Mon, 26 May 2003
Æther, the final frontier...

This could be a lot of fun...

These are the voyages of Her Majesties Æther Ship Dauntless. Our mission, to explore romantic new worlds, seek out life, and expand civilization, to boldly go where no gentleman has gone before.

The universe of Steam Trek tries to create a vision of a fictional future using the palette of Victorian Steampunk applied to the canvas of the Star Trek universe.

I played a "Victorian Steampunk" single-session roleplaying scenario a number of years ago, and quite enjoyed it. Nice to see the concept is very much still alive :)

via Adam Vandenberg

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Freelancer, a brief review

A while ago, I gushed about a game that looked extraordinarily pretty - sadly most of the image links don't work any more. This one does :)

I've now played it for a couple of weeks (around 50 hours or so) and it's definitely very, very pretty. The gameplay is pretty well done too. It just doesn't quite work...

Did I mention that it's pretty? I have a brand-spanking 1.5GHz processor and GeForce4 video card, with oodles of memory, so it runs like a dream.

The control system is simple, and semi-realistic. You point the ship the direction you wish to go, and it goes there. You turn the engines off, and you coast. You just have to imagine there's a really complex system of thrusters and the controls make sense :)

It has some potential for modding by enthusiastic players. One mod fixes battleship weapons (ramping up their power, speed and range), adds battleships and cruisers to random encounters, adds missions to destroy them. Makes collisions really damaging (I believe smaller ships will be destroyed if you cruise into an asteroid). Weapons etc. are much more expensive.

I've found that the exploration is fun - there's quite a few nice things to discover in the very large universe of Freelancer. Quite often discovering some things (like derelicts) can be quite dangerous (they're derelicts for a reason ;)

The designers don't seem to have a good grasp on scale. Planets, space stations and to some degree battleships are too small. Planets are far too close together.

The trade lanes defy all laws of physics and are just plain annoying (more on this below).

Everything (fighter, freighter, battleship) travels at the same maximum speed (either "slow" or "cruise")! To emphasise the stupidity of this, there's a race in the single-player storyline, and the only way you win this is for the opponent to mysteriously stop dead near the end of the race!

The above two issues combine to make travelling around quite annoying. There's a lot of docking with trade lanes and jump holes that break up long distance travels and makes them quite tedious. One particularly good trade run has to travel through 7 systems. I don't mind the jump holes so much but to get between them there's a lot of travelling at the crawling "cruise" speed, but sometimes there's trade lanes to speed things up. Except you have to fly to them, dock, wait for the end, fly to the next lane, dock, wait, ... etc. About 10 times for one trip. It gets tedious.

So if you find the trading boring (understandably) there's not much interest down the other career path - the limited for-cash missions you fly outside the story. They all consist of flying to some grid point and destroying everything you find there. Oh, hold me back. Modders are working on this, but the really interesting story missions (eg. protecting a convoy) aren't available outside the story. This is a great shame.

I haven't played the multiplayer game yet. I can't see the point.

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