Everything is Made from Something – Materials, Items & More

OC’s model for items is meant to more effectively approximate items in the real world. All complex structures, like usable items, are made up of subcomponents, and these subcomponents are in turn made from materials that have all sorts of properties. Many properties and much of the functionality of the complex structures are ultimately derived from their constituent materials.


A screenshot showing the material composition of a simple item, in this case, a shovel. Note that items can occupy more volume than the sum of their constituent parts, and a shovel does have some empty space.


  • Items in OC are comprised of subcomponents.
  • Subcomponents are comprised of specific volumes of materials.
  • Subcomponents are associated semantic functionality of items. In the case of a shovel, its blade is associated with its digging speed.
  • Materials have various properties that are meant to roughly model properties of materials in the real world. For example, zinc has a density of 7.13 grams per cubic centimenter in OC and the real world.
  • Material properties associated with the imparted functionality affect the performance of the item. Sticking to our shovel example, the hardness of the material that comprises the blade is a part of what will make it dig more or less effectively.
  • Many more of an item’s properties and aspects of its performance are derived from the materials that comprise it.
    • For example, suppose that a person’s arm is struck by a shovel blade. The shovel blade consists of 400 cubic centimeters of of zinc, giving it a mass of 2852 grams. The mass component of the formula for kinetic energy (1/2 * (mass * velocity ^ 2)) is derived from that mass calculation on the shovel blade, which affects the energy imparted by the blow. A shovel blade made from nickel or steel would perform differently if swung at the same velocity.
  • The same rules that apply to inanimate items apply to nearly everything in OC. Even humans themselves are modeled as collections of subcomponents, made up of certain volumes of certain materials.

Item Composition

As mentioned in the summary above, everything in OC is made up of volumes of materials. This is actually pretty intuitive. Things are made up of materials. Of course! And complex things are made up of collections of discrete components that impart aspects of the greater thing’s functionality. Again, of course! Consider the monitor (or phone) you’re using to read this. The edge of the device is made up of some sort of plastic. Its purpose is to house the screen that’s displaying the text. The screen is another subcomponent, made of a set of different materials. Its purpose is to make the text visible.

That sort of description is pretty straightforward in real-world terms, but it’s even simpler in OC. Items are made of small sets of discrete components, and the materials that comprise the components affect properties of the greater item. Following with the monitor example, the materials that make up the screen might affect the monitor’s brightness or contrast ratio. The casing affects the monitor’s weight. Examining the screenshot above, we can see that the shovel has precisely two subcomponents: a handle, and a blade. This next screenshot gets a bit into item manufacturing, but I’ll cite part of the manufacturing process here just to illustrate the overall point about materials and item properties:


As you can see, both the handle and blade of the shovel can be made from any solid in the universe. Think about it in the real world. You could make a shovel with a wooden blade. It’d be a pretty crummy shovel, but you could make it. You can make just such a shovel in OC. As you can see from the manufacturing dialog, the handle’s composition doesn’t affect any shovel-specific properties. For the blade, however, the hardness of the chosen material will influence the shovel’s digging speed. Harder materials make for shovels that dig more effectively.

It’s worth noting, too, that while the blade of the shovel doesn’t influence any shovel-specific properties (like digging speed), it does contribute to the weight of the shovel, and when a person swings a shovel, the shovel’s weight is used to figure out how hard it is to swing. As such, shovels made from lightweight handles and very hard blades tend to be very effective. The cobalt-copper shovel in the first screenshot is not too bad, although it is quite heavy.

Material Data

OCfeatures a wide variety materials with all sorts of statistics and properties. As a player, knowledge of material properties is important to playing OC well, so an interface is built into OC to look up data about all of its materials. Clicking on the encyclopedia button, pictured below, will load OC’s “Encyclopedia Galactica” dialog. All sorts of information about can be accessed from here, but we’ll focus on material data in this blog entry.

Encyclopedia_Button Encyclopedia

As a player, all you’ve got to do is select “Materials” from the subject matter box, and material data is made available. By default, all materials are shown on the left side of the interface, but a filtering system can be used to narrow down your choices. In the example above, the alkaline metals that are currently in OC (beryllium, magnesium, and strontium) are shown. Clicking on a specific material will list its properties on the right side of the interface.

As a final note, real chemists and physicists will be able to point out technical inaccuracies in some of the statistics. Some stats are easily quantifiable, like density, and I’ve tried to keep these as accurate with respect to real world values as possible. Other stats are very abstract, like hardness, and are difficult to quantify. Just to focus on hardness as an example, I needed certain values that would fit into my equations and yield good results, so to create hardness ratings in OC, I very loosely worked from the qualitative Mohs hardness scale and then tweaked values to taste.

Some qualitative stats, like mechanical durability, were made with even less rigor. Obviously, a very soft, highly reactive metal like strontium has an extremely low mechanical durability, so its value is less than 1. This makes it an impossibly poor choice for mechanical applications, like building an engine, but there’s very little rigor behind the actual numbers of some of these more qualitative stats.

Despite its technical shortcomings, I still think the results of the system are rather neat and fun! While there’s plenty of room for improvement, I’m happy with the first version of OC’s item and material systems.

Posted in Simulation