Surviving Mars lead designer on citizens, renegades and Martian wonders

As if the cruel Martian atmosphere wasn't enough, you will also have to deal with disillusioned renegades in your quest to colonise the red planet in colony-building sim Surviving Mars. At least you'll be able to build wonder domes to calm those nasty elements down. We asked lead designer Boian Spasov how it all works.

PC Gamer: Can you talk about the different types of colonists you have in Surviving Mars?

Boian Spasov: Colonists are differentiated from one another by their traits. Your little "Martians" can have several traits, ranging from useful, through detrimental to just plain weird. For example, a rugged colonist will take no penalties when eating unprepared rations or having no residence, while a melancholic will suffer increased penalties when his morale is low. There are some exceptional traits like genius or celebrity - these denote truly special people that often grant benefits to the whole colony.
PC Gamer: As the game goes on, how will you see your colonists change?  

Spasov: They will settle on Mars, gain and lose traits, have children if your colony is nice enough, live their lives, grow old and eventually die. Ideally of old age, but alas, too often from unfortunate circumstances such as suffocation, starvation or hypothermia. Nobody said that conquering Mars would be an easy task.

The current disposition of each colonist is measured by four parameters - Health, Sanity, Comfort and Morale. All of them have tangible gameplay effects. The Morale value directly affects any individual Work performance. A colonist with no remaining Health will perish. A colonist with no Sanity will go insane and may even commit suicide.
PC Gamer: What kinds of jobs can your colonists do? 

Spasov: We already talked about traits, but colonists also differ by their specializations, which allow them to perform better at certain workplaces. While it is still possible to employ untrained colonists, you will need specialists to science the shit out of stuff and gain maximal benefits.

Some jobs are perfectly fine for unskilled labourers—a bartender or a cook doesn't need any special education. Geologists perform better in mines, botanists love growing potatoes in your farms, engineers increase the production of factories, while officers can be useful for keeping any renegade elements in your society under check. 

PC Gamer: You have colonists who can revolt, right? How do you maintain order when the renegades turn against you? 

Spasov: We are not talking organized rebellions here, like the ones we had in Tropico. The renegades are disillusioned individuals that no longer believe in the ideals and vision of the mission. They are basically out for themselves. Renegades perform badly on their jobs and also can steal valuable resources or even sabotage some buildings in extreme cases.

You can counter them with additional security measures, but ideally you would want to improve the conditions in the colony and convert them back to your cause. I am sure the players will find more creative ways to deal with them, though, like stranding them in a Dome without food or water.

PC Gamer: How do wonders work in the game, and what effect do they apply to your dome?

Spasov: Wonders are grand projects that are researched with technology available very late in the game and require tons of resources. Each of them can be constructed only once and grants a major benefit not only to a single Dome, but to the entire colony. They can solve major problems for you like late-game resource depletion and generally look quite impressive.

Coincidentally, there are seven of them, but I will tell you about my favorite—the Artificial Sun. This is our pet name for a fantastic Fusion generator that provides colossal amounts of electrical power. The reaction glows so bright that it illuminates the surrounding area and powers your Solar Panels even during the Martian night, hence the name. You have to be careful to never shut the Artificial Sun down—it requires quite a lot of water to be restarted and since the colony is probably dependent on its Power it is best to ensure that you have the redundancies in place to keep it running at all times.

Samuel Roberts
Former PC Gamer EIC Samuel has been writing about games since he was 18. He's a generalist, because life is surely about playing as many games as possible before you're put in the cold ground.