Beginning in the early 90’s with games like Star Wars: TIE Fighter and Wing Commander, gamer’s have always been obsessed with space. However, the limit was always there – a game can’t be as big as actual space should feel, as how would one design a game so astronomically large? Well, in the past 5 years, developers have come up with the answer – an answer which many games, like Minecraft, are already very familiar with – procedural generation. The process by which the game world is “seeded” with objects, planets, stars, and other such models randomly as the player moves around. The real goal at that point becomes making sure that the procedurally generated planets and areas don’t all feel very similar. Recently, there have been 3 prominent space-exploration games that have/plan to use this technology to make the most immersive space games ever created, able to keep players busy for hundreds of hours and never see anything twice. But is this even possible?
The first game on this list is the only one to actually have seen the light of day – Elite: Dangerous. Officially released in 2014 after raising over 2.3 million dollars on Kickstarter, a website made to allow crowd-funding similar to GoFundMe, the game was then released to middling reviews. The publishers didn’t create enough varied content to make each world seem unique. Many planets would seem incredibly similar, except the shade of the grass was different. The publisher also never let the community truly shape the universe, creating trading companies and establishing planets as was promised pre-release.
The next two games, also Kickstarter related, are still unreleased, and are essentially competing for the title of the ultimate space simulator. No Mans Sky, by Hello Games, and Star Citizen, by Cloud Imperium Games. No Mans Sky is an adventure survival space sim set to be released on PC and Playstation 4, while Star Citizen is a space sim focused more around discovering planets and buying new ships via currency earned by establishing trade routes set only to be released on PC. The biggest difference between these two games is the amount of money, as Star Citizen became famous when it became the most-funded game on Kickstarter to date – currently at 111 million dollars. With this amount of money and notoriety, along with the insane number of supporters and donators, one would hope that the game doesn’t fall to the same problems that Elite: Dangerous did. However, a space simulator game of this scale in full 3D graphics has not been attempted before.
Will Imperium be able to deliver, with their incredibly high expectations, or will Hello Games win out for being a simpler game that is more focused and streamlined for the average gamer, not to mention is actually releasing on a home console instead of just PC? Only time will tell, but for now, I think real space simulator enthusiasts will stick to EVE Online for their fix.