I’m making a game. The game, as yet untitled, is a space combat game involving fighter-level 1st/3rd person dogfighting and capital ship-level tactics. The twist is the flight mechanics, which I can honestly say are totally different to anything you’ve played before. And they’re sweet. They take the best parts of realistic physical models [1], fast-paced arcade shooters [2] and 6-degree-of-freedom games [3] to provide freedom and immediacy that leaves traditional space-sim rate-of-turn battles in the dust [4].

The Mechanics

Simply put, you aim with the mouse or joystick, and thrust in four directions. No throttle, no requirement that you travel in the direction you’re pointing. Ok, so, newtonian physics [5]. The clever part is that you have a speed cap. So instead of trying to be realistic and failing at fun [6] because you end up going half the speed of light and taking minutes to just change direction, newtonian physics with a speed cap means you can accelerate hard, fire at an enemy while drifting past them, maneuver with a fluidity you’ve never felt before, and still turn on a dime.

The focus is on old-school dogfighting with some RTS elements. I’m not making an Elite-like [7] with exploration and trading, it’s all about the combat. Particularly multiplayer. The game I want to play is one where you spawn into a fighter, bomber, corvette (or a turret on a corvette), get into the action with your squad as coordinated by a commander, have an intense skill-based seat-of-your-pants sortie against an enemy squad, and make a strafing run on the enemy carrier while dodging streams of anti-air tracers and flak. The flight model and controls give you endless options by keeping the core mechanics simple. With fewer constraints on the physics, you can fight and fly however you want. With varied options for weapons and ships, the aim is to enable every player to have a unique style should they so desire.

The RTS elements involve the movement of your team’s small fleet of capital ships, some resource management reminiscent of the style of Homeworld, and coordinating your team with a system of squads. Players choose a squad to join based on proximity and objectives, and the commander assigns targets to the squads.

Thoughts on foot

[1] e.g. I-War, one of my favourite space sims but a bit slow (here’s the only video of combat I could find)
[2] e.g. Strike Suit Zero, a really fun game you should totally get if you don’t already have it
[3] e.g. Descent or Forsaken (also IMO possibly the best-looking game of its time)
[4] Yes, I’m talking about Freespace, Wing Commander, Starlancer, Freelancer etc. Don’t get me wrong – I love those games (not so much Freelancer, but that’s purely personal taste) but I do think the combat ultimately lacks depth. Like I say, it usually ends up in rate-of-turn contests with very little you can do to break a stalemate.
[5] I-War is pretty much the only truly newtonian game I’ve ever played that was actually fun, and even then it was definitely an acquired taste. It handled sort-of like a traditional Wing Commander type game by having auto-compensating thrusters (albeit very heavy – you piloted a corvette, not a fighter), but I liked it most when you turned them off and strafed past an enemy ship to fire some well-placed particle beams up their exhaust pipes (excuse my French).
[6] I’m looking at you, Frontier: Elite 2 (although again, I fucking love that game, but combat in a purely newtonian system just didn’t work)
[7] although I love such games as well, and if you do too you should check out things like Elite: Dangerous (I’m a KS backer), Star Citizen (given limited money on my part and nearly simultaneous kickstarters I plumped for Elite), Limit Theory (I would have been a backer if I’d known about it at the time!) if you don’t know them already.

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