Boian Spasov from Haemimont here (@Blizzard_Haemimont here on the forum) with another dev diary on Surviving Mars. While I focused on the high-level vision in my previous diary, this time, I plan to dive in the nitty-gritty gameplay details, talking about the many resources relevant to your bold colonization mission.
When creating the resource system, we had three major design goals in mind
Resources are very different from one another - we didn't want to create a system where resources are differentiated by their icons on the user interface and nothing more. Quite the opposite - we made a concentrated effort to make them very different in terms of acquisition, production and/or purpose. This created a somewhat steeper learning curve compared to the typical city-builder, but opened the potential for much deeper gameplay.
Resources feel scarce - Surviving Mars is a city-builder, but it has a strong survival element. It felt right to make resource depletion and scarcity a constant problem that you will face. The decisions where to land your first rocket and where to expand require some careful planning. Scanning for new resources is important. Finding a rich deposit is a cause for celebration. Failure to secure a certain resource is a much bigger problem than in the typical game of the genre - it can even spell out the end of the entire colony. As a last-ditch effort, buildings and vehicles may be salvaged to reuse some of their construction resources in order to survive a critical situation.
Becoming self-sufficient and independent from supply with resources from Earth is an admirable long-term goal.
Resources are positional - transporting a resource to the place where it is needed is just as important as getting it produced in the first place. The bulk of the resource transportation happens automatically once set up, but a specific delivery can be manually ordered in case of an emergency.
Power cables and pipe infrastructure is present in the entire colony. Drone workers and larger vehicles carry most of the other resources here they are needed. Rocket ships land occasionally to deliver emergency supplies from Earth. Getting resources to the places where they are needed should not be trivial - underground tunnels may be required to reach isolated parts of the map and the transportation vehicles usually require resources to perform their function, threatening to shut down your carefully planned systems in case of a Power or Fuel shortage.
Basic Resources - Metals, Concrete, Rare Metals and Food
Automated extractors placed on spots rich in sulfur in the Martian soil, dig up the sulfur-rich regolith and store it as ready to use mix. It is later transported and heated, turning it into strong and enduring concrete.
Scarce amounts of metals may be gathered directly from meteorite remains on the surface. Exploiting underground metal deposits is more complex and not fully automated - it requires a special building staffed by colonists, so it is not quite possible until the colony houses human residents.
Rare metals are even scarcer and have a limited uses on Mars such as creating electronics. They are valuable enough to be exported to Earth, securing the much needed funding for everything else required by the colony.
Individual resource deposits offer different resource quantity and grade. Deep deposits cannot be exploited or discovered initially, but will become available later in the game.
Resource extractors produce useless Waste Rock as a by-product. Transporting this waste product to places where it would not get in your way presents a minor problem by itself.
Food production on Mars is challenging, although, as we know from "The Martian," not impossible. Still, it is likely that your first colonists will have to rely on supply secured from Earth. There are many different types of crops to grow as well as fungal farms offering a more exotic food source.
Advanced Resources - Polymers, Electronics, Machine Parts and Fuel
While basic resources are usually produced from resource deposits, advanced resources usually require another resource as a material. They are rarely needed in large quantities early in the game, but are still relevant, even at this stage.
Polymers, electronics, and machine parts are made in dedicated factories, each of them requiring colonist workforce to function. A fledgling colony will almost certainly not be able to secure the supply of these resources during the early stages of colonization and will have to rely on shipments from Earth.
Using the CO2 from the Martian atmosphere and hydrogen from water the colony can produce fuel. The process uses a series of relatively simple chemical reactions to produce methane and oxygen which are used as propellant and are needed for the return trip of the rocket ships to Earth. Fuel production is automated and does not require colonists. Processed fuel is highly explosive, so it might be a good idea to store it where it cannot do much harm if an accident occurs.
Grid resources - Power, Oxygen, Water
Grid resources are distributed through the colony using pre-set infrastructure - a power grid or a pipe network for Oxygen and Water. Both pipes and cables are prone to failures, and large networks require regular maintenance by drone workers. The crops you plan will have an impact on the colony Oxygen and Water consumption.
Different Power sources have their own strength and weaknesses. Solar Panels do not function during the night and take a severe penalty during dust Storms, so the colony has to rely on batteries or have alternative power sources.
Several people asked about our decision to include wind energy as a possible power source. While it was previously thought that wind power is not viable in the conditions of the sparse Martian atmosphere, in the recent years NASA is seriously considering it as an alternative power source for a potential Mars mission.
More advanced and reliable Power sources will become available as the game progresses.
Water on Mars is usually found frozen and underground. If a deposit is not available in the vicinity of the colony, it can also be extracted from the atmosphere, but this method is more costly.
Oxygen is produced from the atmospheric Carbon Dioxide by a device we lovingly call "MOXIE". Since colonists will die very quickly without this vital resource and the MOXIE can be somewhat unreliable in certain situations, keeping an emergency supply in an Oxygen tank is a must.
The Final Resource - Funding
Money may make the Earth go around, but on Mars, its usage is quite limited. Your immediate problems such as dust storms, malfunctions, and suffocation, cannot be solved simply by throwing bags of money at them and this is quite an intentional design decision on our part.
The Funding of the colony, measured in millions of dollars, is only relevant in your dealings with Earth. You can request additional rockets carrying resources, vehicles and building prefabs up to the limits of your available Funding and the rocket cargo capacity. The payload is fully customizable, as seen in the screenshot.
Since the rocket travels for a while, it may not arrive fast enough to solve your urgent problems, but may eventually grant you a reprieve from whatever crisis you are currently suffering. Keep in mind that the rockets will have to be refueled for the return trip and buying new rockets is quite expensive. To maximize the benefits from resupply you may wish to load more useful cargo on each trip than you will immediately need and to secure fuel production before you run out of Rockets. There are few ways to earn Funding and they are not always available, so take care to use your considerable starting funds wisely and to always plan long term!
That's all for this dev diary - join me next month when I plan to talk in depth about the permanent human settlements on the red planet. Until then, I would be happy to chat with you in this thread. Just remember that we are still keeping some things under wraps, so I would not be able to answer all your questions yet.
P.S. PC Gamer interviewed me yesterday and showcased our latest trailer for resources. Which you can watch below. You can also read the interview (should you wish, here).