Tour of the whole Lalande Settlement

We have another new video, this time going through all the main structures of the settlement as it is once it has its full population of 25 000 people. In the timeline, this happens when the Residency Program is complete - the last point where all the permanent residents are trained astronauts. After this, private citizens begin to arrive, and the construction of Lalande City begins. It’s a very extensive and ambitious settlement. You can see it here.

Unlike the models of the first habitats in the video before this, these models have not been rendered with realistic materials and lighting. I have a keen sense of how cool this is all going to look when it’s done, so that was frustrating for me. But when i ask my computer to do things like display several hundred objects, one of which is 30 km across, with realistic textures and lighting, it gasps in horror and runs away. Nothing in my bag of tricks will make it come out from under the shed and start crunching those numbers again. There is a ray of hope, though. Blender, the 3d program i use, will get a new render engine late this summer that is pretty awesome compared to the ones it has now. And Godot, the game engine i use, will be upgraded with that same new engine - it’s called Eevee. Between the two programs and that new engine, i’m sure we’ll be able to serve up beautiful things by the end of the year. Things you will even be able to run around inside at your leisure, yakking with other visitors, making machines work, maybe even building yourself a little home in the settlement.

In the interest of getting that done in that time frame, and in recognition of my ever increasing respect for how big the task is that i’ve taken on, this video, and this blog post, will be the last until… well i’m not sure what exactly… There is a list of things that really need to be done, and almost everything on it is a big job, that i’ve either never done before, or done once or twice on a much smaller scale only.

The model of Lalande Crater needs to be rebuilt, with new techniques that allow it to have a level of detail a giant leap beyond what it has now. There remain a list of models in the settlement that are only sketched in, and have to be roughed in much better in order to be up to snuff for opening day. Not that there will be much detail in the habs on opening day - the vast majority of that is reserved for the people who will contribute later. What there is, is meant to be enough to build on. Just enough to give people a feel for how it works and get the juices flowing.

To do that properly though, sample areas of all the big habs will be developed somewhat further. A small section of a gallery, one tube hab, one atrium hab garden, one factory, and one residential building in the long dome will get this treatment. They will be divided up into levels with floor plans and major facilities modeled, the big machines will be modeled, though only at a simple schematic level.

The avatar system needs to be built. The avatars will be very simple compared to the main point of comparison, Second Life. This isn’t about projecting a fantasy you are a ripped Han Solo with great dance moves. This is about facilitating rich communication. Avatars will be floating heads capable of a wide range of facial expressions set via quick taps. They will only be customizable by colors, and setting a small number of face and hair parameters. The bandwidth saved will be used for better voice chat and more detailed environments.

All the interactive 3d models currently on the website need to be rebuilt, to match the new standard set by the recently added Solar Thermal Plant, which was rebuilt with our Verge 3D software. I may do that soon although in many ways it feels like a distraction. That’s only because once done, i can cancel my pro subscription with SketchFab and redirect those funds to joining the Blender Cloud service. It’s only a little bit of money, but i have a knee-jerk need to pinch pennies on this stuff. You know, like i’m actually running a business. So the rebuilds, for now, will not add anything new, they will be quite basic. I think that seems reasonable. It’s the kind of thing where the timeline could slip, though, as i once again realize i’ve seriously underestimated the complexity of some other task.

Okay, it will probably take longer than the end of the year to build the service that allows you to create your own little home, garden plot, artwork, or (pretend) business in the virtual settlement. That’s a stretch goal. In the past, that for me has been the same as saying “Yeah, right”. But it will come, perhaps next spring. And it will be so much fun. I’ll probably have to keep my hands off it in order not to neglect my work. It isn’t worth doing unless it is very flexible and intuitive. It will require great design. That’s a piece i’ll definitely have to pay someone to work on with me.

Which brings us to the matter that the point of this list is to get to making The Pitch. I don’t know yet if we are talking about a Kickstarter, or approaching organizations for grants or sponsorship, or what. I just know that i have shied away from approaching anyone so far because the settlement just isn’t sexy enough yet, and i’m not properly trained in the arenas i will need to know in order to lead the project through and beyond that point. Having a bare-bones version of the settlement online will allow me to get across all the potential this project has. I’ve tried to convey that before with only very limited success, even though i have to say, i’m pretty happy with the level of support i’ve had so far, given how little time i’ve spent on approaching people and how far outside the space industry i am. But seriously, once people are inside that virtual environment, i think the lights will start to go on in all your heads out there. This is a big thing. Something very much like it is going to be a very, very big thing in the next 10 to 15 years.

Anyhow… i hope you enjoy the video. As always, i’m eager for input. Please comment under this post or on the YouTube page if you have anything to say.