People look at me funny when I tell them this, but I’ve always had this strange, irrational desire to play a game where I got to pilot a properly huge capital ship. Something like a Star Destroyer from the Star Wars universe; something that takes a good three to five minutes to turn around. And I don’t want to turn the ship by clicking on a UI element that instructs an auto-pilot to turn the ship around, and then perhaps speed up time to make the auto-pilot complete the manoeuvre faster; no, I want to be able to have direct joystick control to the ship’s thrusters.
I occasionally think about making such a game myself, some day. But it seems like a lot of effort to go to for an experience that nobody but myself would likely be interested in. Or rather, anyone who might be interested in such a thing is probably playing Eve Online.
Instead, I’ve been playing around with Independence War a bit, which is a game from way back in 1997, and which was kind of halfway to what had been in my head. Of course, it isn’t pretty by modern standards (or even by its contemporary standards). And it’s not accessible at all — it positively requires reading the manual to figure out what’s going on, and the difficulty curve is all over the map (I was stuck on the first combat tutorial level for the better part of a week, for example, because the training opponent kept absolutely steam-rolling me).
I-War is pretty squarely focused on combat, rather than on exploration or.. well.. anything else at all. but its deep simulation of a large starship, its component systems, and the mechanics of piloting it in a frictionless, zero-gravity environment are intriguing, and I keep wondering whether something more interesting than “…and they fight!” could be done with such a system.
I realise that this probably dates me horribly, but I’ve always felt that games such as Elite were made a lot stronger and more compelling by forcing the player to learn non-combat skills, such as learning to dock their spacecraft manually, learning to trade goods on their economic markets, figuring out how to navigate from place to place, and so on. These extra things to do just made the world larger and richer than the exclusively-combat-focused games which followed.