Lately, I’ve been playing around with Kerbal Space Program, an indie game where you design rockets with several components (command module, parachute, solid- & liquid-fuel engines, etc) and then fly them into space. The picture you see above was taken at the apogee of my most successful flight to date — the last motor didn’t sputter out of fuel until the rocket was 30,000 metres off the ground, and the Kerbals made it back to earth safely again! Needless to say, being able to laugh at your own screwups is a vital part of enjoying the game. Currently it’s more of a toy than a game, but it’s an entertaining (and at least slightly educational) one for all that. If you’re interested in real-world space travel, and especially if you remember an old game called Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space, this is worth a look.
Last week, I mentioned Artemis, the starship bridge simulator. This week, I present another ambitious space game, spotted by DocLazy at the Quarter to Three forums. Shores of Hazeron seems to be a first-person cross between SimCity, Master of Orion, Wing Commander and Dwarf Fortress. You design, build, and skipper spaceships, land on planets and explore them in first person, and build the cities that fuel your interstellar jaunts. The game’s ambition impresses and intimidates me at the same time.
For example, consider the amount of work needed just to get into space if you opt to start your own empire. First you need to hunt animals or gather plant fibres to craft your imperial flag. Then you need to build a city, mine stone, lay roads, set up farms, wait for citizens to move in… Eventually you bootstrap your way to an aircraft factory where you can build a space rocket. Mission accomplished! Or… not. Because if you want to build a proper starship, you have to gather two types of handwavium. And to do that, you need to jump into your primitive rocket ship, explore your home star system, and build a moon base to harvest the handwavium. After that, you will finally have the resources you need for spacecraft. Spaceward, ho!
You can see why I don’t have the time to jump in right now. That said, I still look forward to giving Shores of Hazeron a try after my holiday. Anything that sounds this cool on paper is worth a try!
(By the way, speaking of Artemis, the full game costs $60 but you can get a copy free if you send the designer a video recording of yourself and your buddies playing the demo. The media page is regularly updated with the latest videos, too. So if you have a buddy or five who’d like fifteen minutes of fame…)
Artemis: Starship Bridge Simulator is one of the more entertaining game ideas I’ve seen in some time. Six players get together around a LAN, with each player taking on a specific starship bridge officer role: Weapons, Communications, Science (sensors), Engineering, Helm or Captain. You can see gameplay videos here.
I also love the developer’s explanation as to why this game was designed for LAN, not internet, play:
I always wanted the players to be in one room together, just like a spaceship bridge. I want the captain to be able to push the helmsman aside and shout “Full power, DAMN you!!!”
Give it a look if you’re a space opera fan!