Let's be honest with ourselves. When the time comes for the Rally, and the starting flags drop, most eyes will be on the bikes and buggies as they zip across Daymar's orange-hued boulderscape. The traditional rover category is sure to be represented, but likely with far fewer entries, and much less fanfare and excitement -- mainly because the most likely entrant in the category will be the RSI Ursa.

And the RSI Ursa is awful.

It was, for a time, almost a ubiquitous sight anywhere there was lunar roving to be done - after all, when you control that large a share of the market, as RSI did, you're the odds-on favorite even when you're nobody's favorite. When a monopoly is in play, you don't have to pay as much attention to things like quality control and catastrophic design flaws. Then along comes young, hip Tumbril, and all of a sudden your "tried and true" design has fallen into a very impressive and exciting shadow. You have to stop, RSI, and look at what you're offering, and decide if it's actually any good. Yes, RSI. I'm talking directly to you. Listen. Please.

I understand what you're going for with the Ursa -- I really do. The idea is there, and it's a good one: You want a large, sturdy land vehicle, one with meaningful weapons and armor, along with the space and atmosphere needed by a multi-peson crew, with adequate space for cargo or passengers. You're putting this in a land vehicle because sometimes a ship is unnecessary, or perhaps not recommended, due to weather conditions or elaborate detection systems aimed skyward. And on the conceptual level, the Ursa passes on all the parameters of this test. It's easy to forget exactly how spacious the Cyclone is, and how many people can fit in one. Or that once upon a time, many considered it to be "indestructible", because of how much punishment it could take.

Putting those parameters into active use, though, has been another issue entirely. The Ursa isn't fast, but few expect it to be. No, in fact, the most common complaints from Ursa users are about its apallingly weak torque, and ground clearance that looks good on paper, and from a distance, but just doesn't hold up when there are actual obstacles in your way. and, surprisingly, all the problems of the Ursa's performance in the field can be traced to its wheelbase.

You see - sometime in the past, rover designers realized that a six-wheeled design, with central wheels that didn't steer but provided stability in the case of rolling, were almost an absolute necessity for lunar roving. Alongside this, they discovered that each wheel provided the opportunity for a separate motor - and the more motors,the better, right? You can move the same vehicle with six smaller, more power-efficient motors than you can with four larger and stronger ones - which in turn save quite a bit of space compared to one central powerplant driving the wheels via a transmission, car-style. This is fine, so long as all those wheels are touching the ground. Ursa drivers have become painfully aware of the fact that, upon hitting even the most low-lying rock, the design of the wheelbase is likely to lift two wheels off the ground -- the offending corner and the center wheel on that side -- rather than one. All of a sudden, you've lost a third of your powertrain, rather than a sixth - and on the side where you need it most.

Now, add in the rest: Like the fact that the ursa IS a large vehicle - considerably wider than most of its contemporaries, so there's much more vehicle to tilt out of the way and clear a rock or an unlevel bump. Or the fact that the front wheels aren't on the front corners of the vehicle - which effectively negates most of the front clearance, altogether. Then add in a needlessly-divided and poorly-wired interior, where putting weight on one of the jump seats is often required to get the interior door to open, and you've got an oversized, underpowered tortoise of a vehicle.

But it's got a great internal atmosphere system to keep you alive! Good. You'll need it, when your skid plate bottoms out a rock and you're waiting for your friends to come pick you up.

Are you there, RSI? Have you heard all of this? You're ALMOST there. You got the Ursa ALMOST right. We know you made it to fit in the cargo hold of the Constellation, and it does, thank you - but you can make it fit better. You can sacrifice that great front-lower visibility that a rover doesn't remotely need, for tires on the corners of the chassis. You can lift the whole thing just a teensy bit more; we won't mind having to use a step to get in instead of a ramp. And you can power the wheels with the expectation that one or two of them won't be in contact with the ground at any given time, so it can still actually move in those situations. We promise, we'll still love you.

Well, like you.

Well, we promise we won't laugh and throw things at Ursas as we zip by in our Cyclones.



I'll see you out there,

Billy Hyde


*In-game image by Mr_Hasgaha

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