Just a modest space game.

Okay, I know I said I was working on Seaward…

A-And I still am! And I plan to finish it this year! This is more a foreshadowing of a future project.

There’s been a long history of grand space-sims. And i think they’ve each gotten something wrong.

Dreams of effortlessly cutting through the stars, using technology beyond our world. These dreams… are kinda silly in my opinion. If you actually lived in a sci-fi universe wouldn’t it be a lot of inconvienences, claustrophobia, and docking protocol?

Instead of blasting through asteroid belts, chasing space pirates. You’d most likely be a postal worker… or a janitor… WHICH IS AWESOME!!! I wanna pick up some packages from Blobnar 3 or whatever, load them into my tin can of a spaceship emblazoned with the faded logo of a local government service district and go around delivering to backwater worlds, for a modest paystub! And at the end of the day you land your ship and go up to your one bedroom apartment, worrying if you can pay rent and not go hungry.

…Okay maybe I have very specific ideas of fun. But that’s the reason why I haven’t been able to get into any of these games; I don’t feel super grounded in them. And I think the urge to make everyone this badass space vigilante or whatever tends to exacerbate that. Loading up your Holoshit900Xr GUI replacement to check your universe mission list is a lot less personal of an experience than walking down to the shipyard to get a couple oxygen tanks for your next excursion, and taking the bus back. I just feel the focus is off.

In all these games, the ships you fly are these amazing extensions of your character (If not just BEING your character) perfectly responsive to your controls. For once I want a game where I have to get up and unclog my ship’s ion chamber. In games like Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen, I don’t feel like my ship is an actual machine, they all have a distinct arcadey plane feel.

Now, that lack of texture isn’t helped by another choice i disagree with: The scale.
There’s an obsession with trying to capture the awesome size of the universe. And while that’s cool and all, it ends up leading to a different problem. In a game where you’re controlling an individual, that scale doesn’t work. Space is so large in real life that when you engage with it at a realistic size, it ends up feeling static. And to get around, you’re going to need faster than light travel, which just adds to the sense you’re zooming through an empty map in a massless faux-plane. And every space game i’ve played has this problem… Except one.

This might be my favorite game, and possibly why I keep getting a sense of space not “feeling right” whenever I play another. This is Outer Wilds, and I first played this game on June 6th 2013 when I was eleven. It’s solution to the problem of scale was incredibly simple and effective: shrink everything.

Planets became hundreds of meters rather than thousands of kilometers. And due to this you can actually interact with the unique mechanics of space. Conservation of your ship’s momentum becomes second nature, as you fly between planets all while their orbital dynamics move them across the sky. There’s a sense of vertigo whenever I go on a spacewalk, knowing at any moment I could drift away and not be able to return. It’s super cool.

Outer Wilds experienced it’s full release in 2019, as a phenomenal archaeological cosmic mystery game. And while it is one of the best games I’ve ever played, it won’t sate your appetite for an immersive space-sim/RPG.

Later in 2013 11yr me, hungry for another space game: decided to save up their allowance and back Star Citizen (…yeah…) Disregarding the development issues, it turned out that the core design goals just didn’t agree with me. But i still wanted a space-sim roleplay sandbox.

So that’s where this sprouted from! a mix of unique desires, compounded by feeling stupid for backing a game I didn’t end up even liking.
…And I guess a more poetic read of “fulfilling a childhood dream.”

terrible MS paint spaceship drawing from child me.

(actually kinda like the GUI style i was goin’ for.)

So, in summary. I want a game that scales down both the ambitions and importance of your character, and the size of the world, to something more modest.

I’d also like to add some roleplaying game aspects in the very literal sense of: a game that facilitates roleplay. Also I’m sorely dissapointed in the amount of aliens present in major space-sims. Humans are boring, let me play as a weird little dude.

Anyway, I currently haven’t made much progress on the game.
So far I’ve only done some scale tests to figure out what size the planets should be, and started building out some textures for the style I want to go with(see first image.)
Haven’t even figured out a name. Right now I’m just calling it
“unnamed modest space game.”

I really only wanted to make this post now, because I realize the amazing timing of it being the 8 year anniversary of all of this being set into motion. Most likely I’m just going to develop small components in my offtime (Like a planet editor) and probably won’t start serious development for a couple years. But, when I do… It’s gonna be the smallest, damn space simulator ever.