Friday, September 23, 2005

Spaceship Flying Games Suck

A lot of people love spaceship-flying games. Hell, I really enjoyed Privateer. But the fact is, they suck. They are halfway between a crippled airplane sim and a diving sim. For example, they all have a "maximum speed". Excuse me? Maximum speed my left buttock! What am I maxing out against? My "maximum speed" should be the speed of the large obstacle directly in front of me.

There are two reasons that these games are the way they are:

The first is difficulty in controlling a space ship. If you can go any speed, and your limit is acceleration, you're going to have a lot of players who accelerate and accelerate and accelerate until they are simply going too fast to play the game. They crater or blow by the conflict. In addition, there's the display: visuals in a space ship are worthless. If you're going 10,000 MpH, the Death Star is barely going to be visible before it's too late!

The second reason is because people don't really understand the dynamics of space. I mean, some people do, but not the average player. Wrapping his head around the idea of gravity wells, orbital physics, orbital debris, and scale is something he has never tried.

What I want to do is create two spaceship flying games. One would be "realistic". It would be a game of building space stations and ships, dominating orbits, and conquering earth's space. It could be for the computer pretty easily, and it would be a slow strategy game, no test of physical prowess involved. However, it would still require 3D output (like most space games) due to the nature of space.

The other would be for the Nintendo Revolution, and it would be a space racing game. But it would be more... unique than other fighter jockey games. Your fighter has two vector thrust engines. Those are essentially just engines with some maneuvering plates that force the thrust to go in a particular direction.

The movement of the controller represents the vector thrust. Lift or tip the controller, and the vector plates sink, tipping the whole ship so as to point "up". Tilt the controller, and the vector plates on one side tip up, and on the other side tip down. This spins your ship.

The game would be largely about learning what "speed" is. You have no speed limit, but you quickly learn what your effective speed limit is in any given place. For example, while you're in a given orbit, you don't want to go too fast or too slow, because the debris will tear you apart. There's an on-board computer which issues suggestions.

I think both of those games would be fun and educational.


Darius Kazemi said...

I remember playing Mike Gesner's demo of a spaceflight game with accurate (by which I mean "acceleration and not velocity as upper limit") modeling... and it was IMPOSSIBLE to control anything. Give me Wing Commander II any day!

Craig Perko said...

Well, there'd be a large amount of computer-assistance - like in real space ships.

Meh, maybe it would be boring.

Grubber said...

Have you come across Orbiter before?

Might be along what you are hoping for, but without the fighting ;-)

Craig Perko said...

It may very well be! Thanks, I'll look into it.