Space, Flying and Space Flying

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Yahtzee Croshaw:

Where did all the space-flight games go?

THAT'S WHAT I WANNA KNOW!

Seriously, I grew up on games like X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter later on, and although I remember all of those games being joystick-crushingly difficult, they were a lot of fun, especially when you were going up against a Star Destroyer by yourself with nothing but a bay full of proton torpedoes and an orange jumpsuit full of cajones.

But yeah, looking forward to Fun Space Game

Raithnor:

If you can find it there's a game called Tachyon: The Fringe which came out some time around 2000-2002 or so. It had no joystick support which is why I passed on it, but it did have Bruce Campbell as the player voice.

Really? I own that game and I'm pretty sure it had joystick support. Could be wrong though...

A couple of my favorites were Wing Commander: Prophecy (which I could never get to run under Windows XP) and Freespace 2, which had you going up against ships so huge and powerful they make Star Destroyers look like the Space Shuttle.

There's a few space shooters on kongregate I've actually had fun playing - like Frantic (2), Enigmata (if you turn off the music). And actually, what I discovered in myself through kongregate is that I simply love these space-shooters. I don't know why, but what Yahtzee described there would probably make my balls explode through my eyes as well.

You do realise that you're just askind people to recommend space games released after X3 to you?
Maybe you'd like to try Darkstar One.

Incidentally, could somebody tell me if Dark Void's flight system contains the possibility to turn of your boosters and sky dive downwards before turning them on again just in time to pull back up. Because that would be pretty darn sweet.

If we want to sell Yahtzee on Freespace maybe we should mention that it's made by the same developer as Saints Row 2?

Freespace 2 really took off for me once I got a flight stick and mapped most of the buttons to it. it's one of the reasons I would rather play on the console. Trying to find keys in the midst of evasive maneuvers ceases being fun for me after a while. It starts to feel like "Mavis Beacon Teaches You Typing In The Howling Void Of Pitch Black Destruction"

RebellionXXI:
[quote="Yahtzee Croshaw" post="6.174014.4885018"]
Where did all the space-flight games go?

Did anybody else try Project Sylpheed? I'm not saying it's particularly good (playing it will your fingers cry, and then your ship will explode) but it is THERE.

My own theory? The genre peaked. A bit like racing games, space sims were about the only genre you could make impressive early on, so they did and we got all the way to X Wing vs Tie Fighter and then there was nowhere to go but way, way down.

Well, there and Homeworld, which isn't a sim but, at least to me, it scratches the same Star Trek/Wars ticklish spot.

The thing is, I don't know if I'd play a space sim if I had a good one available. After all, I already have GTA, so if I'm going to be in space, I'm going to need to go down to places and walk around. And walk inside my own ship, too, because piloting is only half the fun. And at this point, I'm looking at something painfully close to Mass Effect or Star Trek Online and less like Tie Fighter.

I think I realized this was going to happen when this came out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_Commander

See, this was a game in which you didn't shoot at stuff in space, you told other people to do it for you. You were the captain. And, of course, that's what you want to be. But that is not fun. Captains are CEOs, they stay in their office and order people around, and that's not what you think when you think "space travel", so you're in a bit of a dilemma at this point. You either go the captain route, and you end up with Mass Effect (which doesn't really need space flight to be fun) or you go the pilot route and you end up with something not really exciting that feels kind of cheap when compared to a full blown recreation of New York City in which you can interact with everything instead of plotting a course and waiting to get there or enduring flight sim gameplay in which they didn't bother to draw the ground.

It's a pity, though, because I have very fond memories of the genre. Maybe it'll come back in some form, like the graphic adventure.

EDIT: Oh, for the record, I would also like a Bridge Commander remake or sequel. That game was cool, and imagining a version of it with voice recognition in it makes me drool a bit.

You either go the captain route, and you end up with Mass Effect or you go the pilot route

Yeah, but there are so many story routes around this it's insane. How about you're a falsely-accused criminal who's stolen a small ship with limited interplanetary capability and you have to fight your way through the local law enforcement to get to each planet.

Or.. You're the leader of a military convoy, partly you have to plan out attack strategies, but then in combat you have the lead ship. Plus planetary refuels.

Or.. you just change perspective and play more than one player. Nobody says it has to be an RPG.

The possibilities are there, it seems only the will is lacking.

lumpenprole:
Freespace 2 really took off for me once I got a flight stick and mapped most of the buttons to it. it's one of the reasons I would rather play on the console. Trying to find keys in the midst of evasive maneuvers ceases being fun for me after a while. It starts to feel like "Mavis Beacon Teaches You Typing In The Howling Void Of Pitch Black Destruction"

That's what 21-button(42-function) programmable joysticks were invented for. ;) Sadly those no longer work on modern PCs. But I sure loved my Gravis Phoenix back in the day, it was great for those games.

It uses a 16-bit pure DOS program for setting the keys, it might still have worked with some serious emulating on a 64-bit OS. But then there's the issue of needing both a joystick port (no PC has them these days) and a conventional keyboard port to get all the data around to the massive device (it's a lot bigger than an average keyboard).

The best damn space flight game I can think of is Star Fox 64, (aka Lylat Wars)!
Sure it was on rails, but the gameplay is smooth, real smooth, and fun.

And the Star Wolf dogfights were brilliant! (More of these please Nintendo!)

I loved the Landmaster levels, (that were very different, but not too different to alienate the main gameplay).

Its just a shame that there was only 1 level like Aquas though...

Damn it Nintendo! Give us a true Star Fox 64 sequel plz!

With Online Dogfights, and Co-op! (I'll be Falco!)

More paths, harder difficulty levels, (make it Nintendo Hard on the most extreme setting!),
The return of Andross, (Hey maybe this time we can fight a full bodied Andross! XD).

Get rid of Krystal, and all those other shmucks too!, (Or at least give us a Star Fox led by Fox's son, I'd preffer a clean slate than an expansion anyday).

Heck, make it a prequel for all I care!

Also, people who comment on ZP videos: take note of Jeff Combos' email to Yahtzee. If the developer of a game has enough humility and a sense of humour to thank Yahtzee for ripping into something he's slaved over for several months, I don't see why there has to be a weekly outpouring of "omg y don't u lyk dis game" from people who don't have any appreciation of the subjectivity of reviews.

lumpenprole:
You either go the captain route, and you end up with Mass Effect or you go the pilot route

Yeah, but there are so many story routes around this it's insane. How about you're a falsely-accused criminal who's stolen a small ship with limited interplanetary capability and you have to fight your way through the local law enforcement to get to each planet.

Or.. You're the leader of a military convoy, partly you have to plan out attack strategies, but then in combat you have the lead ship. Plus planetary refuels.

Or.. you just change perspective and play more than one player. Nobody says it has to be an RPG.

The possibilities are there, it seems only the will is lacking.

And I love most of those ideas... on paper.

But then, I guess, designers start prototyping and coming up with full fledged sim mechanics and controls must feel like too much of a chore AND too much risk. If somebody doesn't like the space sim mechanics, your game is broken for them. If they don't like the on foot sections, same thing.

And when you decide to streamline it, the on foot stuff will probably prevail, if only because a) it's far more common and popular and b) let's face it, a big part of the fun of space sims is being in space, and you don't actually need to pilot anything to get that.

Which is why I referred to Bridge Commander (again, a generally good game). You didn't have to take direct control (although you could, I believe), but it still was interesting, because giving the orders and following the procedures turns out to be a surprisingly big chunk of the experience.

DeadlyYellow:
Ah Unity3d... Out of curiosity, have you ever played Jetpack Brontosaurus?

A game where you play as a dinosaur... with a jetpack? And I wasn't informed. My lord

Yahtzee Croshaw:

I'm waiting for a game like Crimson Skies where you have to take off at the start, and if you see a nice green field somewhere, you can land, get out, stretch your legs, maybe have a bit of a picnic before returning to the dogfight.

you mean like Warhawk?

Not that you've ever listened to me or replied to my comments. Not that I matter.

But (never having played it, but it seems to be well recommended to people wanting space battles):

Shattered Horizon

... or maybe Gratuitous Space Battles ... might be a place to start.

Ah, yes - the decline of the quick-flying, laser-shooting games of yore does fill my heart with sorrow. My friends still laugh at me whenever I profess my undying love for the G-Police series... Since I've dug out the old PS1, maybe I should buy the old Colony War games too...

I wonder what Yahtzee thinks about Starfox. I know its more arcade than 3D space flying, but still.
How about if StarFox did just that the next time around?

If I ever played a game where I could fend off boarding parties, walk around to use turrets Star Wars style, space walk around outside my ship and land on an Alien planet and drink space whiskey I think I would jizz out my heart.

Deep down we all want to be Han Solo flying across space, shooting first and making our mistakes look awesome.

DeadlyYellow:
Ah Unity3d... Out of curiosity, have you ever played Jetpack Brontosaurus?

I have to say... I think that is the most awesome online game I have EVER played!! :D
It's a Brontosaurus... with a JETPACK!!!
Thank you for that mysterious stranger... you've brightened up my life considerably!

Gildan Bladeborn:
I often mourn the current dearth of good space sims, though I generally make a point of mentioning that there actually hasn't been a really good one since Freespace 2, since it's the greatest space sim ever and if you disagree with me you are wrong.

Xersues:
I miss Freespace. That and X-Wing Vs. Tie fighter were two the of the best space fighters ever made.

Play FS and FS 2 and experience the awesomeness of both. Seriously. The FRED editor was just brilliant move. Best 30 bucks I ever spent on a game back when.

Poor Volition, Inc. When will you make good games again?

Do you still have the game? If so, good. If not pick it up from Good Old Games for $6.

Now go here, and follow the directions. Welcome to the wonderful world of "Holy crap, there's still an active Freespace 2 community that's been dramatically overhauling the engine and graphics so that it runs on modern operating systems and looks like it could have been released last year instead of over a decade ago?!

You're welcome.

I would probably cream my pants if I haven't been a part of that community for a long time :) But thanks for posting it here. VERY much worth the look for anyone out there looking to get the game!

I do miss games like X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter and Wing Commander.
It's a genre that I've not seen much of in a long time.

As for 3D, I feel ya. I tried to learn Blender once through online tutorials (to coincidentally help a programmer friend with a spaceship sim) but, it seems there are WAY too many versions of Blender and the tutorials were not necessarily correct for the version I have...

What I see is sort of like "Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment," except with a different combat system instead of the one that I felt Yahtzee wanted to stab himself in the head for.

My dream has been "grand theft spaceship" -- I want to be able to get into a space vessel, and strafe groundside targets. I want to be strafed by spaceships. I want to see ships flying above me and "interact" with them with a sufficiently heavy weapon.

And I want it in multiplayer. Is that too much to ask for?

Perhaps Yahtzee should look into the Ace Combat series? It's got some ground-based stuff. Granted, it's limited to take-offs and landings, but it's a start.

There's even a couple of good setpieces in 5 (Squadron Leader) and Zero (The Belkan War), where you're in your jet on the tarmac as things go to hell before you can even take off.

And I'm going to say Freelancer may be the Space Sim you're looking for.

EDIT: I don't think that Space Flight games tanked because they were easy, or hard. I think they tanked after the Earth and Beyond debacle.

Essentially, EaB was to be a Space Flight MMO headed by the RTS giant Westwood Studios. It did eventually get released, but it bombed. Big time. The servers were shut down after 2 years, and Westwood was no more.

He must never have played Warhawks (fighter planes mixed with ground combat). I also drone on about no more space flight games. I like the X series, but my favorite is the Freespace games. yeah, and who here has ever played Hardwar, that is an old goodie.

you know what happened? vacuuuuuuum. utter domination of vacuum over any interesting bits in universe. wacuum is what nobody wants to see because if you chopped GTA IV's liberty city and spilled in enough useless buildings, it would be as boring as True Crime's attempt on the city of angeles.

Noelveiga:
And when you decide to streamline it, the on foot stuff will probably prevail, if only because a) it's far more common and popular and b) let's face it, a big part of the fun of space sims is being in space, and you don't actually need to pilot anything to get that.

I don't really think that's true. If you look at how many people jumped up and said Battlefront 2, it seems like there's plenty of support for the jump in and out of ship model. Somebody up there referred to 'Grand Theft Spaceship' and that's a perfect analogy. Earning my pilot license in GTA:SA was one of my favorite parts, and after that I flew everywhere.

I think the tools and the talent exist to make a game that used ground and space, and used it well. I think a big part of the reason it hasn't happened is that there's really been nothing like it and game companies prefer to bet on ideas with a track record.

I have a new favorite insult: Dickbiscuit. You're the best, Yahtzee!

lumpenprole:

Noelveiga:
And when you decide to streamline it, the on foot stuff will probably prevail, if only because a) it's far more common and popular and b) let's face it, a big part of the fun of space sims is being in space, and you don't actually need to pilot anything to get that.

I don't really think that's true. If you look at how many people jumped up and said Battlefront 2, it seems like there's plenty of support for the jump in and out of ship model. Somebody up there referred to 'Grand Theft Spaceship' and that's a perfect analogy. Earning my pilot license in GTA:SA was one of my favorite parts, and after that I flew everywhere.

I think the tools and the talent exist to make a game that used ground and space, and used it well. I think a big part of the reason it hasn't happened is that there's really been nothing like it and game companies prefer to bet on ideas with a track record.

Yeah, but Grand Theft Spaceship is exactly what I'm talking about. I have to disagree with you about San Andreas. Flying around in helicopters and planes is one of the most frustrating bits of GTA for me. Controllers are just not great at doing 3D movement, mostly because they have two sticks with two axis on each one. I just popped Sylpheed on my 360 now (because I talked about it before and wondered if it was as bad as I remembered) and it just doesn't work properly. Yawing and rolling are locked to the same axis on most configurations, and the only one that doesn't do this completely removes the ability to roll. Likewise, throttling is usually a pain.

So if you just force that on a GTA structure, you are likely to either scare people off the complicated 3D flying or dumb down the mechanics.

Other games don't really have the same pace. On most FPSs with air combat people jump into air vehicles for small periods, and even then, they are often notoriously hard to handle. It makes them rewarding to master, but it also leads to specialists, with a good chunk of the players staying grounded to prevent complaints about jumping on a plane and crashing it due to a lack of skill. Or just jumping on planes and dying due to a lack of skill, if they have no choice but to participate.

I'm not saying I wouldn't like to see that Grand Theft Spaceship concept realized, and done well (I'd love to, actually), I'm just acknowledging that it'd have a few big problems to solve in the process. Even on Dark Void flying is so unwieldy that they made accidentally flying into a wall while trying to take off indoors a gameplay mechanic. If that is not an admission of the difficulties of in-game flight, I don't know what is.

zauxz:
How is a black void more interesting than a landscape?

It's not, it's the awesome mechanics you can add in that make it more fun - in space, once you reach a speed, you don't really need to keep using fuel to travel. Which means you can literally spin a ship round AND FLY BACKWARDS while shooting your pursuers in the face.

In fact, the actual physics are quite fun in their own right. Now add guns, alien worlds and an upgrade system.

Finally, you could always base the combat near nebulae, asteroid fields and the like, so theirs a whole tactical element that you would never get with a ground based flight sim.

If X3:TC shows anything, it's that space games can once again be done to a very high (graphical) quality, so that isn't really the issue anymore.
What IS the issue is that the userbase for this type of game, (first or third *shudder* person space combat simulator) is currently non existent. There have been no memorable space combat sims released in the last almost decade and those that have been releases never reached AAA popularity (their own fault in many cases). These two things combined make creating a major release space combat sim a very risky thing for developers/publishers.

(Also, I'd reckon it would be a modellers dream to have your boss come and say "Go make us a bunch of badass looking spaceships". It has to be in the top 5 things that modellers make in their own time.)

Barbari Damnati:

zauxz:
How is a black void more interesting than a landscape?

It's not, it's the awesome mechanics you can add in that make it more fun - in space, once you reach a speed, you don't really need to keep using fuel to travel. Which means you can literally spin a ship round AND FLY BACKWARDS while shooting your pursuers in the face.

In fact, the actual physics are quite fun in their own right. Now add guns, alien worlds and an upgrade system.

Finally, you could always base the combat near nebulae, asteroid fields and the like, so theirs a whole tactical element that you would never get with a ground based flight sim.

Here's what I don't get with spaceship sims.

Why are all the guns on the front?

They do that in airplanes (make guns point forward) because airplanes are like sharks, they can't move back or stop moving. But not spaceships. The games that do let you turn the ship around and shoot back while moving forward expose this. Why not have missiles pointing to the back of the ship, or 360 degree rotating gun batteries? In fact, why have ships shaped like planes at all? Unless they are meant for atmospheric use as well (which would make sense, but still not explain the front-mounted weapons), it would be better to have a Tie Fighter-like design, with a rotating cockpit rather than a flat, wing-like design.

Mmmm... I just geeked out badly right there. This is what happens when you start discussing space sims.

Gildan Bladeborn:
Do you still have [Freespace 2]? If so, good. If not pick it up from Good Old Games for $6.

Now go here, and follow the directions. [ ... ]

I did that a few months ago -- bought a copy of Freespace 2 off GoG, then downloaded and installed all the user-created upgrades...

And then was promptly wrestled to the ground by the sheer number of controls I need to master. Oh sure, you can bind any command to any key. The trick is remembering how you set things up. And if you change things around you have to re-remember things. Seriously, they need like a flashcard drill for the controls.

Also, I don't know if it's me (it probably is), but I've always had this trouble with spaceflight sims where I constantly over-steer and under-steer toward my target, and basically oscillate around them. Maybe it's inertial simulation, but I can never quite tune in to the joystick response curve, steer straight toward something, and track it reliably. So I suck at dogfighting.

I love flying in games. Not only does it give me the invigorating sense of freedom that man has envied from the moment he first glanced up from his cave to see a flock of pterodactyls sweeping past, but it also instantly evolves gameplay into the third dimension.

Yahtzee is a creationist? O_o

ewhac:

Gildan Bladeborn:
Do you still have [Freespace 2]? If so, good. If not pick it up from Good Old Games for $6.

Now go here, and follow the directions. [ ... ]

I did that a few months ago -- bought a copy of Freespace 2 off GoG, then downloaded and installed all the user-created upgrades...

And then was promptly wrestled to the ground by the sheer number of controls I need to master. Oh sure, you can bind any command to any key. The trick is remembering how you set things up. And if you change things around you have to re-remember things. Seriously, they need like a flashcard drill for the controls.

Also, I don't know if it's me (it probably is), but I've always had this trouble with spaceflight sims where I constantly over-steer and under-steer toward my target, and basically oscillate around them. Maybe it's inertial simulation, but I can never quite tune in to the joystick response curve, steer straight toward something, and track it reliably. So I suck at dogfighting.

They actually have that, sort of: the various training missions are designed to drill certain core and advanced controls into your head, though for some odd reason they don't go into the more advanced (and very useful) controls until you've been playing the game for a while and switch squadrons. I always skip those or turn time compression on so it goes by really fast, but they sound like what you want. Assuming you haven't already reached the point where the Advanced Training kicks in, you can go to the mission simulator and press Ctrl + Shift + S and all the missions will display, so you can go through them earlier - just don't get tempted and start playing later missions in the simulator!

Noelveiga:

lumpenprole:

Noelveiga:
And when you decide to streamline it, the on foot stuff will probably prevail, if only because a) it's far more common and popular and b) let's face it, a big part of the fun of space sims is being in space, and you don't actually need to pilot anything to get that.

I don't really think that's true. If you look at how many people jumped up and said Battlefront 2, it seems like there's plenty of support for the jump in and out of ship model. Somebody up there referred to 'Grand Theft Spaceship' and that's a perfect analogy. Earning my pilot license in GTA:SA was one of my favorite parts, and after that I flew everywhere.

I think the tools and the talent exist to make a game that used ground and space, and used it well. I think a big part of the reason it hasn't happened is that there's really been nothing like it and game companies prefer to bet on ideas with a track record.

Yeah, but Grand Theft Spaceship is exactly what I'm talking about. I have to disagree with you about San Andreas. Flying around in helicopters and planes is one of the most frustrating bits of GTA for me. Controllers are just not great at doing 3D movement, mostly because they have two sticks with two axis on each one. I just popped Sylpheed on my 360 now (because I talked about it before and wondered if it was as bad as I remembered) and it just doesn't work properly. Yawing and rolling are locked to the same axis on most configurations, and the only one that doesn't do this completely removes the ability to roll. Likewise, throttling is usually a pain.

So if you just force that on a GTA structure, you are likely to either scare people off the complicated 3D flying or dumb down the mechanics.

Other games don't really have the same pace. On most FPSs with air combat people jump into air vehicles for small periods, and even then, they are often notoriously hard to handle. It makes them rewarding to master, but it also leads to specialists, with a good chunk of the players staying grounded to prevent complaints about jumping on a plane and crashing it due to a lack of skill. Or just jumping on planes and dying due to a lack of skill, if they have no choice but to participate.

I'm not saying I wouldn't like to see that Grand Theft Spaceship concept realized, and done well (I'd love to, actually), I'm just acknowledging that it'd have a few big problems to solve in the process. Even on Dark Void flying is so unwieldy that they made accidentally flying into a wall while trying to take off indoors a gameplay mechanic. If that is not an admission of the difficulties of in-game flight, I don't know what is.

Well, I don't know that simplifying the mechanic is a bad thing. Again, in many of the games mentioned in this forum, a simplified mechanic is the rule. I think one of the reasons Colony Wars died out as a series is that they had gotten the flight to a great point, but sort of neglected the gameplay around that.

Having played the demo of Dark Void, I think that the flight in it is unnecessarily difficult. There's no added motion control to it that makes it any more needing of depth than the average game space ship, it's just not really clean. I'll reserve judgment on the game until I play the whole thing, but at the moment, I think flying in Brutal Legend is way more fun, and that sucks.

I actually think you could do a great version of Freespace on the console. When I played it, I'd do loadout and pretty much only end up using 5 or 6 items over and over. And that's without the possibility of adding in FPS gameplay.

Again, I don't think there's any magic here, just lack of will.

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