Subluminal Space Travel: While playing Sonder., you will have to understand a lot about the inner workings of the environment that the characters inhabit to get better at the game, so it was important for us to ground everything that the player comes across in known science - and only go into science-fiction where it was absolutely unavoidable.
One of the early sources for heated discussions was the interplanetary distance that the characters in the game need to travel. Without spoiling too much, the characters need to travel distances that are simply inaccessible within a normal human lifetime. The civilization in Sonder. is incapable of superluminal speed of travel (faster than the speed of light), so the only other alternative was cryosleep for the travelers.
That decision created a bunch of other consequences, like the fact that their transport would need to be automated, or the fact that their transport needed to be robust enough to withstand years of hurdling through space while its occupants are asleep. There was also the question of the necessary amount of fuel to enable decades of travel, while also being able to accelerate its own mass.
We disqualified chemical fuel early on because of its storage size, volatility and non-renewability , so we were left with the only other viable option - ELECTRIC PROPULSION. The ship that the characters are travelling on is akin to a mule: it’s carrying small amounts of propellant as well as huge batteries for storing electrical energy which can be harvested from space when exhausted. As a result, it is not very maneuverable, nor can it accelerate or decelerate quickly - but it can maintain sustained thrust over longer periods of time, providing the necessary velocity over years.
The maximum attainable speed by such a spacecraft is still a fraction of the speed of light. But even at such speeds, it needs to survive travelling through the interplanetary medium for decades. A collision with even the smallest of debris could provide fatal for the ship and crew, so this is why the ship is equipped with magnetic deflectors that consume electrical energy and project a strong magnetic field ahead of the ship, along its trajectory, which deflects any particles in the ship’s path.
In this way, the only resource that the ship consumes voraciously is electrical energy. Conveniently, such energy is easily harvested from multiple sources in interplanetary space - like light or other kinds of radiation. Whittenoom Corp. ships are all equipped with panels that collect subspace radiation and convert it to electrical energy which is then stored inside onboard batteries. During the transport, the ship alternates between intervals of electrical energy expenditure (when thrust is generated) and electrical energy collection (when batteries are recharged). This process is fully automated and usually requires no human intervention, although management of that one vital resource (ENERGY) is something that every traveler has to be aware of - in case of emergencies.
(The Science of Sonder. is a series of articles about specific challenges we have encountered during development of the game, based on our desire to remain as hard SCI-FI as possible. If you have a specific question, let us know and we will do our best to answer it.)
Re-imagining the SCI-FI corridor: Sonder is inspired by the great works of science fiction, both books and movies. Obviously, movies contributed a big part towards the visual identity of our game, but one of our goals from early on was also getting the science right.
One of the first obvious conflicts between our desire to get the science right and to have something that looks cool happened during the initial phase of design of the ship in Sonder. When you are designing something, you want to use the visual language that people have developed for it before you came along, so people can recognize what you have designed with minimal need for explanation. So we looked at a lot of reference material for SCI-FI interiors, in particular corridors, and noticed a strange trend.
It appears that a strong aspect of the visual language of SCI-FI corridors are support pillars on the interior side, like something that you would find in a submarine, or a basement. In a submarine, or even under gravity - it makes sense to have such support pillars because the pressure OUTSIDE of the vessel is higher than the pressure INSIDE the vessel, so some reinforcement is in order (the vessel is being crushed under pressure). Even above water, under gravity, it might make sense to reinforce walls like that (from the inside), to increase the stability and durability of a structure.
But in space, the situation is reversed. The pressure inside the vessel is much higher than the pressure outside the vessel, so reinforcing the interior serves no real purpose (except that it looks cool). In essence, the vessel is NOT CRUSHED under heavy pressure, instead it constantly wants to explode! This realization lead us down a path of discovery that ultimately produced a system for reinforcing a spaceship which, unfortunately is only visible from outside! But it also made it possible for us to design industrial pieces (building blocks) for the interior that were much cleaner, without the clutter of support pillars.
As a result, we have managed to produce a visual look that is somewhat different than what you might expect, but perhaps not for the reasons you may have assumed. Here is an in-game screen-cap that shows a corridor in Sonder:
As underground lairs go, ours is not that shabby. Other than the obvious disadvantages of having limited access to sunlight or fresh air, it did provide the necessary focus on the difficult task of creating a new kind of technology. The absence of contact with our friends, family and audience has been taxing on our team, but that just makes this day more important.
Today, our flabby bodies and pale skin were greeted by the warm caress of sunshine - as we emerge from our underground lair with the fruit of our work in our hands. Some kind passers by took it upon themselves to film that momentous occasion, and took the opportunity to ask us some questions about the work we have been doing, all those years, away from the public eye. They have kindly provided us with a copy of their recording, that we have promptly decided to share with the internet.
Now that we are out, one thing is certain: there is no going back. From today, our work will be easily accessible by anyone interested in it.
The next few weeks should be interesting.
In the past 24hrs, we detected some anomalous readings around the sites where our announcement teaser is located - most prominently Youtube. We have dispatched our best team of scientists to take samples and produce a working theory about the origin of these readings.
The team has returned and submitted a 473-page report detailing that at some point between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM on the 27th of February some unknown entity has submitted a link to the announcement teaser to reddit.com. This act started a chain reaction that has been steadily increasing in power and volume. At last check, the reaction has reached kotaku.com!
We are, as of yet, unsure what the scope of this second wave will be. As always, we will be monitoring the situation closely and we will intervene as necessary. Our security task force has been raised to alert level "mauve"!
The good people at gamepedia have created a sonder. WIKI page, that is a nice hub for all the things that we have publicly talked about. We are hoping to have more announcements in the near future and have this wiki grow and become a useful resource for our future players, to be used as our official wiki.
We can promise you that sonder. will be one of those games where you will need a lot of help from the community to be able to achieve all the different scenarios possible.
Check out the wiki page at: http://sonder.gamepedia.com