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Revision as of 16:11, 23 April 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 6 xkcd comics, and only 2056 (100%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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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.


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

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 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 endeavors occur in a matter of seconds. The game operates in real time, which means most of the user time-frame will be spend 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 kilometer 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 wheat, but whereas in real like wheat takes weeks or months to germinate from seed and grow to maturity, in such a game the growth might be instantaneous or measured by minutes rather than weeks or 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 eon something would take in real life, in the game it would take the same second or hour or eon to happen. Playing such a game where the events take longer than the person would be alive would likely be unsatisfying[citation needed].

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.


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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