As I said in my last post, space simulation games, such as X Wing, Wing Commander, and Freelancer, have basically been a thing of the past. RPGs such as Mass Effect or MMORPGs like Eve Online or Star Wars The Old Republic dabble a bit in this area, but these oftentimes come back to character skills rather than a player’s ability to fly. Up until fairly recently, big developers like EA didn’t want to produce games for what was seen as a ‘niche market.’
That all changed with Kickstarter, which has changed the paradigm for a lot of things. Chris Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander and Freelancer games, posted that he wanted to get a few million dollars and produce a modern space fighter sim game. The overwhelming response brought in over 17 million dollars. At this point, they are nearing seventy million dollars of funding from around half a million people, many of whom have access to the game as it currently exists in development. Other games, like Elite Dangerous, have been similarly funded and are going live.
What this means, in a lot of ways, is that the big developers were wrong… or at least, not entirely right. Star Citizen is an incredibly ambitious game design, which will feature First Person Shooting, Space Exploration, Mining, Combat, and a fully interactive in-game economy. All of this will be controlled by players, not their characters, but through actual player skill. The physics are, while not one hundred percent accurate, include inertia, acceleration and G-forces. A player in this game could fly up next to another ship, jump out an airlock, board the other vessel, and fight in first person mode, while a space combat occurs outside. The game isn’t even out yet and many of its detractors say that it never will be… yet I think it’s a sign that we want more, demand more, than the slow, incremental improvement (such as World of Warcraft getting new character make-overs… yay) of the same games and types of games that have been popular.
I think it’s also a sign that we humans still dream of travel into space and we want to be as close to the action as possible. If we can’t go out, we want as accurate a simulation of that as we can get. The great thing about games like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous, is that they’ll inspire a next generation, not just with the excitement of ‘being there’ and doing things themselves, but with the idea that getting into space is something that we should put a bit more effort into… if only so that their children can experience it first-hand rather than through a computer game.