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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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:34 am

I just don't like 90's computer game representations of movies, especially movies as big as Star Wars. I may or may not mess with X-Wing and Tie Fighter. I'm still shocked Rogue Squadron made it onto GOG. I got every gold medal in the N64 version and probably wouldn't want to do it again. Too bad GOG isn't getting Episode One Racer though.

Anyway, playing Frontier and another game taught me that virtual representations are pretty much the only way you can accurately convey the size and distance between planets to scale. Universe Sandbox is the first time I got a really good idea of what the Solar System actually looks like. Frontier is the same thing but form human scale. A bit frustrating though when even the map screen displaying solar systems is to proper scale. To see a whole system you have to zoom out to where planets are invisible, and even after you've zoomed in to a planet you still have to zoom in another level of scale to see a space station.

Space, man.

Anyway, at some point I'm gonna throw Space Engine into this.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Alex Connolly » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:45 am

I use Space Engine with my students when we study space. It's pretty fantastic, and certainly the best looking astronomy tool out there, without having to download 40-odd gigs of high resolution textures (looking at you, Celestia)...
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Angry Jedi

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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Angry Jedi » Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:57 am

An interesting space game from the 16-bit era was Paul Woakes' Damocles, second in his Mercenary series, the first of which was an early example of both first-person perspective open-world exploration and (unfilled) vector graphics a la the original Elite.

Damocles, running on more powerful systems, had flat-shaded polygons and also expanded the scope considerably from a single planet to a whole solar system, with each planet that sported a surface (there were a couple of gas giants) and many of the moons playing host to networks of roads, buildings you could enter and explore and objects you could find and manipulate. Your eventual aim was to prevent a comet smashing into the Earth-like planet Eris, but you were free to ignore this if you saw fit (the game continued even if Eris blew up) and just tool around the galaxy.

Damocles (and its successor Mercenary III) took an interesting approach to the whole "scale" issue. When flying a craft capable of space flight, you could accelerate to enormous velocities to quickly move from planet to planet, but doing so distorted time around you and made the in-game clock -- which began as a countdown timer to Eris' obliteration, but which simply started counting upwards once either disaster had struck or you had saved the day -- move at astronomical (no pun intended) speeds.

They're primitive by today's standards, but the sheer ambition -- and the fact that this ambition was mostly realised on the hardware of the day -- is worthy of note. I don't know how well the games themselves hold up, but you can download the whole series for free (with the approval of the original team) here.

If you want to know more, I actually penned a more lengthy article on this series back in the USgamer days. You can find it at http://www.usgamer.net/articles/origins ... -mercenary
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:18 am

I kinda just realized I never talked about Wing Commander or other similar games in this discussion. What, if any, of the Wing Commander games are worth approaching for the first time in this day and age? And if you talk about Wing Commander I guess you gotta talk about Tie Fighter.

If I'm actually going to play this many old space flight games, I think at this point it would make sense for me to invest in a flight stick. The thing is, it would need to be one I can use both with more recent flight games as well as really old ones. Basically any flight game made since around 1990. I had a Sidewinder I used to use with Fury3. I still have my old Fury3 disc but don't know what happened to the Sidewinder. I may have recently sold or thrown it away after failing to figure out how to hook it up to my modern PC sometime before committing to these old games. Man.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by A.I Impaired » Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:22 pm

Wing commander and its offshoots can be lumped into two distinct eras: Before and after Wing Commander 3. Both eras have their charm. The flight in the games is slightly arcadey, though you can expect to chase ships around a lot picking away at their shields.The story started to flesh out after the first game, which was mostly about fun top gun style shenanigans followed by hanging with characters in a super chill space bar.

The offshoot Wing Commander: Privateer was a huge departure, coming closer to Elite in its scope and depth.

WIng Commander 3 of course was where they went hollywood. Decent performances from a star studded cast, all creating basically a movie around the game that is quite enjoyable and epic, if slightly dated in its effects.
3 was in my mind the darkest of the mainline series, and the most interesting to me cinematically. Its game play was very similar to previous games, but with some extra cinematic pizaaz.

Privateer 2 being probably my favorite of that era was a flawed but interesting game starring Clive Owen.(On GOG now yay) It never quite reached the openess of the original Privateer, maybe lacking some depth, but it had a very rich and dark style that made the exploration of that universe utterly unique and surprising every step of the way.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:54 pm

I think I briefly rented one of the Wing Commander games on the SNES from Blockbuster back in the day but didn't do much beyond some flight simulator thing I didn't really understand.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Angry Jedi » Sat Sep 05, 2015 5:22 pm

Wing Commander!

There used to be seriously seriously heated arguments between PC gamers over whether X-Wing or Wing Commander was better. (I was always a Wing Commander man; although I liked X-Wing and TIE Fighter, I much preferred Wing Commander's more in-your-face storytelling -- X-Wing and TIE Fighter are more like Freespace, or more accurately the other way around.)

A.I. is right. Wing Commander evolved in a very interesting way over time. It always had pretensions of being an interactive movie, but was held back by technological limitations until we entered the CD-ROM age once and for all. Wing Commander 1 and 2 had surprisingly fleshed-out, branching storylines according to your actions in missions, and were noteworthy for actually allowing the story to continue even if you let some or all of the "wingman" characters die along the way.

Wing Commander 3 was a turning point for the presentation of games in general. Not only did it come on some unfeasibly large number of CDs for the time (I think it was at least 4 or 5), it also demanded an absolute top-range computer to get it running at anything approaching a playable frame-rate in "high resolution" (640x480 256-colour Super VGA, no less). Those CDs were rammed full of full-motion video starring Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell and the dude who played Biff in Back to the Future (oh, and porn star Ginger Allen) but still managed to have a surprisingly flexible story that could branch off in a number of different directions according to both the visual novel-style binary choices you were presented with throughout the narrative and your performance in missions.

Wing Commander 3 brought the "Kilrathi Saga" of the first three games to a close; one of the endings actually saw you blowing up the Kilrathi's home planet in the series' own version of the Trench Run. Wing Commander 4 then started a new arc about intergalactic civil war or something -- I don't remember the details of the story, to be honest, but I do remember the full-motion video was of a much higher quality, using real sets instead of blue-screen backdrops, and Malcolm McDowell said the word "Behemoth" a whole lot throughout it. Again, the plot could branch in numerous directions according to your choices and actions.

Wing Commander V was apparently a bit poo.

Wing Commander Privateer was Elite with the Wing Commander 2 engine and a much stronger plot than Elite offered... i.e. there was actually a plot.

Privateer 2: The Darkening (they dropped the "Wing Commander" for this one for some reason) was another full-motion video affair, starring a number of British actors this time around, and is regarded as one of the best "explore, fight, trade" Elite-alikes of all time. For a long time, it simply wouldn't run on modern machines due to some strangeness with its graphics engine, but GOG have it now for like £3 or something, so if it appeals it's worth checking out.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Sat Sep 05, 2015 7:10 pm

So was Privateer procedurally-generated like Elite? It sounds like this is the basis for what Star Citizen is trying to be. I'm actually having a hard time understanding what the format of SC is even going to be, maybe because I haven't played any of its predecessors. The descriptions here make it sound like the whole series is worth checking out.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by Angry Jedi » Sat Sep 05, 2015 7:26 pm

No, Privateer and its ilk have a finite galaxy to explore. They're pretty big, but neither procedurally generated nor too big to ever see every corner of.
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Re: Elite and other space games.

by RedSwirl » Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:07 pm

Okay. I think that's going to be the case at first with Star Citizen, and that "Squadron 42" is going to be a more Wing Commander-style singleplayer campaign, but later they plan to do procedural generation.
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