Sci-fi flight sims....dead?

While watching some Firefly I marvelled at how cool some of the atmospheric ship effects looked, and realized I can’t remember the last cool sci-fi space simulator, either space or atmospheric. The state of the art in graphics has been pushed consistently for first person and even third person RTS, but not in the domain of flight sims.

So what games are out there I just haven’t heard of, or are they all dead? I keep remembering fun death matches of Terminal Reality…

Well, the X series is still around… not sure what else.


There are no AAA studio space sims even on the horizon, no. However, if you look at eastern european boutique dev houses, X3 just went gold and looks absolutely gorgeous. I never played the prequels, depending on reviews I may pick it up.

In space, everything is made of plastic!

Kind of a weird thing, when you see a plastic concrete wall in a fps you deny it, because you know what a concrete wall should look like. Space stations, on the other hand, don’t exist so I have no problems with that stylistic approach.

Wow, it does look really good. Any games where you can fly over the terrain though (i.e. atmospheric entry)? Are flight sims just dead?

I believe you can do that in Universal Combat. Warning: Derek Smart game.

Starshatter, published by Matrix games, is a very good space combat sim.

If only Serenity took off and they made a Independence War type game about it where you could fly a Firefly class ship. That engine is already perfect for it, they just need to add new graphics. At least the sound effects department would have an easy job although I thought I heard some sounds during the big space battle in Serenity.

You’d never sell a space game with no sound to the consumer.

That being said, I’ve always thought that given the importance of sound in combat, that even in a future setting, you may have computers calculating the actions around you and pumping you sounds as representation. So sounds in space make sense, if you consider them an output from your ship computer, rather than actual ‘sound’.

That’s pretty clever – and the possibilities for sci-fi movie/TV show backwards-rationalization are simply staggering. :)

All from a personal base of “space combat without sound is BORING”.

I still think Terminus is the high point of space sims.

It is all within one solar system, too - which, as I learned from the intro to the movie, is the same with Firefly (just a different solar system).

One of these days I will have to try the online play at TerminusPoint.

Ha! Someone else remembers Terminus. Yeah, they got alot right in that game. But how much better it would have been with a slicker setting and high end graphics along the lines of Freelancer. One game got the guts right and the other had the packaging. I’d been thinking about it recently as each time I load up X-Men: AoA I see that Vicarious Visions screen. Not sure if TerminusPoint is still around but they had some neat ideas for ongoing campaigns and the like. That was one of the many brilliant aspects of Terminus - the persistant player-administered server with configurable events.

Yeah, that’s a good summary.

Man, I really miss this genre, even though the occasion game trickles out, from an independent or European studio. But it’s been more than 5 years now since it had support from a North American studio.

I don’t understand why they don’t at least try one on a console. Those types of games (Star Raiders) were really popular on early consoles. I can’t even imagine how great the FreeSpace series would be now if Volition had been able to continue it…or Origin’s Wing Commader series…or Larry Holland’s X-wing Series, etc. We saw a little bit about what we could expect with the SWG space expansion (worked on by some of the old Wing commander crew).

Yeah, space combat sims would be completely at home on a console. Built in joysticks, plenty of buttons. High res displays coming next…

But what really scare people off is the fact that Freespace 2, arguably one of the best space combat sims ever made, only sold like… 20k copies.

X3 is coming out on console, Xbox to be specific.

Edit: At least it was planned for Xbox, seems the console version is now on hold.

Are you serious about that 20k figure? God, that was such an awesome game.

No wonder we haven’t seen a decent one since.

Well, for all its flaws, IMO Freelancer had some fine “guts.” I loved the “living world” stuff – the patrols, the trading ships going in and out and being picked on by pirates, the shifting faction relationships, the endless skirmishes in contested areas. Playing in sandbox mode I had some very cool moments – bootstrapping yourself up to a decent living in New York with only illegal behavior, for instance, is not easy, and it’s cool the way the system maps, stations, jump holes, etc. “open up” in different ways for you depending on the faction choices you’ve made.

Not that Freelancer is in any way unique among space sims for this, but it wasn’t just a “dumb blonde” design – I think it just lacked certain things to tie it all together – like dynamic economy, better/more varied nonscripted missions, and a higher power curve (and, if we want to get really ambitious, dynamic political maps as well, with system control shifting from faction to faction in a way the player can influence). To me it really does feel like 60% of a classic. I liked the interface (think of it as “Diablo in space”) and the idea of letting me enjoy the graphics and atmosphere of a space sim without the, err, sim bits. I think all that dev time in the scripted campaign was essentially wasted; it was ok but I’d rather have seen them make the sandbox mode better.

But man, why oh why don’t more CRPG designers take pages from space sims’ book, when it comes to the “living world” elements?