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== Latest comic ==
 
== Latest comic ==

Revision as of 21:08, 17 May 2018

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
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Tectonics Game
They're limiting the playtesters to type A3 V stars, so the games will all end before the Sun consumes the Earth.
Title text: They're limiting the playtesters to type A3 V stars, so the games will all end before the Sun consumes the Earth.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Do NOT delete this tag too soon. What do L_T etc mean?

This comic is to show similarity to many simulation games, which have various niche popularity. Similar to Maxis' Spore, the game in question allows you to terraform entire worlds. However, in a typical Randall twist, unlike most simulation games, you could not speed up the progress of time to make world-changing endeavours occur in a matter of seconds. The game operates in real time, which means most of the user time-frame will be spent idly watching nearly non-moving continents, drifting at the real speed of continental drift, a couple of inches a year, which makes for very slow gameplay. Thus several hundred millennia of play time is needed to reach a game achievement of forming a kilometre high mountain.

Many computer games simulate to one degree or another real items and tasks, but often simplify them to fit into a game format -- to make them more exciting, to make them quicker, to advance a particular plot line or quest, etc. For example, a game about farming might allow you to grow corn, but whereas in real life corn takes about 90 days to germinate from seed and grow to maturity, in a game the growth might be instantaneous or measured by minutes, rather than by days/weeks/months. The comic may thus be a jab at how our lives already are real time MMRPG.

In this game, especially, one would expect such shortcuts, given the extreme time frames required for geological events to be manifested. The joke is that this game is so realistic that it's played in "real-time", which means for every second or hour or eon something would take in real life, in the game it would take the same second or hour or eon to happen. Playing such a game where the events take longer than the person would be alive would likely be unsatisfying.[citation needed] A mildly less extreme example of a simulation game being played in real-time would be the Desert Bus video game where you have to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, in real time at a maximum speed of 45 MPH. The trip requires eight hours of continuous play to complete, at which point you score one point with the option to continue playing for additional points at the rate of one point per successful eight hour trip. The action consists almost entirely of just keeping the bus from veering off the road. It cannot be paused or sped up, and failure requires a tow back to the starting point at the same 45 MPH speed.

The frames show some elements of gameplay. The first frame shows a destructive plate margin in which an oceanic plate (grey) is being subducted under a continental plate (brown with a person standing on it) while sediments between the plates are compressed to form mountains. Clockwise from top left, the second frame shows a cross section through the planet and various statistics about the planet (CO2 levels of 840 ppm, solar irradiation of 1184 W/m2 and heat-flow through the crust of 91 mW/m2). Solar irradiation and heat-flow are similar to the Earth, but CO2 levels are raised. Bottom right displays several stats titled LT, LM, LA and LL, and bottom left is a view of the planet showing the proportion covered by ice (3%), land (31%) and water (66%). It seems that the raised CO2 levels have reduced the amount of ice compared to the Earth. The final panel shows some of the achievements that can be unlocked, the first is 1 km mountain and the last achievement of the first row is 10 km mountain. Below that seem to be achievements in the formation of an atoll.

Large igneous provinces are suspected to be related to extinction level events and rapid climate changes in real life. Thus, they 'are the worst' in this game.

In the title text type A3 V stars are mentioned which are white main sequence stars at mass from 1.4 to 2.1 times the mass of the Sun. Thus they have a shorter lifespan than the Sun, hundreds of millions of years, compared to the 10 billion years lifespan of the Sun. By starting the game now with an A3 V star, there would be plenty of time to complete the game before the real Sun would go to a Red Giant destroying the Earth.

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball is standing behind Ponytail, who is sitting on the floor playing a video game on a TV which displays a diagram of tectonic plates.]
Cueball: What game is that?
Ponytail: Tectonics!
Ponytail: You steer chunks of crust around, rifting, subducting, and building and eroding mountains.
[A view of the game screen is shown. It includes a large cross-section of the Earth with smaller charts around it.]
Ponytail (narrating): You try to keep your climate stable and your biosphere rich.
Ponytail (narrating): Avoid making large igneous provinces! They're the worst.
[Cueball holds his hand out in a frameless panel.]
Cueball: Cool!
Cueball: Can I try?
Ponytail (off-panel): Sure!
[Cueball plays the game while Ponytail watches.]
Cueball: ...How do I unpause?
Ponytail: It's not paused.
Cueball: ...
Ponytail: Continents can only move a few inches per year.
[Cueball has stopped playing and holds the controller in one hand. Ponytail points at the screen that shows an achievement page with nothing completed.]
Cueball: It's real-time?
Ponytail: Just 400 millennia to go until your first mountain achievement!

Trivia

This comic's number and content regarding simulations in real time may also be a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three, the third book in the Space Odyssey series, in which monoliths are left throughout the solar system, manipulating environments to encourage the evolution of intelligent life.


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