Space games -- what elements do you like the most?

This isn’t a poll, since I think it’s similar to MMORPGs in that there isn’t one super major key element that makes people like them, but a combination of elements.

Wealth: The thrill of making a discovery such as low cost kuhlquatz on Finnigan’s Take or a mineral rich asteroid, and then leveraging that into a lot of cash so you can buy more shit.

Advancement: The thrill of upgrading, configuring, and otherwise advancing your character and spaceship with better stuff, skills, traits, crew members, etc.

Exploration: The thrill of entering a new sector, quadrant, or system for the first time and seeing what’s going on. The joy of watching other denizens going about their business.

Combat: Looking for others to beat down and prove your mastery of the space lanes.

Socializing: This applies to on-line only, but the ability to meet and join up with others.

Obviously these chain together – wealth provides advancement which opens up exploration which leads to more wealth, and combat helps with exploration and socializing is just fun (and also helps with exploration).

A combination of the first 4 all appeal to me, though I’d consider “wealth” a subset of “advancement.”

I like the idea of being able to move around different worlds; I like the atmosphere of space games since I am a sci fi nerd from way back; and I like the “living world” elements (dynamic economy, opposing factions, police patrols, smugglers and pirates, etc.) which seem particularly well developed in some space sims.

“Space game” is a good way to put it because, for me, the “sim” aspect is less important. I’d like to see more games go back to the hybrid-RPG style that we saw with '80s entries like Starflight or Space Rogue. Conversely, I’d like to see more CRPGs adopt some of the living-world/dynamic stuff that space sims have been doing for a while now.

Mostly I like exploring. However I need to be good at combat to explore most areas, and so I need to go through advancement to survive, and to advance I need wealth.

As for socialization? I could care less.

As far as each type I Feel:

Wealth: Trade routes get old fast, mining gets old too. Tradeskils can be fun however, espeically when you combine it with tade routes / mining. IE: You can make a speical engine, you find a cheap supply of parts at some trading post, a great market somewhere else, and maybe you can mine some of the rarer minerals needed from some secret asterid field you found somewhere.

Advancement: Differant kinds of builds are fun. Not just bigger engines, hull, and guns. But maybe going a stealthy route, or getting a hyper fast ship to smuggle goods to trade parcels that absolutly have to get to alpha centari 2 hours ago.

I also want the world to advance. Maybe I can fund the constuction of a starbase somewhere very convient to me, or I can upgrade an outpost to a full space station for extra services. Maybe I can start a colony somewhere or something.

Combat: one on one battles are nice, but so are squad vs squad, or huge fleet battles like from Wing commander. Also upgrading to beyond one guy in one ship to a fleet of several capitol ships, frigates, and fighters might be a cool progession too.

Also missions and whatnot where its not neccairly about killing someone or something. Flying near a dangerous base to take pictures, avoiding police while you smuggle goods (or just out running them).

See the sights of the universe. This is very nice, but how many nebula and planets are there and how can they all be intresting? There are also cultures you can explore (maybe you become friends with the space pirates or the xargog empire). Then there are spacial anomolies or even other dimensions maybe you can explore.

The shooting and the exploding within the context of a bigger story (Tie Fighter, Wing Commander).

The snooping around planets and finding cool things; the talking to aliens and sometimes ticking them off; the occasinal blowing up of a planet (Starflight).

The building of a bigger and better ship (Privateer).

Thinking about making a space game?

…and Sun Dog and Elite and what not. That’s the direction I’m heading.

Another way of putting my question is “What prototype do you enjoy the most?” There are numerous, but in a nutshell:
[li] pirate
[/li][li] smuggler
[/li][li] escort/fighter
[/li][li] merchant
[/li][li] cartographer/scout
[/li][li] assault
[/li][li] crafter (ship builder, weapons upgrader, etc.)
[/li][li] diplomat
[/li][li] …many others

Ask the guys at Ambrosia. It’s been years since I’ve played any of their games since it’s been years since I’ve owned a Mac, but Escape Velocity was my favorite Space Game of all time… even better than Master of Orion 2!

Here’s what Escape Velocity had:

Astroids-style combat
Upgradeable ships
…and a bunch of other stuff too cool to remember, I’m sure…

anyhow, it was loads of fun… hmm… maybe I’ll see if the old powerbook still runs…

You could just get the Windows version of Escape Velocity Nova…

I almost tried EV for windows once, but space rangers seemed nice enough to me, and I refuse to install quicktime, because I fucking hate it.

My Optimal Space Adventure

In space, no one can see you smile.

My Optimal Space Adventure (MOSA) is a refreshing blend of old-school dogfighting, galaxy-spanning trading, and piracy, with just enough modern touches to revitalize the space sim as one of mainstream gaming’s favorite genres. It’s one of the most important games of 2008 and we’re here with an exclusive review.

From the moment you step foot onto Finnegan’s Take, the first of hundreds of procedurally-generated space stations in MOSA, you’ll feel you’ve stepped into a busy universe–one too busy to care you exist. If there’s a fault to be found with MOSA, it’s that the initial first-person sections can be overwhelming, with a variety of shops and information kiosks to visit. That Finnegan’s Take seems overly large at first will elicit a chuckle from MOSA veterans – later stations in out-space can be ten times as large.

Thankfully, the built-in tutorial, cleverly woven into the plot as your trusty, subdued implant sidekick, makes getting quickly into a ship simple. Indeed, most of the potential drudgery of the first-person sequences is avoided by simply choosing, via your implant’s menu, your desired action. Skipping station exploration will appeal to those who really just came for the space combat, but many will get a kick out of MOSA’s many unlisted merchants and cargo only available by physically scouting out each station. It’s a good compromise, and with the exception of a single, random “get to your ship before the station explodes” sequence that suffers from a timing bug, it works well to make the player feel part of living, breathing worlds.

Of course if you chose to pay the monthly subscription to plug into the MMO portion of the game, often those stations will be alive, populated by other players, although at the time of this review, seeing other players in remote stations was a rare site. In core systems with dozens of players both docked and flying in the system of a station, there was considerable lag. MOSAsoft says that optimizing the network code is their “highest priority” in the upcoming patch.

But what about the space combat? In a word: a stunning revolution in form. MOSA manages to retain the seat-of-the-pants feel of classics like Wing Commander and Tie Fighter while allowing for pseudo-realistic space maneuvers like inertial 180s. In systems with micro-planetoids and dwarf stars, a skilled (and daring) pilot can even use the gravitational pull to slingshot himself to incredible speeds, avoiding homing torpedos and gunfire while putting tremendous stress on the spaceframe of his ship. The physics are far from real, but offer a wide range of piloting styles for you to play with.

In fact, it’s in the variety of ship maneuvers that some will notice a surprising similarity to a PC gaming classic–Star Control II. While most space sims offer one control scheme or another – often a WWII-inspired dogfighting model – each ship in MOSA can be configured with different thrusting mechanisms. Like Star Control, dogfighting a ship with a radically-different control scheme can take a change in tactics. An inertia-based craft is able to turn on its axes to aim almost immediately, but unable to change its direction of flight as quickly as a jet-like ship. It’s far from realistic, but the careful balance makes it work.

And like Star Control, exploring new solar systems while advancing the well-written plot is what MOSA’s all about. Unlike many space games, MOSA doesn’t mind if you don’t stick to the plot – you’ll just ‘lose’ the main game. Gamers perfectly satisfied to adventure through the dynamic world can skip whole sections of the plot line, which is smartly segmented into timed chapters which affect the universe as a whole, whether you choose to participate in them or not. MOSAsoft promises the MMO game, which is set directly after the events of the single-player campaign, will also grow and change according to the actions of its players.

To skip the plot would be a shame, though, as the single player campaign, while somewhat sparse, is wonderfully scripted. Sadly, the voice acting is sometimes overwrought, at times showed up by the computer-generated speech that fills your cockpit while in busy space lanes. The voice acting does add greatly to the immersion of the in-cockpit sequences, however, especially in a particularly poignant segment involving your implant sidekick, a pregnant cyborg prostitute, and a wormhole. (You’ll know it when you get to it; it’s too perfect to spoil.)

Capital ships are incredibly important in MOSA. You won’t be able to fly them directly, but build up your space cartel enough and you’ll be able to hire them to support you on your adventures. Seeing two big boats slug it out in a cloud of igniting gas is a sight to behold – especially when you’re trying to fly between their beam and projectile weapons to recover jettisoned crew. Later in the game you’ll even be able to hire a carrier with its own landing bay, shops, and fighting drones. MOSAsoft says to expect player-owned carriers to make it into the MMO game by the expansion.

What makes MOSA a landmark game, however, is its acknowledgment and assimilation of many techniques from games’ past. Not just space sims, but many of the most successful games from all genres. Especially noticeable are MOSA’s Grand Theft Auto: Slough-like minigames, seamlessly integrated into the space flight experience. Landing on the deck of a frigate to re-arm isn’t critical to winning most dogfights, but do it with enough panache and you’ll be rewarded with an extra shield boost as soon as you relaunch. It’s clear MOSA’s developers spent many hours tweaking each of the ‘non-simmy’ minigames to add just the right amount of tension – and tactical advantage – when in a big furball.

Graphics, powered by the Unreal 2010 engine, are typically stellar. The art direction leans toward the mundane, with boxy and cylindrical shapes making up a large portion of at least the initial ship selection. (As you progress you can earn sleeker and more useful modules with which to upgrade – and later build – your ships.) PS3 owners are in for a special treat, as the heretofore-unused second HDMI output can be used to power a second screen with extra HUD graphics and interface modules, just like the PC and DS2 versions.

Although we could go on and on about the refinements MOSA offers (dual joystick support!), we can’t help thinking of the words of the late Tom Chick: “It’s just a lot of fun.” Even in the still-rough-edged MMO portion, it fails to get old, even after hundreds of hours of play. Warping from system to system, scanning to find ore-rich planets, selling maps of your finds to hopeful newbies, competing in the friendly PVP matches inside a hollow planet – there’s a wealth of things to do. And with factions, player-owned space stations, and galaxy-affecting events in the cards, there’s going to be a lot more to do very soon.

It’s taken him twenty years, but let us be the first to publicly congratulate him: Derek Smart has done a hell of a job.

Sounds great with the exception of Tom’s untimely death and Smartyman’s involvment. (a polished, playable game from him would be nice, but combining him with an MMO is just a baaaaad idea IMO)

Personally my favorite parts of an expansive space sim (not a combat-oriented space sim) are exploration/discovery, wealth, and advancement. This can be accomplished with both sims and larger-scale adventure games like Starflight or Star Control II.

Combat is fun in these games but to me its secondary to exploration, which is my favorite part of expansive space games and sims. Noctis does this portion very well.

I’d also have to say that Joel did a good job of hitting the main points of a dream space game. First pirson combat ala x-wing or freespace, exploration and profit making like privateer or frontier, and first person exploration like morrowind.

It’ll be a while before that game is made, however, but that’s my $0.02. Thanks!

Same for me as well. I must’ve played Starflight for an entire year before I finished. Exploring was just so damn fun in that game - discovering Earth ranks up there as one of my all time favorite moments in PC gaming.

Remember those flux point worm holes? If you entered one with a poorly trained navigator it would take awhile before he/she/it was able to ascertain your location. Encountering the Uhlek for the first time, oh man you better run like hell.

Sun Dog?!? Isn’t that the game where when, after 100 hours of play, you finish and it displays: “Press any joystick button to play again”? Yikes! PLEASE at least give us some kinda closing scene- hugs, well-wishing, even spike-haired, big-eyed anime crying over some mysterious sentient nature-loving blob.

Man. I gotta get back to work.

I want a space naval game with the detail level that Sonalysts puts into their sub games. Maybe with a tactical view like Taldren’s Starfleet games - but minus the startrek cheese, and with some Harpoon style beef.

As for the above prototypes, a lot of them are very hard to implement. IE: Explorer / Cartographer. What do you do? Fly around filling out your map? You can do that with any archtype. When I was in Earth and Beyond, I was a Jenquai Explorer, which at first I thought was great, but after a while it just became about mining, which sucked ass. There was not much to find any most systems besides Nav Points.

A Pirate is always attractive to me, but there are always huge problems with this in games. The first being the NPC pirates get away with a lot more then PC ones. They are constant trouble and are mostly ignored. However, if you do what they do, soon the imperial navy will be after your ass. To make a pirate career worth while there needs to be a good support network for pirates. Places to buy / sell, safe areas (secret bases, space controlled by other pirates), and proabbly a good pirate storyline. IE: You will not be getting quests through the normal channels.

Combat is fun: The challenge is to keep it from becomming boaring. I am not sure how to do this. After you get your 400th space foozle kill, it gets a little repetive.

You give them better scouting abilities than other prototypes (more information appears on their maps, they can see farther, etc.), and then you give them (and only them) the ability to sell maps they make to NPCs. So flying around and exploring are a means to make money for an explorer character. You have to make sure there are interesting things to discover, of course.

The pitfalls are that your universe is going to be finite in scope, so eventually there’s nothing left to explore. But other prototypes will eventually go through all the content available for them as well, so as long as your universe is sufficiently expansive, that doesn’t have to be an issue.

If you’re making a game about exploring in space why does the universe have to be particularly finite? That’s what randomization is for isn’t it?

Maybe you could even have strange adventures while you’re out there?


Seriously though it’d be pretty cool to see a much nerdier, grognardier, version of Strange Adventures In Infinite Space. Maybe that’s what Space Rangers 2 is but I don’t know. No DVD drive here. :)

You know what I would love to see? Modern remakes of the Rules of Engagement Games. THOSE were probably some of the best tactical starship games I’ve ever played. If you don’t know what I’m talking about:

Rules of Engagement 1
Rules of Engagement 2

They had great combat, tons of detailed systems to deal with, like communications, tactical, navigation, and engineering, and so on, all done in real-time.

It’ll probably never happen, however, but those could serve as fantastic templates for what good starship combat and control should be like.