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Revision as of 23:05, 16 October 2016

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2060 xkcd comics, and only 29 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Tectonics Game
They're limiting the playtesters to type A3 V stars, so the games will all end before the Sun consumes the Earth.
Title text: They're limiting the playtesters to type A3 V stars, so the games will all end before the Sun consumes the Earth.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Written by a Tectonics Developer. Do NOT delete this tag too soon. What do L_T etc mean?

This comic is to show similarity to many simulation games, which have various niche popularity. Similar to Maxis' Spore, the game in question allows you to terraform entire worlds. However, in a typical Randall twist, unlike most simulation games, you could not speed up the progress of time to make world-changing endeavours occur in a matter of seconds. The game operates in real time, which means most of the user time-frame will be spent idly watching nearly non-moving continents, drifting at the real speed of continental drift, a couple of inches a year, which makes for very slow gameplay. Thus several millennia of play time is needed to reach a game achievement of forming a kilometre high mountain.

Many computer games simulate to one degree or another real items and tasks, but often simplify them to fit into a game format -- to make them more exciting, to make them quicker, to advance a particular plot line or quest, etc. For example, a game about farming might allow you to grow corn, but whereas in real life corn takes about 90 days to germinate from seed and grow to maturity, in a game the growth might be instantaneous or measured by minutes, rather than by days/weeks/months.

In this game, especially, one would expect such shortcuts, given the extreme time frames required for geological events to be manifested. The joke is that this game is so realistic that it's played in "real-time", which means for every second or hour or æon something would take in real life, in the game it would take the same second or hour or æon to happen. Playing such a game where the events take longer than the person would be alive would likely be unsatisfying[citation needed].

The frames show some elements of gameplay. The first frame shows a destructive plate margin in which an oceanic plate (grey) is being subducted under a continental plate (brown with a person standing on it) while sediments between the plates are compressed to form mountains. Clockwise from top left, the second frame shows: a cross section through the planet, Various statistics about the planet (CO2 levels of 840 ppm, solar irradiation of 1184 W/m2 and heat-flow through the crust of 91 mW/m2). Solar irradiation and heat-flow are similar to the Earth, but CO2 levels are raised. Bottom right is several stats titled LT and bottom left is a view of the planet showing the proportion covered by ice (3%) land (31%) and water (66%). It seems that the raised CO2 levels have reduced the amount of ice compared to the Earth. The final panel shows some of the achievements that can be unlocked, the first is 1 km mountain. Below that seems to be achievements in the formation of an atoll.

Type A3V stars are white main sequence stars. They have a shorter lifespan than the sun, hundreds of millions of years, compared to the 10 billion years lifespan of the sun. By starting the game now with an A3V star, there would be time to complete the game before the sun becomes a red giant and destroys the Earth.

This comic's number and content regarding simulations in real time may also be a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three, the third book in the Space Odyssey series, in which monoliths are left throughout the solar system, manipulating environments to encourage the evolution of intelligent life.

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball is standing behind Ponytail, who is sitting on the floor playing a video game on a TV which displays a diagram of tectonic plates.]
Cueball: What game is that?
Ponytail: Tectonics!
Ponytail: You steer chunks of crust around, rifting, subducting, and building and eroding mountains.
[A view of the game screen is shown. It includes a large cross-section of the Earth with smaller charts around it.]
Ponytail: You try to keep your climate stable and your biosphere rich. Avoid making large igneous provinces! They're the worst.
[Cueball holds his hand out.]
Cueball: Cool!
Cueball: Can I try?
Ponytail: Sure!
[Cueball plays the game.]
Cueball: ...How do I unpause?
Ponytail: It's not paused.
Cueball: ...
Ponytail: Continents can only move a few inches per year.
[Cueball holds the controller in one hand, now uninterested in the game. The screen shows an achievement page with nothing completed.]
Cueball: It's real-time?
Ponytail: Just 400 millennia to go until your first mountain achievement!


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Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

Rules

Don't be a jerk.

There are a lot of comics that don't have set-in-stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to (and helping everyone better understand) xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.