence and an answer:
      No, unless it's bugged it should work fine.

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  11. OMG Marek i was waiting this for times, Best update ever seen, really nice work here ! HAPPY HOLIDAYS

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  12. Merry christmas to the keen software developers, wasnt expecting to see anything this thursday.

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  13. Nice, but minecraft world isn't this what i need now. I want AI bots, and ships. I want make big battles.

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  14. This is what I call a Christmas gift. Thank you very much!!

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. I'll second the person who mentioned concrete. We have so much gravel with nowhere to spend it, it's frustrating.

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  17. empty planets fits perfectly in this world. Planets with gravity.

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    1. the larger Asteroids should have a meager amount of gravity as they have mass

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  18. Omg... You guys are amazing. SE is getting more and more amazing. Can't wait to see continued additions

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  19. I have to say that this to me is something I can really appreciate, as the closest to physics it can be with a space game and be fun!.
    I look forward to your long term goals and development.
    You guys are Terrific!!

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  20. Npc's, AI block for ships, and plAnets would make this game perfect. I think it would also be interesting to have rouge ships of enemy factions attack your base or each other. That would be cool.

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  21. Nice! Just as a suggestion, not sure if it's already implemented, but the ships could have damaged states. Since constantly finding ships in perfect running condition would not seem that realistic. Ou and also, there could be clusters of damaged ships that would suggest a large battle took place. Anyways, the game looks awesome, keep up the great work!

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  22. THATS IT GUYS !!!! :))

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  23. Merry Christmas! I know what I'll be doing for hours tonight.

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  24. when he will appear and some enemies or aliens?

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  25. when he will appear and some enemies or aliens?

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  26. For the next round of updates, PLEASE consider altering the maximum game object velocity to match thruster exhaust velocity (you could make each thruster type have a maximum speed value, and calculate using the mass of the ship/object being propelled).

    This way, acceleration is realistic, and there would be no arbitrary [extremely unrealistic] upper speed limit, allowing players to make better use of worlds this large. For gameplay balance, the simple physics of deceleration would enforce caution.

    Another thing is the arbitrary maximum range of weapons. Those should be realistically removed, or at least increased to match the world size.

    Later, it'd be nice if everything with (asteroids, ships/stations, and even players) generated a proportionally strong & large spherical gravity field, focused around the center of mass. The game already supports mass calculation and center-of-mass calculation, so the foundation is there.

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    1. Speed limit is based on current limitations in the game rendering and physics wise, they have stated it will change as the game can handle faster speeds.

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    2. Speed limit is based on current limitations in the game rendering and physics wise, they have stated it will change as the game can handle faster speeds.

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  27. Is it possible to convert existing world to procedural and exploration? We played on our server and have built several interesting bases and ships. I want to continue exploring and mining from that world.

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    1. Yes you can! Someone on Reddit wrote a tutorial. I tried it with my save and it works. Linky:
      http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceengineers/comments/2qf8hl/tutorial_how_to_enable_procedural_asteroid/

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    2. Thank you, I will give it a try!

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    3. Sadly, editing "Sandbox.sbc" file to add and was not enough. In resulting world everything was jittering, landing gear would explode from overloading, connectors suddenly disconnect and NPC ships disappearing at random. I'm guessing that this is something to do with clustering. Perhaps I also need to enable clustering somehow?

      Official guide or a tool from Keen Software House for converting older worlds to procedural would be really helpful.

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  28. Thank you for the gift and Merry Christmas to you too!

    Is it possible to convert an existing world to procedural/exploration? I managing a server, where we have built several interesting ships and bases. We want to start exploring, but don't want to loose all the previous progress.

    Thank you again,
    fivestep

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  29. This is the best update to date and will really change the feel of survival mode. Excellent job! The future is looking better and better.

    With the improved LOD, and multiple levels of detail, could it finally be possible through MOD'ing or with options to increase the viewing distance of asteroids in your area to beyond the 8 Km limit? It would be nice to have asteroids visible at great distances, and shouldn't be too much of a performance hit if at great distances they are at very low polygon counts.

    And it would certainly be great to be able to increase that speed limit, even if only to 1150 m/sec, instead of 115 m/sec (At least then we could reach the edge of space in only 55.2 years!)

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    1. Speed limit is based on current limitations in the game rendering and physics wise, they have stated it will change as the game can handle faster speeds.

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    2. That's great to hear! Thanks for replying to my message.
      Also, I ran a test this morning, and it does look like the LOD change has improved the distance of when asteroids pop in and out of viewing.
      Asteroids that are on existing maps without the Exploration feature active still disappear at about 8 Km's.
      The new generated asteroids in Exploration mode disappear at variable distances, depending on the size. I've seen some disappear at distances from 15 Km's to 20 Km's. A nice improvement.

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  30. MMM those worlds are very hard for surviving. Cause asteroid are far between themselves and have only 1-2 type of resources inside. 1ST u need to find a uranium and then gold and cobalt and platinum. Then silicium. It can take 1 to one hour to buildup ur first light ship.

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    1. Yeah it's awesome, isn't it?!
      I was lucky enough to find a deep space exploration vessel, altho it was running on battery power i was able to get it up and running relatively quickly and now am scouring the galaxy for a safe haven.. Sure reminds me of BSG or exploring the rim in B5 :D

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  31. Looks awesome, but is there any word on whether there will be working hydraulics implemented anytime? Making piston operated equipment is great but I want my mech suit :D.

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  32. Flying around for an hour and couldn't find any ships.. I do have them turned on.

    I'm thinking perhaps some type of radar is needed to help aid the player in finding things.

    I'm not talking like the radio / beacon block.. something along the lines of.. perhaps sonar block, something like.. it has a cone shape area of detection, and when it detects something it will make a blip sound...

    If the player is sitting in a flight seat / cockpit perhaps the sonar block could put a little square around the object it detected on the players hud.

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  33. "This is just a first phase; we plan to keep improving after your feedback.",
    Simply amazing.

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  34. When going max speed with a large ship.. if you have small ships attached to it via connectors.. as you travel through space there is a jolt that happens every now and then.. this results on the small ships disconnecting from the connectors.

    I just spent 40 minutes trying to catch small ships that were drifting off from my carrier ship.. while my carrier ship was going max speed.. and the small ships were going max speed.

    IT WAS SCARY.

    But yeah.. 40 minutes in one direction while collecting my small ships again.. just quite amazing.

    Landing Feet stay connected during this jolt that happens, connectors disconnect.

    It must be in relation sectors perhaps?

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  35. Since the exploration mode allows bases to be very far apart, a teleportation pad should be added so that players don't have to travel the distance by ship.

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    1. There is the Stargate mod that can create a working gate for fast travel.

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  36. Hey everyone! Procedural asteroid generation is disabled by default for old saves, but a Reddit user wrote a tutorial about how to enable it. You can find the tutorial at the link below. Thanks to the devs for making a great game!

    http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceengineers/comments/2qf8hl/tutorial_how_to_enable_procedural_asteroid/

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  37. Thank you Keen! You guys are absolutely amazing! Seriously, every week I look forward to Thursday for the new SE update. Your game is turning out to be so cool, interesting, fun, and exciting...I have always dreamt of playing a game where a player can design, build, explore, and interact with spacy sci-fi technology...you guys are making that dream a reality and I love you for it! I cant wait to see whats more to come in the future of this exciting and opportunistic game! Sometimes shit happens too, most if us can understand that, no worries if an update doesn't really work as intended, you guys work hard to deliver the amazing content that you do and its all for the good future of this game. Merry Christmas guys, thanks for the awesome gifts you deliver on a weekly basis and thank you for working over Christmas to give us this exceptionally superb gift! Cheers.

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  38. Great to see that this game is consistently getting meaningful additions. It's encouraging when you see proof that the unfinished game you love is still making progress.

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  39. Very nice Christmas gift. The only things I'm missing now is a navigation controller/map, a drive that can travel much faster than 115m/s (FTL/Hyperdrive) and some enemies/aliens whatever.

    But you did great work the last several months and I think you'll do the same in future. Congrats!

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  40. "If you decide to use your ship to travel from one side of the game world to the opposite, and you will fly on maximum speed (115 m/s), it will take you 552 years (checking calculation: 2 x 6.6 AU / 115 m/s)."

    Bring on the Warp-drives!

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  41. ES IST ANGERICHTET!

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  42. The game is going great, now we just need those npc's, so many of my friends want to have actual npc's on npc ships, and I would add too the capturing part. what ive seen of em is pretty good though.

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  43. I would love to see the following things added to the game: planets, oxygen, food, water(?), AI, the ability to actually build thrusters and reactors like design the inside. such as in a thruster you would add exhausts, power converters, engines, and outside armor. also the ability to place asteriod voxels out of stone/ore

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  44. I would love to see the following things added to the game: planets, water, food, AI, and the ability to place asteriod voxels out of stone and ore

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  45. Awesome update. More speed please! And btw a trade system. ;-)

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  46. Hunger, thrist, sleep, air pressure, electrical wiring (See "industrial craft" minecraft for small example), Taking off space suit.

    Exploration was one of the more difficult steps. Well done.

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  47. Very cool, great work! I would have to agree planets would be awesome. I understand this is a daunting task (large planets with actual atmospheres and characteristics) and even in many cases a ship is able to enter the atmosphere and near the surface within seconds in a game setting. Probably could utilize a hybrid LOD/culling system and only display small portions of the planet at a time to any player. I don't mean to imply every planet to be inhabitable. Would be awesome to just layout the elements we know of (like you have) plus gases to create unique planets. To be honest a warp drive may sound outlandish but look at how much tech Star Trek predicted (in a way). Teleporters still seem outlandish but warp drives not so much. Think about it like this, you already have these cool asteroids. A planet is kind of a giant asteroid that was big and complex enough to create itself based on the physics of this place and space. Again great work here, it just has me excited.

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    1. Last I read a couple years ago, we were making more progress in teleporters than warp drive. They're teleported light, but warp still requires a theoretical material they've not figured out how to make, so yeah :p

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  48. If you add planets even more gamers would buy that game!! And they are awesome!! Add planets and the game will be the best of its kind!!

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  49. I agree with the idea of warp drive. With new large distances you could have bases hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from each other. However, there should be limits. You should only be able to warp between two set points, and you couldn't warp to an unknown point.

    This would mean that you would still never reach the world limit but could travel fast. You also shouldn't be able to change course during a warp either.

    Physicists have theorized about a warp drive and said that that would be the limits of warp drive, unchangeable course and only between two knows points. Like a railway.

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    1. I like the idea of warp drives being limited to known points and distance.

      What if ships themselves could only warp short distances to craftable warp portals. And warping from portal to portal would increase the distance?
      Also, both portal and ship would need to have power. The amount of power used would determine the distance... with a distance cap of course (with configs for power needed and max distance allowed).

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    2. I know they have a stargate mod. but why not just make a "lightspeed drive" therefor it will only take like 50 minutes....

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  50. Definitely one of the best games ever, add some AI pirates, traders, fleets, miners and stations and it will be THE best game ever

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  51. Not sure if this was only on my end. I started a "crashed red ship" survival game, and promptly began fixing up the remains of the hull. Soon I started needing to go look for additional resources. I found large amounts of stone, iron, and uranium but little else. I have cargo ships turned off and am playing the second highest world size with medium density. Love the update, but I thought this might be an issue worth addressing.

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  52. now we just need a way to navigate the massive void

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  53. Amazing! Having a blast so far. My biggest request at this point would be for random enemies of various strength in survival/exploration mode, who attack your assets if they detect their beacons or antennas.

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  54. Keep up the good work. This game is the best I've played since Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program (which is very different). And because the devs are czech...

    Dobrá práce hoši. :)

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  55. I hope The development on optimization will be very much a priority on space engineers in the comeing months. Its ok to add interface and thing that gives the game another But very much stuff will come from the community. And that is what really brings the flavor of this game forward.- vanilla stuff is ok, but there has been more development blockwise publicy than from keen to be honest.
    1: Just build game stabillity anything you can
    2: contact creattors designers om the community workshop- and try to integrate some of their designs.
    This game will never lack content. It will be a question enviroments on large scale terms.
    Make the sandbox not the toys :P If the sandbox is really good for children to play in- its gonna be great. And fitting more children in the sandbox that has many toys and make it possible still if it's still crowded- i think that would be the best thing the community can hope for.
    4: saves a lot of development moeny+ It focuses the main effort on game performance rather than anything else.

    Though great consept of a game. But does not support more enteties on a server more than 400 atm.

    If they figured away to cluster ships better than haveing each block count on the total performace i would be super happy!

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  56. I find that the LOD is a bit... unsmooth I can easily see the lines where it adds more detail and less detail. Also the main reason I wrote this is because of the new asteroids.
    I find that they are incredible sparse of resources. It would be nice to perhaps add a density setting in the world creation. So that any asteroids that were then loaded would be richer in resources. For instance in the infinite world you have to go 10km sometimes just to find ice.

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