‘A Slower Speed Of Light’ Teaches The Everygamer About RelativismFiled inside: Games
A Slower Speed of Light might seem simple at its outset. Collect 100 obviously placed objects. But when you find yourself walking at near-light speed, things get a little trippier.
The game is being developed in MIT’s Game Lab. It’s basically a first-person collect-a-thon in a small village. Your task is to grab various multicolored orbs that have been placed around the 3D space, with no degree of difficulty in their locations.
The challenge isn’t the point, you see. The Game Lab seeks to imbue gaming not only by finding new and innovative ways to create and interact with games, but to use those games to engage and inform the players. A Slower Speed of Light does this by artificially reducing the speed of light in the game with each orb the player collects.
In this way, an action that is completely understood by most (walking, or moving at a reasonable speed) is placed in a familiar space (a basic video game), but with the focus on a proper representation of someone’s perception at relativistic speeds.
The result is something truly intriguing and absolutely gorgeous to behold. As you move at more relativistic speeds, various physical phenomena begin to manifest: the Doppler Effect, the searchlight effect, and Lorentz transformations, for instance.
The Doppler Effect is the perception a change in the frequency of lgiht or sound waves from a moving source. The is most recognizable as a change in pitch of a vehicle as it moves toward and away from you. The searchlight effect is a perceived increase in the brightness in the direction of travel.
Lorentz transformations are quite a bit more unusual. Essentially this explains the concept that two observers moving at different velocities will not perceive the same distances or times. They may even experience events in different orders, depending on various factors. Time dilation is also a potential effect of near-light speed travel. All of these concepts are on display in the game, in a space that makes it accessible and relatively (ha!) easy to understand.
On the gaming front, this would normally be lackluster news: an educational game that’s actually interesting cool, sure, but hardly anything to write home about. The intriguing part is that the game is built with the OpenRelativity toolkit. It’s basically a system that enables the implementation of the above mentioned concepts. The toolkit is an open-source engine developed for the Unity engine; both free and pro users can access it with ease.
I’m excited to see the ways in which the game development community can utilize these tools to make games that not only features educational elements such as these, but some of the truly awesome things that you can do when considering objects that move at relativistic speeds.
Things aren’t quite ready for prime time, yet, but it’s worth a look-see. Check out a trailer below, and you can pick up the beta over at MIT’s website. You can even tweet your apparent mastery of relativistic travel.