Space in video games

Space combat in all its explosive glory in Sins Of A Solar Empire

Online video game magazine The Escapist, home to the hilariously funny animated review column Zero Punctuation, has the theme of space for its 136th issue. They talk about why the starfighter genre appears to have died down since the heyday of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and Wing Commander and about how science fiction is, although often set in the future, a commentary about now.

Although the space combat genre is in a lull right now, space strategy and so called ‘4X’ civilisation games are enjoying some underground success thanks to the efforts of indie games publisher Stardock, which produced the critically acclaimed Galactic Civilisations II last year. Its latest release, Sins of a Solar Empire, came out this month and combines Real Time Strategy elements of controlling fleets of spacecraft as well as exploration and colonisation. Currently holding a very respectable 87% average on Metacritic and impressing this writer enough to squeeze it into my schedule, games like this and Will Wright’s forthcoming evolutionary Spore are showing that maybe there’s a future for space in video games after all.

[Sins Of A Solar Empire screenshot via IGN]

14 thoughts on “Space in video games”

  1. Eve Online, apart from being a brutally social darwinist setting, inhabiting a sizeable population of players whose fun depends on YOUR misery, is still a GREAT game. If Eve Online would up the influence of the law a little, and make it less rewarding to gank, camp and exploit every gate (and declare wars against everyone they desire to rat into a submission) the game would probably appeal to twice as many as it does now – only hardcore gamers with a mercilessly determined attitude will survive longterm right now.

  2. A part of me has been itching to try EVE for about a year and a half now – it’s the same part that used to stay up all night wasting pirates in Elite.

    The other part of me knows that I don’t have the time spare to get involved in it at the moment. I really wish Ted Castranova or Wired or someone would commission me to do an immersive journalism piece in there for a year or so. 🙁

  3. It is possible to dip in and out of EVE – once you know how the basic stuff works you can just drop in for an idle few missions or mining runs. The heavy corporation stuff I’ve not reached yet, and probably won’t – I think that’s where the serious investment of time lies.

  4. I invested a good bit of time in Eve, two period of each 4 months and then some, something like 10 months total. I built up to battleships, a mining barge and a big frieghter, plus a minor assortment of cruisers. I tend to spend mining, 3-5 hours a day. If I mine in a safer system (1.0 to 0.7), income is about a million a day, in less safe systems (0.7 to 0.5) income is higher (about 2-3 million per day) but stress is a lot more significant and the risk of losing a vessel significant. I was caught in senseless ganking quite a bit and found my monetary gains in low security regions was offset by insurance and stress.

    And this was regarded in the game as being a noob. At 10 months, spread over 2 years, playing 3-5 hours a day mining and managing ships, pretty intense focus of attention is being a noob or a “carebear”. Safe to say I can’t hack it in the far asperger/darwinist scene of Eve.

    I would label the game a marketing failure. It appeals to a very selective crowd, and possibly… that’s what they want. Maybe the makers of eve actively desire to make the game so elitist it weeds out high maintaining whining clients.

    If ya don’t like it, sod of, is what I heard on the forums *many* times.

  5. EVE is one of those games that looks great and would probably be a lot of fun to play if you had a TON of free time.

    I played one MMO game that was similar in it’s time requirements – but I played with several close friends, a few of whom had gotten in good with one of the better guilds, giving us a leg up and allowing us to not have to be online constantly.

    Back to the OP, space is very difficult to render on a computer, our monkey brains aren’t used to having no concept of down. Just look at nearly every space-based movie where all the ships are placed on the same plane. Maybe kids growing up playing Descent-like games will be better off than the rest of us. Makes you wonder.

  6. Has anyone here played Homeworld? Its a relativly old RTS which actually does 3 dimensional space combat extremely well. Its got a great plot and I highly recommend it to anyone that has not tried it.

  7. Homeworld 1 & 2 are more hard to play than Eve. I couldn’t even finish the last 3 levels by cheating and editing the config. Homeworld is … breathtaking. The music and storyline is indescribable. Highly recommended.

  8. I never played it, think I didn’t have any money at the time, and by the time I did, something else had come out.

    Same with Homeworld. And it’s never the same to go back, the graphics and gamplay just doesn’t seem as good.

  9. I do highly recommend trying Homeworld again. The graphics as you said just seem sub par now but the gameplay for space based RTS is the best Ive ever seen. Just dont try Homeworld 2 as I really could not get into it.

  10. Both HW1 and HW2 are still very much up to date, the game play is very good and the storytelling is breathtaking. It’s an old game which I’d love see revisited as an MMO. In an ideal world the content of HW1 and HW2 would be assimilated into Eve Online.

  11. Ah man, I totally remember those sweet Wing Commander games – I played every single one of them to death. I often wonder what’s happened to them. I’ve tried some of the open source stuff but it really takes them a long time to get things working really nicely when it comes to open source. Nothing beats the epic nature of Wing Commander III and IV, as well as the Privateer games. I still have tons of fond memories about them.

Comments are closed.