Monday, August 27, 2007

Travel Times in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Fraek:
... considering the fact that there are over 70 star systems within 17.5 [l.y] of Earth ...
Just to follow up, while this is accurate it's somewhat misleading in that it describes the number of stars within the volume of a sphere centered on our sun with a radius of 17.5 light-years. That's not the same thing as the average distance between any two stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is what's important in discussing travel in a space-based game.

I may actually have been a little off on my recollection; most online sources give the average distance between two stars in our galaxy at about 5 light-years rather than 7. (However, one apparently good source indicates that the average distance between stars in the neighborhood around Earth ranges from 5 to 10 light-years, so perhaps my estimate wasn't far wrong after all.)

And "star systems" is also a little misleading. For many of the stars near Earth, we simply don't know yet whether they have planets orbiting them or not. In other words, the presence of a star does not imply that there's a "system." A star might have objects orbiting it, or it might not.

So I think I will stick with my original statement: if a Star Trek MMORPG goes with a realistic map of the stars of the Milky Way to determine the stars in Federation space, and if habitable planets are somewhat rare, then it's likely that players could need to travel 20-50 light-years or more to go from one humanoid-inhabitable world to another. The association of a ship's warp speed with real time would then be what defines interstellar travel times.

At one minute per light-year, the in-flight entertainment had better be really good.