After finally learning how to actually play Endless Space, I’ve been having a ton of fun with it as my first real civilization game. I’ve always been fascinated with space, whether it be the giant epic battles seen in the like of Star Wars, or just exploring the unknown depths of the universe. Likewise, games taking place in space always hold a dear place in my heart, even if the whole “space” thing is not entirely necessary. An example would be Star Wars Battlefront II, where space missions were one of the biggest selling points next to playing as Jedi. Aerial battles existed in the last Battlefront game, so space didn’t actually change things other than making certain games absolutely focus on ship to ship combat and it could’ve taken place in the air, or certain maps with ground in them, I mean, it didn’t have to be in space.
The problem with how space is often portrayed in games is that like most other mediums, space is portrayed as an ocean. Everything is usually on perfect level with each other, ships sinks when they’re destroyed, and a lot of the interesting things about space are pretty much ignored, like there being no gravity, or how the smallest hull breach doesn’t just mean losing air, it means everything being sucked out. Also, space walks. Of all the Star Wars games I’ve played, I think only one has acknowledged that space is, well, space. There was a scene in Republic Commandos, where Delta squad has to investigate a Republic ship that was thought to be lost. They couldn’t land their shuttle into the ghost ship so they jumped out into space, protected by their armor and it was actually pretty epic.
Of course, space games aren’t just my own fantasy, since the dawn of gaming space has fascinated gamers. Games like Space War, Lunar Lander, Star Fox, Rogue Squadron, even Mario and Sonic have been to space multiple times. With so many space games released, does this mean that the industry has reached the edges of the space game universe? Not by a long shot, at least, not if I have anything to say about it.
So like all Speculation Friday articles, or at least most, I’m going to define what constitutes a “space game”. The first is that space needs to play a vital roll in the mechanics of the game. We can’t just treat it like an ocean. And that’s pretty much it. This isn’t too hard of a concept.
1) Spacefield or Star Wars Battlefront III
So one of the key features that was going to be in Star Wars Battlefront III was the seamless transition between land, air, and space. A player could take off in a ship that was docked on the ground, and dock in a capital ship in space without a single loading screen and it was awesome. Sadly, Free Radical took all the tech they had worked on to accomplish that feat with them when they went under and so now we’re stuck without seamless ground to space transitions or a Star Wars Battlefront III.
But wait, wasn’t there a game who served as the “inspiration” for the original Star Wars Battlefront? Why, I believe it was called Battlefield? Yes, there was and it’s about time they took their amazing formula to the starts with something like Battlefield 3142 or something. Think about it like this, three zones of combat, on ground where soldiers, tanks, and walkers (returning from 2142) would be as well as low altitude aerial vehicles like helicopters. Then you have the air zone, where high altitude jets do battle, and finally, space, where space ships do battle with the whole planet to look down upon.
Now what would make this more than just a reskinned Titan mode? Well at first not much. If the scenario is billed as a combination of 2142′s Titan mode and Rush mode from Battlefield 3, then there will be attacking and defending teams, but unlike Rush, both sides have an unlimited ticket count. The goal would be for the attacking team, who have a large capital space ship in orbit, would be take out key objectives that would hurt the defending after each loss, mainly defensive measures like large cannons that fire into space and shields that prevent orbital strikes. The defending team meanwhile has to destroy the enemy capital ship, by not only protecting their defensive structures, but also by sending space ships up there to attack it directly.
The capital ship itself can be like a massive Titan from 2142, able to act as a spawn point, drop troops via drop pods, and carry vehicles. It also has shields that must be taken down first before enemy troops can board it, and it would have a much more elaborate interior since it has to function for intergalactic travel. Now I suppose you were wondering why should there be three zones, instead of just ground and space. Why should high-altitude be important? Well, here’s what else I was thinking, the capital ship also has to supply the ground their the tanks and stuff, while missiles firing from the ground could be intercepted and destroyed. One thing I’ve noticed while playing Battlefield 3 is that flying the jet often only lets you fight other jets. Which is fun, but I’ve rarely seen a jet take out troops or tanks before unless its one of those jets with a hover mode. So now, jets can have a second function as being fast moving aerial vehicles that escort and intercept between the ground to space transition.
Spaceships on the other hand, wouldn’t function very well in high-altitude air, and wouldn’t be as aerodynamic as jets since they don’t need to be in space. While functioning like a jet helicopter from 2124 in space, anything in atmosphere would make it work like a semi out of gas. It would need a lot initial thrust to get it into space (unless we’re using magic Star Wars anti-gravity, which Battlefield probably wouldn’t do), which would give another incentive for jets to be in the air, since attacking ones would need to prevent those ships from getting into space.
2) Three Dimensional RTS
Star Wars Empire at War offers one of the best space RTS mechanics I’ve ever played (though I have heard of better ones) but let’s just say, the most annoying aspect of it is that it’s a top down view. When you watch the space fighters battle, they fighting definitely like they’re in space, with no regards for gravity and it looks pretty awesome, but the capital ships are always n the same plane or “lower” if the ships would overlap. For example, the Super Star Destroyer is huge, so when it’s in battle, every smaller ship is above it but there is really no difference.
So to resolve this, I’m thinking of an RTS that actually has different depths(?). Can you have depths in space? Well, the point is that space ships aren’t heading at each other in a straight line. Well so, how is this suppose to change the RTS genre? Well for one, I think there might be a little more depth or at least a different kind of depth to when choosing units. In addition to ships just being bigger and maybe having strengths against other types of units, things like top side guns, bottom side guns, but since that alone would still be a 2D RTS game, left side and right side weapons and armor integrity.
Now unfortunately, I don’t know the technical way to really make a 3D RTS game work. I suppose by using a combination of keys with the mouses, accompanies by an XYZ coordinate reader is just about the only way. But when someone makes the RTS where attacking all sides really means all sides, left, right, front, behind, above, and below, (and in space), I’ll definitely be first in line.
3) Captaining the Star Cruiser
Now I know there is an indie game being developed where you run a star ship building corporation where you can run tests on your space ship, but since I don’t quite know every facet of how that is going to work, I’m just going to put out my own ideas. Something I learned from watching the DVD commentary for the 2009 Star Trek movie is that while Star Wars treated their space battles like aerial fighter plane dog fights and naval battles, Star Trek treated it like submarine warfare. Everything was slower paced and the wrong move could get everyone killed in an instant. No matter Star fandom you’re a part of, captaining your own starship would be a dream come true for me and I want that to be a game.
In this hypothetical game, I would imagine that instead of pointing and clicking and exerting a lot of control over your ship, instead you had a system of menus to give orders to a variety of AI’s that had personalities and specialties. You would assemble your crew and go out and battle other star ships, giving commands like “launch all fighter ships,” and “divert all power to the forward shields.” And that stuff would happen while you get a nice view from your captain’s chair. It would require a different kind of managing and it would be different than I think most games out there would be because everything would be portrayed to you through audio queues given by crew members rather than something visual like a health bar.
Also, there would be a ton of options, such as boarding the enemy ship, focusing on a target, commanding a fleet which would act independently until you gave an order, and even drastic things like ramming the ship and calling for all hands to abandon ship. Ideally, this would be a Kinect game, so you could use the voice recognition. Although, we might have to wait for the second version of Kinect for anything really complicated. Still, it would be one of those super immersive experiences where you can give orders and play the part of captain, and even in the context of the game, you could just be sitting.
The last kind of space game I’m going to speculate on is something really simple. Basically take Skyrim, Fallout, any big world RPG, and put it into space. This includes managing a ship, upgrading it to make those jumps to other planets, huge planets to explore, and even epic space fights. I feel like this game might exist, but I want it to have the Skyrim feel, where you can just go and do whatever you want. Except instead of a horse, you get a space ship.You can take a couple of the other games I mentioned here and smush them together to get the ultimate space adventure game.
(seriously, this is such an easy concept there isn’t really a need to elaborate on it more).
That’s all I can think of about space though. I’m beginning to feel like the space core so I’ll just stop now. If you have any cool space ideas, I’d love to hear them. So be sure to drop a comment.