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Our beloved Space Sim genre. Revival or waste of time?

Supreme Cmdr

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What are we [devs] going to have to do in order to invigorate the genre? These titles coming out are all done by indies, without a single big name publishing backer in sight.

The reason that big (uhm, no, CDV is not even close to being that) names aren't touching the genre is because they all like to think that - due to the poor sales - the genre is dead. But hey, sales indicate how well the genre is doing. So poor sales definitely is an indicator.

From the list of upcoming space sims - some of which will most likely never see the light of day - it is evident that someone wants to make them and that there are those out there actually buying and playing them.

Here is a short list, shamelessly ganked from QT3

  1. DarkStar One, Ascaron
  2. Elite 4, Frontier Developments
  3. Genesis Rising: The Universal Crusade, Metamorf Studios
  4. Infinity: The Quest For Earth, F. Brebion
  5. North Star, Kerberos Productions
  6. Precursors, Deep Shadows
  7. Space Force 2, Provox Games
  8. Starshatter: Gathering Storm, Destroyer Studios
  9. Starwolves 2, 1C
  10. The Tomorrow War, 1C
  11. Tarr Chronicles: Fade of Ghosts Quazar Studio

...and of course our own

  1. Universal Combat Online
  2. Battlecruiser - The Next Generation

So what is the problem?

The problem is that publishers aren't taking any risks on a genre thats going to cost them money. The big names (e.g. EA) have already gone that route and lost. It is highly unlikely that they would go back there again.

Why is Eve so successful in terms of its online presence? Is it graphics? Is it the community? Is it the game? Nobody knows for sure, but if Eve was a stand alone title, it would have died a similar death. It only seems to be a success because it is an MMOG and has a monthly pay-for-play model. On its own, it would have come and gone by now.

Earth 'n Beyond was - as I'd said all along - rubbish. It lost to Eve and was proclaimed DOA.

I for one aren't very optimistic for a revival. The genre will remain a niche one because the industry has evolved from back when games like Wing Commander, Freespace, XvTF came around when the wow factor was the big thing. Its like the genre is stagnant. Yet, even with games such as ours, X series and Starshatter which cater to a more high end audience, we still can't seem to be able to break out of that audience and into a larger market. For that reason alone, the genre will remain stagnant.

Part of the problem is that most space sims don't offer much by way of new things that propel the genre forward. Why? Well, because we've already done it all I suppose. But the same can be said for fps and rts games. Nevertheless, apart from the really bad ones, those two [tired] genres are still selling like hotcakes.

I'm stumped to say the least.

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I think it's somewhat a 'self-propagating' problem.

Some time ago, FPS and RTS became popular, mostly due to one or two really good (popular) games in their respective genres. This caused lots of sales, which then got the support of the big name publishers.

The big name publishers are now more apt to throw their money at those genres, so developers are able to spend more money developing them which in turn (but not always), will make for a better game, or at least a game that has been able to get more developer hours behind it.

I think what will help to revive this genre is examples like Eve where it is making good money (?? just guessing from it's popularity, I don't actually know for sure) and hopefully being enhanced and able to be pushed through additional software lifecycles, causing it to get better and better. The publishing companies should notice that it is popular and making $$$

Hopefully some (or even one) of these indie titles becomes HUGELY popular and sells like hotcakes, until this happens, backing and support from the publishers won't likely happen (unless you have the rights to a big franchise like Star Wars or Star Trek).

My .02

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The problem isn't poor sales for publisher backed titles. The publishers are actually to blame, due to the skulldugerous way they do business. You've been through it twice, SC, so I think you above all others know what I speak of.

They sign a developer, throw a little money at him and then get the idea that they can do anything they want. Like publishing a title that is nowhere near finished, just because one of thier bean counters set a deadline on completion.

Publishers suffer from acute Cranial-Rectal disease. Until they cure that, they won't be backing any new Space genre titles. At least not good ones.

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  • 1 year later...

Dead thread resurrection coming up.

Wolf sent me GameSpot's review of Tarr Chronicles today. I almost pissed myself laughing. Sure, I love sci-fi and space sims as much as anyone here, but seriously, shouldn't the goal be to improve the genre? These bastards doing these foolish games aren't helping!!

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hey SC, did you ( or anyone) played the game/demo?

I don't really trust game reviews (eh, most of them depict BC/UC as a whole piece of crap) and may consider downloading the demo if it's worth it.

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  • 4 years later...

It is quite sad.

I haven't found 1 sim that nails down each of the following; 1st person Combat, Construction, Graphics, Replay Value, Empire Management, Trade & Economies, and mysteries/secret events. While UCCE fairs better than most, if not all of the sims i have played, it certainly does lack in 2-3 areas. But you certainly succeeded to do what many others failed to achieve.

I think I have played 1/3rd of the games listed above. Yeah, no kidding they didn't put a dent. They are pretty shitty. The only other decent space sim i've run across in the last 2 years would be the X3 series. Even that has its drawbacks.

Squadwars looks somewhat promising. I might even pledge something...

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