A little while back (to which I should’ve written this sooner, honestly), the good folks at the Slitherine Group and Matrix Games flew me and a bunch of other folks out to balmy Fredericksburg, Virginia to attend a two-day press event that coincided with a local wargaming convention called Historicon. At this event, we were shown a bevy of new titles from a variety of teams, the one I was most interested in being Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager.
Now that I’m back and fully recovered from the heat and humidity, I’d like to share my thoughts on what I saw of Space Program Manager, take a quick look at some of the non-space games covered and also share the pictures I took during my trip. I hope y’all enjoy it. :)
First off, special props to the folks at Slitherine/Matrix. They were really nice, friendly and generous, and I had an awesome time with ‘em! The event they invited me to was spread out over two days, with the first part taking place on Thursday afternoon in a ballroom at our hotel (which is where Space Program Manager was shown off) and the second part taking place on Friday morning at Historicon itself. While I’ll be spending much of this article looking at Space Program Manager, I felt the least I could do was talk about some of the other awesome games I saw at the conference even though they aren’t space, if y’all don’t mind. :) Also, please note, these are impressions taken from a non-interactive presentation. I haven’t actually touched the game itself.
Space Program Manager is ultimately going to be split into three sections, this first episode covering the early part of the space program. Starting in 1955, you’ll be put in charge of the Global Space Agency, or GSA. The cornerstone of your operation is the space complex, shown above. This includes a headquarters, mission control, a public relations office, an astronaut center and much more. It’s from here that you’ll do research, search for funding, manage your program’s public image, recruit staff and much more.
The meat of the game are around fifty missions, broken up into over thirty programs in a dozen categories. The programs are selected by planet, so this first installment will focus solely on Earth, while future installments will unlock missions on other planets. The first missions are fairly simple, such as building unmanned satellites and the like. As you complete missions, more programs become unlocked as your space program becomes more advanced. Missions will come with historical info, and there is also an in-game historian to help give historical context to both historical and alternately-historical missions. It looks like not only will this be a fun game, but an awesome educational tool as well, which is one of Aldrin’s goals for the game.
One of the major components of the game is personnel management, which is detailed and in-depth. Ground personnel can be rated in different factors such as rockets, space probes and so on, and they can also age, gain experience, get raises and can be sent off for advanced training. Astronauts are rated in areas such as fitness and so on, and also need to be trained. Juggling all of these varied personnel, and knowing when to use them for various steps of the missions you’ll undertake is a key component to successfully completing them.
Missions have various steps that are rated for reliability and involvement, and each step is fully explained to give the player as much information as possible in order to complete it. Once all of the mission’s steps have been set up, and the research put into motion, the player then schedules the mission and assigns various personnel to various tasks, such as flight director, booster management, mission control and so on. The mission will then commence and make use of the various skills and experience of the personnel involved.
The game is made of many types of missions, both historical and alternately historical. These missions can be played in either a campaign or a sandbox mode as well, allowing for even more variety. Campaign mode gives the player both short and long-term goals the player must achieve to keep playing, and your performance in completing these goals is reviewed every four years of game time. The sandbox has none of these goals. Missions can also be affected by random events such as weather, research failures or successes and more. Overall, there are several different ways to play this game, all of which sound like a great time. :)
Personally, I really liked what I saw of the game. There looks to be a ton of detail in the games various facets, from public relations to mission control, and it looks like managing all of this in order to build a successful space program over several years will be a good time. I’m also excited about the different episodes we’ll see later, as building and maintaining the ISS, the moving off to Mars and beyond will no likely present new and difficult challenges. The only thing I wish the game had was direct craft control, but that would likely delay the game significantly, so I’m cool without it. Overall, I think anyone interested in the history of the space program or enjoy Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space will definitely dig this game. I know I can’t wait to get my grubby paws on it.
As for pricing and release dates, the game will have an early access program starting in September with three tiers. The Mercury tier, at $19.99, includes access to the beta program. The Gemini tier, at $39.99, includes a boxed copy of the game with a printed manual. The final tier, Apollo which will be $99.99, includes your name and photo in the game along with the game’s soundtrack and all of the stuff from the previous tiers. An interesting way to buy into the game, if you ask me. :)
Now, I’ll move onto talking about some of the non-space games we saw at the conference. I don’t have screenshots for all of ‘em, so I’ll touch upon the ones I do have art for, and I’ll include links where I can. :)
This is Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations, and is a very detailed naval command simulation covering the entire globe. The game has a ton of scenarios covering several potential conflicts all over the world, and has detailed control of strategic and tactical assets. You can have missions covering a micro scale such as anti-piracy to a macro scale such as global nuclear war, and can create your own scenarios as well. This one looked really fun.
This is Brother Against Brother, an American Civil War game that covers the opening battles of the Civil War using an “open AI” at the regimental level. The game is the first of a planned series, and will cover the battles of 1st Bull Run, Williamsburg, Wilson’s Creek and Mill Springs.
Ahhhh, Close Combat, a favorite series of mine. I have all of the original games, but sadly none of the new ones, but this presentation made me want ALL of them. We first got a look at Panzers in the Fog, the latest entry in the series, which looked fantastic. I love the tactical, psychological nature of these games, and that tradition has been kept alive and well. The graphics look nicely updated and the interface has been severely improved. The NEXT game in the series, Gateway to Caen, is built in a new engine (Unity) which looks even BETTER. These are games I definitely need to buy.
This is Strategic Command 3, the latest in the popular wargaming series. This game looked AWESOME, as it allowed for all types of scenarios, had a really sleek looking interface and was very mod friendly. I would totally buy this game if I could find the time to play it. Seriously, it looks that huge.
This is Scourge of War: Gettysburg, based on the code from the classic wargame, Sid Meier’s Gettysburg. These games are made by the same folks who made the excellent Take Command games. These games put you in the role of a battlefield general who has to send orders to his troops just like they did in the actual war, and models this closely. For example, sometimes your orders may be ignored, or may not arrive in time, or may be interpreted differently than you Intended. This allows for amazing battlefield variety, if the Take Command games I played are any indication. These look just fantastic.
The full title of this game is Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad. This is an awesome looking wargame that has a character-based story to it (kind of like Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator 2, if y’all remember that) told in something of a comic-book form with missions having triggers that have your character doing things you might not expect in a wargame. There are eighteen Russian missions and twelve German missions, and the gameplay looks exceptional.
Finally, we come to AGEOD’s Civil War II, sequel to their very popular American Civil War game. This game looked REALLY impressive, as the map was freaking huge and covered all manner of facets of the war. This one looked pretty damned incredible, and I totally wanna own it.
There were other games we saw, such as War in the West (holy crap, 36,000 hexes, are you trying to kill me 2by3 Games?) and Pandora, which also looked damned impressive. Overall, it was a great conference, and I’ll be honest in that I wanted to buy everything I saw. I didn’t, but I suuuuuure wanted to.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my look at both Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager and some of the other non-spacey games I saw while out in Virginia. If you’ll look below, you’ll see two galleries, first with screenshots from games at the conference, and second from the trip and conference itself. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the pictures. :)
Here’s a gallery of provided screenshots of the games we looked at:
Here’s the gallery from the conference itself: