Tell Us Dammit: Space Games

Tell Us Dammit: Space Games

Because of the release of No Man’s Sky, I’ve been thinking a lot about space. And why not? Space games are awesome.

But space has predominantly been a frontier for PC gamers. A few games have crossed the divide: Rebel Galaxy comes to mind, and Everspace is coming out as a timed exclusive for Xbox One towards the end of the year last time I checked. But how much does the prospect of space really excite people?

It’s a question I always asked with No Man’s Sky. How much of the hype was borne from the procedurally generated universe? How much did the visuals play a factor?

And how much do people actually get excited by the prospect of exploring space?

Star Citizen obviously has a huge amount of appeal too. But that has a huge amount of nostalgia attached, with Chris Roberts, Wing Commander and Freelancer all playing a part. And it’s not available to the of millions of players on consoles.

So I put it to you. How excited are you just for the prospect of exploring space? And what do you look for in these types of games? Is the exploration, trading and customisation the primary factors? Or is the combat, explosions, and epic battles the main calling card?


    • Bad pun of the day:

      Captain Kirk had three ears: a left ear, a right ear, and a Final Front Ear.

      (ducks & runs) I can’t recall where I heard that one.

      Most of my favourite space games are largely goal-oriented; TIE Fighter, Freespace 2, Independence War 2 – and what I played of Rebel Galaxy was good before I got distracted by a different game…. But I did play Frontier a great deal, and No Man’s Sky is good as well, although I have some concerns about the depth of gameplay.

      • I think that pun may have been from a meme a while ago about a cat found with 3 years.

        I’ve always enjoyed a space romp, but they’ve been few and far between in my opinion. So the coverage and hype for NMS has been getting me pumped.,

      • Hah, the exact 3 games I was going to say were my favourites:P
        TIE Fighter, Freespace 2, Independence War 2

        And, if we’re going into strategy… Homeworld, of course…

      • I first heard that joke in the 80s as being about Davey Crockett having 3 ears – Left ear, Right ear, Frontier.

  • Exploration and finding interesting things, definitely. The original Mass Effect did it best imo – even some text blurbs on planets would send your mind reeling (hello Jupiter!).

  • The first time I got a console was around the start of the PS3 generation. I got a PS2, then Immediately got a PS3.

    Ever since then, space sims have not been a thing. They don’t exist on consoles and it makes me cry. So I’m really delighted by No Man’s Sky. It’s like…minecraft mixed with X:Beyond the Frontier. But crapper space combat. I’m still over the moon that I can do the space sandbox thing to any degree at all on a console. BECAUSE IT HA NEVER EXiSTED AT ALL BEFORE.

    As far as any specific thing that draws me to these games? Not really. I’d love any type. As a kid I broke my first joystick on Tie Fighter, so space flight mission based games I’m totally cool with too., Trading is good fun, bounty hunting is good fun. But preferably, the sandbox experiences offered by games like X or Privateer where you can do it all are what I love best.

    Please, please developers, make more games like this! Make them single player, make them mmos, it doesn’t matter, but make them on consoles!

    Then get round to making mech games on console where the mechs are like mechwarrior mechs. Modular designs with weight to the models. Not Jumpy jet mechs like most japanese games! Please!

    • “Then get round to making mech games on console where the mechs are like mechwarrior mechs. Modular designs with weight to the models. Not Jumpy jet mechs like most japanese games! Please!”

      We are long past due for a Mechwarrior or Heavy Gear reboot. The new Battletech looks fun, but I want to drive my Atlas TYVM.

      • I’ve been a gamer long enough I feel like I’m seeing fashions come back again. And it’s been great!

        Lately there’s been the return of the CRPG. The return of Xcom. The remake of games like System Shock. There’s a new Elite even. Those people who like board games have gotten some great new products too!

        I love these things things, but still, no mechwarrior game on console and no true space sim on console to this day. If it happens, I can die happy. Or I can when they make a Bioforge remake or sequel.

        • I wholeheartedly second this. I’m a long time fan of MW and had been incredibly disappointed by mechassault and anything else since MW Mercenaries. Discovered MWOnline a few months ago and although it’s a bit arena/pvp heavy, it has scratched my MW itch very well.

        • MWO is pretty solid. The games is progressing very slowly which is frustrating some, but what’s there is a fun mech shooters with lots of mechs and weapons options to play with. Be sure to check out the new player forums though as the learning curve is a bit rough

  • Space as a setting is a double edged sword for me. On the one hand, its attributes allow you to have a massively diverse game. Scenery can be changed at will and completely. Monsters of any kind can be introduced without any need for justification. The setting of space allows you to put anything in it because it’s infinite. The downside is that games (I’m thinking Elite Dangerous) can feel empty and devoid of purpose.

    Personally, my ideal kind of space game is one that has a narrative focus on the crew within a universe that has a central plot (like overarching Reaper plot of ME universe), but is otherwise fairly amorphous. All good Sci-FIs have a fixed crew as the anchor in a universe of otherwise endless possibilities. So I guess, it’d be like playing with the crew from ME within the No Man’s Sky universe.

    My idea for a game that I would just about never stop playing is the ship mechanics of Rebel Galaxy, but with boarding and ground missions in the style of XCOM. Give it a randomly generated universe with deep trading, faction and development and that’s me done.

    • The downside is that games (I’m thinking Elite Dangerous) can feel empty and devoid of purpose.

      Just like real space! 😛 I’m actually more surprised that so many planets aren’t life-barren mineral-rich wastelands in NMS…

  • Being weened on Elite on my BBC Micro, anything open ended that enables trade, upgrades, space combat and intergalactic missions floats my boat. Attained Elite on 5 different re-starts over my time. Have the Elite:Dangerous on the Bone and that is so vast. NMS is even bigger, so not sure how big it needs to be….. Hats off to a very adventurous project and I do hope over time it will get ported to the Boner and future updates expand the games direction.

  • I played TIE Fighter a lot as a kid and more than the idea of playing a role in the Star Wars universe I enjoyed the futurism. The idea of conquering new frontiers with the power of technology, while still being driven by very human and personal motivations. Unfortunately space sims fell by the wayside as they were more trouble to produce with modern technology. It was something I always felt was missing from futuristic/sci-fi games. Halo was about the combat even though you were fighting aliens. Sure we were fighting on a giant alien artefact in space, but apart from seeing the curve of the ringworld above you in the beautifully designed skybox, you might as well have been fighting on earth. There were few instances where you really got to appreciate the “hell yes, I’m in space” factor with the exception of one or two levels in Reach.

    When Mass Effect came along I picked up the game knowing nothing about it, having only vaguely heard of BioWare, but had an innate sense that it was a game I had been waiting for. After traipsing around the Citadel learning all manner of crazy stuff about humanity and their tiny place in a small universe and rubbing shoulders with aliens who were more than just a hitbox for me to point a gun at. I found myself caring about the lore and reading (or rather, listening to) the codex entries. It was a world that was realised in a way I’d not experienced before. When Shepherd was given his Spectre status I really felt like I’d accomplished something even though it was simply part of the story, then I was given a ship and told “here be planets, go to them, if you like”. I did. In hindsight the fact that planets were a couple of square kilometres which maybe had one or two (identical) buildings on them (some of which still had all the furniture piled against one wall as if the level designer hadn’t gotten around to finishing the placement) was a disappointment, but at the time I’d never felt like a game had been so epic. I ventured into the unknown and treasured each new discovery.

    Up until two weeks ago I didn’t see the point of No Man’s Sky, because so little about it had been revealed. I’d been tempted to pick up Elite: Dangerous but it sounded like a bit of a grind – running missions to earn money to buy ships to earn more money – and to date while the game is not unreasonably priced it’s still out of reach of my aggregate curiousity minus my caution. No Man’s Sky on the other hand, well the only reason I haven’t bought it now that I know more about it is because my wife uses the PS4 pretty much every night to watch shows on Presto, and when the PS4 isn’t occupied we’re playing Borderlands 2. I know for a fact that if NMS gets it’s hooks into me I will want to play for hours a night, and the luxury of that much time is not currently on my side. Hopefully by the time I get around to it (my wife is currently on season 8 of 12 seasons of All Saints) there will still be discoveries left to discover, planets left to name. I know there’s supposed to be 18 quintillion worlds, but we’ve already got players exploration overlapping with each other, and it’s only day two.

  • ELITE: DANGEROUS – 7 weeks playtime, and no sign of stopping.

    Star Citizen – HURRY UP.

    Freelancer – hundreds of hours.

    Freespace, Freespace 2 – wow those capital ships.

    Darkstar One – pretty good if a little linear

    Babylon 5 – dammit why did this never happen?

    Elite, Oolite – yes yes yes I played them too much.

    Frontier: Elite II – a lot of time

    No Mans Sky – sold out at my local JB last night when I wandered in. Damn Kotaku’s “don’t preorder” advice. You’re the worst, Kotaku. THE WORST.


        • Ehhh… agree to disagree? PSN has it listed for $79… which is still about $20-30 more than I’d have expected to pay for an indie game (tho, granted, being on console, where everything is listed at $20-30 more than retail, I should probably be a bit more lenient – indie on consoles is still too new for my brain to adapt to :P)

      • But but but how do I read the manual on the train on the way home? You young people and your digital media. Pfft. 🙂

  • Starlancer for its World War Allies vs Axis in space squadron and capital ship battles.

    Freespace 1 & 2 just for those big capital ships lasers and flack cannons…

  • There are some awesome space games around. Elite Dangerous had a lot of potential but just lacked any depth and had a tough learning curve. Freelancer was amazing but that might just be nostalgia talking. Star Citizen looks great, if it ever gets finished.

    I’m not really sure why people were making such a huge fuss about procedurally generated games. Tons of games have been doing this for ages. Most rouge-likes have every map, level, world procedurally generated every time you play. Sure they might not have 18 quadrillion or whatever objects, but they don’t need to.

    The scale of this game may be impressive, if not mostly pointless. The procedurally generated world is nothing new. Visually doesn’t seem anything special either. From what I’ve heard the combat and space battle system is pretty basic.

    I’m not sure exactly what the hype was about? It it just because we haven’t had a space game for a while? Even that seems odd, since Elite Dangerous isn’t that old. Perhaps it just wasn’t accessible enough.

    It just hit me. NMS seems like a massive tech demo to me. I think that sums it up perfectly. Look at all this cool stuff we can do. It doesn’t make much of a game, but it’s a great tech demo / sandbox.

  • Escape Velocity by Ambrosia all those years ago when I was still using Macs. Still have dreams about that game.

  • I loved Elite Dangerous, however this is the problem with all open ended games or even MMO’s. When I get to max level and reach the ‘grindy’ part. I hit a wall where I’m like why am I doing this? Why am I running this rare’s trade route. To buy a bigger ship, why am I buying a bigger ship? To run more rare’s on that trade route. In the end its meaningless.

    Just like life I guess…

    • I felt a bit like that but I’m in a couple of groups now, and doing exploring with other commanders. All good fun. And the meta story is intriguing. The recent Jaques stuff has been lots of fun.

  • I love Sci-Fi but I haven’t played any “Space Ship” games since Colony Wars: Red Sun on the PS1. Really enjoyed and want something similar. Elite looked good but I’m turned off by the grind. Give me some nice hand crafted missions please

  • Old enough to remember the original run of Elite here, which I played and played and played. Then played more. It was a game changer for me, and one of Those Games that permanently hooked my on gaming in general, and strategy games in particular.

    Every space game after that owes its existence to Elite. For what was available, it was so groundbreaking, from the size of the game (12k or so from memory) to the scale (65,535 galaxies! in 12k!).

    I remember a story on that where they asked why 65k galaxies, and Braben and Bell thought they were asking why so few (quite the opposite). The response was about the limitations of working with 8 bit and fitting everything into the 12k size limitation. One more bit, it was millions of galaxies. Or something like that.

    • I remember it on the commodore 64, had a brutal learning curve, but i put a lot more time into elite 2 frontier on the amiga 500. Had a great manual too.

  • By far the most simmy of space sims I have played is the Evochron series, followed by X up until Rebirth, which should have been called Placenta.

    The latest Evochron game, Evochron : Legacy came out a few months ago and is pretty special. Got the tightest newtonian flight model ever, customisible ships, component/weapon crafting, really deep exploration mechanics and the occasional black hole you might be able to use as a wormhole.

  • I love Elite, and NMS just seems like a more scifi-ey version of that so that’s why I’m interested in it 😛

    Space and flying around is fun. My favourite part of Minecraft was running around on cartography missions, trying to map all the area around my home base then the eight blocks of land around that space etc. Exploration and coming across all sorts of amazing views and areas, it was so strangely compelling. Dammit I’m going to get this game aren’t I.

  • I’ve been hooked on space games since Star Raiders on the Atari 800 back in 1979.
    Yep, 1979, and under 8K, and it had hyperspacing to other regions of space, 3D battles, refuelling and repair at space stations, long range scanner, galactic map, multiple controls for shields, target lock, repairs and more. The computer could get damaged and you would lose your targeting, or the map or part of the engines, it was amazing for the time.

    I have kind of been disappointed a bit ever since.

    Can anyone tell me why they haven’t remade TIE fighter or Xwing vs TIE Fighter? We have powerful machines and consoles, viable VR. a new Star Wars fervour, and a willing audience. What is stopping it happening?

  • Space games hey? They are kind of an on off thing for me. Right now I have Elite Dangerous which I come back to every so often because it is just so huge and takes a long time to get to places in missions later in the game. But back in the day, I loved Descent Freespace. Awesome space battles in your fighter and you could mod the game to make it look like Star Wars.

    Space Hulk was in space. Warhammer 40k space granted, but it was awesome battling Gene Stealers and Chaos Marines on those massive hulks. It’s also probably the only 40k game which allowed you to suit up in the ridiculously overpowered Terminator Armor in first person.

    An oldie if you remember it. Solar Winds 🙂 Loved that game

  • I love the Starflight series on PC, especially SF2. Procedurally generated (2D map) on two 5 1/2″ floppy disks, primitive 3D polygon planetary orbits, awesome story telling with just a pinch of humour thrown in for good measure.

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