June 13, 2011

The Titan Mines of Dead Space, and Science within Videogames

Last week, I had the utmost pleasure of viewing Saturn from several astronomer's powerful telescopes along the sidewalks of Highline Park in NYC, thanks to the members of Amateur Astronomer's Association (AAA). As I peered through the eyepiece of one of the refracting telescopes aimed at Saturn, I gasped at the tiny point of light near the the left tip of the inclined rings of Saturn. It was Titan.

There's something magical about getting a glimpse of a faraway place with your own eyes, especially when one has immersed within the virtual representation of that place. Right then and there, I knew that I had to post something about Titan and what i think of videogames as it intersects with reality.

The setting of the first Dead Space was inside a planetcracker mining ship called the Ishimura orbiting around an exoplanet named Aegis VII. But on its second release, the setting is on Sprawl, a city on a shard of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

The reasons for not going exoplanetary was explained in-game which I happened to capture during my foray into its narrative.

"Shockpoint drives were in their infancy, so extrasolar mining was out of the question--and the dangers of planetcracking were still unknown."

Despite being dismayed at DeadSpace2 being less than interstellar, it didn’t stop me from playing this wonderfully horrific game. In heart-thumping fashion I’ve finished its single-player campaign twice and reached Level 60 in multiplayer mode inspite of my horrible k/d ratio. (Note: i don't care about k/d ratio)

Apparently, in Dead Space 2’s multiplayer mode, there is a map called “Titan Mines” so it always reminds me of one of the most exotic worlds in our solar system.

Titan has liquid methane on its surface, with a nitrogen atmosphere sprinkled with some ethane clouds and nitrogen-rich organic smog. However, none of these things were depicted in the game. The reason is that in the story, Titan has been dismembered into shards of rock by the planetcracker mining ship. So most of the action happens inside a tightly-controlled environment of the Sprawl.

The cold, freezing temperatures on Titan makes me wonder how the necromorphs would survive, until I remembered that the Titan Mines map setting is an underground mine. So silly me (again) the environment is tightly-controlled. Too bad for the science behind it--there isn't much. This is my complaint about Dead Space.

I wish more videogames would employ more science behind their settings. Mass Effect has done a great part in mixing ample astrophysics into their story, but we need more games to engage people in indirect learning. As technology becomes more and more powerful, and games strive to immerse gamers even more--the initiative to model reality will make Science an integral part of the gaming world.

Titan-like Exoplanets
Are there more Titans than Earths in the Milky Way?
Titan: Callisto with the weather
Sailing the Titan Seas
Aegis VII on Freebase

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