Constructing A Culture: Contested Space

This is my second space-set Kickstarter of the day, so apologies for that if you prefer orcs and elves to crumbling moons and sleek starfighters. Contested Space is a game of intergalactic conflict, in which every ship has been customised by the human at its helm. The campaign stands out in the crowd-funding crowd due to the seemingly sensible iterative approach to design – the first task is to build a game in which players can construct vessels and engage in combat, conquering territory for their alliance. If players linger and subscribe (at $5 a month, 1,026 would be needed to cover costs) the game will expand, allowing for the development of economies and social structures. For now, combat and construction are the important elements though, and you can see them below.

The persistent universe is central to Contested Space’s aims. With the initial release, planned before the end of this year, players will join one of three alliances and engage in laser-duels for supremacy.

At first Contested Space will be about territory control. Players will pick from one of three predefined alliances. These alliances will compete to control locations in orbit where stations can be built. Players that defend or capture territory will be rewarded with credits that can be used to build space stations or buy better ships.

The game will launch with three different ship sizes along with a suite of weapons and abilities to go along with them. Players will have a skill progression that will grant them modest bonuses as they gain experience.

With the basics working – and keep in mind that ‘the basics’ are a complex space combat simulation containing hundreds of players – Contested Space will be free to grow. The world will become increasingly detailed, with new ways to express dominance and interact within and between alliances.

There’s a pleasing parallel. The initial launch may well represent the conflicts of early pioneers, fighting for resources and land. As new features arrive, societies will develop and find new and interesting ways to trouble their own members, and those who oppose them. Give it a few years and Contested Space might well have politicians, sending new players into unwinnable wars, making shady deals behind the scenes.

For now, it’s the pew-pew and the lock-on of a deadly missile barrage that will provide the intrigue.

Contested Space gives players direct control of their ship. Every shot and missile is physically simulated and must be carefully aimed. Ships range from lumbering battleships a kilometer long to nimble frigates only 60 meters long.

I’m a nimble frigate man myself.

Twenty six days to go and $26,000 is the target. At the time of writing, around $7,500 has already been pledged.


  1. Gap Gen says:

    This is absolutely how you texture low-poly models.

  2. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I found it charming enough to back. But then, I also bought a computer case that is too small for the motherboard I bought, so my purchasing decisions have been poor of late.

    • GeminiathXL says:

      There’s always “the next motherboard”. It will all fall into place soon enough.

      • P.Funk says:

        I personally prefer to reflect on “the motherboard after next”.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Really? A friend just did that too… Are you THE Lord Custard Smingleigh?

    • Smaug says:

      I always buy the biggest case. My motto: “bigger case, better airflow.”

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        In my situation, it is “smaller case so I can put my legs under the desk”. It replaces my 1980s West German steel PC case that was retrofitted for a Turbo button in the distant past with a drill. It has withstood moving house multiple times, a collapsing desk, the full weight of a piano, a flood, and a cat. Sadly Lady Smingleigh replaced the desk and it doesn’t fit in the compartment.
        I’m sorry to see it go, but its gravitational field is warping the light of nearby stars.

      • HiFiHair says:

        Spoken like a true cricketer.

  3. shinkshank says:

    Reminds me a bit of Planetary Annihilation, at least as far as the units go. Still, looks pretty neat.

  4. jingies says:

    Is it just me that thinks this looks like it could just grow into EVE?

    • Zon says:

      That’s the plan. (I’m the creator of Contested Space.) I love Eve, but it has a lot of problems. I’m trying to create a space sandbox that’s more accessible to play and less risk adverse.

      • steviebops says:

        Most wise. Can we have beam lasers? that go *shhhhewwwwwwwwwww* ?

        • Zon says:

          I’m going to be outsourcing the audio design so I can’t make any promises in that area. However, I do have a beam weapon in the works.

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          In space, no one can hear you pew

          EVE has one dimension essentially: blown up space ships

          the potential is there for way more (Incarna almost was a ‘thing’) but, currently all roads in EVE lead to that one singular destination.

          Will Contested Space escape that resolution myopia and blossom into a sandbox of emergent experiences?

          Let’s hope!

      • Mitch says:

        Ok, I always wanted to ask developers of space games one thing:
        If you have real 3d-planets, how do you implement them in the game?
        The “map” (current solar system) needed to be so huge, no computer could handle such big 3d-models, I guess?
        So: Do you scale everything down or how do you manage this?
        (I’m just an ordinary Java developer who sometimes thinks about experimenting with game engines but never has time for it…) :-D

        • Zon says:

          Yes, planets are scaled down. The solar system is rendered first using it’s own camera. Then the local scene is rendered on top of it.

          • Mitch says:

            Ok so you can’t seamlessly approach a planet? They are more or less static in a scene?
            (I dont mean landing, but approaching only.)
            Thanks for sharing the info. :-)

    • Contrafibularity says:

      How would that be a good thing?

      I would love to try it out, but I’ve decided never to go for subscription games ever again. Shame they don’t opt for the Minecraft model: making a gloriously amazing game and let the servers pop up on their own (and let the game sell itself if you focus on making it great). I have trouble believing subscriptions have anything to do with monthly developer costs.

  5. DrazharLn says:

    Not a huge fan of subscription games, but I reckon I’ll get £3 of value out of the beta world. Besides, it looks like a charmingly low-fi game.

    • P.Funk says:

      I don’t mind monthly subscriptions that cost as much or less than a meal or bus fare to work and back.

      Bear in mind, when I say meal I mean a smart person’s meal that involves buying stuff you cook yourself. I’m aware some people think $20 for a meal is normal.

  6. Lord_Mordja says:

    This article’s title now has me pining for a game set within Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe.

  7. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Give it a few years and Contested Space might well have politicians, sending new players into unwinnable wars, making shady deals behind the scenes.

    The Mittani sends his regards.

  8. BlocParty says:

    If my experiences with Starmade are anything to go by, we’ll have fleets of giant space rectangles and rainbow Borg cubes fighting it out as soon as this is released. People aren’t very creative.