I’ve set myself a challenge, playing the PC game Space Engineers in ‘survival mode’. Stranded alone on an unpopulated planet, I must struggle to survive and escape my isolation using only my wits and the resources to hand.
If you missed the last episode in this series, you can catch up here.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on my base lately, and I’ve added a garage to park my vehicles in. I’ve lost several solar panels to meteor strikes, so I’ve incorporated some new ones into the garage roof.
Setting up this base has taken a surprising amount of resources, and I’m starting to realize just how much stuff I’m going to need if I’m ever going to build a ship and get off this rock. I know there’s a lot of metal around here, but most of it is buried deep underground, so it’s time to get serious about mining.
If I’m going to get my hands on all the ore buried beneath the desert’s surface, I’m going to need a beast of a mining ship!
I’ll need to move a lot of dirt to get to the good stuff, so I’m going to build a large rig with lots of drills. I’ve seen other people try their luck with wheeled vehicles and drills mounted on articulated arms, but that doesn’t seem to work very well. Instead, I’m going to build a flying rig with downward facing drills on its underbelly. I’m thinking more of an open-cast approach to mining so as to avoid getting my equipment stuck in mine shaft.
After building my hover bike, I know that this is going to need a lot of large atmospheric thrusters and a lot of power to lift the heavy drills and (hopefully) cargo containers full of ore. So I’m starting with two large reactors and a chassy that will allow me to add one large thruster for each drill.
Jumping into my cockpit for the first time, I’m surprised to find myself suffocating. I might be on a planet with an oxygen atmosphere but the air tight cabin still needs an air supply. Rather than carry oxygen bottles with me every time I go mining, I decide to add a bulky oxygen generator unit to the ship. This way, any ice I drill through will automatically be split into hydrogen and oxygen.
Welding together all these drills and thrusters requires a huge amount of motors and steel tubes, so I have to take my rover out on another shopping trip.
This ship reminds me a little of Starbug from Red Dwarf, so I’ve decided to name it the ‘Gravel Bug’.
The gravel bug features retractable landing gear (mounted on ‘piston’ blocks) which can be neatly tucked away during mining operations. Another nifty feature is the ‘ejector’ in the nose, which can be used to empty any of the four large cargo containers. Two small cargo containers in the rear provide easy access to bug’s inventory via a network of conveyor tubes.
Time to take her for a spin!
I’ve selected a spot on the frozen lake to test the drills, since it’s perfectly flat and I know there’s uranium buried under there.
At first it works like a charm. But when I decide to see what happens if I turn the engines off, things go catastrophically wrong.
Without engine power, the Gravel Bug quickly digs itself deep into the ice and begins to list to one side, breaking two of its drills and one of its engines.
Well, at least now I know to keep the engines on.
I limp back to base and begin making the necessary repairs, confident about my future mining ventures, but later that evening this happens…
A meteor strikes the ground beneath the ‘bug, causing her to fall backwards rather ungraciously onto her derrière. And when I try to lift her up onto solid ground she ends up flat on her back.
I’ve spent the entire day rescuing the Gravel Bug from a life spent kicking its legs in the air like an upturned tortoise. I had to temporarily add some additional engines, drift it out to a safe distance over the lake and, with clenched buttocks, flip it over like a pancake.
I also spent some time chasing it around the desert having left some of the thrusters on, but the less said about that the better.
With my mining ship restored to its original state of perfection, I can finally begin my mining efforts in earnest by opening up an iron quarry nearby.