Starshatter

Games that are interesting for one reason or another
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Thaeris
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue May 09, 2017 8:35 pm

Starshatter

Post by Thaeris »

Just thought I'd write a quick blurb on this one. This is a really neat game, and if I was still on Windoze I might still be tinkering with it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRmBfQk_mls

...Tried to find a cooler video, but the old fan trailer with Holst playing as the background track seems to have vanished. Moreover, there aren't a whole lot of good videos of Starshatter out there, or rather, videos of Starshatter with competent players. But, feel free to look around wherever you prefer.

In any sense, Starshatter aimed to be the Falcon 3.0 of space sims. The game had a lot going on as such. You could simply play as a fighter pilot going out on strike missions, or you could move higher up along the strategic scale by playing as a starship captain. Ultimately, you could treat the game as an RTS by taking command of the carrier and creating strike packages with fighters and bombers, etc. There were different "physics modes" as well, with old-fashioned "space shooter" or "arcade sim" modes, up to what was supposed to be Newtonian physics (more on that later). You could thus make the game suit your needs or preferences.

I like understanding and learning more about reality, so the "Newtonian" mode suited me best. The AI had more issues with that one, but it wasn't... generally terrible. The main thing to note was this: While Pioneer uses "exhaust velocity" to rate the power of an engine, Starshatter used it incorrectly as a game balance mechanic. In this regard, the logic became that once a ship passed the rated exhaust velocity, its acceleration would drop. This led to some more "arcadey" maneuvers at +2,000m/s, but a more detailed discussion on what was happening there is not really applicable unless someone has the curiosity to ask. In any sense, the game has to have been one of the best "feeling" space sims / games I've played. I liken it to the old Hornet 1.0 and 2.0 sims for the Macintosh of the mid / late 90's, where you were presented with realistic procedures you'd need to follow, though it was nothing like the "study sims" people like to flex on their friends with today. It's what I'd term a "procedural sim," where a complex internal procedure might be accomplished with a few keystrokes rather than a complex switchology. Furthermore, you were given a quite good physics model that really gave a good sensation of flight. You've certainly played games like this yourselves - Il-2 is another game in this genre, and frankly, so is Pioneer in a sense.

Starshatter used a room-based model for simulation. I think back to the recent post I added to the Helium Rain thread as I write this. In this case, an orbital "room" was drawn around a body, which presumably represented a point in space with a given altitude and orbital velocity around which objects could hold for a stable orbit. Not quite realistic, but fun and easy, and close enough that the suspension of disbelief could be maintained. Some planets furthermore had "rooms" as well, and a ship capable of "breaking orbit" could reenter and land at a spaceport, or perhaps attack an enemy strategic target. There could be multiple planets in a system, and these could be reached though jump gates (for ships lacking a jump drive, like fighters), by staying close to a ship with a jump drive (again, fighters), or by jumping to the different system by one's own power (in this case, a capital craft like a cruiser or destroyer). Adding to this, when a player was in theater, all of these rooms would be going at real time, so a lot was going on at once. Pretty cool, really.

Then, at some point, the game was no longer available from the publisher (Matrix Games), and the game's principle author (handle of Milo), released the game as open source. I'm not sure of the license, but you can see it on GitHub here:

https://github.com/search?o=desc&q=star ... positories

At one point, I had hopes of some chaps on Hard Light Productions getting this thing on its feet again, creating an organized dev team, etc., but that never took off. I'm not much of a programmer myself, and I've not coded anything for a long time now, so my musings about this sim are mostly just that - musings. But, there is a chance that such could happen someday. And, much like FreeSpace, which HLP was built around, perhaps someone, some day, will strip away the Windows dependencies and move it over to a codebase which can live natively on Linux, or maybe Macintosh. In the meanwhile, perhaps there's something in the code which might be useful, so long as the actual code license can be determined?

In any sense, it's a neat game. If you can find a download for it somewhere and get all of the assets together, it plays well, sounds decent, and has really good joystick support.
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