Monday, 29 December 2008

What about the crew?

I've played a number of space sims looking for a way to live out the space-opera experience (think Star Trek, or even better David Weber's Honor Harrington series). I'm not hugely interested in mission-based fighter sims, however many wingmen you get - what I'd like is to be able to captain a large, complex capital ship, to be able to make both military and non-military decisions, and to manage crew dynamics. My search so far:

Frontier series: allow you to interview, hire and fire crewmembers who have names and faces; they occasionally quit of their own accord; the offer of work on one bulletin board may correspond to a missing persons or wanted notice elsewhere. However we're only usually talking about three to seven crew; and apart from remove the chocks at take-off they don't seem to do all that much. This is also not really a capital ship game as in the Elite universe the small one-ship import-export entrepeneur is king (think Only Fools and Horses in space) however Frontier is the only game that gets ship choice right: it's not about working your way up to the biggest, fastest, blingiest ship with the most weapon ports, it's about specialization and the right sized hull - that enormous cargo-hauler is great for profitable trading routes or exploration, but will be too slow for a high-speed parcel courier or an assassin overtaking his marks in hyperspace. The equipment you need e.g. cabins for a passenger ship, takes up so much of the hull space that you can't afford to be a generalist.

Battlecruiser series: larger crew complement, varied roles, crewmembers actually seem to do their jobs, move around the ship and come on and off duty. The ship feels like a capital ship, particularly as you can scramble fighters and shuttles to deal with some situations. However only bridge crew and fighter pilots have any names or personality and they are fixed - you clone them if they die; other crew members can be hired at space stations but are just numbers.

Both series were let down by bugs and other issues around release. BC should have been closer to what I was looking for but FFE was in fact much more enjoyable and immersive despite the bugs.

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