Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old game, new game

I've had my attention well and truly caught by something on Kickstarter. But a little history first.

When I was little, there was one game that I played above all others. It was called Elite and was a truly groundbreaking achievement. Here's a wiki link to more about it but the short summary is :

Free roaming space combat game
A game engine which was a thing of beauty
Not just 1 big galaxy to play in but 8
Unparalleled depth (for the time)
And a far off goal to head for - be one of the Elite

I have to admit, I wasn't so addicted that I got a pilot to Elite status which shows how much grinding you would need to do to get that. Elite status was determined by a hidden kill count score, which went from Harmless and Mostly Harmless all the way up to the final 3 ratings : Dangerous, Deadly and Elite. I gave up the grind typically at Deadly. To get Elite, you'd need to get 25 x 256 combat kills. (Lots!) A certain other game called Revs was getting my attention instead.

For the time, it was a truly awesome game that's never really been matched to this day. There's been efforts but nothing as engaging as that early stellar achievement.

From the same stable came the two Frontier games. This translated the original game into our known galaxy. We could take off from London and fly to the base on the Moon or Mars. It had a wholly Newtonian physics engine - This Is Not A Good Thing. The best thing about the original was the combat, the worst thing about the sequels is that the combat was either jousting at silly speeds or restricted to space around starbases.

The sequels were also infested by bugs. Many bugs. To be honest, they were unplayable garbage. But they did have lots of potential and when they worked, they were gorgeous (for the time!).

We've also seen the Freelancer game come to PC. This was a game I played through a few times. It's another fairly open world space combat game and had a pretty decent storyline backing it up. But - it wasn't a truly open world game, due to the hefty Plot Hammers that chased you around the systems it was set in.

The one hope for space combat games lately has been the X Beyond The Frontier series.

These did pretty well but ... they seemed to be missing something. I could recognise how good the game was but I knew that to progress in it, I'd need to become industrialist as well as space cowboy. I'd need to set up and babysit a network of space stations to build what I needed to beat the games.

I didn't want to be space industrialist. I wanted to be space captain, cowboy, pirate.

What's next ?

Well - the thing that caught my eye the other night was something called Elite : Dangerous on Kickstarter. It's by the same fella responsible for the first Elite games and it seems quite promising in contrast to my impression of Star Citizen, also on Kickstarter. I don't know why but the hype alarm dinged for Star Citizen, possibly due to the Freelancer "open world promised, didn't happen" effect.

If you have a look at that Kickstarter link, you'll see tiers of rewards for pledges made. I'm looking at the £45 tier which would give me :
£5 - get a decal : meh.
£10 - get newsletter and updates : meh
£15 - reserve your commander name : meh
£20 - get a digital copy in March 2014 (ish) : yey ! finally something of value
£30 - get digital copy : oops, one for when the early pledger £20 tier runs out
£35 - get digital copy of the sequel to the Dark Wheel novella : interesting ...
£40 - have your name included in the NPC random name database
£45 - get the digital soundtrack

The really interesting stuff starts at £40. I'd put my actual surname in there for that in expectation of seeing a Non Player Character agent with my surname. That's like Bounty Agent Pete Sleepy (sub actual name) wants you to do stuff. How cool is that ? And my surname is unusual enough to enhance that coolness factor.

And I like having soundtracks which would make me put in that extra £5. Tempted by another £5 for beta access but I've always found beta access underwhelming and spoiling for the release game.

Any higher than that is where it starts getting silly.

Yeah - very curious about this particular kickstarter campaign. I'm not going to sink cash into it tonight but I'll keep an eye on it. It's currently at almost £600k pledged out of a target of £1.25m with 38 days to go.

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