Here's a ultra-cool twist on multiplayer gaming: Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator, a co-op LAN game for up to six players that proves that it's hard to soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys.
This is such an amazingly simple idea that I can't believe nobody has thought of it until now. It goes like this: Put six PCs together in a network, one to run the game and five to simulate unique starship duty stations - helm, weapons, communications, engineering and science - assign one player to each station and a sixth to call the shots as captain, then stand back and let the fun begin. That, in a nutshell, is Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator, a social tactical combat sim that demands cooperation, communication and, I would guess, no small amount of patience.
What makes the game so fascinating is that success or failure depends entirely upon the ability of the crew to work together, follow orders and not drop the ball at a crucial moment. The captain may be a tactical genius but if the helmsman is an idiot, you're out of luck; likewise, having the sharpest-shooting weapons officer in the sector doesn't mean a thing if the chief engineer forgets to charge up the phasers. And if half the crew decides in the heat of battle that the captain is totally blowing it, things could get very interesting, very quickly.
A group at Wired U.K. took the game for a spin and sure enough, there were challenges. "It's amateur hour on the bridge of the HMSS Wired. We're careening towards an interstellar minefield at warp 3, our chief engineer has accidentally diverted all the energy to the photon torpedoes so we've got no power for the main viewscreen, and our science officer has popped off to the loo just as we pass through an unexplored nebula that could be full of enemy cruisers," the captain writes. "It's not going well."
Artemis has a predictably strong Star Trek vibe and supports crews as small as three, although obviously the more, the merrier. The AI is apparently a bit on the weak side but that's hardly anything new when it comes to videogames, and the developer says bridge-to-bridge combat is slated to be incorporated in a future update, a change that will no doubt elevate the game from wickedly cool to absolutely mind-blowing.
Just think about it: A dozen people going head-to-head in interstellar combat, groping blindly through nebulae, dodging through minefields, shouting orders and acknowledgments in ridiculously bad accents. You could say, "The engines cannae take the strain, Cap'n!" and actually mean it! If that doesn't get your juices flowing, check your pulse.
More information about Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator, along with instructions, gameplay videos, a demo and more, can be found at artemis.eochu.com. Engage!