Newsletter November 2014

Historic Moments and the Zombie Apocalypse

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Hello, and welcome to this month's Von Neumann Defense Force newsletter! I'm Hanno, VNDF's lead developer and chief newsletter engineer. This month, I'm going to talk about the following topics:

  • Inspirations: DayZ: In this third part of our series about games that inspired Von Neumann Defense Force, I'll talk about a game I never actually played: DayZ.
  • Development Update: What happened since the last newsletter and what do I plan to work on next?
  • In Other News: Happenings from around the web that VNDF aficionados might take interest in.

Have fun with this month's newsletter and please email any feedback to Do you have any questions about VNDF in general or the contents of this newsletter specifically? Let me know!

Inspirations: DayZ

Today's article in the inspirations series will be a bit different. The previous two months, I talked about EVE Online and Kerbal Space Program, games I spent a large amount of time with. Today I'll talk about a game I haven't played at all: DayZ.

My first contact with DayZ came in the form of articles I read back when the game (then actually as a mod for Arma 2) started making waves. I tried to find out more about it on YouTube, and while I'm unsually not into "Let's Play" videos, I quickly got hooked on watching videos of people playing DayZ.

What I saw made a big impression on me: The bleak, post-apocalyptic scenario; a largely empty world, dotted with interesting things to find (like useful equipment); the constant zombie threat, always prompting you to stay quiet and on the move; and, especially, the occasional group of other players, who might turn out to be great allies or deadly menace.

In DayZ you start with nothing. Powerless, vulnerable, and, unless you quickly find supplies, soon to be starving. Over time, if you manage to evade the many dangers, you will find weapons, equipment, food and drink, maybe even a working vehicle. All of this can give you confidence and a way to protect yourself against the world's many dangers, but you need to stay alert: A single wrong decision or maybe just a moment of bad luck, and you could lose it all in an instant.

With this constant danger, every decision becomes interesting. In another game, crossing a meadow might be an ordinary thing to do. In DayZ, you never know if a sniper might hide in that building over there, part of an ambush prepared by other playing looking to steal your valuable gear.

DayZ, being a first-person shooter with a contemporary and realistic setting, will look very different from Von Neumann Defense Force, a space-based multiplayer game focused on small-scale strategy. However, I hope to translate the elements of DayZ that I described in this article into this new setting, creating a game that is just as tense, just as enganging, and of course just as fun to watch YouTube videos of.

Development Update

Leading up to last month's newsletter, I had some of the most productive weeks in the project's history. Compared to that, this month's progress was sure to disappoint, and so it did. Due to a variety of factors, I wasn't able to work as much on Von Neumann Defense Force. Still, some work got done, and more fruitful times will surely return soon.

As a reminder, here's what the game looked like a month ago.

(click to enlarge)

And here's a screenshot from this month.

(click to enlarge)

  • See that blue thing that helps with orientation? Remember how I didn't know what to call it last month? Well, you, the audience, heard my request for help and I was informed that, of course, this is called the nav disc. Thanks, Martin! (You might argue that this isn't really a change to the game and that I'm trying to pad this list. You might be right.)
  • A line is drawn from each object in space to the nav disc, making it much easier to judge where they are.
  • There's a helpful line that indicates the direction your ship is moving in. It doesn't account for gravity yet, so it's usefulness is a bit limited.

Together, these changes already make it easier to judge where things are and how you're moving in relation to them. There's still a lot to do though. The next step is going to be to refine these features, mainly by predicting a proper course that accounts for the influence of gravity.

In Other News

As always, I'm going to close the newsletter with some space- and gaming-related news from around the internet.

A few months ago, I started an effort to play every game I owned on Steam at least once. Thanks to the Humble Bundle (which I've become very critical of, but that's a topic for another day, I guess) I have over a hundred games in my Steam library, most of which I had never played. I've liked a lot of the games I played so far, but one stood out above all others: To The Moon. I'm not going to say much about it, except that you should all go play it, right now. It's a masterpiece.

How could I write this month's newsletter without mentioning the landing of the Rosetta mission's Philae lander on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko? The answer is, no way, I couldn't! What a truly historic moment. Although the landing wasn't without complications, leading to Philae running out of energy much earlier than hoped, the mission can be considered nothing but a resounding success. I recommend you check out ESA's Rosetta page, which has all the details.

Space is almost empty. Check out this tediously accurate map of the solar system to learn exactly how empty it actually is.

See You Next Time

Do you have any questions about this newsletter or Von Neumann Defense Force in general? Send them to me! I'd love to do a Q & A in some future newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and see you next month for VNDF's December newsletter!