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For non-game space simulators, see Space simulator.
  1. REDIRECT Template:VG Simulation

A space flight simulator game is a genre of video games that lets players experience space flight in a spacecraft. Highly realistic examples include Orbiter and Microsoft Space Simulator.

Space flight simulators, at one time popular, have for most of the 2000s been considered a "dead" genre.[1][2][3][4][5]

Sub-types

Space combat simulator

Space combat simulators[6][1] feature a futuristic simulation of space flight involving combat, as opposed to the modern-day and highly realistic simulation of space flight in other space flight simulators. Such games generally place the player into the controls of a small starfighter or smaller starship in a military force of similar and larger spaceships. The prominent Wing Commander, Tachyon: The Fringe, X-Wing and Freespace series all use this approach. Exceptions include the first Independence War and the Star Trek: Bridge Commander series, which model craft at a larger scale and/or in a more strategic fashion.

Space combat simulators tend to be mission-based, as opposed to the more open-ended nature of space trading and combat simulators.

Space trading and combat simulator

The general formula for space trading and combat simulators[7][8][9][10], which has changed little since its genesis, is for the player to begin in a relatively small, outdated ship (that said, the ship the player controls is generally larger than that in pure space combat simulator) with little money or status and for the player to work his way up, gaining in status and power through trading, exploration, combat or a mix of different methods.[11][12][13] Notable examples include Elite, Wing Commander: Privateer, and Freelancer.

In some instances, plot plays only a limited role and only a loose narrative framework tends to be provided (in certain titles of the X series, for instance, players may ignore the plot for as long as they wish and are even given the option to disable the plot completely and instead play in "sandbox" mode[11]) -- but many games of this genre place a strong emphasis on factional conflict, leading to many small mission-driven subplots that unravel the tensions of the galaxy.

Games of this type often allow the player to choose among multiple roles to play and multiple paths to victory. This aspect of the genre is very popular, but some people have complained that, in some titles, the leeway given to the player too often is only superficial, and that, in reality, the roles offered to players are very similar, and open-ended play too frequently restricted by scripted sequences.[11] As an example, Freelancer has been criticised for being too rigid in its narrative structure,[14][12] being in one case compared negatively with Grand Theft Auto,[14] another series praised for its open-ended play.[15]

All space trading and combat games feature the core gameplay elements of directly controlling the flight of some sort of space vessel, generally armed, and of navigating from one area to another for a variety of reasons. As technology has improved it has been possible to implement a number of extensions to gameplay, such as dynamic economies, cooperative online play and realistic flight models based on Newtonian physics, but the core gameplay has changed little over the years. Some recent games, for instance EVE Online, have expanded the scope of the experience by including thousands of simultaneous online players in what is sometimes referred to as a "living universe"[11][16][17][18] -- a dream some have held since the genre's early beginnings.[19]

An additional subclass of space trading games remove combat entirely, focusing instead entirely on trading and economic manipulation in order to achieve success.

Control systems

Most modern space flight simulators on the PC allow a player to utilise a combination of the WASD keys of the keyboard and mouse as a means of controlling the game (games such as Microsoft's Freelancer use this control system exclusively[14]). By far the most popular control system among genre enthusiasts, however, is the joystick.[4] Most fans prefer to use this input method whenever possible,[14] but expense and practicality mean that many are forced to use the keyboard and mouse combination (or gamepad if such is the case). The lack of uptake among the majority of modern gamers has also made joysticks a sort of an anachronism, though some new controller designs[4] and simplification of controls offer the promise that space sims may be playable in their full capacity on gaming consoles at some time in the future.[4] In fact, X3: Reunion, sometimes considered one of the more cumbersome and difficult series of space simulations to master,[20][21] was initially planned for the Xbox but later cancelled.[22]

History

File:BBC Micro Elite screenshot.png

The modern space flight simulation genre emerged at the point when home computers became sufficiently powerful to draw basic wireframe graphics in real-time.[13] The game Elite is widely considered to be the breakthrough game of the genre,[13][17][24][25] and as having successfully melded the "space trading" and flight sim genres.[26] Elite was highly influential upon later games of its type, although it did have some precursors, and games similar to Elite are often called "Elite-clones".[27][28][29][30]

Elite

Main article: Elite (video game)

Elite has made a lasting impression on developers, worldwide, extending even into different genres. In interviews, senior producers of CCP Games cited Elite as one of the inspirations for their acclaimed MMORPG, EVE Online.[25][31][32] Thorolfur Beck credits Elite as the game that impacted him most on the Commodore 64.[25] Developers of Jumpgate Evolution, Battlecruiser 3000AD, Infinity: The Quest for Earth, Hard Truck: Apocalyptic Wars and Flatspace likewise all claim Elite as a source of inspiration.[24][33][34][35][36]

Elite was named one of the sixteen most influential games in history at Telespiele, a German technology and games trade show,[37] and is being exhibited at such places as the London Science Museum in the "Game On" exhibition organized and toured by the Barbican Art Gallery.[38] Elite was also named #12 on IGN's 2000 "Top 25 PC Games of All Time" list,[39] the #3 most influential video game ever by the Times Online in 2007,[40] and "best game ever" for the BBC Micro by Beebug Magazine in 1984[41]. Elite's sequel, Frontier: Elite II, was named #77 on PC Zone's "101 Best PC Games Ever" list in 2007.[42] Similar praise has been bestowed elsewhere in the media from time to time.[43][44][45][46][47]

Elite is one of the most popularly requested games to be remade,[21] and some argue that it is still the best example of the genre to date, with more recent titles—including its sequel—not rising up to its level.[16][12][13][17] It has been credited as opening the door for future online persistent worlds, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft,[40] and as being the first truly open-ended game.[15][48] It is to this day one of the most ambitious games ever made, and yet resides in only 22 kilobytes of memory and on a single floppy disk.[16]

Other examples

Elite was not the first game to take flight simulator mechanics into outer space. Other notable examples include Star Raiders (1979), Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space (1982) and Rendezvous: A Space Shuttle Simulation (1982).[26] Following Elite were games such as The Halley Project (1985), Echelon (1987) and Microsoft Space Simulator (1994).

Some tabletop and board games, such as Traveller or Merchant of Venus, also feature themes of space combat and trade. Traveller influenced the development of Elite (the main character in Traveller is named "Jamison"; the main character in Elite is named "Jameson") and Jumpgate Evolution.[49][24] Trade Wars and TradeWars 2002 were early BBS door games that featured trading and combat set in outer space, and were influential in their own right.[50][51]

Decline

The seeming decline of the space flight simulators in the late '90s coincided with the rise of the RTS, FPS and RPG game genres, with such examples as Doom, Warcraft and Diablo.[4] The very things that made these games classics, such as their open-endedness, complex controls and attention to detail, have been cited as reasons for this decline.[4][5] Some recent franchises such as the X series[4] and EVE Online, however, appear to have broken this mold. The open source community has also been active, with recent projects such as FS2 Open and Vega Strike serving as platforms for nonprofessional efforts.[5] Remakes of Elite[citation needed] and Privateer[52] are even being made using the Vega Strike engine.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Peckham, Matt (September 26, 2006). "DarkStar One". SciFi.com. Retrieved 2007-11-17. [dead link]
  2. "Space Interceptor: Project Freedom". MyGamer. November 9, 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  3. Weise, Matt (May 28, 2003). "Freelancer". GameCritics. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 LaMosca, Adam (July 18, 2006). "Lost in the Void". The Escapist. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Wen, Howard (February 12, 2008). "What Happened To The Last Starfighters?". The Escapist. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  6. "SW3DG releases Evochron Renegades". GameTunnel. October 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-16. [dead link]
  7. "Evochron". GameZone. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  8. "Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators". GamingTrend. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  9. "X3: Reunion". IGN. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  10. "Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators (PC)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Brenesal, Barry (December 6, 2005). "IGN: X3: Reunion Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Fahey, Rob (September 30, 2003). "X2 - The Threat preview". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Willimas, Bryn (September, 2000). "GameSpy.com - Hall of Fame: Elite". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-06-20.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Fahey, Rob (April 11, 2003). "Freelancer Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Whitehead, Dan (February 4, 2008). "Born Free: the History of the Openworld Game". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Shoemaker, Richie (August 14, 2002). "Games that changed the world: Elite". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "X3: Reunion review at games xtreme". games xtreme. January 25, 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-19.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  18. "X2 The Threat". GameInfoWire. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  19. Carless, Simon (March 5, 2008). "GDC: Game Designers Rant On Making Games That Matter". GameSetWatch. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  20. Peckham, Matt (March 7, 2006). "Flatspace II: The Rise of the Scarrid". SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Fahey, Rob (February 6, 2004). "X2: The Threat Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  22. "X3: Reunion for Xbox". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  23. Scatteia, L. (2005). "Title: Space-themed videogames: an effective way to promote space". The Electronic Library (Emerald Group Publishing Limited) 23 (5): 553–566. doi:10.1108/02640470510631272. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Hartmeyer, Steve (February 13, 2008). "Dev Diary: The Inspirations Behind Jumpgate Evolution". The MMO Gamer. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Aihoshi, Richard (August 1, 2000). "EVE Interview". RPGVault. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 Barton, Matt; Bill Loguidice (April 7, 2009). "The History of Elite: Space, the Endless Frontier". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-12-27.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  27. Eberle, Matt (November 17, 2004). "Star Sonata Review". GameZone. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  28. Gillen, Kieron (July 17, 2006). "Darkstar One Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  29. Vandervell, Andrew (August 16, 2006). "DarkStar One Review for PC". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  30. "X: Beyond The Frontier Review". Eurogamer. October 21, 1999. Retrieved 2008-06-19.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  31. "Evolution and Risk: CCP on the Freedoms of EVE Online". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  32. Breeden II, John. "Keep Looking Up: Space-based Eve Online Enjoys Success". GamesIndustry. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  33. Johnson, Joe (February 9, 2006). "Infinity: Quest for the Earth". ModDB. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  34. "Hard Truck: Apocalyptic Wars interview". Duck and Cover. April 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  35. Carroll, Russell (October 27, 2003). "Chat with Cornutopia about FLATSPACE by Game Tunnel". Game Tunnel. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  36. Bergman, Jason. "Serious Brass Ones (A peek inside the world of Derek Smart)". looneygames. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  37. Plunkett, Luke (August 27, 2007). "German Journos Pick Their Most Important Games Of All Time". Kotaku. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  38. Barnett, Jane (2006/10/24). "Game On in London!".  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  39. "The Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. July 24, 2000. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 Moran, Michael (September 20, 2007). "The ten most influential video games ever". Times Online. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  41. Fell, David (November 1984). "Elite - An Outstanding New Game from Acornsoft". Beebug Magazine. 
  42. "The 101 best PC games ever". PC Zone. May 12, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  43. "THE HOT 100 GAME DEVELOPERS OF 2007". GamesIndustry.biz. March 3, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-20. David Braben is one of the old-time legends of British computer gaming – along with Ian Bell, he co-wrote the space simulator Elite, a hugely influential game often earmarked as one of the best ever made. 
  44. "Presented in Retrovision: Elite". Gay Gamer. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20. Elite is still one of the most influential games to date, having inspired EVE Online, Freespace, Jumpgate, Homeworld and a handful of other space titles.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  45. Barrat, Andy (January 30, 2008). "Racing Into The Future". G4techTV Canada. Retrieved 2008-06-20. But [the BBC Micros] weren't just for learning on, a handful of games were actually released for the Beeb - two of the most influential games ever in fact – one of which was Revs. (...) The other super influential game [besides Revs] by the way, was Elite. 
  46. Shoemaker, Richie (August 13, 2001). "PC Review: X - Beyond the Frontier". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-06-20. If, however - like me - you consider Elite to be the best game ever made, X - Beyond The Frontier is by far its closest relation. 
  47. Karlsson, Peter (Issue 8). "Classic Commodore games on the web". Commodore World. In 1984, Ian Bell was the one of the authors of a game that by many still is regarded as the best game ever written, Elite (the other author was David Braben).  Check date values in: |date=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  48. "The complete history of open-world games". Computer and Video Games. May 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  49. Hooper, George. "Elite Trivia". George Hooper. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  50. Rector, Charles (July 27, 2007). "Interviews: Werner Bayer aka Bladefist of Pardus". Online Multiplayer Games Network. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  51. "Classic BBS Game “Trade Wars” Reborn (Press Release)". GameZone. May 4, 2006. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  52. "Privateer Gemini Gold 1.02a Review". Macworld. January 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
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