Dev Diary 3 – Dome, Sweet Dome!

I am back with the final dev diary for you this year, this time focusing on the human habitats and the lives of the colonists in Surviving Mars.

While setting up an automated colony staffed by the little drone guys can be a fun experience by itself, it also serves a larger purpose – paving the road for the first human settlements on the red planet.

But why would you need humans in your colony at all?

Thank you for the excellent question, Mr Skynet. The human colonists are required to perform many complicated tasks such as producing most of the advanced resources, managing complex underground mining endeavours and doing research. There are over 100 technologies, all unlocking new benefits for your colony. So, plenty of research to keep you busy!

The flipside is that your colonists are somewhat more delicate than the lowly drones. They tend to need functional life support, for example. And they kinda like medical care, food, entertainment… To sum it up – you need some kind of habitable settlements protected from radiation, the harsh Martian climate, supplied with all the necessities and, ideally, at least a few of the luxuries, that your colonists may want. I present to you… the Domes:

Beautiful, aren’t they? The Domes are, at least in my eyes, the most iconic pieces of art in the game. Inspired by the classic somewhat naive, somewhat optimistic retro sci-fi aesthetics, these points of light in the Martian night represent our idealized idea for the first human settlement on another planet.

Our goal was not hard realism. Realistically, a manned colony on Mars would almost certainly be at least partially underground, and even if dome-like structures are employed, they would probably not look like our Domes. However, an underground colony will not be very appealing to live in, and we wanted to create a place that invokes the sentiment “Wow, I really want to leave Earth and go live there!”


Building utopia

Domes come in various sizes, but all of them are mega-structures meant to house other buildings. Most of the buildings related to colonists can be placed only under Domes – this includes living quarters, research labs, certain factories and service buildings. Domes are expensive constructions, and space underneath is premium, so you are solving a spacial puzzle with every Dome you create.

Placing any building takes valuable space, and you have to maintain a careful balance between residences and workplaces. Food production, research and production of advanced resources can be distributed between Domes, but you can also create specialized Domes focusing on one particular gameplay aspect.

A dedicated farming Dome can feed a significant portion of your colony. A luxury service and residential Dome will provide comfortable conditions for the Colonists living inside, increasing their birth rate and morale. A mining Dome may be meant to service nearby resource extractors, located just outside the Dome, providing plenty of living space for miners and the facilities to handle the stress caused by their work.


The monumental central structure in a Dome is called a Spire. Most Domes can have only one single Spire, but the Spire grants a powerful benefit to the entire Dome, specializing it even further in a chosen direction. An Arcology provides residential space for numerous colonists, a Water Reclamation System recycles vital H20, while a Network Node boosts all research conducted in the Dome.


Livin’ the Mars life

So, we’ve already established that you will need Colonists to keep many of your buildings operational. It is good to keep in mind that some of your Colonists have individual specializations that allow them to perform much better in certain workplaces. To get the most of your buildings, you will have to either cherry pick the needed specialists from Earth or secure a way to train them in the Colony. Generally, workers are assigned to their workplaces automatically, but you have the tools to micromanage their assignments and work shifts if you wish.

The current condition of any individual colonist is represented by four key stats – Health, Sanity, Comfort and Morale. Letting any of this drop too low has negative consequences. Colonists at low Health can’t work, and if their Health depletes, they will die. Colonists with no remaining Sanity will suffer mental breakdowns and may gain negative traits such as alcoholism or gambling addiction (more on traits – below). Colonists at low Morale may become Renegades and start causing trouble in the Colony. Conversely, high stats may grant positive effects – for example, citizens with high Comfort are more inclined to have children.


Unlike the drones in the automated colony, your colonists are not created equal. Each possesses a different set of traits with each trait granting some different effect to the colonist. A hardworking colonist performs better at his workplace while an idiot may cause a catastrophic malfunction, shutting down the building. Some traits are exceptionally rare and may benefit the colony as a whole – having a Celebrity will secure additional funding from Earth, as long as the said Celebrity survives on Mars.

Just as a teaser, here are few more example traits with their current in-game descriptions:

  • Survivor – Loses less Health without food, water, oxygen or when living in an unpowered Dome
  • Nerd – Gains a temporary Morale boost every time a new technology is researched
  • Hypochondriac – Will randomly visit Medical buildings and take Sanity damage if unable to do so
  • Chronic Condition – Loses Health each day
  • Guru (rare trait) – Randomly spreads other traits of this colonist to persons in the same Dome

As your colony grows, you will gain the options to cultivate certain desirable traits and treat some of the negative ones. And no, the definition of treatment doesn’t include setting up domes without Oxygen supply and encouraging the colonists with the undesirable traits to move there. You monster! :p

You can filter the traits and specializations of colonists coming from Earth (but not of children born on Mars), as well as the individual Dome populations – if you want to create a Dome populated by Fit Middle-Aged Survivors and Sexy Nerds, you have the tools! You can even find some perfectly valid in-game rationalization to do so. Probably.


As you can see, I love the traits and their effects – it is a wonderful, expandable system that will only get richer as we continue to work on the game.

That’s all for today’s diary! Thank you for reading and have a wonderful holiday! See you in 2018, when I plan to write about something very mysterious.


Thanks to Boian for another awesome Dev Diary – just tacking this on as I think it will also be of interest… :)

Surviving Mars will be out in SPRING 2018

Also, Boian has been interviewed by PC Gamer – read it in full here!

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