One of the many crushing blows upon the announcement of the closure of LucasArts is that the in-development Star Wars: Battlefront III was canceled. It was set to offer our first Star Wars space sim experience in years, even though it was primarily a shooter. With Rogue Squadron console games no longer on the table and the X-Wing/Tie Fighter series dead for over a decade, a genre which ruled gaming in the ’90s was seemingly no more.
Throw in the disappearance of the Wing Commander franchise, and games like Freespace, Starlancer and Freelancer, and it was doom and gloom time for veteran PC gamers who own a joystick. That was, until Kickstarter offered a needed workaround to the traditional triple-A system.
Chris Roberts, the mind behind the Wing Commander series, created Cloud Imperium Games Corporation two years ago to begin development on a new space sim game, one that would be a spiritual successor to many of the classics listed above. That game is called Star Citizen and fans of the genre offered record-breaking crowdfunding support. At the time of this writing, the game has amassed $9 million, $2.1 million of which came via Kickstarter and the rest through its own site. It’s set to offer next-gen graphics and a “triple-A” experience for PC gamers when it releases next November and it’s helping launch the return of the genre.
Another major boost to the movement however, came last week from EVE Online, the incredibly successful subscription-based space MMO that doesn’t actually qualify as a space sim in the sense that players do not control ships in real-time dogfighting. What does the MMO have to do with starfighters? Employees of developer CCP Games are instructed to spend 20% of their work time towards anything they desire and a small group of workers created a little side project running on the Unity Engine and built on the Oculus Rift virtual reality hardware.
It’s called EVR and it’s a space sim just like Wing Commander and it lets players (pilots) look around from inside the cockpit freely thanks to the Oculus Rift, not only allowing them to better track enemy ships as they fly by, but to autolock targets simply by looking in their direction. It’s a working concept and from the video up top, it clearly would need polish and smoothing to become a real thing, but it works and it exemplifies an important part of the future of gaming (see it in action below as well). Not just space sims, but mech games and first-person shooters, even MMOs – most games that put players in control of someone or something can benefit with the technology of Oculus Rift and we’re finally started to see why its Kickstarter was widely supported publicly by high profile game industry people.
The brief teaser up top was played for attendees of EVE Fanfest and rightfully received much applause, not just at the event, but online from fans and media alike. It was built in just 7 weeks and could very well be a part of EVE Online in a future update – way down the road – and perhaps even DUST 514 which finally got a release date of May 14, 2013.
Bring on the space sims and someone make a new X-Wing game with this tech come time for the next trilogy of Star Wars films!
For players of EVE Online or fans looking to jump back in, CCP also announced during the event the EVE: The Second Decade Collector’s Edition which comes with this neat package as well as several in-game rewards. It’s available for pre-order and releases this October.
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