While the resurgence of space games has been wonderful, one type of space game has been, for the most part, left behind: I talk about the first-person cockpit combat sim. Back in the day, we couldn’t get enough of these things, from X-Wing to Wing Commander to TIE Fighter to Star Crusader and a bunch more.
While it’s true that these types of games usually take more work and time to make, the results can be delightful. Regardless, many of the space games we’ve seen are usually of the top-down or third-person variety. Now, again, there’s not an issue with this, it’s just a shame that this groundbreaking type of game has been mostly overlooked. In this article, I’d like to talk about why this might be the case, and what Rebel Galaxy Outlaw’s success might have to do to help it.
Where We Are Now
We’re seeing an amazing resurgence in space games. While I loathe to give credit to it, Star Citizen is really what got the ball rolling on this new era in space gaming. What’s surprising, therefore, is how few games in that same vein (at least as originally intended) there have been since then. While the amount of space games we’ve seen in the last seven years has been in the dozens, if not hundreds at this point, the barest fraction of these have been first-person cockpit combat games.
We’ve had a few great ones, like Eterium, House of the Dying Sun and Hypergate, we’ve also had a few duds like the Starfighter games. Regardless, you could use two hands to count the first-person combat cockpit sims released over the last several years and still have some fingers left over. I do believe, however, that with the success of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, this might change.
How We Got Here
When Freespace 2 flopped in 1999, the writing was pretty much on the wall. What is still the best space combat sim ever made (sorry RGO, I love you, but Freespace 2 is still king in my book) sold only around 30,000 copies, and this I still believe is what killed space combat games for many years. Sure, we had Independence War 2 and Freelancer and a scant couple of others since then, but this particular type of game was all but dead for many years.
I still think Freespace 2’s financial failure — despite how lauded it still is today — has had a long reach from its grave ever since then, leading developers to be reluctant to broach the first-person combat sim ever since. That along with consoles becoming a dominant form of gaming, leading to the popularity of the gamepad and the lessening popularity of the joystick, lead to the long demise of the genre. Only in the last few years have we seen first-person combat sims of such quality as to make me barely optimistic for the genre’s future.
Why Rebel Galaxy Outlaw?
Why not, say, Elite Dangerous? Because I feel like RGO has brought the first person combat sim to the modern era in the best way. With its amazing gamepad iteration, it’s help show that space combat games don’t need to be enslaved to a joystick, which fewer people have these days. I mean yes, other games such as Hypergate did fine with a gamepad, but RGO’s visibility and popularity, along with its amazing graphics and flight model, I feel pushed things forward even more.
What I hope to see is, thanks to the success of RGO, that more developers will take a chance on developing first-person combat sims of their own. There is PLENTY of room in this space for more varied gameplay mechanics, different universes and so on, and I for one would love to see more developers take RGO’s lead on this one.
What About Other Sims?
I know, you’re likely asking, “But Brian, why not <insert game name here>?” Sure, and again, there have been plenty of other space combat games, like Everspace and what not, that could take the mantle of this genre and move it forward, and while many of them are great games, RGO is something truly special.
I think, ultimately, in the next few years we will see more first-person combat games come our way, thanks again to the success and visibility of RGO. RGO will hopefully show developers that there is indeed a demand for this type of game, and that folks like me and others are hungry for more cockpit space combat games. I mean, we’re kind of already seeing it with Starpoint Gemini 3, which has switched to a cockpit-style sim over its former, more larger capital ship-focused games. I know that, if developers make the games, I’ll buy and play them. :)
Thanks for reading this first in what I plan to be a weekly series trying to spark discussion on various topics. I encourage you to continue the discussion on our forums (because