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Report article RSS Feed Trees in space!

Seriously, space trees. Why aren't you clicking the link already?

Posted by dirkson on Apr 30th, 2013


One of our kickstarter goals was rather oddly labeled as "Hedgetrimmers". The stretch goal was a system of organic living treeships, with the hedgetrimmers being used to shape their growth. Nezumi and I have finished the basic tree blocks and inserted them into the game.

I don't have the growing code done yet, but I figured I'd take a brief break to explain what the heck I'm creating, and why.

Let's use this reference image:
Tree Example

On the far left you can see a curiously blue-green seed pod. This is the seed of one of three kinds of treeship, and would sell for quite a bit on the open market. It will be found somewhere deep inside an asteroid, waiting for some lucky soul to stumble across it.

Pick it up and find someplace hospitable to plant it - A patch of dirt will do nicely, although an asteroid would be even better. A happy little seedling will sprout up - Find him some sunshine and he'll start growing.

The heart of any treeship is its heartwood - This reddish brown material grows at the base and core of the tree, and any wood separated from it will sicken and die. It's quite sturdy, rivaling aluminum in its melting point, and withstanding quite a bit of flex before breaking. Outside of its heartwood, treeships are quite resistant to hollowing, happily growing even when the majority of their interior tissue is removed.

The type of wood for the majority of the tree is determined by its tree type - Cherry blossom tress get a light balsa wood, deciduous trees get a tough mahogany wood, and pine trees get softer pine wood. The woods grow and self-repair damage at different rates - Mahogany is slow, balsa is middling, and pine trees are quite speedy. The tree pictured is a deciduous.

After some time being exposed to light, treeships will produce a bud somewhere on their exterior surface. If this bud is in a poor location, it's the work of a moment to trim if off. If it's left alone, however, it will eventually grow into a small branch coated with leaves, pine needles, or cherry blossoms. Branches left to grow long enough will thicken to the point that they can be hollowed out.

Treeships need a lot of material to grow, and will extend roots into asteroids or ships they're planted on to get it. They'll also remove carbon from carbon dioxide to grow, adding oxygen to any interior atmosphere. (Fun fact: Trees on earth actually get MOST of their mass from this process - Trees are almost entirely built out of air!)

Treeships provide electricity (via sunlight hitting their leaves), and will happily transmit materials through the small pores in their trunks - Any equipment connected to a treeship will automatically be a part of the ship's electricity and supply network!

Each type of treeship has its positive and negative points - Cherry blossoms trees grow fruit for their crew to eat and are lightweight, but are poor at photosynthesis and can be fragile. Deciduous trees are quite tough and hard to burn, but have fragile leaves and flex poorly. Pine trees flex well and regrow damage faster than other trees, but burn easily and don't photosynthesize as well as deciduous.

Treeships will grow over their entire lifetimes, slowing down as they get larger. Tend to one well and you could easily have a kilometer long battleship on your hands.

As you can see, I've got quite a bit of coding ahead of me! Wish me luck!

Curious about the game?


Post comment Comments
Ausländer Apr 30 2013, 6:58pm says:

+8 votes     reply to comment
Lulloser Apr 30 2013, 8:47pm says:

Wow...Now I can't decide wether Organic or Tree ship D:

+4 votes     reply to comment
Insolent. Apr 30 2013, 9:19pm replied:

Since both flesh ships and tree ships are organic, there's no need to decide! :)

Smarminess aside, I know what you mean. They each come with unique advantages and drawbacks. Flesh ships heal a bit faster than tree ships, but tree ships are a bit more durable. Tree ships filter CO2 and provide turn it into breathable oxygen, but they need sunlight to create electricity. Flesh ships need food to be able to heal and ultimately to survive, but their growth is easier to design. Anything attached to a tree ship is powered by its photosynthetic electrical grid, but tree ships need an asteroid to sprout from in the beginning, whereas flesh ships do not.

These pros and cons weren't laid out in a logical order, but I think they end up making for a pretty good balance between the two types of organic ships.

+5 votes     reply to comment
explorer13 May 1 2013, 5:31pm replied:

Since they need sunlight, I wonder if tree ships will be severely limited in travel options? Since the amount of energy you can harness from sunlight drops drastically, even if you just go out to Jupiter's orbit everything is basically solid ice at that point.

However it goes, I wonder if it would be possible to have a tree-ship inside a normal ship, I will surely be trying it once I finally get around to getting the game (and it gets developed more)! :D

+2 votes     reply to comment
Insolent. May 1 2013, 11:07pm replied:

That's a good point about the range. I imagine Dirkson will give tree ships a component that lets them store energy, just as synthetic ships do with batteries. That ability could tide the ship over when it's far from the system's sun.

As for a tree ship inside a normal ship, I don't see why not. There are all kinds of docking clamps and connectors planned. If you have a big enough synthetic ship, you could surely park a smaller tree ship inside.

Actually, since I expect there will be sunlamps that nourish your onboard hydroponics, I wonder if those sunlamps could be used to nourish a tree ship inside another ship... Dirkson? :)

+3 votes     reply to comment
Gleylancer May 1 2013, 3:24am says:

This actually sounds fantastic!

+4 votes     reply to comment
mechwarrior24 May 1 2013, 4:22am says:

Tree ships.


Seriously though, that's the most awesome unique epic did I mention awesome idea I've ever heard!

+4 votes     reply to comment
explorer13 May 1 2013, 5:37pm says:

I just realized something, please tell me we will be able to feed our organic ships blocks of butter, because that would be adorable and awesome.

I can see it now, the captain reaches into a storage container and pulls out a voxel of butter, with a hand outstretched to his ship's 'mouth' of a core, he fondly pets his ship as he gives it the delicious treat. "I am sorry for the burns you have suffered, but we must escape the pirates. I will do my best to steer us clear of their laser fire!"
Man and ship share a whole new bond as space is explored by a new generation of crew and ships alike.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Insolent. May 1 2013, 11:04pm replied:

Actually, Dirkson has said feeding your ship any kind of organic matter IS planned! This includes butter, ration blocks, plants, player characters, and clones. Chuck it (or order it to jump into) the stomach, and it will add nutrients to the ship's blood, providing it energy needed to operate and heal.

You raise a good point - if your ship is in some sense "alive," you could really forge a bond with it even stronger than the normal bond between captain and ship.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Topzombie May 6 2013, 11:21am replied:

Someone is probably already working on a R34 pic of flesh ships

+1 vote     reply to comment
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