But How Will It Fare? Starfarer

Okay, so Starfarer – which is in development, but playable now with a pre-order – looks like the kind of game we don’t see enough of. It’s a 2D space trading and fighting sort of game. The devs explain that it is “a single-player sandbox style space role-playing game with strategic elements.” That sounds good, eh? And then there’s “a procedurally generated sector of the galaxy, seeded with well-known core worlds and factions.” Hmm! Sounds like my kind of thing. I am going to get hold of it and take a look more detail. In the meantime have a look at the trailer, below…


  1. MrMud says:

    Artistically it looks really similar to SPAZ

    • cloudkiller says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Since i loved SPAZ, I’m hoping this makes it to release soon.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Another one to keep an eye on that’s a bit similar in some ways is Naev.

      link to blog.naev.org

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      The description feels like it applies word-for-word to SPAZ as well. I hope this is a little more procedural though, in SPAZ I felt like I inhabited a fairly static universe.

    • D3xter says:

      I was going to say the same, and IF YOU HAVEN’T gotten Space Pirates and Zombies yet (despite its incredibly stupid and misguiding name) you have to do so, NOW!

    • Turin Turambar says:

      The first Starfarer demo came more or less on the same date that the SPAZ beta (past Spring) so it was curious to space fans to compare both games.

      I can say you that SPAZ is more an arcade game in an open, big galaxy, and Starfarer have a more slow, tactical, “simulation” feel. It’s more geared to moving slow huge dreadnoughts or cruisers, managing the shields and temperatures systems. Starfarer have already a tactical battle module which show a very complete combat system, more than SPAZ, but the campaign is in the other hand in early development.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s not a bad thing. I got SPAZ in the winter sale and can’t put it down.

    • sneetch says:

      SPAZ is fantastic, I looked over my steam game list recently and I realised that I spent more time playing SPAZ and Terraria last year than any other game. They both cost me about €10-15 but I played them over 4 times as long as any full price games.

    • Hanban says:

      In terms of how you control your single ship they are both very similar. Although weapon groups, turret hard points and gun placement have a more in-depth focus compared to SPAZ’s customization.

      Anyone who’s looking to try Starfarer should wait for a week or so more since the 0.5 patch is due in January. With it I think the differences between SPAZ and Starfarer will be further emphasized. Starfarer at the moment has missions with various fleet compositions to let you try out the combat(Which I think is more satisfying that SPAZ overall). But with the 0.5 patch the game takes a step towards becoming more a total war style game, although with supposedly only one system to play around in at first.

      I’m glad more of these games are coming. I too spent a hefty amount of time in SPAZ this Christmas!

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Hmm, like SPAZ but with trading and a deeper strategic focus. I really shouldn’t , I’ve got all this work to d…oh dear. I’ve just pre-ordered.

    • Heliocentric says:

      +thought it was a sp&z(<-best way) expansion

      I want the arcade goodness of these games in 3D, why are all 3D space games terrifying at first?

    • squareking says:

      Starfarer is essentially what I wanted Spaz to be. I do appreciate a jolly arcade-style romp and some light sim features like research, upgrades and crew management, but SF eschews the goofy humor and promises a bit more depth. Combat is much more satisfying (lumbering ships and oomph-filled pewpewpew), the UI is well-designed/intuitive and I find the overall aesthetic more appealing. Granted, Spaz is the more or less finished game, so there’s always the issue of what the SF devs are promising vs. what’s available now. At a stretch, it’s kinda like looking at Unreal Tournament and something like Deus Ex and saying “Well, those look identical.”

      In Steam salespeak — I waited for Spaz to hit the sub-$5 before picking it up after reading about it and trying the demo. I gave SF my moneys after 5 minutes on the Fractal Softworks page and one video and would gladly pay twice the price — and I’m generally opposed to the pay-for-development system. Take from that what you will.

      tl;dr: Read Dominic’s post down there a bit. It’s longer, though. Ahem.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Well, I just bought it sight unseen, based solely on the promise of the concept…which is basically the first one of my New Year’s Resolutions to fall. I promised I wouldn’t do that any more.

      Thanks a lot, RPS.

  2. frenz0rz says:

    I have no idea what to think after watching that video.

    Still, if its anything remotely similar to Space Rangers I can see myself putting a fair few hours into it.

  3. the judge says:

    wow another spaceship shooting lazers in front of colored clouds

    • lurkalisk says:

      I think that’s enough with the anti-nebulae slurs.

    • mouton says:

      I also think this genre is over-saturated. I will now go and shoot stuff in a “modern realistic” military shooter, a sandbox game, or a narrative tpp action.

    • Heliocentric says:

      You have to call them chromatic, or name the actual colour. Racist.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      The accepted term is “clouds of color”.

    • squareking says:


    • vecordae says:

      I agree with the OP. Lazers and clouds of color are way overdone. I prefer darker, grittier space combat games that use more realistic weapons like swords and magic and do so in front of more believable locals, the old Microsoft “going through space” screen saver or the seething, crime-filled ghettos of Space Miami.

  4. c-Row says:

    From what I have seen I reckon it’s about smashing into every asteroid you come across.

    • mouton says:

      Yah, it sure seems like a feature they consider cool but which will need to go to reduce unfun.

    • Dominic White says:

      They’re fighting in the middle of an asteroid belt (which is pretty clearly marked on the map) – it’s meant to be an environmental hazard. The player in that video also doesn’t seem to want to use his shields, which would safely deflect the big space rocks.

  5. JackDandy says:

    Looking pretty nice. Will keep my eyes on it.

  6. Dominic White says:

    Edit: Just to reiterate, the game is available to buy and play *now*. It’s half price at the moment, as it’s still quite far from completion, but still a very good game already.

    Starfarer is bloody brilliant, and you should put your $10 down on it now. You’ll get $10 worth of game immediately, I promise. There’s a good range of standalone missions, and already some notable mods and mission-packs on the official forums. Even without the grand campaign and ship customization (which is coming in the next update) it’s a very good, polished and weighty space combat/tactics game, and one of my most eagerly anticipated games of 2012.

    It also has some of the best AI I’ve ever seen. Interestingly, you have very limited control over your fleet – it used to be more RTS-style (like in that video above), but now you give standing orders to your captains, like ‘Sink this capital ship’ or ‘defend this jump node’, and your units will intelligently break into self-contained combat groups to engage targets as required. They’ll evade fire, stay out of enemy cannon range and stick together whenever possible. You can actually trust them to behave intelligently.

    Apparently there’s going to be character personalities in later builds, so a gung-ho captain might be best put in a fast attack frigate where you can zoom around and do damage, while a more cautious, conservative captain should be assigned to an artillery/missile craft. There’s some basic implementation of this already – all the Cult of Lud ships are set to ‘suicidal’ personalities, just throwing themselves madly into battle with no interest in self preservation.

    Seriously, get the game. It’s $10 and great now, and looks to be amazing later.

    Also, the combat engine is much closer to the Freespace games with a dash of Mechwarrior, wheras SPAZ was more Star Control meets Escape Velocity. This is a game about big capital ships beating the crap out of each other. Lovely visible damage, too – a large missile will leave burning, cracked hull in it’s wake, and that area will be more vulnerable to damage from more direct weapons for the rest of the battle, too.

    • kulik says:

      Ok, ok, geez i’ll buy it then.

    • SeditiousSolipsist says:

      It’s also worth checking out the website for the game as the peeps developing it have already started to flesh out a mythos for the universe and factions and provide some great feedback on the progress so far.

      Also, the regular blog posts by, I’m assuming, the lead designer are fascinating in and of themselves. Especially for anybody seeking an insight into how the nuts and bolts of a small scale project like this are put together. There are also some very interesting discussions on there about the nature of game mechanics from a theoretical and implemented perspective.

      One I’ve been watching for a long while.

      *edit And good to see RPS picking up on it and giving some exposure.

  7. nfire3 says:

    I preordered this game about 6 months ago and it was awesome what I played off it. Still can’t wait for whats planned for the 0.5a version

  8. Maxheadroom says:

    I’m hoping for something more akin to the dog old amiga game Rules of Engagement (or more specifically Rules of Engagement 2).

    Something more slower paced and tactical. Micromanagement of your capital ship (power distribution, shield rotations), being able to target subsystems, Captains of smaller ships with their own personalities.
    And most importantly, a Laser Squad style sub game when boarding and taking over disabled enemy ships

    Sigh, Still longing for a remake of that someday…

    • Dominic White says:

      “Something more slower paced and tactical. Micromanagement of your capital ship (power distribution, shield rotations), being able to target subsystems, Captains of smaller ships with their own personalities.”

      This game has all of that. It’s still realtime and fairly demanding on the player, but every one of those elements is covered. Locational damage is in right now, subsystems damage in the next update.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Really? I’ll go play it before opening my big fat mouth in future then

      Honestly, people like me should be banned from the internet

    • Dominic White says:

      Admittedly, power distribution is a little simplified. When your shields are down and your systems are all clear, it automatically gives you a boost to engine power. This goes away once your shields are up and energy weapons are used.

      Power management is handled via the ‘flux’ bar. Using energy weapons or your shield taking hits increases flux. If your flux bar maxes out, your reactor overloads and most systems shut down for a while. You can manually vent flux at a much faster rate, but that also lowers shields and disables most weapons.

      The interesting tradeoff is that energy weapons are more powerful at high flux levels, so a ship with a lot of beam weapons probably wants to keep up a steady level of fire, and tactically activate shields (assuming you have a directional shield emitter) to intercept missiles and other major threats.

  9. Dominic White says:

    Oh, by the way – there’s already a Star Control mod available for this:
    link to fractalsoftworks.com

  10. Reapy says:

    Peaked my interest when I read that it is not RTS control, but will be general orders assigned to fleet groups.

    One of my ‘games I would write if I was not a lazy SOB’ is a space fleet game where you have indirect control, ai personalities, and the results would be a combination of your orders, fleet groupings, and personalities assigned. It looks like this game is doing just that. Will definitely be following this game now.

  11. Buttless Boy says:

    Every time one of these games comes along (which isn’t nearly often enough), I ask one question – how similar is it to Operation: Inner Space?

    Because all I want, forever, is a sequel to that game.

    • Dominic White says:

      If you want something more similar to Inner Space, you might want Transcendence. Fast, arcadey combat with roguelike progression – link to neurohack.com

      Starfarer is more of a heavyweight space combat sim, but in 2D.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Does Transcendence have sexy voiced ambulances and NPC ships with distinct personalities that I grow to love only to see them murdered by the cops, whereupon I swear a bloody vengeance on the doughnut-flinging bastards, only to eventually end up cornered by six ships built like twelve brick shithouses?

      When I say “all I want, forever, is a sequel” to Inner Space, I really do mean it.

      EDIT: Tried Transcendence. It seems a bit… Unpolished? Regardless, it looks interesting but lacks the personality I’m looking for. Thanks though!

  12. jackflash says:

    Starfarer is fantastically fun and shows a ton of promise. It’s an awesome game. Preorder now.

  13. Tiax says:

    *sigh*, those ships move way too fast, where’s the epicness in all this?

    Guess I should give a few more quids to Nexus 2 development…

    EDIT: Oh boy did I lost it.

    Moved my pledge from 10 euros to 250. TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY §§§

    link to games-plant.com
    RPS, maybe you could consider giving a reminder that the fund collect ends in a month? They’re only 25% in, seems like they won’t make it. But hey, every lil’ thing could turn the odds!

    • Dominic White says:

      The ships on show in that video are all small ones. The players flagship is a fast assault cruiser with lots of engines and front-mounted guns. Here’s a ship size comparison chart:

      link to fractalsoftworks.com – the player one is second from the right, row 2.

    • Tiax says:

      Oh, then I guess I could give it a try and 10 $.

      Thanks for clarifying that!

  14. FriendlyFire says:

    You know what other kind of game we don’t see enough of these days?

    3D space trading and fighting kind of games. 2012 needs to give 1999 a call, I want them good games again.

    • Dominic White says:

      They still get made. Last year saw a new Evochron game released, and a new expansion for X3: Terran Conflict.

  15. Squishpoke says:

    Anyone else read it as Starfarter?

  16. Spengbab says:

    damnit, all I want is a top-down space shooter like this, but without the whole mission/sector crap – like in SPAZ, you jump to a sector and its just a copy of the last one, plus the factions just forget that you blew the oatmeal out of them 1 jump away.

    Havent played Starfarer, but it looks like you just pick a mission, deploy a fleet and watch the turrets do the work.

    Oh well, its still in development, who knows where it will go

    • Dominic White says:

      Read the site – there’s a full free-roaming RPG/strategy campaign side in development – the combat engine is just the first thing completed. The developer describes it a lot like Mount & Blades overworld stuff.

  17. MythArcana says:

    I’ve been following this for about a year now and I just can’t bring myself to (yet again) fork out money for something that is nowhere near finished. I’m still waiting for Mojang to finish friggin’ Minecraft at 1.0.

    The sad thing is, most of these games are never finished and will remain jacked up for years…Hopefully this won’t be one of them, but it’s taking forever to get this thing off the ground.

    • Dominic White says:

      “I’m still waiting for Mojang to finish friggin’ Minecraft at 1.0.”

      Perhaps you’re just being snarky but… they did? Last year? And you would have paid twice what you did if you hadn’t bought in early.

    • vecordae says:

      MythArcana’s got a valid concern. SotS][ release fiasco has left me feeling pretty suspicious about buying a game before it’s really done. Knowing that you’re effectively a paying beta tester for a game that may never get finished is annoying. On the other hand, I also pre-ordered SPAZ and Star Ruler and both games were effectively finished (minus some minor post-release tweaking) when the dev teams said they would be. They also tended to handle their customers with grace and candor and treated them like people instead of piggy banks. It really could go either way.

      I check the forums and see how the devs treat the people on them before I do a preorder now. If the devs are smug, condescending doucheponies then it’s a no-buy. If they are professional and do what they say they will, then I will absolutely give them money.

    • Nafu says:

      @vecordae: Check the forum then, but have your credit card handy; the devs are really quite nice people. I preordered the game six months ago, and am confident that they’ll deliver (and besides, I’ve got my money’s worth already).

    • vecordae says:

      I have done so. They shall be receiving my cash monies shortly.

  18. robotsneedlove says:

    My burning need of starcontolness is satisfied. All I need now is a spiritual sequel to Space Rangers.

  19. Alchenar says:

    There is a more better trailer from the blog here:

    By which I mean I’m pretty sure it’s the latest moving version, which shows off ship module damage.

    • Dominic White says:

      Ooh, nice – and I like the developers comment that if the AI had been flying the Apogee (the blue laser-centric ship) it would have behaved a lot more cautiously, wheras he flew in close and got his face smashed in a few times.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      I love that trailer! There’s just so much going on from a gameplay perspective.

      Not only is there a high degree of PEW! content, it’s supplemented by generous portions of Pop! Pop! Crack!, Rat-tat-tat!, Whoosh!, Poom!, and VZZZT!

      Apologies if I got too technical there.

  20. Vinraith says:

    As someone who was both surprised and put off by how arcadey and lightweight SPAZ was, this looks like something I’d be very interested in.

    • Alchenar says:

      I’ve put more hours into the dozen or so missions you get with the current alpha of Starfarer than I put into the whole of SPAZ (which I dropped fairly soon after I realised that the entirety of the game can be summarised as ‘hold down LMB’).

    • Hanban says:

      You’re wrong Alchenar. Sometimes you have to right click to fire missiles.

    • cibo says:

      I, too, thought that SPAZ felt to arcade-like. Also, that game had the worst color palette ever. It was all over the place and really ruined a lot for me. Kind of peculiar maybe, but half the reason I didn’t even finish it’s demo must have been those awfully clashing colors.

      Well anyways, I have high hopes in Starfarer!

  21. omacaco says:

    That’s a lot of noise for a space battle.

    • wcanyon says:

      All space games now take place in the Eve universe where Newtonian physics doesn’t work the same and sound travels.

  22. wcanyon says:

    Welp, preordered. Haven’t played yet. Hopefully its not a disappointment like SPAZ.

  23. SolCommand says:

    Game interface looks sweet.