I’m currently playing Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, a strategic space combat game with a good storyline released at the end of 2004.
The graphics are incredible, creating a beautiful rendering of 3D combat between large ships in space as you can see from the screenshots posted online.
No resource mining or unit construction in this game: the only chance to swap out ship weaponary, components, or fighters is between missions.
I’m playing the game on a 65" 1080p DLP display (using a widescreen resolution registry tweak for the game) and a surround sound audio system, so it is mighty impressive. We don’t need to wait for a new console gaming platform to be released for HDTV gaming: just get a good HTPC (home theater PC) to go along with a home theater and play games in HDTV 1080p resolution today.
Gameplay is good and entertaining, but as when I play many games I can’t help but feel we are just skimming the surface of what is possible. For example, imagine if a space combat game like Nexus included more RPG and character elements similar to what we see in David Weber‘s novels like his Honor Harrington series. Imagine if, in addition to being a large ship space combat simulation-style game, it was also a starship captain adventure/RPG game.
In other words, the player would be the captain, experiencing the most interesting parts of the captain’s life and career like we experience when reading about Honor Harrington in David Weber’s books.
We could create our captain, allocating skills before they enter a military academy. We could direct from a high level what they do during their time at the academy to influence their first assignment once they graduate. When our captain gains command of a ship, we could review Bureau of Personnel records on available officers and enlisted soldiers, and request the ones we want assigned to our ship.
On the bridge of the ship, we could look around and see the officers at their stations performing their duty. The camera could switch between a bridge view (or a third person view of the captain during other parts of the game) and a view looking directly at the captain’s tactical display to give us a full screen view of the battle.
Bridge officers could respond when they notice things, such as ships approaching sensor range or strange sensor readings from possibly cloaked ships. Character depth could be built by having individual bridge officers give these responses instead of a generic ship computer.
When the captain’s ship is damaged, the bridge and crew could show the effects thus putting the player more into the first person role of captain. The bridge could be damaged during missions, and bridge officers could be injured or killed. Or they may survive and be promoted into higher positions, possibly even commanding other ships that are under the player’s command.
When commanding larger groups of ships, specific ship formations could become important. The captain could order the ships into a wall formation to align their shields into a wall-like shape, and when one ship is too damaged the captan could order it to rotate inside of the wall for protection while the adjacent ships close the gap.
After increasing in rank, our captain could participate in operation planning, deciding which missions their ships will go on versus other captains would undertake. Crews could be drilled between missions and during travel to improve their abilities before the mission occurs.
Instead of being thrown into the mission right before the battle, we could control the ship from the point of embarkment (like from a space station then going through several wormholes to get to the destination) to set the pacing and feeling (emotional tone) of the misssion (with time compression to remove any travel time tedium).
The captain could even have a life between missions, where the player makes decisions for the captain outside of combat.
I’m looking forward to the future of electronic gaming, though I want to see gameplay like the above sooner rather than later. 🙂