Laser! Laser! Gratuitous Space Battles In Motion

Positech have been busy capturing the essence of spacewar for their new strategy/management/simulation game, Gratuitous Space Battles, and we get a glimpse of it here: giant, glacial capital ships firing colossal beam lasers through swarms of tiny fighter craft. Yeah, that’s the stuff. Cliffski knows what to do. Now go! Witness those titular space battles below. (And I have to say, this one really interests me, and not simply because I’m an unmitigated spacewar nerd.)


  1. Mithrandir0x says:

    Like Picard maybe said sometime: “Beam the shit out of’em!!”

    Does this game have multiplayer?

  2. Dave L. says:

    Looks like Homeworld. If Homeworld were played entirely from a top down perspective.

  3. ArtyArt says:

    Hmm, looks tempting. Is there talk of a release date yet?

  4. Acidburns says:

    I like how the capital ships take a while to explode; I see too many games where massive kilometer long ships go up like a firework. Their deaths should be slow and graceful. I’d like to see them take even longer, the only game to do ship explosions properly was Hegemonia.

  5. Heliocentric says:

    Can anyone suggest any space games where violence is tertiary? I know in gal civ you can have peaceful empires by being sufficently technicaly advanced or powerful.

    It just seems to me that in game fiction, once mankind are given the limitless resources of space all they ever do is biff each other.

  6. Kalain says:

    This has peeked my interest. It looks good so will watch how it develops and how much it’s going to cost.

  7. Cedge says:

    Heh. Purely from looking at the video, it looks like Homeworld crossed with Subspace/Continuum.

    Love it.

  8. Ian says:

    Looks splendid, but I’m unsure if it’ll be for me. Hopefully some kind of demo-age will be available.

  9. PC Monster says:

    *Grinning from ear to ear*

    Niiiiiice. I can feel my wallet loosening already….

    As another unmitigated spacewar nerd, I say it’s time to pump Cliffski (ooer) for some details, RPS. First question that springs to mind: is that camera slowdown part of a larger capability to fiddle with the flow of time during epic battles, perhaps even a full-on replay feature? Or is it merely funky video editing?

  10. danielcardigan says:

    The battles are non-interactive aren’t they?

  11. Rob says:


    Not at all, quite frequently the moment mankind has access to the vast expanse of space they unite together, as one, to biff aliens.

  12. klei says:

    Is there any reason why big ships should be slow? Okay, lets say inertia – but they also have room for more engines and stuff, and inertia should only affect acceleration anyway.

    Also, spaceships would probably have much longer firing range, since space is generally empty and there is no horizon or anything. And by “longer” i am trying to say that their close-range weapons will have labels in the lines of “not to be used at a distance longer than ten light seconds”.

    Well, the game does seem cute tho.

  13. Xercies says:

    To be honest helio all humans ever do on earth is biff each othe so it isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination that they would biff each other in sapce as well.


  14. Rei Onryou says:


  15. Fede says:

    Nice! Reminds me of Battleships Forever.

  16. mandrill says:

    @klei: I think its something to do with relativity. e=mc2 and all that. meaning that the energy required to accelerate and object increases phenomenally as its mass increases, and as its speed increases, its mass also increases. Which is why the speed of light (c) is unattainable by anything other than light, because anything with even the minimal mass of a bag of sugar would require infinite energy to reach c.
    Something large travelling at high speeds would only be able to travel in straight lines or would have a turning circle the size of the galaxy, due to inertia. Which is a vectoral property and only acts in straight lines. To change an objects inertia (ie, its direction of travel) you would need to apply just as much energy as you did to get it up to speed in a straight line in the first place.
    Big spaceships travel slowly because your brain is programmed to believe that big things are slow and small things are fast, so the big ships in games are programmed to be lumbering behemoths because its more believable, regardless of the actual physics involved.

    Anyway. looks good. vaguely reminiscent of Harvest Massive encounter, but with moving turrets. I watch its progress with interest.

  17. Sagan says:

    Big things in games are slow because we expect them to be slow.
    Also because it looks awesome to bring down these huge slowly moving beasts. I want to control a gigantic army of tiny space ships and fight against one or two of those huge things. Or the other way round :).

  18. subedii says:

    There’s a hi-res trailer up now:

    link to

    Congratulations Cliffski, you seem to be generating a good amount of hype.

  19. DigitalSignalX says:

    Reminds me of an updated fleet version of R-Type. Classic arcade side scrolling pew pew pew.

  20. Colthor says:

    Looks pretty good, looking forwards to this.

  21. Coulla says:

    It looks to me like that indie game…what was it called? Weird adventures in infinite space? Something like that. When you got into a battle, it went into a top down mode that looks really similar to that – lots of big lasers; slow, ponderous ships; tiny little fighters darting around.

    Damn, that was a good game

  22. Tei says:

    It looks much more massiva en awesomefull. And HAS SHIELDS!. shields not only look cute, but are something I want to put on my capitals.

    Since this is a alpha, I don’t make much sense to criticise anything. Is not even a beta. But anyway here goes: some of the sound effects sounds slighty repetitive or off to me. Others are good.

    The capitol ships death is good. But could be better, more awesomefull. Is ok on this state. The “zigs” everywhere look too random. Almost like random particles than ships. Theres not… group of zings, and I don’t see a attack patter or soemthing. Maybe I am wrong here.
    Since (I think) the battles are non-interactive, maybe It willl be a good thing to make this clear from the start, to avoid disapointed people. This look like a good game, and I am sure to buy it from day zero. But I don’t want to see people expecting a homeworld 3 in 2D get disapointed.

  23. Maxheadroom says:

    Looks like a low rent version of Nexus to me.

    Having said that, I wasn’t that fussed with Nexus even though I really, really wanted to like it and played the early demo (back when it was still called Imperium Galactica III) to death.

  24. Rei Onryou says:

    @Tei: I couldn’t find exactly what I was after, but this seems fairly close. Supreme Commander deaths slowed down. I wanted just the ship full screen, but the point remains. Slow deaths of huge things has more impact. So do floating husks and remains, rather than explosion evaporating the whole thing.

  25. danielcardigan says:

    But can someone confirm or deny, this is a management sim and the battles are completely non-interactive, yesno?

  26. sigma83 says:

    ‘the only game to do ship explosions properly was Hegemonia.’

    Utter Wrongness!
    FreeSpace 2 splosions! (skip to 7:45 or thereabouts for relevant explosioney bits)

  27. Ginger Yellow says:

    So, um, what do you actually do in this game? It looks lovely, and I’m a sucker for space combat, but I’ve yet to work out what the player does.

  28. Richard Beer says:

    This looks rubbish.

    Sorry to be a nay-sayer and all that, but I was a huuuuge fan of Homeworld and Sins of a Solar Empire, and this looks to fall way short. Unless this is such an early build that the camera doesn’t work, it looks to be a 2D or at-best 2D parallax scrolling space game. Hello?? Space? in 2D? Haven’t they seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan??

    Also the sound effects are twee and the explosions remind me of Uridium on my old Amiga or something. I mean, really, identical, 8-directional 2D explosions?

    Sorry, but unless there’s some hugely fun, cartoony aspect to this game that isn’t showing up in these videos, I’ll be passing, thanks.

  29. cliffski says:

    yes the game is in 2D. people who dislike 2D can stop reading now. This game is not for you.
    The battles (at least in the gameplay mode I intend to ship) are non-interactive, except you control the time, and the camera. The reason for this is the game is not an RTS. It is best thought of as a mobile space-ship version of tower defense.
    You have an enemy fleet poised to attack, and tower-defence style, you position your ships to beat them off or destroy them. The difference is that you actually build the ships in modular fashion, so its like tower defence with custom-built towers, plus those towers can now move, and also can be given pre-battle orders.
    Hope that clarifies stuff :D

  30. Maxheadroom says:

    Anyone remember Rules of Engagement 1 & 2 on the Amiga? Not that pretty but hugely tatical space fleet combat game.

    Best of all it ‘interlocked’ with Breach 3 (laser squad-esque tactical squad thingie) So when you boarded a crippled ship in Rules of Engagement, Breach would then load up for the marine based ship capture bits (capture the bridge, capture the engine room. Jobs a good-un).

    Been waiting since the mid 90’s for someone to remake these, and sadly Gratuitous Space Battles doesnt look like it’ll even come close

  31. bowl of snakes says:

    This sounds great Cliffski! as long as you don’t change the name to something lame with a pretentious colon in it

  32. Lim-Dul says:

    Hmmm – yes, this looks very much like Homeworld/Homeworld 2, however, Homeworld 2 is 6 years old and considering how the gameplay is said to be completely different from that (award-winning) game I’m a bit skeptical.

    By the way – somebody mentioned SubSpace/Continuum? Boy! I’m so amazed that this game is still going after SO many years. I still have periods of renewed interest in playing the game. DSB, Trenchwars, Extreme Games – ah yes, the good old zones…

  33. Tei says:

    Hahaha… these videos of mass destructions of capital ships made my day.

    Looking at cliffski problems to explain what teh game is about make me think how amazing usefull is to live under the RTS / FPS / RPG etc.. terms. And how hard seems to be visit the territory outside these terms. Poor cliffski dude forced to describe his game in Turret Defense terms, hahaha.

    Anyway, I think the good guys will buy the game, and these that want a different type of experience will buy other games. I suppose this small confusions are just forums artifacts, and not a real problem.

  34. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Reminds me of Ares. Now that was a neat game.

  35. notarobot says:

    i’ll probably end up checking this out (at least a demo), but really, all this magically awesome *pew-pew!* action is making me play homeworld again. and again.

  36. Coulla says:

    It seems a bit…well, pointless to criticise the game for being in 2D just because it’s set in space- it seems more like a stylistic choice to me. I’m sure Cliffski could have made it in 3D had he chose to, but why would he? It doesn’t really seem to be going for scientific accuracy, just big ‘spolsions and cool ships. 2D seems like a really strong choice for that. I’m sure it’ll be sufficiently complex in other areas (modular ships, positioning) and making it 3D would just over complicate it.

  37. El_MUERkO says:

    i want a homeworld sequel, one that takes advantage of todays pc powers not just to make things pretty but to go mental with the unit numbers and have absolutely fucking massive battles, think every space battle in every sci-fi movie and tv show all at the same time… i want that!

  38. Poindexter says:

    @klei and mandrill: The reason that big ships have to move slow is fairly basic physics. Nothing quite so high level as e=mc^2. More like F=MA. Force equals mass times acceleration. In other words. If the ships engines can put out F in force, then the ships acceleration will only be F/M. So if you increase the size of the ship and don’t increase the force it outputs, the acceleration will drop. Eventually the ships will speed up. But they don’t speed up as fast as a small fighter.

  39. sigma83 says:

    Poindexter: There’s also the matter of inertia, which is getting huge ships to slow down again, and have a turn radius which is not measured in thousands of kilometers.

    Edit: I realize that space battles are all in the name of fun, really, so don’t take my comment as a killjoy statement.

  40. Richard Beer says:

    Cliffksi, thanks for the clarification. I think I understand more betterer now what your intention is with this game. Perhaps it’s the name, or perhaps it’s the videos I’ve seen, but I expected something different.

    Given the 2D nature and the ‘Tower Defense’ gameplay you mentioned, I now sympathise more with what you’re trying to do.

    Would it be presumptious of me to suggest that you release a gameplay trailer than shows this off, then? Right now the video suggests that you’re trying to sell it as FIFA 09, when in fact it’s Championship Manager 09. I love both games for entirely different reasons, but it’s all about managing expectations.

  41. Gap Gen says:

    Depends, though. A big engine can push harder, so as long as the engine is bigger, the extra mass can be accounted for. But yeah, inertia is a problem.

    I still think manned fighters are a bad idea. AUVs will presumably be old hat by the time people start fighting in space, and human senses and reaction times won’t be nearly good enough.

  42. Jeremy says:

    Cliffski, that just made the video make a ton more sense to me :) Thanks for the explanation. Now that I know it is a variation on a Tower Defense, I could see myself getting into this game, I always loves me some TD.

  43. Chalee says:

    I have two things to say:

    PEW! PEW!

  44. jonfitt says:

    Nice cliffski!

    I do like those glittery c-beams. The white flash, nuke explosions are great, and I like the streaming flames of the wounded ships. Not so sure I like the death explosions of the large ships though.

    I like the idea of the design a fleet and let it run gameplay, the key factor for me will be will it be more MMO (add +3 lasers for 300 spacebucks), or more Mechwarrior/Elite (Balancing thrust, weight, heat, volume).
    I am only interested in the latter.

    Do tell :)

  45. MonkeyMonster says:

    Jumping Jupiters! Hellabang- WOOP! Ahoy Space Captains, carnage ahead…

  46. Al3xand3r says:

    Said in the other thread also, it looks an awful lot like the battles of shrapnel games’ Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. But probably larger scale since it’s focused on that aspect. And I guess it controls differently because I see almost no maneuvring in that video. It could be pretty cool.

    link to

  47. IvanHoeHo says:

    Pretty. But never as pretty as Nexus. It’s not even about how detailed the graphics are, but how the units behave in combat.
    In nexus, all ships zoom/dodge around while in combat, whereas in most other games units just stand there and take it. Sure, that’d mean less control, but what it also means is less micromanagement, which I’m terrible at.
    I dream of the day when I can just tell a squad go there and do that, then the AI would take care of the rest. Make my processors earn their keep!

  48. Dizet Sma says:

    “I still think manned fighters are a bad idea. AUVs will presumably be old hat by the time people start fighting in space, and human senses and reaction times won’t be nearly good enough.”

    But you can’t make an AI stupid / clever enough to do ramming attacks when all else fails…

    Also agree that this looks really nice, like a solid Battleships Forever, with an actual game attached.

  49. Shadowcat says:

    Coulla says: It looks to me like that indie game…what was it called? Weird adventures in infinite space?

    Weird Worlds (sequel to Strange Adventures in Infinite Space), which is indeed an awesome game. And yeah, this looks a little bit like those battles scenes on steroids!

    Maxheadroom says:
    I really, really wanted to like [Nexus] and played the early demo (back when it was still called Imperium Galactica III) to death.

    I remember the IG3 trailer looking awesome (found it here: link to )

  50. bergotronic says:

    BattleStar Galactic Mod anyone?