The Day begins in Moon Town

We’ve sort of made it. The whole demo works. It has several fun things in it. There’s lots of structures and objects to walk around and look at, lots of content explaining them, and a cool rover to drive. And yet, we have to work on it a bit longer because it doesn’t run very fast on low-end computers. The corners have to be sanded down a bit, you might say, so that everyone who downloads it can enjoy using it. Funny thing is, figuring out how to do that involves taking things apart and having pieces all over the floor again. So though the end user only sees smoother movement, getting there involves a bunch of changes. I guess it’s more like making a car faster. 

This is how I think of these things because I don’t write any of the code. It’s all analogies to me. While this all happens, I’ve just been writing stuff and planning our next steps. I occasionally pick at some model that could use a small improvement or tidy some corner as I nervously wait for the real, actual release. My work on it is done, it’s all up to the coding team now.

GitHub list of 6 Pull Requests, 21 branches, 2082 commits on the master branch, and 88 issues
The team has been mighty active, let me tell you. This is what a small team working feverishly looks like on GitHub, where all our code lives.

Putting Moon Town on a Silver Platter

I don’t want to give too much away, because I should be writing another newsletter in maybe a couple of weeks to say “It’s Released! Go get it here!”  For now, let me talk about my meditations on how to make the fundamental case here. Showing how enjoyable Moon Town will be is easy. Conveying the potential of Moonwards is not. 

To see great purpose in space development, you have to see what will happen after it matures. Claims that space will save the Earth from dirty and resource-hungry manufacturing one day seem wild-eyed even to many in the space community, never mind the average person. The assertion that it will one day provide the world with as much power as it could possibly want, with a footprint cleaner than any conceivable alternative (including fusion) is greeted with only slightly less skepticism. 

What the world needs is a place that conveys how that will happen, and what it will mean, in a way that’s so intuitive a non-technical person will actually have fun while learning about it. It has to demonstrate we already have the technology needed, show what the steps on the path will be, and portray all the ways that will change our lives. That place is Moonwards.

If it is successful enough, it will change the public’s perception of space development. It will pull crucial dialogues about how it should be pursued, the risks, and the rewards, out of obscure corners and into the limelight. To be successful enough, it needs a strong community. And not much else.

It has been designed so that the community itself will fill it with content and choose the path forward for Moonwards. Feeling like they are showing the world how bright our future can really be will make that activity uniquely rewarding. Get the first few hundred committed users, and look after them, and after that it will grow on its own. With each additional user, the likelihood that it will pass a tipping point and explode in popularity increases. Once a community is thriving there, nobody can take that away by creating copycat games. At that point Moonwards can safely charge small subscription fees for users who wish various extras, and larger fees for people wishing to hold large events there, or advertise. Before that time, it will need significant financial backing to complete development. 

main menu of the game, tabs at top show options of Destination, Avatar, and Apps, The Apps tab is shown, with four subsections of NPC editor, Building, Events, and Library
Each of these four game modes will require lots of new code to work. Moonwards needs them all in order to really fly.

There are many ways in which Moonwards is novel. This is a blessing and a curse. It can’t tread the paths nicely laid out for the many games that are quite similar to things that have been done before. We have to figure out how to tap its potential as we go along. Fortunately, that potential is big. 

Player looking up through the floors of First Gallery Habitat