Red Planet Farming at NASA Ames Research Center

Today was quite an exhilarating day for me. I’ve traveled out to California in order to meet with the science advisors we’ve been working with that are at the NASA Ames Research Center.

I got to meet not only with my advisors, but with some other Mars experts, including a duststorm expert! They all had a lot of interesting ideas for things to put in the game. I’ll list a few:

-Dust devils
-Edible tarantulas (!!)
-Algae tanks
-Plum trees to stop bone deterioration (!!)
-Cell cultures to grow meat
-Planetary Protection Laws

Anyways, it looks like I have my work cutout for me! It was a successful day and I feel excited about everything that was suggested today, but I also feel a bit overwhelmed. I’m now going to visit my brother, who also lives in California, for a few days, and I’m aiming to not touch the game in that time. I worry that working on it too much everyday is halting productivity, so I’m taking a break this weekend. But I’ll be back in action next week to prepare for our stream on Death By Audio!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Family

I’ve been working on a small presentation/demo that I will be giving when I visit the NASA Ames research center this week, and realized that we now have a complete happy family with all the regions!


All four regions are now in the game :) Some of them are farther along than others of course. But I wanted to post this anyways because I feel like this collage is just so darn cute. I’ll be talking about Medusae Fossae in a later post probably.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Soundtrack

Hello all. Very exciting post today. I want to introduce Sean Porio, who is the sound designer for Red Planet Farming. He’s been working with us for a while now, but I have some demos of some soundtracks for the game that we want to share now:

This is a demo for Valles Marineris, which I AM EXTREMELY HAPPY WITH. I think its sounds wonderful! I’m very excited to see (or i guess hear) how the rest of the soundtrack turns out!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Website

Yesterday was an exhilarating and tiring day. The time had come where the page on my portfolio for RPF would not suffice. Alas. It was time RPF’s very own website.

At the beginning of yesterday, I did not know the difference between HTML and CSS (I didn’t actually know what CSS was used for at all). At the end of yesterday, I had a website. What happened between those 12 hours was a long and grueling journey that I will not rehash now.

ANYWAYS, we now have a website and its being hosted on Github pages because, you know, free hosting. You can check it out here:

Of course, it still has a long way to come but I’m feeling pretty good about it. Especially that parallax scroll at the top that I definitely didn’t look at example code for.

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Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Photos

This is for documentation purposes. I have nothing to say other than I played through Valles Marineris and it was looking good!

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Nina Demirjian
Arugula, Avocados, and Edamame (oh my!) && Updates

In preparation for our application for a second round of funding from the Sloan Foundation, we have added in a number of new crop animations, including Edamame, Arugula, Avocado, Spinach, and Lettuce.


I submitted the application last night, which included a power-point presentation, and a link to our updated Trello page with weekly assignments for all of our team members.

In addition, I’m really excited that we’ve started to incorporate some music into the game. I’ll be making a post dedicated to that sometime soon!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Water Ponds

I have been playing around with some new mechanics for the third region, Utopia Planitia. I added Landslides and Marsquakes to Valles Marineris, and have been wanting to add something unique like that to Utopia as well.

One of the things I am working on now are little water ponds, which are upgrades that allow you to grow certain types of plants. However, you cannot place any other type of plants on these fields. In addition, plants that need a water pond cannot be placed on fields without water ponds.

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Here, you can see that the blue-ish tiles have water ponds.

Other ideas that I’ve been floating around are dis-jointed groups of land, as well as having land be extremely expensive in this region. I also have it so that the cities expand waaaay faster in this region than in other regions.

Nina Demirjian
Hello Surface Ice

Here’s some more progress on Utopia Planitia, a region of Mars with permafrost:


Below I’ve also included an actual image from this region of Mars:

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Utopia Planitia

The third region of RPF is finally in a somewhat presentable state:

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This region has some ice which the player will be able to use as water to grow lots of new plants. The region will also have more extreme weather patterns like harsher storms that will kill crops instantly if they are not protected (!).

We also have some new art for the region as you can see above, as well as some new art for all of the different crops which I will be posting about shortly.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - New Power

Hello to the RPF community. Development is coming along nicely and we are starting to introduce new upgrades and buildings for the player. There will be many options for the player to choose from when it comes to buildings that provide energy. I’ve just finished implementing a wind turbine, which you can see in the image below. I went kind of ham with the turbines because I had a lot of money since I recently put in a cheat code to get more money (not saying what the cheat code is!)

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Anyways, types of power generators will vary depending on region. So Valles Marineris will probably not have solar panels like Gale Crater, because it is down in a canyon and probably does not get a ton of sunlight. Similarly, there will be steam turbines that pick up geothermal energy in the canyon, but these turbines will probably not be available in some of the other regions at all.

Nina Demirjian
The Characters of Red Planet Farming

We have recently hired another artist, Sean Park, who has been doing a lot of character art for RPF:

The Mayor

The Mayor

Marvin deMartini, personal assistant

Marvin deMartini, personal assistant

Anita, advice columnist

Anita, advice columnist

A lot of these characters are in the news a lot, especially the Mayor and Anita.

The mayor is often seen in the newspaper, making statements about either the colony in general, or about the player and their performance. Anita also shows up in the newspaper for her installments of the “Ask Anita!” advice column, which we are using as a way for players to get a glimpse into the lives of the colonists.

Marvin deMartini is the player’s personal assistant, and gives instructions and tips on how to be a successful Mars farmer.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Notes From Some Playtests

I’ve recently had my roommates Xan and Francesca and my brother Marshall play through Red Planet Farming to see if they liked it, and to see if there were any bugs that I inevitable miss whenever I play through it myself. It seems like both playtests went really well, and I’m glad that the game is reaching a point where the playthroughs are actually quite long, because it has been a goal of mine to get the gameplay time to be a bit longer than it has been in the past. Here are some images from the playthroughs:


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Xan and Francesca:

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Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Discounts

I ended up implementing something today that I had never really thought I would end up doing, which was giving the player adjacency bonuses for upgrades on their fields. It actually was relatively easy to implement. I think I was nervous to do it because I’m pretty nervous about making big changes that impact the game play drastically. It’s going to take a lot of balancing!

At the moment, discounts are offered to the player for upgrades if they place an upgrade next to a field that has that same upgrade. There is no difference in the amount of the discount based on how many fields surrounding it have that upgrade, but thats definitely something I’m hopefully going to implement tonight.

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Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Landslides!

Today, I was inspired. I don’t know by what. But I was inspired. I had an interesting idea, and luckily it was not too hard to implement. I decided I needed to spice up the Valles Marineris region and make it a bit different from Gale Crater, so I decided to implement “zones” on the farm that are impacted by landslides.

Instead of having only certain crops that are weak to landslides, all crops are now weak to landslides. There are just certain plots that are immune to them. These plots are marked, at the moment, by orange circles, but there will be better indication in the future.

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In addition, Landslides are now a surprise >:). That means that they don’t show up on the forecast. And they also mostly appear after Marsquakes, but can appear at any time really.

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As you can see in the second image, only the crops on the plots in the orange circles were damaged in the landslide. The plot outside the orange circle was safe!

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - City Improvements

We’ve also been working a lot lately on improving the cities and population part of the game. We now have a system in place where graveyards start expanding into the player’s farmable plots if the population falls too quickly. On the other hand, if the population rises, buildings like schools and recreational centers start appearing.

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Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - New Valles Marineris Art

It has been a hot minute since my last post, which I apologize for. But we’ve been working on some big changes over at RPF! The most notable is that players can now save their game progress, meaning they can exit the application and pick up where they left off later. I’ll be sharing some screenshots of the menu screens for this sometime in the future.

In addition, we’ve gotten some new art in for our second playable region, Valles Marineris. I’ve made some posts in the past about it, but I was mostly using dev art to get a sense of what I wanted this region to look like. So now the region looks a lot better than it did before:
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I am beyond happy with how the art for this turned out. I think it looks perfect! Excited to see what the next two regions look like as well.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Marsquakes

I am starting to work on implementing in new weather hazards into the game so that we can start playtesting the new regions. The new regions all have different weather patterns, and Valles Marineris is prone to landslides and marsquakes. Another explanation for the formation of Valles Marineris is tectonic plate activity, and with recent data from Martian rovers sensing marsquakes, we thought that it would be nice to include them. Just added it to the game. Now I just need to hook it up to the system that determines whether plants take damage from certain hazards or not.

In addition, I finally got through (I think) all of the setup necessary for saving the player’s data for when they want to switch between regions. This will also make it easier in the future when I want the player’s data to be saved when they quit out of the game as well.

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Introducing Valles Marineris

Hey all. We are so excited to finally be getting to a point in the development where we are putting in new levels. Valles Marineris is the first unlockable level in Red Planet Farming. Valles Marineris is a giant canyon on Mars that spans about the size of the United States! It is thought to have been formed by flowing water on ancient mars. It is also a probable landing site for future mars missions. In RPF, crops will need grow lights to survive down in the canyon.

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I’ve also taken the time to add a lot more crops into the game, including crops that are a bit more realistic for a martian mission, ie leafy greens like spinach and lettuce.

Nina Demirjian
An Exciting Blurb From Our Artist, Noah

Hello all. Today we have an exciting guest post written by our fearless artist, Noah. I asked her to describe herself a little bit so that you all could get to know her better. Here’s what she has to say:

“Hey, I'm Noah and I'm working on the visual assets for Red Planet Farming! I guess a little about me, I'm a rising fourth-year at the NYU Game Center and the NYU Film & TV program studying games and animation. Uhh and I guess in these kinds of things people tend to mention that they like games and dogs and stuff and I do like games and dogs and stuff but I'm not sure what to say other than that?? Idk, but if you do wanna reach out about games or dogs or stuff I guess you can DM me on Twitter or something (@phlfp). Anyway I hope y'all are enjoying the game so far, and if you have any feedback on any visuals and UI and anything else related, feel free to reach out!”

Nina Demirjian
Red Planet Farming - Perennial Crops

Today has been a pretty productive day so far. I implemented perennial crops, meaning crops that will stay for multiple years. Basically the loop is as follows: players can plant perennial crops, like peppers, and they will grow over the course of the year. They yield produce at the end. The difference now is that the plants do not disappear after harvest at the end of the year. Instead, they will continue to produce food until they run out of health, which is when they are removed from the farm. Crops can lose health if they are damaged in storms.

The goal of this is to create arcs within the game that take place at different lengths than the main arc, which is just the year cycle. Now, certain crops will last multiple years, giving a multi-year arc for some plants and some setups.

I was also hoping that this would alleviate the issues that come about when the player has expanded their farm vastly, and the amount of time that it takes to replant the entire farm keeps growing and growing until the loop is no longer fun.

Here’s a progression of a farm with peppers from a play-through that I did to make sure everything was working:

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As you can see, the crops that were fully wilted in the second image are gone in the next image, because their health reached below 0.

I must admit, when I first was testing the system, I thought there was a bug, because I was so unused to seeing the grown crop sprites during the planning stages! But I’m actually very happy with how this turned out, especially because I was worried it was going to take a long time.

Nina Demirjian