13 December 2005
Posted in Games
If you're old enough to remember a time when a PC was running a 286 and the king of home computers was the Amiga 2000 then you may remember a title going by the name of Elite (read the site from the co-author at http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/).
The game basically pitted you as a trader in space and you flew to different planets buying and selling. A few years later and a similar title came out called Wing Commander: Privateer (http://www.mobygames.com/game/wing-commander-privateer – not official site) which was the same thing but you had missions as well. Sadly this was only available on the PC.
Installation & Documentation
Ease of use
Value for money
3D Card with 16Mb
Now, with most games being rehashed Quake or Doom games with limited stories or closed, linear plots it seems that gaming has taken a toll for the worse. That is until a team of dedicated programmers came up with the idea to do an open source version of Elite. Vega Strike is the result.
Taking on a mix of Elite and Wing Commander: Privateer, Vega Strike is an open ended game (no real plot) with three distinct ways of playing between trader, fighter, pirate. This aspect of the game is intriguing. Your status throughout the game is based entirely on how you decide to play the game.
You can make money doing milk runs between planets and space stations/mining colonies or make more money doing missions which are available from either bars or mission computers. Bars tend to provide the seedier missions such as contraband and drugs whereas the mission computers give you the more tasteful missions while still providing the odd contraband missions. These often pay higher but also contain more risk.
Installation is your typical drag and drop install to where ever you want to store the game. If you're tidy like me then you may want to create a new directory and keep the Vega Strike and Vega Strike Setup apps together although it doesn't matter where you put them as the config files are stored in your home directory. The configuration app is either an X Windows app (you will need X11 and have it running) or a Terminal Window. This allows you to set sound, video, and control options although it does not allow you to set key mappings.
On running the game you are greeted with a picture of your ship sitting on the launch pad. Moving your mouse around will reveal orange text. This allows you to move around the bases/planets to trade, ship upgrades, and missions.
Graphics are gorgeous and proves that open source development is a viable means of development. The graphics are crisp and the backdrops have a tendency to make you over shoot bases looking at them.
Your ship at the start is a Llama class and is pretty basic with just enough to get you started. You have no jump engine or afterburners so you are limited in speed and have no ability to jump to different star systems. You will need to make lots of money to do so.
From each planet/base you sell your wares or buy from them. This is the tricky part as you have to work out what makes money. You will work it out and when you do watch the money roll in.
A small tip here: When at an Organic planet buy food in bulk, then go to a mining colony or space station and sell the produce. Mining colonies and space stations can't produce their own food and require it bought in. Conversely mining colonies produce metals and gems which can be sold on planets for a large amount.
Interaction with planets and bases is done via docking. Initially I wasn't much of a fan of the docking system in the latest version, the earlier versions were a little easier to handle, but once I got used to it it added much more value to the "simulation" nature of the game. Get within range, hit 0 (zero), and when they confirm docking (sometimes you may have to hit the 0 key a few times before they let you dock) hit the d key when in range and you can enter the base via any of the green boxes that show up (some bases have multiple docking areas, red boxes indicate the docking clamps are unavailable either because they won't let you access them or they are on the other side of the base).
The game is pretty easy to get into although a printout of the manual is a good idea to learn the keys because there is a big number of them. Incidentally, the keys are actually case sensitive so pressing "e" is different to pressing "E".
The coolest feature of this game is the fact it is so easy to mod it and create a completely new game. The best example of this is the Privateer Remake (http://wcuniverse.sourceforge.net/) which has a few changes to the original including a simpler docking method as I touched on before.
The ships and planets are basically from the original Wing Commander: Privateer but based on the Vega Strike engine. There are other mods as well including a StarTrek one (http://wcuniverse.sourceforge.net/vegatrek/), a Babylon 5 one (http://www.babylon5chronicles.tk/ - still in heavy development), and a Star Wars one. More mods are listed at http://vegastrike.sourceforge.net/wiki/MODs.