Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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RedSwirl

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Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:57 pm

One genre in which I have interest but haven't touched is space "sims." The big thing is that I still really have no idea what their level of complexity is. The closest things to space sims I've played are the first Descent, Fury3, Hellbender, and Rogue Squadron. I have no idea if games like Wing Commander, Elite, and X-Wing are closer to those games or closer to like ArmA III or Microsoft Flight Simulator. This is why I really don't have a good idea of what to expect from Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. The main reason I'm more excited for No Man's Sky is because it seems to have taken the same concept and presented it a more accessible way, and because it seems to be putting more emphasis on planetary exploration which is what really interests me -- the sense of scale you get from being able to seamlessly move between deep space and planetary surfaces.

I know Elite kinda does this which is why it's one of the main franchises I want to investigate. If I was just going to check out one Elite game, which should it be? And what version? I see there are like a dozen versions of Elite 1. I think I'm the most interested in Frontier: Elite II though and have thought about finding a way to acquire the game just to see what the heck it is.

After that I was thinking about Descent: Freespace.
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Alex Connolly

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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Alex Connolly » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:10 pm

Space games really do run the same gamut as the racing genre. Some are utterly arcade, others are total sims, others are open-world.

You've got a good starting position with Hellbender etc. Most space games, at least the pure dogfighters, don't deal with much beyond switching weapons and throttling energy around shield banks.

If you're not willing to roll back to the Wing Commanders or LucasArts' doyens, then starting with the Freespace series is perfect. The Great War and the expansion are fantastic, but it's Freespace 2 that deservedly gets called out as the last great space fighter game. It has massive scale, a fine narrative, excellent mission structure and has a slew of mods that can smarten it up. Still plays like a dream, too.

I'd also be willing to suggest checking out the Independence War games. Newtonian physics make at least the original I-War game something really special. Engaging vessels at high-speed while sloughing your frigate sideways to compensate for inertia is something else. The second game is great fun, too.

Also props to Starlancer, a game often left in the shadows, but a great Cold War-esque romp.

There's a bunch of Euro games, especially from the former Soviet states, that are quite interesting. The Tomorrow War looks pretty stock-standard, but it has a decent enough story in a Russian mil-SF way (has your atmospheric-orbit/space transition, too). There's also a demo for Home Planet out there, a Russian-made dogfighter that felt akin to I-War in a way; high on the electronic countermeasures and speed, low on the terrestrial dogfighter-but-in-space gear. Shame it never got released beyond a demo in the West.

As one of the few people in the world who, despite the outcoming being less than stellar, loved tinkering around in Derek Smart's Battlecruiser 3000AD/Millennium, Starshatter becoming an open-source project is something awesome. If the idea of flying/managing a BSG-style carrier floats a boat or two, check out the game. Glad it has returned, as it disappeared from the Matrix store a while ago.

As far as freeform Elite games go, though? Elite is kind of the pinnacle, and everything that has seemingly come after it been constrained or localised to a degree. I'd say the X games are close, but then, they don't really have the freedom - better seen as sandbox business simulations. Your office just happens to be the bridge of a ship. Freelancer was okay, but I didn't like it as much as many other folks.

Tell you what, though. You might want to check out Unknown - 3D Space Trader on iOS. It's as faithful a clone as you're going to get, and has that sparse, vector universe to explore. Recommended, especially for the two bucks it's going for. Plays really well on iPad as well as iPhone.

Hope that helps. Love the genre, but kinda not sure what Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen mean for it right now. I'll take an Enemy Starfighter over those two. Plus two Rodina titles.

Could waffle on for hours. Parkan II...now there was an opportunity...
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Angry Jedi » Tue Dec 02, 2014 5:50 pm

I'll throw in a vote for Freelancer, too, which some people described as "the Diablo of space trading games" and I'd actually sort of concur with. It's very arcadey in terms of combat, but it's a lot of fun, has a lot to do and an interesting story (with some great voice actors) to enjoy along the way, too.

Also, an emphatic yes for Freespace 2.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Bowley » Tue Dec 02, 2014 8:21 pm

I can't comment on Elite, so there's that.

However, to set your expectations, it has been my experience that space sims don't ever touch the complexity of flight sims, at least in the level of control and realistic flight modeling. Even with power levels, directional shields, speed matching, target switching, and later entries (including Star Citizen) touting realistic spaceflight and maneuvering. they are an order of magnitude more arcadey.

Now if we're talking complex economics, well, space sims will be your jam, unless you'd rather do that sort of thing on solid ground. X3 is an intimidating, yet rewarding experience in this vein. Then there's Eve: Online. You've probably read the stories.

I'll also third Freespace 2 in this thread as your ambassador for the Wing Commander/Tie Fighter "tech tree" of space sims (my favorite). To varying degrees, these are serious, difficult, often melodramatic, they have narrative driven campaigns, with branching mission outcomes, secret objectives, concourse menu screens, and escort missions to make your hair go grey. Star Citizen: Squadron 42 seems to be of this lineage, while Star Citizen proper will be more like Eve.

See you, Space Cowboy.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:09 pm

My plan someday after poking my head into Elite II is probably to check out Freespace 1, perhaps even during the holiday Steam sale, then Freespace 2, then StarLancer, then Freelancer.

I remember StarLancer from back in the day but never played it beyond the Dreamcast demo. Really liked that demo, played through it many times and I remember the game getting high reviews back then. Looking back it was a pure dogfighter but with 6DOF movement and a really thick UI. Still disappointed you can't get it digitally these days but I guess those Amazon physical copies will do (or a Dreamcast copy).

Freelancer and games like it (or what I imagine them to be) is what starts to intimidate me when they use the word "trading" so often. I guess what I'm really afraid of are spreadsheet simulators like EVE. If I play a space ship game I want it to be about owning a space ship. That is: flying through space, landing on planets, and everything visceral in-between. I can deal with complexity if it's the complexity involved in the operation of space ships. Makes it sound kind of like when I tried to get into Total War -- I was wiling to try to learn the tactical warfare stuff, but not the economy sim.

I want to investigate X-Wing and Tie Fighter too but have no idea where those games sit on the family tree.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Alex Connolly » Tue Dec 02, 2014 10:03 pm

Elite can be massively overwhelming, given the scope. Freelancer is a great entry-level trader; lots to do without being gargantuan, UI is easy to parse, controls more akin to an FPS than a terrestrial fighter game...looks nice, too.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Angry Jedi » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:46 pm

Yeah. Freelancer was specifically made to be an incredibly accessible version of this type of game. The trading is very much a case of buying something that looks cheap, then selling it somewhere else, maybe getting into a scrap or two along the way. When you felt like it, you could follow the story along. Otherwise, you could just tool around. In Spaaaaaaace.

I never beat it, actually; quite tempted to boot it up and see how badly it's aged. Or indeed if it even runs in Windows 7. :)
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:55 pm

Okay, I am taking the big dive into Elite 1. Probably not right now, but I'm in the process of downloading the files after some research.

Apparently, a website put up by one of the original developers of Elite 1 is still up, and still offers several versions of the game to download for free. Elite was ported to basically every 80's home computer under the sun, but the developer's opinion is that the best versions are the Archon Archimedes version (a system I've never heard of), and the NES verison. Dude even gives you emulators to use. http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/index.htm

I'm going to give this like one night of my time, and if I don't immediately bounce off the game in fear I'll try to peek further in. I'm slightly optimistic because I was able to get into Ultima Underworld 1 -- which is thus far the oldest computer game I've ever played, getting past its ancient controls to see the world that lie within. Of course I had to spend like a day reading the manual.

Edit: Just realized this involves emulating pre-Windows home computers. Man I've never even touched these old style home computers. Earliest computer system I ever messed with was what I believe was Windows 3.1, but I was too young to really know what it was. The earliest thing I've used in any meaningful way is 95.

If I can't break through the barrier on this, the next best thing is apparently Oolite (http://www.oolite.org/), a very mature fan project to basically reproduce OG Elite in a modern form. From what I understand it tries to be the same game but jazzed up with PS1 graphics instead of 1980's wireframe graphics.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Alex Connolly » Thu Dec 11, 2014 11:16 pm

Oolite is the best bet if you're not willing to go wireframe emulation or snag that iOS Unknown game. Looks very nice, considering what's going on out there, off the shoulder of Orion and beyond.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Sat Dec 13, 2014 4:58 am

I do believe I have broken through the barrier and figured out the basics of playing the NES version of Elite. I had to download an alternative emulator with werid controls to do it, but I'm in.

I first decided to download a PDF of the manual and load it up onto my iPad to flip through it while playing. Luckily, like a lot of manuals from that time, this one actually includes a little "tutorial" mission just to help you get your feet wet. The game itself also automatically pushes you into an interactive tutorial which is unheard of for an NES game. So that helped me get the basics down. I bought some stuff at the starting space station, performed a hyperspsce jump, and managed to get into another space station (using the auto dock which costs money) without dying, and sell the stuff for a good profit.

My problem is, now I'm just looking at the star map all like "What now?"

This is the same problem I have whenever I start up a Minecraft trial. I'm just sitting there in the middle of the world trying to think of something to do because there's no immediate pressing concern. This is totally ironic coming from someone who actually prefers freedom in video games. I think the difference is, I like being given a goal and then being set free to determine for myself how I perform it. I'm not used to having to make my own goals as soon as I start playing a game. They could at least have like, a job board or something, but I guess there isn't a way to procedurally generate that. Do later versions have something like that?

I have more to say but that will probably come later.
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