Sandbox Space Sims: Starflight

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jan 22, 2014

Filed under: Game Reviews 74 comments

Previously, I asked about sandbox space sims. You had a lot of suggestions for me on what’s out there, what’s good, and what’s worth a look at this point in time. I took your advice – or some of it – and for the next few entries I’m going to write about what I played and what I thought about it.

This is a strange genre. Everyone has their own idea about what features really define it. Combat? Asteroid mining? Trade? Exploration? Fleet command? Ship design? Factions and interplanetary politics? Smuggling? Landing on planets? Character growth, leveling, and skill trees? Diplomacy with aliens? Commanding capital ships? Crew management? Piloting fighters? I dunno. No game does all of these, but a sandbox space sim does some subset of them.

We had nothing in this genre for years, and now there are a dozen of them on the horizon. We’re up to our asses in astronavigation at this point, and it’s only going to get worse* as the various early access / kickstarted prototypes grow up and become Actual Games.

* By which I mean “more awesome”.

Obviously one week is not nearly enough time to even begin to scratch the surface of one of these games, much less play a half dozen of them. So these are going to be drive-by reviews, quick looks and first impressions. Also, I’m not an expert on this genre (whatever that means) so if I complain about something then “But all the games do that!” is not a meaningful defense. Actually, that’s probably never a good defense anyway.

Let’s talk about the first of these things I ever played: Starflight.

This is actually a shot of Starflight 2, just to confuse things.
This is actually a shot of Starflight 2, just to confuse things.

I was playing Starflight 2 in 1992 or so, back when I was flipping burgers. But I first discovered the series in 1988, when I was a junior in high school. I had a bootleg copy of the game and I could only play it before or after computer class or after I had done my work.

The two games have gotten all tangled together in my mind now. I remember the plot of Starflight 1 but when I try to picture it all I see is Starflight 2.

At the time, I played the game as if it was a roguelike. Your “save file” was an entire floppy disk, so if you wanted multiple saves you needed multiple disks, and who has that kind of money? You could only save the game when docked at a space station, and those tended to be pretty far apart. So the game was hardcore in a way I’d never put up with now.

Orbital map, scanning the surface.
Orbital map, scanning the surface.

The plot of the game was kind of interesting. Your ship is powered by endurium, a substance which also serves as the currency of the galaxy. It’s this crystalline substance that I remember looked something like pink diamond-shaped icons, although people with better graphics hardware might have seen something else. (Alas, I was stuck in 4-color mode and wouldn’t know the joys of 256 color for a few years.) Everyone burns endurium in their ships. Everyone trades endurium for goods. Endurium makes the worlds go round, as it were.

In the game, suns were gradually flaring, starting from one edge of the galactic map and progressing towards the other. Your goal was to find out the cause and stop it before your own sun flared and wiped out the homeworld. Along the way you’d tangle with aliens, trade, explore planets, mine for resources, hire and train your bridge crew, and upgrade your ship. Not bad for a game that fit in half a megabyte of memory.

There wasn’t a clear breadcrumb trail to the end. You didn’t have quest makers, or even quests. You just had to explore and talk to people and remember stuff.

The star map. The green circles are nebulae, which tend to be filled with hostiles. So you were always torn: Do I risk going through, or go around? Given how agonizingly slow movement was on my computer and how painful it was to die, this set up quite a bit of tension and inner turmoil.
The star map. The green circles are nebulae, which tend to be filled with hostiles. So you were always torn: Do I risk going through, or go around? Given how agonizingly slow movement was on my computer and how painful it was to die, this set up quite a bit of tension and inner turmoil.

You can see from the map above that the game had a lot of star systems. Some had no planets. Some had many. Some planets were giants that would crush your ship if you landed on them. (I think everyone found that out the hard way. The game sure as hell didn’t warn you.) But all the planets were persistent and they all had their own unique topography and climate. If you landed on some world and mined some minerals, then those minerals stayed mined. Not bad for a game in that time period. Heck, that sort of persistence and attention to detail is pretty impressive for a game now.

If you stuck with it, you might eventually stumble on the (to me) mind-shattering realization that endurium was… ALIVE! It was this slow-moving, slow-thinking, slow-acting distributed intelligence. The sapient races of the galaxy had shown up at some point and just started stuffing these guys in their gas tanks. The lifeforms operated at such vastly different speeds that communication wasn’t really possible. The Ancients (the endurium) just viewed the space-faring bipeds of the galaxy as this sudden virus. The Ancients were (somehow) causing the flares in self-defense, in an attempt to kill all the fuel-burning sapients. The player’s ultimate goal was to land on a giant crystal planet and blow it up, thus killing a large part of the Ancient’s brain.

This is the stuff I lived for: The ship upgrades. Even back then, I was always disappointed there weren’t more decisions to be made here. It was basically a matter of upgrading to the best systems available and deciding how much you wanted to weigh yourself down with cargo pods. Also note that this shot is actually from Starflight 2.
This is the stuff I lived for: The ship upgrades. Even back then, I was always disappointed there weren’t more decisions to be made here. It was basically a matter of upgrading to the best systems available and deciding how much you wanted to weigh yourself down with cargo pods. Also note that this shot is actually from Starflight 2.

It’s pretty standard sci-fi fare now, but to a genre-oblivious eighteen year old Shamus in the late 80’s, this was the ultimate mind blow. Wow, man. The fuel is like, alive or whatever. Really makes you think, doesn’t it?

I don’ think the gameplay holds up well at all. There’s a lot of doing nothing while you cross vast distances. (Which is something this genre still struggles with.) The interface is terrible. The combat is shallow, slow, and fiddly. But all the ingredients are right and I’ve often daydreamed about how this series might have evolved if it had survived into the modern age. Instead, it perished and didn’t really leave us any heirs. Most of today’s sandbox space sims trace their lineage back to the Elite series, and Starflight is relegated to a curious footnote.


From The Archives:

74 thoughts on “Sandbox Space Sims: Starflight

  1. Paul Spooner says:

    Man, that sounds like an amazing and interesting game. I wish we had something like it these days as well. Eventually, I’m sure, someone will make it… Maybe you!

  2. Cybron says:

    I wonder if there is a good way to convey the massiveness and emptiness of space travel while still giving people stuff to do in transit. The only thing I can think of is in-ship stuff, a la Mass Effect, but that still feels janky. I think I just prefer the good old ‘destination select’ screen, all things considered.

    1. postinternetsyndrome says:

      Wouldn’t it be reasonable to engage with trading interfaces, look for newly posted missions and such while traveling? It’s what people do in the real world. You could set up a deal with a trader on some planet so that when you get there you just unload your current cargo, load the new one and get on your way, instead of having to spend a lot of time on location clicking around the trader’s inventory while conversely spending a lot of time before and after doing nothing.

      It could also add a potential extra layer of depth in that more isolated areas might have worse connection to the GalNet (or whatever), making the logistics more complicated when out in the wild asteroid belts, and enhancing the feeling of isolation out there because now you can’t access your news shows and such. You’d be reliant on friendly travellers like yourself selling you a recent dump of the news items in the sector, or bigger ships offering you to rent their big subspace antenna in order to get a mission.

      It would create flavour and contrast between the well-connected inner worlds and the less-developed, more dangerous, backwater areas.

      Also, look at GTA and the radio channels. Things like that would be awesome in a space sim. And expensive, I guess.

      1. Adam Fuller says:

        Reminds me of the Trader tales series where a lot of the action and planning happens during the travel from stop to stop.

    2. Veylon says:

      There could be interface where you tinker with the ship’s innards. There might be some tension if you weren’t sure your jerry-rigged shields would hold up when you got to Somewhere IV, so you had to try and decide whether ripping apart your sensor suite to get at some chips to enhance responsiveness would be worthwhile or not.

      I really don’t see much in the genre for dealing with equipment and spare parts.

    3. Maybe during travel you could do a few moves of a game of holographic chess. Let the wookiee win.

  3. Infinitron says:

    No heirs? That depends on what you think of the Star Control series? They’re not sims, but they’re obviously inspired anyway.

    Of course, they don’t really have any successors either…not yet, anyway (don’t fuck it up, Stardock).

    1. Starker says:

      For a recent example, Mass Effect was apparently inspired by Starflight:

      1. krellen says:

        I can see that in the original. The sequels, not as much.

      2. Nytzschy says:

        That makes a lot of sense, since apparently the original ending for the ME series was supposed to be based on the realization that Dark Energy usage by the various spacefaring civilizations (as fuel? I’m not clear on that) was going to destroy the universe or somesuch.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          The way I heard it, the use of element zero affects dark energy in bad ways. A little bit is manageable, but once a civilization like the one in Mass Effect emerges and everything is centered around eezo, dark energy gets seriously out of whack and starts causing problems on a galactic scale.

          Remember the sun on Haestrom, and how Tali said it was going red giant eons too soon due to dark energy? That kind of thing. The Reapers wiped out civilizations at this point literally to hold the galaxy itself together and ensure it remained capable of fostering any life at all, even if it meant the loss of advanced civilization to do it. The choice at the end was to either accept the cycle and be Reaped, or end it and just hope you can find some way to fix the relationship between eezo dependency and dark energy before the galaxy is rendered uninhabitable forever.

          1. Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

            Wait… so in the original plan we’d defeat the Reapers by nuking a planet of Eezo and Dark Energy?

            That’s either awesome or ridiculous.

            Still better than the Star Child.

          2. MrWhales says:

            That sounds like an absolutely awesome game, I love ME, but that just sounds different in better ways

          3. Ranneko says:

            But then the whole we set you on this path thing by the Reapers makes even less sense.

            The path they set up involves creating these Eezo using civs, so they would be setting up each new era to fail and further doom the universe.

      3. Heaven Smile says:

        The hell? Mass Effect was “inspired” by Star Control 2 (i say inspired in quotes because they are TOO similar)

        I didnt mention Star Control 2 in the previous post of Shamus cause i didn’t think it was complex enough to be a Space Simulator game, and was more a Space Opera game.

        1. krellen says:

          Starflight inspired Star Control 2, and all that fan speculation (that is largely due to most of them not knowing Starflight exists) really doesn’t hold water against the Word of God that Starker posted.

          1. Heaven Smile says:

            You mean the Word of God that keeps changing every 5 minutes? Like these little gems:


            “The whole idea of Mass Effect3 is resolving all of the biggest questions, about the Protheons and
            the Reapers, and being in the driver’s seat to end the galaxy and all
            of these big plot lines, to decide what civilizations are going to
            live or die: All of these things are answered in Mass Effect 3.“

            And this one:


            Yeeeeaaaaah. I will question anything this man and co workers have to say. They stopped holding water in a loooooooong time.

            You still think they are not similar? they both have the “It was a story from grampa all along! He even told the kids about that time he shagged an Alien Blue Chick!” twist at the end.


            A bonus for the contradicting statements, because i love you:

          2. silver Harloe says:

            Wow, I can’t believe you’re saying “this guy can’t tell you what his influences are, because a huge team of writers had direction changes over the course of five years.”

  4. Bropocalypse says:

    That’s interesting. I enjoy when alien species are so vastly different that they have an impression of another that doesn’t boil down to fantasy race stats or boring stereotypes.

    For some reason, space settings are more likely to address the reality of having little or nothing to do while traveling than other genres. Usually you just arrive. In a modern or fantasy setting, things are usually quite close together, when given the technology level(even with modern settings) there would reasonably a lot of waiting around as a passenger.
    I guess the reason for this is that you can’t really deny how damned big and empty space is.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      It would be neat if you could do things on-board your ship while it was traveling. Maybe sort through the minerals you mined looking for valuable deposits. Or research an artifact using the on-ship database (which could be upgraded as well!). Or read up on the planet you’re traveling to, or from. Or train your crew, doing drills, exercises, and routine chores. Or tinker with the ship, doing routine maintenance, improving sub-systems, repairing minor or cosmetic damage. Or hang out with your mates, singing songs, telling tales, and playing games (nesting!). All of these things are stuff that real ship crew did during their own long voyages, and real ship crew still do today. It might not have been possible on the hardware twenty years ago, but it’s certainly possible today.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        That is definitely an option, but given how much of that stuff you’d be doing on a quasi-realistically timed space mission, that’d make up the bulk of the gameplay.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          No one is saying you’d have to do it all in real-time. You could run it on a “chunk of time” basis like those Japanese time-management games. Or you could start a task and then use time acceleration like in KSP. A good game designer could make these elements more or less time consuming simply by making them more or less abstract.

          Plus all of these games use some sort of “hyperspace” mechanic that allows the ship to move faster than light. Even if you didn’t have that though, managing a generation-ship over thousands of years could be quite interesting. Kind of a Sim City crossed with Starflight.

          1. postinternetsyndrome says:

            That sounds brilliant. You need to maintain your civilization’s traditions and knowledge-base while also adressing various immidiate problems that crop up. Large chunks of the trip would be fast-forwarded, but then some issue would crop up and a portion – or all of – the crew and passengers might need to be woken up to deal with it. The more people awake though, the more resources (oxygen, food, etc.) are burned through. Sometimes you might need to mine an asteroid or even visit a planet to restock on materials.

            It would be an obvious choice to have the player take the role as the ship’s governing AI, making all these decisions for the sleeping passengers. Along the way, you might find yourself forced to make drastic changes to the ship or the cultural organization of the passengers, but when you interact with the other ships in the colony fleet (which may or may not be travelling in your near vicinity), the further you are from your cultural starting point, the more friction there will be between you.

            You might start with hard-coded AI directives that prevent you from hurting the passengers and such, but during the game you might opt to upgrade and modify your own AI core and software, potentially changing or removing some of those initial directives. This again might put you at odds with others of your kind, and what happens when you finally arrive?

            Well, I got a bit carried away there.

            1. Veylon says:

              Enough changes and you could find yourself accidentally boxed into becoming HAL or creating the Borg. Logic can do weird things when it gets far enough detached from common sense.

              It’d be a real cool game. Given how strategy/simulation lends itself to making the player such an amorphous entity anyway.

              1. syal says:

                Yeah, assuming there are directors or hackers in the crew that can assign new directives, or even poor wording in base directives, there could be situations where you have to either kill members of your own crew or risk logical paradox and total loss of input until the paradox resolves itself, if it ever does.

                …I don’t even like sim games, and I still want to play this now.

      2. Andy_Panthro says:

        I’d quite enjoy a game that crossed the space exploration and mining of a Starflight game with something like Mount & Blade (various opposing empires, occasional fighting, you can choose a side or stand alone)

        1. Nytzschy says:

          There’s a game in development that promises to at least be something like that, called Starsector. It’s still in alpha, however, and its most salient feature at the moment is its excellent combat mechanics. I don’t think its developer aspires to the scale of something like Starflight, though.

  5. Andy_Panthro says:

    If you want a good read about the original Starflight (1986), I’d highly recommend heading over to the CRPG Addict blog:

    The nearest thing I’ve played to Starflight was Star Control 2, which is similar in some ways.

  6. rofltehcat says:

    Rutskarn as Navigator could probably eventually somehow work. But Mumbles as Communications Officer? Cuftbert as Doctor???
    That is going to be one hell of a journey.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      The comm desk is also a DJ booth.

      And everyone knows that Reginald Cuftbert somehow determined how to fix gunshot wounds in a few seconds with snack food and degenerate alcoholism.

      If the ship needs a weapons officer, I volunteer!

      1. krellen says:

        If I recall correctly, the Navigator does the shooting.

    2. anaphysik says:

      “Mumbles as Communications Officer?”

      Hey, I’d pay good money to make everyone sound like a dinosaur.

      Also, obvious oxymoron and related pun.

  7. Dev Null says:

    Not a computer game, but actually a sort of boardgame / RPG hybrid: Battlestations. You’re an old pen-and-paper gamer Shamus – as are many of us in the audience – I think you might like it.

    The thing it does, which I wish someone would incorporate into a computer game at some point, is have essentially two playing fields going on simultaneously. On one, your ship is flying around shooting at baddies or whatever. On the other, your crew is madly rushing around a map of the ship, putting out fires, fending off boarders, rushing to the missile bay to fire a salvo, etc. Its quite fun.

    1. Decius says:

      You need to talk to the author of that game and claim your sales commission.

    2. ragnarok_mr4 says:

      That description reminds me of FTL. Except without the external map.

      1. ET says:

        FTL is the closest game I’ve played that has something like this, but for the most part, your little dudes on the ship don’t need to fix things while going around the normal map.
        Usually the only time you need to fix stuff from a previous screen, is when you have to flee a battle, with hull breeches, or your ship on fire! :)

        If you wanted to incorporate the two-screens thing into a new game, I think it would have to be done in one of two ways, depending on if your game is real-time or turn-based:
        TB: Both screens operate at the same time, and the game can be either single- or multi-player.
        RT: To have both screens going at once, this needs to be a multi-player game. Maybe like Artemis.

      2. Dev Null says:

        Yeah, the on-board bit is a bit like FTL, but instead of doing that only and swapping to a navigation map when you’re done, you have to do that while also steering your ship around asteroids, dodging missiles, and trying to get close enough to that space station to beam your cargo aboard. As a single-player computer game that might not actually work out that well – you’d have to make both halves simple-ish in order to allow the player to juggle both at once. But as a multiplayer boardgame it was a serious laugh.

    3. Axe Armor says:

      That sounds kind of like a bigger Guns of Icarus.

      1. Axe Armor says:

        Although, in that game, you’re on zeppelins. Actually, the mechanics could be pretty cool in any kind of ship combat. Age of Sail, submarines, sandcrawlers…

    4. Felblood says:

      You can do this kind of Two-Scales-of-Combat-at-Once thing in Traveller, as well.

      The most obvious example is probably Psionic teleportation of boarding teams. It requires a certain amount of care, since the two ships MUST be travelling at exactly the same speed and direction, since Traveler Teleportation respects momentum, and even a Battle-Dressed Psi-Warrior doesn’t want to get hit by a speeding starship.

      As to a computer game, you might check out the WC3 custom map, Battlecruisers.

      Players are divided into two battlecruiser crews, and they duel across space, in a vast asteroid field. Different rooms can be damaged, set on fire, or even destroyed, and crewmen can jump in a fighter/bomber or mining ship, to play on the big map with the captain, or stay inside to hel pthe cruiser function.

  8. The Gecko says:

    It sounds like some elements of this may have had some of their influence preserved in Star Control 2, perhaps? That was another enduring “space sim” classic, albeit with a linear story driving it rather than open-world sandbox stuff. A lot of the mechanics are similar, anyway!

    Also, I’m pretty sure I love that there’s a ship module named “Blasto Pods”

  9. Varil says:

    I feel like this link might be useful to those(like me) who didn’t play this game back in the 1800s or whenever it came out :

    This guy played all the way through it, so it might be useful if you’re looking for more details.

  10. Nytzschy says:

    For those not in the know, Scott Manley is currently doing a Let’s Play of Starflight. Complete with wispy ethereal voices for the space plant elves.

  11. krellen says:

    For what it’s worth, Shamus, those screenshots from Starflight 2 look exactly like my memories of playing Starflight 1 on my Tandy (the go-to computer for rich kids that wanted good graphics in the 80s, for those unfamiliar with them). Since I never played Starflight 2 (just never got around to it, I guess; I was like 12 when I was playing it), that must mean they didn’t really do a lot of interface upgrading between the two games.

    Starflight has always stuck in my head. In retrospect, I kind of view the Ancients as something akin to trees – living things on a scale so massive we have a hard time thinking of them as living, and whose form is insanely useful to us – but overuse of that resource could destroy everything we hold dear. In a way, I think Starflight was trying to be a story about environmentalism.

    Now I’m trying to remember this game I played back then. It was another space exploration sim, with several races and could have several players, and came with like forty-odd books that had paragraphs to read for various events, because printing stuff was way cheaper than trying to put text into a game at the time, but I cannot for the life of me remember its name.

    (A brief consultation with my brother later: it was Star Saga, specifically Star Saga 2: the Clathran Menace. It was actually pretty amazing.)

  12. Tychoxi says:

    wow! this deserves a link to The Ur-Quan Masters (freeware version of Star Control 2). Starflight sounds like a very similar game.

    Star Control 2 is a verily highly recommended game (from ’92 as well) for those few souls not familiar with it yet.

    1. ET says:

      Your link looks broken, but Wikipedia has a nice summary.
      Basically, the original creators released the source code as open-source, and now people are porting SC2 to modern operating systems.

  13. Mintskittle says:

    The endurium is a lifeform thing reminds me of Alpha Centauri with the ever-present fungus that’s really a vast planet spanning intelligence.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “There's a lot of doing nothing while you cross vast distances. (Which is something this genre still struggles with.)”

    Well space is mostly empty,so I wouldnt say that this is a struggle.That would be aking to playing a TBS and saying how turns are a struggle that still plagues this genre.

    1. Shamus says:

      I think there are plenty of ways you can allow players to travel between the stars without forcing them to do nothing for several minutes at a stretch.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Sure.But then it stops being a space sim.Theres nothing wrong with tight dogfights with lasers in space,with brief intervals between them.But thats a completely different genre of space arcades.

        And arcade vs simulation will always be present in shooting games.But instead of fixing one or the other,the solution should be in better labeling,so that those who prefer one dont get “fooled” by the other.

        1. Shamus says:

          “Sure.But then it stops being a space sim.”

          Ugh. Never mind. I don’t want to argue over genre boundaries. In any case, it doesn’t matter: A lot of these games have long periods of time with nothing for the player to do, whether you think that’s bad or not.

        2. The Rocketeer says:

          A game in which interstellar travel is possible is not a sim.

          If we’re glossing that over, we might as well go the next 0.0000000001% of the way and make it not a pain in the player’s ass.

          1. krellen says:

            That’s actually not true. “Warp drive” is in fact entirely possible without our current model of physics, and the theoretical energy requirement is even within the realm of feasibility, albeit not by current technological standards (which is to say it’s some number smaller than infinity.)

            1. ehlijen says:

              As Krellen said.

              Studies are being done to determine just how (in)feasible a warp drive actually is as of now:

            2. PedanticFolk says:

              Last I checked, the Alcubierre Drive (, the closest thing to a “warp drive” I know of, still requires a source of negative mass and negative energy. I don’t think anyone has ever seen anything with such properties.

              Not to mention that when you combine the current theory of quantum gravitation with general relativity (the mathematical basis for the Alcubierre Drive), it can be argued that Alcubierre’s mathematical solution is no longer valid, making the device even more infeasible.

              And I never really understood very well what happens at the edges of the bubble. The ship does not move in relation to the space around it, as it is inside the bubble. However, the edges of the bubble do move in relation to the outside space. What happens to a particle outside the bubble that “crashes” with the edge?

              1. Duffy says:

                If I recall correctly anything the warp bubble hits that does not destroy it get’s caught up in it somehow and when the bubble eventually decelerates it shoots all that matter like a giant shotgun in the direction it was moving.

                1. PedanticFolk says:

                  So it is more like a weapon of mass destruction rather than a transportation vehicle.

            3. “”Warp drive” is in fact entirely possible without our current model of physics”
              Almost anything is entirely possible without our current model of physics!
              (sorry, couldn’t resist)

            4. William Newman says:

              The way relativity works, traveling faster than the speed of light is deeply and intimately connected with traveling backward in time (and even sending messages faster than the speed of light is tied up with sending messages backward in time). That is, if you can give a physicist a reasonably-general-purpose FTL drive or FTL telegraph, he can probably give you the rest of a strategy for flying back to forcibly give your great-great-great-great-great grandfather a sex change, or arranging to play the stock market with information from the future. Depending on your prejudices about the universe, this may or may not make FTL seem unlikely to you, but at least it means that if we have FTL, interstellar travel may be only a relatively minor consequence: causality is so deeply wired into our practical experience that changes in it would be very strange.

              Just because physics equations accommodate certain kinds of solutions doesn’t necessarily mean that they exist. Maxwell’s equations would be even more elegant if there were magnetic monopoles, but there don’t seem to be. Antimatter and matter are awfully symmetric but overwhelmingly we encounter matter not antimatter (except when we smash things together so hard that we get newly-created antiparticles matching our newly-created particles).

          2. silver Harloe says:

            What, we can’t simulate speculative systems?

            1. syal says:

              You mean speculative systems like “getting to a place without being stuck doing nothing for long stretches”? Yes, indeed you can.

        3. Generally in fiction where star travel takes finite time rather than being instant, the time taken is in days, weeks or even months rather than minutes. So how is it a simulation if the game only shrinks that down a few hundred times to “do-able but annoying”, but stops being a simulation if it goes the rest of the way and skips the travel time almost entirely?

          1. ehlijen says:

            Mostly agreed. The only concern I’d have is that if you cut travel out completely by making it instantaneous, you’re also cutting out any possibility of “Oh look, what’s that over there? Let’s go investigate.”

            And without that, I think a sandbox game loses a lot. You need a balance of being able to get places without getting bored and still providing opportunities to see the land/space-scape go by and make on the fly course changes.

            1. syal says:

              I think being able to designate travel time to various projects would work fine; the trip takes eight days, so you tell your crew to exercise for seven and clean house for one, or you can spend that time in direct control of the ship, looking for stuff.

              Basically a “time passes” button, possibly with stat increases.

  15. TMC Sherpa says:

    Ah nostalgia. I can still remember how excited I was to get a second 5.25 floppy drive to make the new games that were coming out more playable. Sure I still had to flip them over to the other side but stuff like Legacy of the Ancients which came on two (TWO!) disks could read the second one from the other drive.

    Kids today huh?

    PS Am I the only one upon seeing a 3.5 disk for the first time flipped it around for a while wondering how to make it double sided? Nobody else? Uh… me neither.

    1. Chris Robertson says:

      Did you try the hole punch?

      I loved that I could buy single sided 5.25″ disks and double my storage with a simple office tool.

  16. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I know we pretty much had this discussion in the previous “space sims” post but it was a busy week so I’m late for the party.

    There are two things that appeal to me the most in this genre. First is exploration and growth, travelling kinda Star Trek style and finding new and surprising stuff possibly improving my ship/crew/whatever in the process, so stuff like Starflight or Star Control I guess?

    The other, and I’ve found scratching this particular itch somewhat more difficult, is actually having control of a large ship. I-war did this, to some extent the Star Wolves series though it was more focused on fighters with the capital ship being more of a mobile base to be protected than an actual unit (and large portions of it were buggy, unfinished and unpolished mess) othe than that… hmm… maybe Star Trek: Starfleet Command? Though it usually pitted you against ships of your own size and didn’t really let you feel like a powerful machine of war in a field of smaller vessels.

  17. arron says:

    I was quite looking forward to this – a sort of Elite in the far future where the stars in the universe are going out and so you are cannibalising others to repair your own ship in an attempt to stay alive. And it had a novel modding system where you used a virtual machine to develop your own systems. It’s a shame it is cancelled but not dead as Notch would like to complete it at some point. It’s a very engaging idea.

    Another game that I was looking forward to was something called Intruder. It was once documented on the User Friendly webstrip website back in the early 2000s.

    Basically you have a large ship that is hugely powerful that is invading planetary systems, and you are in charge of a fleet of ships that is trying to hunt it down. The only problem is that out in space it is akin to submarine warfare.

    If your ship is detected by the intruder, it will be vaporised, so you have to use a combination of passive and active sensors to locate the Intruder (active sensors tend to give away your position but are more accurate than passive sensors). Basically it’s a game of space poker as by the time you reveal your forces by attacking, if you can’t score a clean kill..the intruder will make mincemeat out your entire fleet. The focus in Intruder was on realism, not dogfighting.

    It is available on here

    1. Jonathan says:

      So basically you play a Compact commander trying to hunt down Her Redness.

      “Burn with me.”

      (original fiction at the link)

    2. ET says:

      Do you have any extra info on the virtual machine thing?
      The scant info on Wikipedia seems to indicate that it would be a full CPU/virtual machine thing, but you could access it in-game through the terminals.
      I don’t get what adding this to a game would add.
      Like, virtual machines and CPUs are good at computery things, but games are good at gamey things.
      So…my game is made more enjoyable by having me defrag a virtual hard drive or something? :P

  18. MichaelGC says:

    If you stuck with it, you might eventually stumble on the (to me) mind-shattering realization that endurium was… ALIVE!

    Duuude! Spoiler!! :P

  19. SyrusRayne says:

    Given your recent foray into Space Games – as well as your love of all things procedural – you should turn your gaze over to Limit Theory, if you haven’t already.

    From what I understand, the developer (Singular, apart from I believe the sound/music artist) uses a lot of procedural techniques. Procedural universe, procedural ships, procedural weapons, quests, asteroids. Many things.

    He also does a daily dev-log on the forum there, which is interesting even if I don’t understand a lot of the higher concepts about AI, node-based UI, or graphics programming.

  20. Kagato says:

    “Woe and Yea and Woe were these years not dark, and were they not also chaotic? Verily were they chaotic and dark.”

    Man, I never really played the game properly, but I loved the Book of Endurium at the back of the manual.

  21. I’ve had good luck scratching the ‘Starfighter’ itch with ‘Starpoint Gemini 2’ and recently downloaded ‘X3: Terrain Conflict’ (but haven’t tried that one yet).

    I’m really excited about Flagship, which is currently campaigning on Kickstarter. It’s an open-world first-person RTS, and it looks epic!

    (Disclosure: I’m a backer of the campaign but am otherwise not affiliated with it in any way)

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.