Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Answers to your questions #1

Answers to Space Engineers related questions posted on our Facebook page and our forum.

Will there be early access to the game?

Steam Early Access date will be announced during the first week of October 2013.

How does building work?

We have two building modes: creative and manual
  • Creative mode is what you can see in this video have unlimited resources, adding and removing blocks is instant, you can build at large distances, you can add/remove multiple blocks by holding Ctrl key, your space suit energy doesn’t deplete and reactors have infinite fuel. Creative mode building is possible only when your world runs in creative mode (this can be switched on/off in world settings).
  • Manual mode is what you have seen in the alpha video
    This is the “realistic” building mode. To build a block, you first install its frame and then finish the construction in several stages. The components required for the construction are supplied from your backpack and are installed layer by layer (like an onion). For example, to build a door you need 40x construction components (screws), 4x metal grid, 10x interior plate, 8x steel plate, 4x small tube, 2x motor, 1x display and 2x computer. Disassembling works in the opposite way; dismounted components go to your backpack. 

    The topmost layer is usually a steel plate – if there’s a hypothetical situation when an attacker wants to get to computers in a door module, he has to get through steel layers first and only then he can gain access to the computer layer. 

    The welder is the hand tool used for assembling and repairing. The grinder is used for disassembling. Damaged layers can be repaired by replacing components in those layers (e.g. if a turret is damaged and its integrity decreases to 80%, you most likely have to only replace the first few layers of steel plate).

We already implemented both modes. The creative mode is 100% functional and will be available on day one. The manual mode is 99% finished but we still haven’t tested it as much as we need to and most probably it will be disabled during the first few weeks of Early Access (otherwise people would try to use it, get into confusing situations, get upset, etc.)


How do you create an object?

  • Press “G” key - open “Toolbar Config” screen
  • Click one of the buttons: “New small ship” or “New large ship” or “New station”
  • A new object will be inserted in the empty space right in front of you 
  • This new object contains one armor block only
  • You can start attaching additional blocks to it (cockpit, reactor, thrusters, gyro, etc.)


Prior to Early Access launch, we plan to publish a list of features, split into three categories:
  • Finished features – those that can be considered final (at least during the whole alpha phase)
  • Work in progress – they work well, but are not perfect yet
  • Τemporary disabled – features that are work in progress but not in presentable state, have known bugs, were not tested enough or don’t have intuitive interface

We will release a walk-through video, showing the state of Space Engineers on day one of Early Access. People who are willing to purchase the game will see what they are getting.

At this moment, the core of the game lies in the creative mode building, physics simulation and destruction. These are the features that must work on day one. Everything else can wait.


Please keep posting questions and suggestions to our FB page at or our forum at

We can’t reply to every comment, but I can assure you that we read all of them and they will influence how Space Engineers develops.


Thanks for reading this!

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Warning: Space Engineers is still in development. Everything in the game is subject to change.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Artificial Gravity in Space Engineers

In this blog-post I will describe the solutions we considered and tried in Space Engineers regarding artificial gravity, I will reveal the one we finally chose and explain how close to realism it is. 

Warning: Space Engineers is still in development. Everything in the game is subject to change. 

Why do we need gravity in Space Engineers? 

Humans need gravity to avoid adverse health effects of weightlessness during long-term space travel and habitation. Natural movement such as running and jumping requires Earth-like gravity as well. 

A game with no gravity (player moves only by jetpack) offers limited experience. Furthermore, the construction constraints that are imposed on players building space stations in a gravity-enabled environment are vastly different from a situation where gravity isn’t possible. 

Scientifically correct solutions 

These are the scientifically correct methods for producing artificial gravity. Unfortunately, none is suitable for our game.

  • Rotation (centrifugal force) – generated by a large rotating ring (example: “2001: A Space Odyssey”). The gravity felt by the objects is simply the reaction force of the object on the hull reacting to the centripetal force of the hull on the object. This method wouldn’t work on static asteroids and it’s too impractical for our game. Although, this method may become available if we decide to implement the “rotating motor module”.
  • Linear acceleration – when a spacecraft accelerates in a straight line, it is forcing objects inside the spacecraft in the opposite direction, thus providing g-force. Gravity would be present only during the acceleration and deceleration. This method is impractical as well and is not “player friendly”.
  • Mass – this is in fact the natural gravity. To create Earth-like gravity, you would need an object of equal mass (not necessary size). Asteroids don’t have enough mass to generate noticeable gravity and can be discarded as a gravity source.
  • Magnetism - similar effect to gravity has been created through diamagnetism. It requires magnets with extremely powerful magnetic fields; yet it required a magnet and system that weighed thousands of kilograms, was kept superconductive with expensive cryogenics, and required megawatts of power. With such extremely strong magnetic fields, safety for use by humans is unclear.


Solutions we tried and discarded

  • Magnetic boots – those would allow an astronaut to attach himself to the ferrous floor or hull and walk. This must not be confused with artificial gravity, as the person would still perceive weightlessness. Running, jumping and advanced movement wouldn’t be possible. Boots wouldn’t work on an asteroid surface and the astronaut would get pulled down only if there’s a surface under his feet - if he steps out of a platform and the closest surface is meters below him, nothing would pull him down and he would just float in space. He wouldn’t fall.
  • Spherical gravitational field – a hypothetical gravity generator that would exert an attractive force on all objects in its proximity, equally in all directions. In other words, objects would fall towards the generator’s center. This is how it works on Earth – every object falls to Earth’s center. We tried this method and it’s not suitable for small surfaces found on mother ships. It would require a very large surface to neglect the radial nature of this type of gravitational field. Imagine this: you move on a flat surface and a gravity generator is somewhere below you. The gravity force pulls you to the generator’s center and this vector keeps changing as you move on that flat surface.


Artificial gravity in Space Engineers 

We had to accept the fact that there are no feasible solutions for producing artificial gravity. Therefore, the direction we followed is shaped by the requirement of intuitive game-play and not by our drive for realism.

Gravity generators are modules that consume energy and produce unidirectional gravitational force – a vector that’s parallel to the generator’s main axis. Let’s put it this way – a gravity generator installed on a platform will pull down all objects above and below this platform.

A gravity generator has an effective radius of 150 meters. Gravity forces from multiple overlaying gravity generators aggregate.

Gravity generators don’t have mass proportional to their gravitational force, as this would require extremely powerful thrusters to move a ship if it had gravity generators installed.

The purpose of this screenshot is to show how gravity generators aggregate their force. There are five gravity generators; green lines demonstrate the direction of pull/fall. Notice the gravity indicator in the right-bottom corner: grey lines show all gravity vectors and the white line shows the final aggregated gravity.

The HUD indicator tells you that there’s no gravity source near you.

Actual limitations in Space Engineers

Gravity affects astronauts and small objects only.

Gravity doesn’t affect asteroids, small and large ships, static objects and astronauts who have jetpacks on.

We plan to reevaluate this model and enable gravity on more types of objects. Right now we have to stick with this. Also, in the future we should redo how gravity influences character animation (running and jumping in high gravity environment, running in multi-gravity environment with vectors changing each step, climbing on a ladder heads-down, etc.) 

Since our implementation of gravity is not natural (we are breaking the laws of physics here), some obscure situations have emerged and we have to solve them carefully before we enable gravity on every type of object:
  • Imagine a scene with two mother ships, each one having its own gravity generator. The problems occur once the gravity generator on the first ship starts pulling the second ship, and the gravity generator on the second ship starts pulling the first ship. The ships get in contact and one ship will push (not pull) the other. It’s funny that sci-fi movies don’t consider this effect; probably nobody ever tried to simulate it.
  • Imagine operating a jetpack in gravity-enabled environment, especially if there’s no certain way to tell where’s up and down and there can be potentially multiple gravity fields
  • Imagine piloting a small ship in a field of multiple arbitrarily oriented gravity fields




It’s interesting that our universe is configured precisely the way it is. One slight deviation to the algorithms and constants that regulate it and things don’t work anymore. 

Trying to replicate the reality – when developing a sandbox game – proved to be useful. No need to reinvent the wheel; nature already did its job. 


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Warning: Space Engineers is still in development. Everything in the game is subject to change. 

UPDATED: Forum thread for this blog-post:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Space Engineers announced & Development details

Today we announced our new sandbox game “Space Engineers”.
More info at

I am going to describe the decisions that led to this project and some details from its development.

Space Engineers is in alpha stage of development - the core gameplay is almost finished (constructing modular grid-like objects in manual and creative mode, volumetric physics, piloting ships, character animations, deformable and destructible objects, electricity, reactors, thrusters, artificial gravity, etc.), some art assets are still placeholders and there are no sound effects. It’s still a “work in progress”, far from “feature complete”.

I could say that the idea of Space Engineers emerged as a logical extension to what we started in Miner Wars - but it’s actually much older. Ten years ago, I wanted to make a game that would be like a computer version of “LEGO TECHNIC” (volumetric objects made of modules interconnected in a grid, with real physical properties and interactions).

Miner Wars 2081 was our first shot and it only touched this idea. Space Engineers is our second attempt and I believe we are going in the right direction.

After finishing Miner Wars 2081, we could have proceeded with a sequel or an MMO, but we felt that first we need to focus on construction and sandbox mechanics, integrate them into our VRAGE engine, build a game that represents them in a best possible way - “Space Engineers” and then reuse them in our future games: a sequel to Miner Wars 2081, an MMO or something else.

In Space Engineers, every object is made of block-modules interconnected in a grid. Every module is a real entity with volume. Depending on the purpose of a module, it can have storage capacity, electricity consumption or production, etc. If you want your lights to operate, better connect them to a grid so they can receive power from a nuclear reactor, which needs uranium to keep running. If you interrupt the grid, the power is lost. If you overload the grid, some consumers get shut down.

Space Engineers is inspired by reality and is played in an environment that can be completely altered by the player. No fake buildings with empty interiors. No fake doors leading to nowhere. No lights, computers or thrusters receiving power from some abstract source. No inventory located “somewhere” in the ship. Everything in the game has some use. There are no "decorative" assets.

Design and development of Space Engineers is guided by our pursuit for realism. Every design decision is shaped by questions such as “how would this thing work in real life?”, “is this technology feasible in the 21st century by extrapolating our current knowledge?”, “what would NASA do?” etc. Not making design-shortcuts proved to be useful and I can say that “the reality is the best designer”.

The foundation of this new technology is a modular grid with real-time deformation and destruction physics. The development of breaking physics took us about a month of work, but it was worth it. It would feel weird if you could build a mother ship, crash it into an asteroid and have it just bounce away. Now it will deform blocks in collision and if damage reaches a certain point, destroy them completely. The video above shows how this works.

On a side note, the modular system is an interesting idea for real space stations and space ships and perhaps if future space engineers have enough resources and 3D printers, they will use it :-)

Another significant difference to Miner Wars and our original plans is that we added character animations. The player is no longer “a ship”. This change adds new gameplay possibilities.

The art style of Space Engineers isn’t finished yet (many models are still just placeholders), but I am already satisfied with the way it’s going - simple colors, low frequency textures with little noise and clutter, current-era look and no flashy, “too sci-fi” surfaces. The “stripe pattern” design that we use when constructing ships was an idea that emerged from the block-nature of how ship construction works and also by the “tourist signs” we have in forests here, in Czech Republic. I am not yet satisfied with how boxy the small ships appear; we may redesign that in a future iteration.

We started working on Space Engineers in April 2013, right after we finished with our post-release works on Miner Wars 2081. I am writing these lines in August 2013 – so that’s 5 months of development. Not including me and a few other people, the major portion of Space Engineers alpha was carried out by 3 programmers and 1 artist. No overtimes and no crunch periods. I am amazed by what my colleagues achieved and I’m very proud of them.

If you want to see some actual game-play, watch these three unofficial teasers that we released in August): 

Thanks for reading this!

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and you will be notified on all updates. 

Warning: Space Engineers is still in development. Everything in the game is subject to change.