Follow TV Tropes

Following

Video Game / Dyson Sphere Program

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/dsp_header.jpg
Dyson Sphere Program is a three-dimensional, third-person construction and management game developed by Youthcat Studio, a small but talented team of programmers from China. It was released into Early Access on Steam on January 21, 2021.
Advertisement:

In the far future, mankind has passed through The Singularity and exists primarily in cyberspace. To feed the virtual civilization's ever-growing energy needs, a lone engineer is put in a mecha suit and sent to a distant star cluster with but one task: the construction of a Dyson Sphere. It is now up to them to exploit the cluster's natural resources, set up automated production and research lines to manufacture increasingly complex components, and eventually develop the technological and industrial capabilities required to harvest the power of an entire star.

The game is clearly inspired by its genre's titans Factorio and Satisfactory and can be considered the golden compromise between the two: the former's ease of planning and supervision thanks to its all-encompassing third-person view, combined with the latter's beautiful 3D visuals.

Advertisement:

In its current Early Access state, most of the essential features are complete, including all relevant buildings and almost the entire Tech Tree. However, the developers have announced their plans to implement additional features like combat and mecha customization in future updates.


Dyson Sphere Program provides examples Of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: A justified case of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. The devs obviously do, but a game on an interstellar scale requires some concessions. Planets are only a couple hundred meters in diameter, and although their distances from each other are given in AUnote , they're actually in kilometers and traveling between planets only takes a few minutes at most. The mecha can also jog around a whole planet in less than two minutes.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
      Advertisement:
    • All planets, even ones that never hosted organic life, have at least one little coal patch somewhere to allow you to refuel your mecha for the return trip.
    • Belts don't physically exist for the mecha - it can walk right through them regardless of how high you built them, and it isn't affected by their movement when it walks over/on them. Belts also don't consume power and can be freely built on water.
    • The whole point of rare resources is that they allow you to produce certain advanced materials very easily by skipping most of the complex refinement steps you'd normally be required to go through. The only rare resource that can spawn in your starting system is fire ice, but that's a huge help already because it replaces an entire oil processing chain, and the ones that can be found in other star systems can make the top-tier assembly line setups much less of a headache.
    • All machines and placed components can be freely and infinitely deconstructed, allowing you to tear down and redesign your assembly lines as often as you like without having to worry about losing expensive hardware.
    • Solar panels work everywhere, even on planets that orbit a black hole. They're much less efficient of course, but they work. These worlds are also almost as brightly lit as ones with an actual sun, for setting up assembly lines in near-total darkness wouldn't make a whole lot of fun.
    • There is no occlusion mechanic (yet), meaning that even a fully completed Dyson shell has no effect on the output of planetary solar panels, so no need to worry about your factory suddenly screeching to a halt because you didn't manage (or forgot) to switch out your solar panels for ray receivers in time.
      • An interesting side effect of this is that you can essentially layer Dyson shells around each other, with each new layer growing more powerful due to the larger surface area catching more sunlight. So, if you're dissatisfied with your first shell's output, just build another one around it. The necessary infrastructure is already in place, after all.
    • Once Solar Sails are placed in an actual Dyson Shell, their lifetime is moot - inside the shell, Solar Sails last indefinitely.
  • Antimatter: The final non-Dyson-shell power generator you can unlock is a tiny artificial sun that runs on antimatter fuel rods. The thing is in fact higher on the Tech Tree than all the tech you need to start constructing the shell, but is far far more efficient at capturing the power a full sphere can generate.
  • Arm Cannon: The mecha carries a massive laser cannon on the outside of its right forearm. It's currently only used for manual mining, but perhaps it'll get weaponized once the announced combat system has been implemented.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • A completed shell's power output is billions of times lower than it should be. The average shell yields 6-8 gigawatts of juice, depending on its size, its layout, and the luminosity of the star it orbits. This is about five times of what a present-day nuclear reactor generates, and roughly 0.035% of what humanity as a whole consumes today. Even a shell constructed from current-gen solar collectors with their fairly low efficiency should have an output in the range of 100,000,000 terawatts, and it's probably safe to assume that the futuristic in-game solar sails are much more efficient. And that's just for a small backyard star like our Sun. Keep in mind that you're free to encase blue giants that are much more luminous. Could be justified as sending almost all of the energy back to mankind to power the new supercomputer, while siphoning off a little bit to help keep your operation running.
    • The whole point of a Dyson shell is its ability to harvest pretty much the entire energy output of the star in its center, but even a completed shell in the game has no effect on the output of your planet-bound solar panels. This basically means that the star's radiation passes through the shell virtually unhindered, which might just give an unintentional explanation for the point above. However, this is likely intentional, to serve as an Anti-Frustration Feature.
    • You can fly right up to a black hole without getting spaghettified.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Dyson swarms look awesome but are pretty disappointing in terms of power output. You can generate more juice much easier by burning all the excess products from your oil refining chains in thermal power stations, saving the resources necessary for solar sail production until you start constructing the actual Dyson shell.
    • Some of the rare resources are more trouble than they're worth to integrate them into the player's manufacturing chains. For example, Fractal Silicon takes twice as long as High-Purity Silicon to fashion into Crystal Silicon, while Unipolar Magnets can only be found on planets orbiting a Neutron star or a Black Hole, and only one of each will be generated per cluster.
  • A Winner Is You: As of alpha, you get a little text box and your advisor congratulating you for your job well done. And then you can carry on doing whatever you want to do.
  • BFG: Dyson swarms are maintained by EM rail ejectors, gigantic coilgun turrets that constantly launch new solar sails into the swarm's orbit(s). It remains to be seen if they'll also gain actual combat utility in future updates.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: When the game released it was painfully apparent that English is not the developers' mother tongue. Pretty much every tooltip and everything the Advisor said used to butcher the language in countless (and sometimes humorous) ways. Fortunately, they were usually understandable enough to work with, and almost every update includes some reworked descriptions that sound a lot less jarring.
  • Boring, but Practical: The early-game power generation trifecta of wind turbines, solar panels and thermal power plants isn't particularly flashy but simple to set up, reliable, cheap to craft by the dozen, and usable with minimal fuss just about everywhere. They don't have the huge power output of the late-game generators, but this can be countered by just spamming more of them.
    • The thermal power plants also consume resources you will eventually need for other things, but it can burn so many different fuels that there's pretty much always some leftover resources to stuff into the furnace, so that's rarely a problem. They're also great for disposing of secondary oil refinery products you need to get rid of lest they clog up the rest of your assembly lines.
    • Wind turbines don't generate as much power as the other two, and must be spaced apart, but they only rely on the ambient atmosphere of the planet, meaning they will be 100% consistent with power output, rather than having to wait on the sun or relying on a fuel supply.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Once you unlock warp drive technology, your mecha and all your transport vessels can make the multi-light year jumps between star systems with basically the press of a button. The warp drive consumes a special type of fuel, but by the time you actually need it, producing the stuff in bulk shouldn't be much of a problem. However, one should be wary about one thing - the warp engine will cut out immediately if the mecha runs out of energy mid-flight, no matter if it's inside a planetary system or in deep space.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Aside from the usual distinctly colored resources, the normally light-grey logistic drones and carrier vessels change their hull color to match whatever they're currently carrying.
    • If a building type has multiple tiers, its Mk.I version is orange/yellow, Mk.II is green and Mk.III is blue.
    • Data Matrices come in different colors depending on what they represent. Blue for electromagnetism, red for energy, yellow for structural development, purple for information, green for gravity and white for solving the mystery of the universe.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: The Dyson sphere - as the name suggests - will always be spherical, but the specific design of the framework is yours to choose. You can make it a perfectly arranged network of triangles, hexagons and similar geometric shapes, you can shape it to look like a soccer ball, or you can just say "screw it" and give it a completely haphazard design. The layout tools are simple but amazingly versatile. That said, it's advisable to keep the number of nodes and beams as low as possible because these components are by far the hardest to produce in bulk, so the more intricate your design gets, the longer it takes to complete.
  • Dyson Sphere: Duh. Building a Dyson shell around one of the stars in the cluster is the game's ultimate goal and it makes a simplified yet nonetheless impressive show of what a monumental undertaking this is, both technologically and resource-wise. Before you get to completely encapsulate a star in a rigid shell, you're given the option to establish a Dyson swarm in its orbit as an intermediate stage, with the swarm's constituent solar sails being gradually absorbed into the shell once you start constructing the framework.
  • Energy Absorption: Wireless Power Towers let the player's mech drain power directly from a power grid to restore energy to the mech.
  • Every Bullet Is a Tracer: Solar sails fired from EM rail ejectors leave bright-blue trails until they hit their mark. Doesn't make a whole lot of scientific sense, given that there's no atmospheric friction to create the lightshow for most of the way, but it looks damn cool and also makes it a lot easier to get your bearings in space.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Player Character is only ever referred to as "the Engineer".
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Most machines, particularly the more advanced ones, have at least one major component that spins constantly while the machine is running.
  • Excuse Plot: "Mankind needs more power, so go and build a Dyson sphere." That's pretty much the gist of it, but who needs more than that when you get to, y'know, build a flippin' Dyson sphere all on your own and watch it grow from up close?
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: You "win" the game by researching the final technology in the Tech Tree, not by finishing construction of the titular Dyson sphere. Getting to this point requires a lot of energy, but there are many alternative power sources available, so whether or not you bother with the Dyson sphere at all is ultimately irrelevant.note 
  • High-Tech Hexagons: All over the place, but the most outstanding example is the Dyson shell itself, which is composed of about a million hexagonal solar sails once complete.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Player Character rides in a cute yellow mecha as tall as a fully grown tree. The suit boasts integrated basic manufacturing and research capabilities, giving them all the tools they need to get started. Later upgrades enable it to fly, first in-atmosphere, then between planets and eventually between star systems.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Fusion power plants are the second-most advanced generators in the game, topped only by antimatter power. The deuteron fuel rods they consume are also one of the best power sources for the mecha.
  • Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: Averted. Conveyor belts cannot affect the player's movement in any way.
  • Industrial World: Technically speaking, every world becomes one of these once you start exploiting them, but you can take it Up to Eleven by paving over the entire surface and covering it in assembly lines from pole to pole. Your starting world will most likely end up looking like this eventually.
  • Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress: When flying through space, you need to use power to change direction or speed. If you run out of power, your maneuverability drops to almost nothing. If you are facing into space you can be stuck flying into interstellar space for hours and might hit the edge of the map before getting near another planet. Your only real option is to load a save game and remember to bring more fuel when you next go into space.
  • It's Up to You: Mankind sent exactly one guy/gal to solve the species' impending energy crisis all on their lonesome. Now get to work. Played with later as the devs added a galaxy view, showing many star clusters being worked for energy by other players, but this only functions as a leaderboard, and none of the galaxy progress affects your game.
  • Made of Indestructium: As of the time of writing, no damage model exists in the game, making the mecha completely indestructible even if you smash it face-first into a planet's surface going at Mach 10... or into a star... or a black hole.
  • Mundane Utility: EM rail ejectors exist to maintain your Dyson swarms and eventually feed the Dyson shell's construction, but their highly visible tracer shots also make for great reference points while flying through space.
  • No Antagonist: Until the promised combat system makes its way into the game, the only conflicts you have to worry about are of the logistic kind.
  • No Ending: Fulfilling the victory condition gets you a standard text box, some praise from the Advisor, and then it's straight back to business. Even if you finished constructing your Dyson shell by this point, which isn't actually required to win, there are another 62 juicy stars out there...
  • Non-Indicative Name: Judging by their visual design, the EM rail ejectors are actually coilguns, not railguns.
  • One-Product Planet: Some planets have a resource mix that simply doesn't allow the production of more than one or maybe two products in any amount worth mentioning. The upside is that their main resources are usually extremely abundant, often enough to supply the entire solar system on their own twice over.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The devs seem to really like this one.
    • The title image contrasts the vibrant blue of a factory-covered planet with the orange glow of a partially encased star.
    • Solar sails in orbit of a Dyson swarm glow orange. They switch to blue the moment they start being absorbed into the shell proper.
    • Active EM rail ejectors glow blue, inactive ones orange.
  • Power Glows: Research, the basis of your entire mission, takes the physical shape of brightly glowing cubes in various colors. The labs that manufacture them can be seen from beyond the horizon while active thanks to the glow.
  • Powered by a Black Hole: Dyson spheres, which were originally conceived as solar energy collectors, can be built around black holes in this game.
  • Procedural Generation: A seed-based system is used to procedurally generate clusters of up to 64 stellar objects (stars and black holes) to play in. So far, the number of stars and the amount of available resources can be adjusted, with more options likely to be introduced as development continues.
  • Refining Resources: A major part of the gameplay is refining the raw resources mined from mineral nodes into the materials and components you need to craft more advanced stuff.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • This game seems to exist for no reason other than to let the player turn one of the most awesome concepts in all of science fiction into reality all by themselves. Is it even remotely plausible? Nope. Is it mind-bogglingly cool? Hell yes!
    • Giant planet-bound coilgun turrets probably aren't the most reliable method for transporting solar sails into a Dyson sphere's construction orbit, but damn if the Beam Spam doesn't look cool.
  • Scenery Porn: The game is very pretty to look at no matter where you are or what you're currently doing, but the awesomeness really kicks into gear once you start launching Dyson swarms or constructing the actual Dyson shell.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Mostly averted. The game takes some liberties with distances and planet size for the sake of gameplay convenience, but the units of measurement are both appropriate and accurate, and the mere fact that you can exploit up to 64 star systems with multiple planets each shows that the devs are well aware of the gargantuan amount of resources required to construct a stellar megastructure like a Dyson shell.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The EM rail ejectors look suspiciously similar to the warship-mounted railgun that blows Devastator off the Giza pyramids in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
    • The grey, dull-metallic texture of foundations has prompted immediate comparisons with the Death Star, to the point that some players couldn't resist plonking down a lone ray receiver somewhere as a stand-in for the battle station's iconic super-laser dish.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The game includes a remarkably intricate and realistic system to simulate celestial mechanics.
      • Planets orbit around their star and even each other constantly, entering summer and winter phases as their distance to their sun changes. This can have considerable impact on solar power generation if the planet has a highly elliptical orbit.
      • Worlds with a tilted rotational axis have one of their poles constantly facing the sun, making these spots ideally suited for solar panels or EM rail ejectors.
      • Wind turbines are less efficient on worlds with thin atmosphere. Solar panels lose or gain efficiency depending on the planet's position in the solar system - the closer to the sun, the more solar power.
      • All celestial objects have gravitational pull. Taking off into space is not a big deal once you have the technology, but reaching escape velocity draws a lot of power from the mecha's core, as does every course correction during the trip. Getting too close to planets or stars while in transit will drag the mecha off course, potentially causing it to crash-land on that planet instead of where you wanted to go. It may also slow the mecha down or, if used correctly, increase its speed if you manage to perform a slingshot maneuvre. Last but not least, missing your target planet usually means you end up hurtling off into deep space because only a late-game mecha has enough power reserves to turn around and try again.
      • A star's position in the main sequence heavily affects the types of planets in their system. G-class stars like our Sun are the most likely to spawn temperate worlds, with the neighboring F- and K-class stars being next in line. These star systems also generally have the highest planet counts. The more exotic the stars get, the higher the chance of their planets spawning with rare resource deposits, at the cost of regular and especially organic resources becoming less abundant.
    • The warp drive is powered by a special fuel that contains strange matter. Certain real-world theories concerning the development of actual warp drive technology posit strange matter as a possible source of the required negative energy, which the item description also mentions.
  • Sighted Guns Are Low-Tech: Amusingly inverted by the EM rail ejectors, which have holographic sights on top of the barrel despite being fully automated gun turrets.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Solar panels are one of the early-game renewable power sources. They're relatively cheap and easy to mass-produce, and unlike wind turbines can be placed in direct contact with each other, letting you squeeze a lot of them into any given space. Installing a ring or three of solar panels around a planet's equator is a bit tedious but looks awesome and generates enough constant power that you won't have to worry about it again until well into the late game. It even works decently well on outer planets that don't get a lot of sunlight. Also unlike wind turbines, solar technology can be improved considerably through research, making it even more effective.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Every planet in the cluster has only one biome. You start out on a temperate earthlike world with plenty of basic resources, but some like titanium can only be found off-world on lava planets or ice planets, and special resources like fire ice can only be harvested from gas giants. More planet types exist, each with their own unique properties and resources.
  • The Singularity: The game's Excuse Plot hinges on mankind having evolved into a purely data-based species/society that only exists in cyberspace. It's heavily implied that the Engineer isn't a physical being but merely a digital mind uploaded into a mecha suit, which also neatly hand-waves why they aren't bothered at all by any of the environmental and technological hazards in the cluster.
  • Space Is Noisy: Mostly averted. All sound effects go silent the moment you break atmosphere. Even the ambient music gets muted until the flying-through-space music kicks in.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: The mecha automatically switches to hover mode when it's told to walk into deeper water. Crash-landing in an ocean from high orbit just makes it pop right back out on its own.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • There's currently no way to restore bodies of water that were filled in with foundations, but water is a vital component in some pivotal mid-game recipes. If you somehow managed to pave over your entire planet before researching the upgrades necessary to travel to other worlds, you're SOL. This is unlikely, however, both because of the insane amount of resources you'd need to craft so much foundation space, and because it's simply not even remotely necessary no matter how messy your initial factory setup got.
    • When flying through space, if you are unlucky enough to run out of energy and neither have no fuel in your mecha nor any reserve fuel, you can become stuck hurtling through space helplessly. If this happens when you overshoot your destination, you may as well need to reload your last autosave, if you had it set in the first place. Better hope you have a save on-planet to reload.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Most cluster seeds spawn a black hole system somewhere. Their design takes cues from what scientists currently assume black holes to look like, but their spherical nature can often only be seen from specific angles, so most of the time they look more like the stereotypical swirly whirlpools of death IN SPACE they're usually depicted as. You can also pilot your mecha straight into one and back out without problems.
  • Wave-Motion Tuning Fork: The EM rail ejectors are of the horizontal type, with massive lightning discharges crackling between the two prongs every time they fire.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: You have an entire cluster of up to 64 stars to explore, each with at least one unique planet orbiting it. Gaining space flight capability marks the start of the midgame, which doesn't take all that long to achieve. Flying to other stars is intended to be done through warping, a late-game technology, but nothing's stopping you from making the trip with your mecha's cruise engines. It just takes a bit longer. There's also nothing forcing you to proceed with the Dyson shell construction other than maybe your factory's power requirements. Want to watch your EM ejectors dot the sky with thousands of sparkling solar sails for hours? Go right ahead.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report