237: When the Stars Align

When the Stars Align

From the days of Spacewar!, videogames and the stars have always been connected. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the great breakthroughs in gaming was the simulation of an entire universe. Erin Hoffman speaks with members of the Starflight development team about their ambitious project.

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what about EVE or Free Lancer both those games came out before and they really let you explore the galaxy. I played EVE for a year and only visited a 10th of the soler systems that where out there

racm32:
what about EVE or Free Lancer both those games came out before and they really let you explore the galaxy. I played EVE for a year and only visited a 10th of the soler systems that where out there

Your usage of 'before' is confusing. Surely you can't mean before Starflight, which was released in 1986.

Great article, well worth the read. As an aspiring career programmer, the amount of work put into this project by such a small development team is inspiring. Before this I had never heard of Starflight!

paulgruberman:

racm32:
what about EVE or Free Lancer both those games came out before and they really let you explore the galaxy. I played EVE for a year and only visited a 10th of the soler systems that where out there

Your usage of 'before' is confusing. Surely you can't mean before Starflight, which was released in 1986.

He doesn't seem to have read the article. I must admit that before I did the line in the preview paragraph "Erin Hoffman speaks with members of the Starflight development team about their ambitious project." lead me to believe Starflight was not yet released.

I uhhh may need to check this one out...

Sounds like a roguelike on an universal scale. But roguelikes usually take an everything and the kitched sink approach that means taking on as much sources as possible. This was flying blind. I'd like to try this very much. (Coming soon to GoG.com? Please?)

I'm not sure most developers would do something with this scale if left alone. The larger the box gets, the harder it is to look outside of it, after all.

Random, it's interesting you bring up "roguelike", because ToeJam & Earl, which Greg went on to make directly after Starflight, was genuinely a "roguelike". I'll have to think about whether this also applies to Starflight... I tend to think not, just because there was so much full-content dialogue, the alien races, etc... though I get what you're saying re the procedurally generated planets and terrain. In a way it was like a Japanese dating sim built on top of a multi-layered (star system -> planet -> terrain) roguelike. But it's interesting to me that two decades later in 2005 "procedural content" was the hot topic at GDC, after having been forgotten in the intervening years -- another way in which Starflight was way ahead of its time. I still think there's a lot of unplowed territory there, especially when it comes to online games.

Glad that you all enjoyed the article, thanks very much for reading. :)

carpathic:
I uhhh may need to check this one out...

Agree'd must find a way to play.. this looks like a really good game, even for its dated times.

What the publishers who now control the rights to these old classics should do is make arepublishing of the games. As in all the do is update it to today's graphical standards. Don't change anything! except for the graphics.

I never played starflight but now I wish I had, it reminds me of star control 2, and I fucken loved star control 2

You might consider Dwarf Fortress another game along the lines of Starflight, with the same desire to immerse the player in a diverse and dynamic world simulation, except in fantasy rather than science fiction.

Starflight 1/2 are THE games of my youth. Before hard drives . . . those Starflight floppies were a whole universe to me. No 3d game has ever matched the breadth and depth: the fascinating AI, the heightmapped 3d terrain, the mindbogglingly huge universe, getting lost on a strange planet with 50% fuel left, begging poorly translated aliens not to destroy your ship. Mass Effect doesn't even come close :) And yes, I've replayed it in DOSBOX :)

Starflight was - for its time - mind-blowingly good. Well presented, amazingly designed, and addictive beyond anything I've experienced since. It remains one of the benchmarks of my gaming experience... it's why I bought my first Apple.

And the game continues to inspire developers to this day. Indeed, I nearly laughed myself silly the first time I tried the 'exploration' portion of Mass Effect... I actually said aloud, "Been here, done this." Over 20 years later, I vividly remember the thrill of accidentally jumping into alien territory and having no clue how I'd survive my first encounter, let alone find my way home. And my first encounter with the Crystal Planet... terrifying.

Honestly, I have NO idea how they put that much game into a disk so small.

As a kid, if I wanted to simulate flying through space, I'd just turn on the windows star screensaver and pretend I was flying really fast. That's what we did, back in my day. These kids nowerdays have no imagination.

 

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