The Guerrilla Resurgence of Space Gaming

Bombardment of Space Games!
It's an Awesome Bombardment of Space Games!

When I began this blog last August — and it’s seriously grown since then, thanks to you guys! — I originally thought I’d spend much of my time reviewing older, classic games while looking at the occasional new release that would come my way. In the last several years, it felt like new space games had pretty much been coming out at a trickle, slowly but steadily, and I figured that this trend would continue.  Holy crap was I wrong.

I mean, just look at my coming soon list over there. It’s as long as my arm, and that’s with big and small spacey releases. In looking at my list, the last few years didn’t have a ton of space games released, but now it feels like I’m drowning in them, and I can thank (or blame?) all this primarily on one thing: Kickstarter.

Since space gaming saw a demise in interest around 2000, most space games have come from independent developers or eastern European developers and publishers, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them all. They helped keep the genre alive when it could’ve been lost completely. Making a game makes time and money, however, and while we can’t give developers and publishers time, Kickstarter has shown them we certainly can give them money.

With games like StarDrive and FTL being runaway successes, and the recent Starlight Inception coming in with a photo finish, more and more developers apparently are seeing that yes, there IS a demand for space games, and if we like what we see, we WILL pay for it. While this has always been true — as we’ll put our money up for any good space games regardless of source — now Kickstarter I think is showing developers that if they build a good, compelling product, the money will follow.

Even without Kickstarter, it still feels like we’re seeing a resurgence in space gaming coming from all angles. Indies as well as small and medium sized publishers seem to be putting out even more space games these days, and I’m totally feeling like I’m drowning in them, in a good way. It seems as if more people are noticing that, hey, there’s this largely untapped genre of games that people still want to play, AND are willing to pay for it!

I have to honestly say, to all of these developers who are now making space games and adding to this resurgence, thank you. It’s an overwhelmingly amazing thing to see all of these space games appearing on my radar, and I can’t be alone in feeling just giddy with all of the possibilities.

Now, I could also be bitter and ask, “Where was all this ten years ago, dangit?” but I won’t. Right now, I’m just going to bask and revel in this amazing time, not only to be a fan of space games, but of games in general. I think we truly either are in or are entering a new golden age of gaming, and if so, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What do you guys think, by the way? Are we in a new golden era of space gaming, or is it just a fad that will sadly pass? I’d love to read what y’all think about this.  Thanks for reading the thoughts of a raving space game addict. :)

Author: Brian Rubin

17 thoughts on “The Guerrilla Resurgence of Space Gaming

  1. Nice said!
    We are in a new golden era, the Indie era.
    So much Indie games lately. So much quality.

    I love it! :D

    1. Right? While I think it’s been a long time since people have thought that “indie” is synonymous with “low quality”, it’s AMAZING the stuff that’s been coming out of late.

  2. So I guess the question is, good thing or AWESOME thing? I find these recent developments to be amazingly exciting. I really like that a new pipeline of communication has been created between the game makers and their audience, particularly with Kickstarter. I am so stoked to have been able to help folks like Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo and Steve Jackson create new games and also to signal that they are still valued and that we want them to keep up the good work! It really feels like a renaissance, an opportunity for people with great ideas but lacking funding to find a way to make things happen. I’m hopeful about these cool new space games, since I really haven’t played a space sim since TIE Fighter. Keeping my eyes on the skies!

      1. Yeah well… I actually own both Freespaces off GOG, but haven’t yet had any luck getting them to recognize my gamepad and I just can’t stomach the thought of playing a space combat sim with a mouse and keyboard. I do fully intend to play both once I get it all sorted out.

        1. Wow, I can’t stomach the thought of playing it on a gamepad. ;) But I’ve dome the M/K thing and it’s worked fine for the brief time I used it while my joystick was broke. :/

  3. I concur. When we starting laying plans last year for PlaySF, I too thought we would be going over a lot of old games, but this year has been crazy. In a good way.

    It’s been a combination of factors that you allude to. Kickstarter is one of them, a solid SF fanbase is another. Old games staying commercially viable through places like GOG has helped, as well as the rise and rise of mobile gaming.

    You posed such an interesting question, maybe we should follow it up in the next issue :)

    1. I’d be happy to contribute my thoughts to such an article. ;) And yeah, it’s like a perfect storm — a cliche’d phrase, but an apt one — of Kickstarting to a fanbase of SF game players that REALLY want more games, and good call, I’m sure GoG has helped as well. Digital Distribution in general is likely a big part of it at well, as I’ve gotten a ton of those quirky European games over on GamersGate, for example.

      1. There was a time, 5 or 6 years ago, when those quirky Eastern European games were all we had. When I was running (badly I might add), the only other games I remember chasing up were GalCiv 2, Dark Star One, Space Empires V, Starshatter and Star Wars: Empire at War. The space genre was only really being kept alive by Egosoft and Starwraith, although 4X was looking up with SotS and Sins on the far horizon :)

    1. Welcome tboon!! And I’ll get to it!! ;-) Game’s 34 years old and the guy wants a review now…sheesh…;-)

  4. Well, now… what was it? 10 years since Freelancer? Seems more like in a galaxy far, far… you get the idea. And at that time I thought it was just “okay”. With all that Privateer formula copying, with all the stereotypes, veeery average plot and rather simple fighting model.
    And since then I haven’t seen not one, repeat NOT ONE space game that would at least REPEAT that formula on the same level (no, Darkstar One, I’m sorry but you don’t fit).
    So yeah, I felt that same decadance in the air for a loooong time. And Kickstarter sure does looking to have that perk “Lifegiver” to many of my long dead hopes for the genre. It’s just I’m not sure this thing have enough breath for a long run. Sooner or later people will get so picky that even great space game projects might not get it to the – how do you americans say? – the last base? And I DO hope it’d be later rather than sooner. ANd even more I hope that major publishers will see this abundance of indie space games and finally get their heads out of those black holes they stick intoб and publish some really big projects with all the blockbuster bells and whistles. Yes, maybe even new Wing Commander and Privateer.
    Spacers are dreamers, thats for sure.
    (got disconnected while sending this, sorry for the possible double post)

    1. No double post, well done. :) And yeah, I think this resurgence is just gaining momentum now. If more indies well well, the big guys will take notice and try to get back into the space game…game…and will likely fail miserably, but I’d love to see ’em try.

      I’d also love to see different types of Kickstarters, like a Volition Kickstarter to buy back the rights to the Freespace license, for example. ;)

  5. I think it’s part of the broader renaissance that indie, niche, and generally “smaller” PC games are experiencing. In any case, it’s a wonderful trend, and I look forward to seeing more of it!

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely riding on the tailcoats of the general indie renaissance, as you put it, but at the same time, these devs don’t HAVE to make space games. ;) They could make shooters, or RPGs, or puzzle games, etc etc. The fact that these awesome devs are using all of these new tools to make space games is still worth both praise and awe, I think. :)

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