Brief history of the concept

I first conceived of the game in 1999. I was interested in game development at this time, and was developing a fantasy RPG concept with another programmer when I had the idea for a online Mars game.

Most computer games are based around combat, with differing levels of violence and destruction. I, however, was more interested in creative, non-violent games. My favourite genre is sci-fi, and thus one of my all-time favourite games was Outpost, a base-building game which came out around 1996. I also enjoyed Civilization (although this had a military component as well). MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) were just starting off then, but none of these really appealed to me (most are fantasy-based rather than sci-fi).

So I conceived of a non-violent, constructive MMORPG which involved exploration, interaction, and base-building on Mars. Initially called "Mars 2020", it was renamed "Virtual Mars" and for a time I had a website at which presented the idea. The core element of the game was to be an accurate 3D model of Mars, constructed using data from the MOLA. (Thanks to the MOLA, Mars's topography is better known than any other planet in the Solar System, including Earth. The best usage of this data outside of NASA is probably Adrian Lark's Mars 3D viewer.)

People generally seemed interested in the idea, especially my friends in the Mars Society, and I received numerous emails from visitors to the site asking when the game would begin. However, at that time I did not resources (or perhaps, faith) to develop the idea. My goal now is to have the game underway before the end of 2005.

In 2001 I discovered an online role-playing game/community known as the Republic of Mars. ROM was essentially a collection of discussion forums, mailing lists, and websites all base around the idea of role-playing a government and society on Mars. The game time was assumed to be current real time plus 20 years. There were no maps or game environment - everything existed in the imagination of the players. Martians is essentially Virtual Mars combined with ROM.

The game was popular for a while, and at its height had around 200 players. However, as it was operated purely by its players and had no development strategy that anyone could agree on, certain issues were debated interminably and eventually people became frustrated and interest waned. Nonetheless, several worthwhile things were created during the experiment, such as an excellent Mars calendar/time-keeping system, and a Martian constitution, both of which later appeared in John Wayne Smith's book "On The Road To Mars" (J W Smith is the CEO of 1000 Planets, a space advocacy group).

There were two spin-offs from ROM created by former players, namely Future Mars and The Mars Game, however these have both, sadly, died a quiet death. These games, in my opinion, make the same error as ROM by not providing a game environment or any rules. Martians, on the other hand, will be much more fun, enjoyable and interesting with this important feature.

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