Capitalships

One of the things I think is missing in games is a true Capitalship experience. A lot of games have tried, or pretended to try, but no game I’ve played or heard of has really captured what it is, I at least imagine it is, to be onboard a space capitalship.  Sometimes the ship is a static background, or a battle map. Other times everythings an abstraction and its just a character.

Let’s take a look at a few games that have (had) capitalships in them, to one degree or another:

EVE

I’ve not played EVE beyond a free trial for a few days. So I can’t really speak to how the game plays over all. But as far as a capitalship experience it’s lacking. From what I can tell, you’re the only person on this gigantic ship. You can’t walk around it. And the ship is, essentially, your character while in space. There seems to be a lot of good mechanics for interesting space combat and mining, but you’re just a ship.

Star Wars the Old Republic

It’s been alluded to that they might add guild capitalships. So they might have something some day. But right now, you can tour NPC capitalships, and those aren’t bad to walk around. The crew is static and it’s just a quest hub though. Your personal ship is a little better. You can walk around, use it to travel, some of the story takes place aboard, talk to crew, store stuff there, and fly it in space combat. Though its really just decoration inside and there’s not much to the space combat.  You can’t change anything in there.

Mass Effect

Pretty much the same as SWTOR. Your ship is a map you can walk around in, which is cool, but you can’t actually fly it or do anything to it.

Star Trek Online

Overall, the biggest disappointment because it’s the biggest missed opportunity. What is Star Trek if not big ships with big crews? The shows revolved around life aboard a ship.  In the game your ship is your avatar in space. Now, that’s the funnest part of the game, but it could have been better.

They added interiors to ships after launch but they did it in the worse way possible. It was a fixed interior. You couldn’t change it and every ship had the same one. Bridges were different but still sucked. Also, they were way to big. The inside was out of proportion to your character.

But most importantly, there’s nothing to do inside. You can’t travel anywhere while walking around. There are no missions that occur there. Which is where about half of all Star Trek episodes take place.

Star Wars Galaxies

This is by far the closest we’ve ever come. And I don’t mean the actual capitalships they promised but never delivered on. I mean the multi-player ships like the YT-1300, Nova Courier, Y-8, YE-4, AEG-77, X-4 and Decimator. See, they had several types. Even several tiers as they had regular transports craft and larger more powerful gunships.

The interiors were able to be decorated like all things in SWG. You could fly the ship, man the guns, and even run around inside and make repairs. More importantly, several people could do these things. You could upgrade the equipment it carried. And the coolest thing? You could look out the window and SEE where the ship was traveling. Nothing has come close to replicating that.

Where SWG failed was that the space stuff was designed as a fighter sim. So originally the transports kind of sucked since they would die just as fast. The gunships that were added went a long way to improving this, especially with their special equipment. They could actually hold up pretty well in a fight against fighters and each other.

You also couldn’t add people to the crew once you launched. While this may be more “realistic” it was quite problematic for an MMO. If someone crashed or wanted to join you later, you’d have to land, pick them up, and relaunch. And everytime there’s a loading screen, there’s a chance someone would drop, especially back in the early days when more people were on dial-up.

 

So what would a game need to be a really good capitalship implementation?

  • Fully laid out interior- Not just two important rooms, fill in all the necessary rooms of a ship
  • Customizable interiors- Anything from decorating your quarters to completely designing the inside layout
  • Functionality- repair systems by going to them, control ship movement, weapons from inside
  • Ability for things to occur on the ship- Boarding parties, hull breaches, fires, story events
  • Hangar deck- Land and take off with smaller ships
  • Crew- A ship needs a crew. Whether this is NPC’s in a single player game or players in a multiplayer one, they need to be there, doing things and their absence needs to matter
  • Seamless transition- look out a window and see whats outside. It would probably want third person as an option for space combat, because watching a fight where you see your ship and the weapons is cool, but you need to be able to switch between them. Sort of like Bridge Commander

Will we ever see something like this? Doubtful but who knows. I think they technology is there. SWG almost had everything eight years ago. Is there a market for it? Harder to say.

Would it work better as a MMO, Multiplayer game or Single Player game? The MMO/Multiplayer adds a coolness factor but a lot more hurdles to overcome.

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One Response to Capitalships

  1. JediRabbit says:

    i think Mass Effect has gotten it the closet. The ship is fully realized and fun to explore and hang out with the crew, but as the Commanding Officer, you should be able to do some stuff with it. Choosing your chain of command would be cool too. It bugged me how in Mass Effect 1 Pressly was the XO when I wanted Joker to be it.

    I think an open world Mass Effect game where you have a ship in the Terminus Systems where you can do anything. I release Mass Effect 2 was like this, but it wasn’t truly open world, it just had a bunch of side missions. Maybe you could be some sort of pirate captain. Play as a Krogan…

    As Mass Effect Pen and Paper RPG would be awesome. And as big a fan as I am of the series, I still haven’t finished the third game. Too little time, and I’ve heard from my buddies that the ending was awful. Maybe when I finish Arkham City I’ll restart ME3 with the extended cut, which is suppossed to make it better.