Space flight simulator game
|Part of a series on:|
|Simulation video games|
A space flight simulator game is a genre of flight simulator video games that lets players experience space flight. Examples of true simulators which aim at piloting a space craft in a manner that conforms with the laws of nature include Orbiter and Microsoft Space Simulator.
Other games involving space flight in 3D space, without restricting movement to a physics system and realistic behaviour, are also commonly called "space flight simulators". They aren't simulators in the strictest sense of the word. These games do differ from space-based arcade oriented shoot 'em up games that use side-scrolling or top-down perspectives. When the genre appeared in the early 1980s, the use of 3D graphics and 1st person perspective, with the player viewing out of the cockpit, gave a sense of realism. This the designation of space flight simulators, even though a better name for these games would be "pseudo simulators" or "space flight games". Most space combat simulators and space trading simulators can be placed in the "pseudo space flight simulator" category.
Space flight games and simulators, at one time popular, had for most of the new millennium been considered a "dead" genre. However, open-source and enthusiast communities managed to produce some working, modern titles (see the free Orbiter Spaceflight Simulator), and 2011's commercially releasedKerbal Space Program was notably well-received, even by the aerospace community.
Some games in the genre have the aim of recreating a realistic portrayal of space flight, involving the calculation of orbits within a more complete physics simulation than pseudo space flight simulators. Others focus on gameplay rather than simulating space flight in all its facets. The realism of the latter games is limited to what the game designer deems to be appropriate for the gameplay, instead of focusing on the realism of moving the spacecraft in space. Some "flight models" use a physics system based on Newtonian physics, but these are usually limited to manoeuvring the craft in its direct environment, and do not take into consideration the orbital calculations that would make such a game a simulator. Most of the pseudo simulators feature faster than light travel, a feat not possible according to the physics we know of today.
Realistic space simulators seek to represent a vessel's behaviour under the influence of the Laws of Physics. As such, the player normally concentrates on following checklists or planning tasks. Piloting is generally limited to dockings, landings or orbital maneuvers. The reward for the player is on mastering real or realistic spacecraft, celestial mechanics and astronautics.
Classical games with this approach include Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space (1982), Rendezvous: A Space Shuttle Simulation (1982), The Halley Project (1985), Shuttle (1992) and Microsoft Space Simulator (1994).
If the definition is expanded to include decision making and planning, then Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space (1992) is also notable for historical accuracy and detail. On this game the player takes the role of Administrator of NASA or Head of the Soviet Space Program with the ultimate goal of being the first side to conduct a successful manned moon landing.
Kerbal Space Program can be considered a space simulator, even though it portrays an imaginary universe with tweaked physics, masses and distances to enhance gameplay. Nevertheless, the physics and rocket design principles are much more realistic than in the space combat or trading sub-genres.
The game Lunar Flight simulates flying around the lunar surface in a craft resembling the Apollo Lunar Module.
Space combat game
Most games in the space combat genre feature futuristic scenarios involving space flight and extra planetary combat. Such games generally place the player into the controls of a small starfighter or smaller starship in a military force of similar and larger spaceships and don't take into account the physics of space flight, usually often citing some technological advancement to explain the lack thereof. The prominent Wing Commander, Tachyon: The Fringe, X-Wing and Freespace series all use this approach. Exceptions include the first Independence War and the Star Trek: Bridge Commander series, which model craft at a larger scale and/or in a more strategic fashion. It should be noted that I-War also features Newtonian style physics for the behaviour of the space craft, but not orbital mechanics.
Space combat games tend to be mission-based, as opposed to the more open-ended nature of space trading and combat games.
Space trading and combat game
The general formula for the space trading and combat game, which has changed little since its genesis, is for the player to begin in a relatively small, outdated ship with little money or status and for the player to work his or her way up, gaining in status and power through trading, exploration, combat or a mix of different methods. The ship the player controls is generally larger than that in pure space combat simulator. Notable examples of the genre include Elite, Wing Commander: Privateer, and Freelancer.
In some instances, plot plays only a limited role and only a loose narrative framework tends to be provided. In certain titles of the X series, for instance, players may ignore the plot for as long as they wish and are even given the option to disable the plot completely and instead play in sandbox mode. Many games of this genre place a strong emphasis on factional conflict, leading to many small mission-driven subplots that unravel the tensions of the galaxy.
Games of this type often allow the player to choose among multiple roles to play and multiple paths to victory. This aspect of the genre is very popular, but some people have complained that, in some titles, the leeway given to the player too often is only superficial, and that, in reality, the roles offered to players are very similar, and open-ended play too frequently restricted by scripted sequences. As an example, Freelancer has been criticised for being too rigid in its narrative structure, being in one case compared negatively with Grand Theft Auto, another series praised for its open-ended play.
All space trading and combat games feature the core gameplay elements of directly controlling the flight of some sort of space vessel, generally armed, and of navigating from one area to another for a variety of reasons. As technology has improved it has been possible to implement a number of extensions to gameplay, such as dynamic economies, cooperative online play, Overall, the core gameplay mechanics of the genre have changed little over the years.
Some recent games, such as 2003's EVE Online, have expanded the scope of the experience by including thousands of simultaneous online players in what is sometimes referred to as a "living universe"—a dream some have held since the genre's early beginnings. Star Citizen, a 2014 title in open, crowd-funded development by Chris Roberts and others involved in Freelancer and Wing Commander, aims to bridge the gap between the EVE-like living universe game and the fast action of other games in the genre. It remains to be seen whether the game will succeed.
An additional sub-class of space trading games eliminate combat entirely, focusing instead entirely on trading and economic manipulation in order to achieve success.
Space flight games
Most modern space flight games on the personal computer allow a player to utilise a combination of the WASD keys of the keyboard and mouse as a means of controlling the game (games such as Microsoft's Freelancer use this control system exclusively). By far the most popular control system among genre enthusiasts, however, is the joystick. Most fans prefer to use this input method whenever possible, but expense and practicality mean that many are forced to use the keyboard and mouse combination (or gamepad if such is the case). The lack of uptake among the majority of modern gamers has also made joysticks a sort of an anachronism, though some new controller designs and simplification of controls offer the promise that space sims may be playable in their full capacity on gaming consoles at some time in the future. In fact, X3: Reunion, sometimes considered one of the more cumbersome and difficult series of to master within the trading and combat genre, was initially planned for the Xbox but later cancelled.
Realistic simulators feature spacecraft systems and instrument simulation, using a combination of extensive keyboard shortcuts and mouse clicks on virtual instrument panels. Most of the maneuvers and operations consist of setting certain systems into the desired configuration, or in setting autopilots. Real time hands on piloting can happen, depending on the simulated spacecraft. For example, it's common to use a joystick analog control to land a space shuttle (or any other spaceplane) or the LEM (or similar landers). Dockings can be performed more precisely using the numerical keypad. Overall, the simulations have more complex control systems than game, with the limit being the physical reproduction of the actual simulated spacecraft (see SimPit ).
Early attempts at 3D space simulation date back as far as 1974's Spasim, an online multi-player space simulator in which players attempt to destroy each other's ships.
The earliest known space trader dates to 1974's Star Trader, a game where the entire interface was text-only and included a star map with multiple ports buying and selling 6 commodities. It was written in BASIC.
The modern space flight game genre emerged at the point when home computers became sufficiently powerful to draw basic wireframe graphics in real-time. The game Elite is widely considered to be the breakthrough game of the genre, and as having successfully melded the "space trading" and flight sim genres. Elite was highly influential upon later games of its type, although it did have some precursors, and games similar to Elite are sometimes called "Elite-clones".
Elite has made a lasting impression on developers, worldwide, extending even into different genres. In interviews, senior producers of CCP Games cited Elite as one of the inspirations for their acclaimed MMORPG, EVE Online. Thorolfur Beck credits Elite as the game that impacted him most on the Commodore 64. Developers of Jumpgate Evolution, Battlecruiser 3000AD, Infinity: The Quest for Earth, Hard Truck: Apocalyptic Wars and Flatspace likewise all claim Elite as a source of inspiration.
Elite was named one of the sixteen most influential games in history at Telespiele, a German technology and games trade show, and is being exhibited at such places as the London Science Museum in the "Game On" exhibition organized and toured by the Barbican Art Gallery. Elite was also named #12 on IGN's 2000 "Top 25 PC Games of All Time" list, the #3 most influential video game ever by the Times Online in 2007, and "best game ever" for the BBC Micro by Beebug Magazine in 1984. Elite's sequel, Frontier: Elite II, was named #77 on PC Zone's "101 Best PC Games Ever" list in 2007. Similar praise has been bestowed elsewhere in the media from time to time.
Elite is one of the most popularly requested games to be remade, and some argue that it is still the best example of the genre to date, with more recent titles—including its sequel—not rising up to its level. It has been credited as opening the door for future online persistent worlds, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, and as being the first truly open-ended game. It is to this day one of the most ambitious games ever made, residing in only 22 kilobytes of memory and on a single floppy disk. The latest incarnation of the franchise, titled Elite: Dangerous is due for release in late 2014, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Though not as well known as Elite, Trade Wars is noteworthy as the first multiplayer space trader. A BBS door, Trade Wars was released in 1984 as an entirely different branch of the space trader tree, having been inspired by Hunt the Wumpus, the board game Risk, and the original space trader, Star Trader. As a pure space trader, Trade Wars lacked any space flight simulator elements, instead featuring abstract Open World trading and combat set in an outer space populated by both real and NPC opponents. It was influential in its own right, with modern space traders like Star Citizen, Jumpgate, and Earth and Beyond citing it as an inspiration, and other games like EVE Online and Pardus frequently compared to it. In 2009, it was named the #10 best PC game by PC World Magazine.
Trade Wars has shown an extraordinary reach and longevity. As of 2013, nearly 30 years after its original release, multiplayer Trade Wars games have been hosted on over 20,000 sites in 59 different countries, with hundreds of game sites hosting thousands of players in 2012.
Elite was not the first game to take flight game mechanics into outer space. Other notable earlier examples include Star Raiders (1979), Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space (1982), Rendezvous: A Space Shuttle Simulation (1982), and Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (1982), which featured five different controls to learn, six different enemies, and 40 different simulation levels of play, making it one of the most elaborate vector games ever released. Other early examples include Nasir Gebelli's 1982 Apple II computer games Horizon V which featured an early radar mechanic and Zenith which allowed the player ship to rotate, and Ginga Hyoryu Vifam, which allowed first-person open space exploration with a radar displaying the destination and player/enemy positions as well as an early physics engine where approaching a planet's gravitational field pulls the player towards it. Following Elite were games such as The Halley Project (1985), Echelon (1987) and Microsoft Space Simulator (1994). Star Luster, released for the NES console and arcades in 1985, featured a cockpit view, a radar displaying enemy and base locations, the ability to warp anywhere, and a date system keeping track of the current date.
Some tabletop and board games, such as Traveller or Merchant of Venus, also feature themes of space combat and trade. Traveller influenced the development of Elite (the main character in Traveller is named "Jamison"; the main character in Elite is named "Jameson") and Jumpgate Evolution.
The seeming decline of the space flight simulators and games in the late '90s coincided with the rise of the RTS, FPS and RPG game genres, with such examples as Warcraft, Doom and Diablo. The very things that made these games classics, such as their open-endedness, complex controls and attention to detail, have been cited as reasons for this decline.
Some recent franchises such as the X series and EVE Online, may end a decade in which no new title of the genre was published. The open source community has also been active, with recent projects such as FS2 Open and Vega Strike serving as platforms for nonprofessional efforts. Remakes of Elite and Privateer are even being made using the Vega Strike engine, and the latter reached the stage it is offered as a working title to the public.
In November 2012 Star Citizen set a new record for crowdfunding. It has managed to raise more than $50 million as of August 2014. Elite: Dangerous was also successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter in November and December 2012. Born Ready Games also closed a successful Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2012 raising almost $180,000 to assist with the completion of Strike Suit Zero which was released January 2013.
- Peckham, Matt (September 26, 2006). "DarkStar One". SciFi.com. Retrieved 2007-11-17.[dead link]
- "Space Interceptor: Project Freedom". MyGamer. November 9, 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Weise, Matt (May 28, 2003). "Freelancer". GameCritics. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- LaMosca, Adam (July 18, 2006). "Lost in the Void". The Escapist. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Wen, Howard (February 12, 2008). "What Happened To The Last Starfighters?". The Escapist. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Andrew Groen (June 18, 2013). "NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is obsessed with a certain game, and I bet you can guess what it is". The PA Report. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
- Barton, Matt; Bill Loguidice (April 7, 2009). "The History of Elite: Space, the Endless Frontier". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
- "SW3DG releases Evochron Renegades". GameTunnel. October 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-16.[dead link]
- "Evochron". GameZone. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators". GamingTrend. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "X3: Reunion". IGN. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators (PC)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Brenesal, Barry (December 6, 2005). "IGN: X3: Reunion Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- Fahey, Rob (September 30, 2003). "X2 - The Threat preview". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Willimas, Bryn (September 2000). "GameSpy.com - Hall of Fame: Elite". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Fahey, Rob (April 11, 2003). "Freelancer Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Whitehead, Dan (February 4, 2008). "Born Free: the History of the Openworld Game". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Shoemaker, Richie (August 14, 2002). "Games that changed the world: Elite". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "X3: Reunion review at games xtreme". games xtreme. January 25, 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- "X2 The Threat". GameInfoWire. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Carless, Simon (March 5, 2008). "GDC: Game Designers Rant On Making Games That Matter". GameSetWatch. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Peckham, Matt (March 7, 2006). "Flatspace II: The Rise of the Scarrid". SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Fahey, Rob (February 6, 2004). "X2: The Threat Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "X3: Reunion for Xbox". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Hartmeyer, Steve (February 13, 2008). "Dev Diary: The Inspirations Behind Jumpgate Evolution". The MMO Gamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Aihoshi, Richard (August 1, 2000). "EVE Interview". RPGVault. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Eberle, Matt (November 17, 2004). "Star Sonata Review". GameZone. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- Gillen, Kieron (July 17, 2006). "Darkstar One Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Vandervell, Andrew (August 16, 2006). "DarkStar One Review for PC". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- "X: Beyond The Frontier Review". Eurogamer. October 21, 1999. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Scatteia, L. (2005). "Title: Space-themed videogames: an effective way to promote space". The Electronic Library (Emerald Group Publishing Limited) 23 (5): 553–566. doi:10.1108/02640470510631272. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "Evolution and Risk: CCP on the Freedoms of EVE Online". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Breeden II, John. "Keep Looking Up: Space-based Eve Online Enjoys Success". GamesIndustry. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Johnson, Joe (February 9, 2006). "Infinity: Quest for the Earth". ModDB. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "Hard Truck: Apocalyptic Wars interview". Duck and Cover. April 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Carroll, Russell (October 27, 2003). "Chat with Cornutopia about FLATSPACE by Game Tunnel". Game Tunnel. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Bergman, Jason. "Serious Brass Ones (A peek inside the world of Derek Smart)". looneygames. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Plunkett, Luke (August 27, 2007). "German Journos Pick Their Most Important Games Of All Time". Kotaku. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Barnett, Jane (2006-10-24). Game On in London!.
- "The Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. July 24, 2000. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Moran, Michael (September 20, 2007). "The ten most influential video games ever". Times Online. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Fell, David (November 1984). "Elite - An Outstanding New Game from Acornsoft". Beebug Magazine.
- "The 101 best PC games ever". PC Zone. May 12, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- "The Hot 100 Game Developers Of 2007". GamesIndustry.biz. March 3, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-20. "David Braben is one of the old-time legends of British computer gaming – along with Ian Bell, he co-wrote the space simulator Elite, a hugely influential game often earmarked as one of the best ever made."
- "Presented in Retrovision: Elite". Gay Gamer. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20. "Elite is still one of the most influential games to date, having inspired EVE Online, Freespace, Jumpgate, Homeworld and a handful of other space titles."
- Barrat, Andy (January 30, 2008). "Racing Into The Future". G4techTV Canada. Retrieved 2008-06-20. "But [the BBC Micros] weren't just for learning on, a handful of games were actually released for the Beeb - two of the most influential games ever in fact – one of which was Revs. (...) The other super influential game [besides Revs] by the way, was Elite."
- Shoemaker, Richie (August 13, 2001). "PC Review: X - Beyond the Frontier". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-06-20. "If, however - like me - you consider Elite to be the best game ever made, X - Beyond The Frontier is by far its closest relation."
- Karlsson, Peter (Issue 8). "Classic Commodore games on the web". Commodore World. "In 1984, Ian Bell was the one of the authors of a game that by many still is regarded as the best game ever written, Elite (the other author was David Braben)."
- "The complete history of open-world games". Computer and Video Games. May 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Rector, Charles (July 27, 2007). "Interviews: Werner Bayer aka Bladefist of Pardus". Online Multiplayer Games Network. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
- Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator at AllGame
- Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, p. 70, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 0-313-33868-X
- John Romero, Horizon V at MobyGames
- John Romero, Zenith at MobyGames
- Gingahyōryū Vifam at MobyGames
- "Star Luster". Virtual Console. Nintendo. Retrieved 2011-05-08. (Translation)
- Ray Barnholt (August 6, 2008). "Star Luster: To boldly go". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Star Luster at the Killer List of Videogames
- Hooper, George. "Elite Trivia". George Hooper. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
- "Privateer Gemini Gold 1.02a Review". Macworld. January 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.