Trouble Thinking

March 28, 2012

Starfarer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Durandal @ 9:01 pm

I’ve got too much to do to do a bunch of extra reading so you get a post about games, which requires no research due to my constantly thrumming connection to the Zeitgeist.

So Starfarer looks really interesting.

You can grab the game here: http://fractalsoftworks.com/

Lasers lasers laaaasers

Why does it look interesting?

Woah there calm down okay Starfarer is a game in the tradition of Star Control and Escape Velocity. That is, a game in which you play a brave starship captain who is making his or her way in the world via trade, diplomacy, and combat.

You begin with a single ship, your “flagship” of your “fleet of being a loser”. You have options about how you want to grow that into something impressive. You can modify your ship, acquire holdings for sweet cash money, or buy/befriend/capture ships to integrate into your growing fleet. Everything you do makes everything else you do a bit easier.

The economic model is something the developers are hoping to make a bit more interesting than varying commodity market prices. Essentially, it seems like they want to create RPG-like “economic encounters” in addition to having a simple underpinning trading system. The example they give is that you can encounter illegal weapons shipments. Destroying them ups stability in a system, leaving them lowers it. Your decision would depend on whether you want a stable trading partner that likes you or an unstable planet you might be able to grab for yourself.

Combat takes place in a top-down perspective, with you piloting the flagship of your fleet and giving general strategic orders to your captains. The direct control takes the form of WASD turning/acceleration and mouse aiming and firing. After tooling around in the tutorial/early mission there are already some things I love about the combat.

For one thing, there’s a great system for using multiple ship weapons. You can quickly swap which weapon you control in order to focus on an enemy with whatever hurts them most. Flak cannons for fighters, big HE shells for giant ships and whatnot. But oh, you say, what about when multiple enemies are attacking at once? Well, that’s where automating weapons comes in. Press Shift+3 and your flak cannons will auto-target incoming fighters.

The basic mechanic in combat is that ships have shields and armor. Shields take damage from certain weapons, such as lasers, very poorly. Armor takes damage from certain weapons very poorly too. So what you do is knock down shields with lasers and the like, then pound on armor with explosives. When shields get knocked out, there’s a moment of paralysis while systems reboot. If you drop shields before they’re forced down, you can avoid that. It’s all reasonably simple, but provides some decisions to make at a steady rate.

Other ships in your fleet mostly seem to mind their own beeswax, going to the location you planned in order to fulfill whatever mission you ordered them on. There’s little to no micromanaging. The idea is that you go into combat with a plan for your fleet, and they carry it out without your direct orders. They’re still playing with ideas about how to make the AI fleet respond to various RPG-type stats like the individual ship captain personalities and such.

They’ve just released a new update too! It introduces a nifty new campaign mode:

  • Campaign mode – fight your way up in the war-torn Corvus system
  • Start out with a single frigate, buy (or capture) more ships to grow your fleet
  • Customize your ship’s loadout before battle
  • Level up your crew
  • Ship weapons and engines can be disabled by damage, adding a new layer of tactics
  • Tons of balance changes, UI improvements, AI improvements, and several new ships and weapons

Here’s a video explaining a lot about the new mode, which I haven’t gotten nearly enough time with to fully understand!

I’ve wanted a game like this since Escape Velocity Nova, and I feel like this is pretty close to delivering all I was hoping for and more.

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