Carriers Arriving: Contact Vector

I bet you think you’re supercool, Elite and Star Citizen, with your one ship. Pretty special with your intricate UI and Oculus Rift enhancements, your detailed models and weapon customisation. Pah, I say to you, what I want is a fleet. Not to go mining out an existence trading ore for cattle with other space bumpkins, but to command the destinies of hundreds through a few mouse clicks. Contact Vector, an extraordinarily pretty SpaRTS after £85k on Kickstarter, is planning to offer just that. While there’s some obvious cues taken from the Homeworlds of years past, the focus is on tactical movement and well-timed strikes rather than base-building and resource harvesting. Quite where on the Ground Control to Dawn of War 2 scale it sits isn’t clear yet, but there is a demo, trailer and delicious thoughts to be had at the next warp marker.

Something rather Man of Steel about the soundtrack that’s endearing it to me, I think. Well, that and all the lovely missiles. They’re the one constant throughout my various space loves, from Starlancer to Homeworld 2 to Endless Space, each features sublime examples of the jet-powered portable explosion. They’re a perfect end-note to a warp-exiting symphony – pah-beeeooow, clink-clink-clink, woooosh, KABLOOM.


Anyway, moving past my particular fetishes, what’s promised should raise a more objective eyebrow too. A quick glance at the past few years of released RTS games and some darts through my own rusted memory banks reveals space is a remarkably untapped setting. There’s plenty of sci-fi, from far-flung StarCraft escapades to near-future Command & Conquers, but actual spaceships are limited. Only Sins of a Solar Empire has been attempting to scratch the itch in recent times, with varying degrees of success. Its appeal is hardly reduced by a different camera perspective, allowing for all the same incredible starscapes and explosion porn, only in larger scale.

In a few minutes with Contact Vector I could see the promise of it and was honestly surprised at how long it had been since those particular endorphins had been triggered. It’s startlingly beautiful, piling more evidence on the “Unity can do everything” pile. There’s ambitious plans for the way various systems will interact, which look far more complex than what has been attempted before. Sadly, their campaign’s struggling, despite regular updates. Their upgraded demo might draw some interest, and is commendable for the simple fact of being a playable Kickstarter prototype. Many of the just-scrapes I’ve followed since it became a little harder to milk the dream machine have done so on the back of such easy access. Have a play, check out the pitch video below and then see about bringing her home, (space-)sailor.


  1. jasta85 says:

    glad to see an article on this. they didn’t make their first kickstarter because they couldn’t get any visibility outside of kickstarter and their second campaign has been going slow as well. hopefully they pick up, I’m always up for more space battles

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      Ben Barrett says:

      erk, it’s their second shot at it? That can’t be fun.

    • Aaax says:

      I’m sure devs would be thrilled that you are letting everyone know about their past failures in first comment on RPS.

  2. Dozer says:

    Do we have clearance, Clarence?

  3. FriendlyFire says:

    It’s early enough, guys, please, make this a full 3D game… I think it has potential, but having ships on a 2D plane just kills me.

  4. Gap Gen says:

    I would be interested in more tactical space games. Had fond memories of Nexus, flawed though it was.

    My only criticism of the video is that the ships seem mighty close. I doubt even naval ships engage at that kind of distance.

    • Sian says:

      I actually thought the distances here were nice and generous. Haven’t seen many games provide as much space in, you know, space, let alone naval battles. It’s far from realistic, but to be honest, I prefer to be able to see what the enemy’s doing in nice graphics than watching sensor blips.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yes, “realistic” distances would stop you from seeing as many 3D models in one view.

        • Dozer says:

          “Realistic” space combat is also “boring unplayable” space combat. For realism, replace the vacuum with an ocean and just use actual naval ships.

          • Rindan says:

            I disagree. Realistic space combat could be awesome from a fleet perspective, especially if you focused it down on to smaller sized fleets so you manage the systems they are running. It would like exotic submarine warfare. If you burn hard and loud, everyone will see you. If you drift, you will be much closer to invisible. Open up with projectiles or lasers, and you are suddenly visible. Drift some stealthy torpedos ahead of you can probably fire without being seen. As you get closer, visual contacts start becoming possible when telescopes notice you blocking out stars. Don’t let yourself be caught in the background of a heavenly body or you will stand out from a long ways with by telescopes.

            When the shooting starts to get hot, counter measures might include simply blow reflective particles in front of the ship to deflect lasers. Kinetic weapons can get through that, but you can dodge a kinetic weapon until you get pretty close. Even in the heat of battle, while your large and heavily armored ships might be slugging it out using point defense and maneuvering to keep the bulk of fire off of them, smaller ships will be sneaking around the battle field trying to get close to launch devastating close range kinetic attacks, or sliding silent torpedoes towards enemies that will, if nothing else, make them reveal their position when they try and destroy them.

            I would murder children for a good in Sol, sublight, space tactical game based upon real world physics with no fancy sci-fi weapons. Just give me newtonian physics, stealthed ships (thermal, radar, and visible light), a handful of weapon systems, a handful of detection systems, and gravity wells.

            Hell, I think I’ll go rub one out right now after having spent a few minutes thinking about how hot that would be. Excuse me.

  5. DrManhatten says:

    Must be a slow news day this project has been on Kickstarter for at least 3 weeks IIRC. Not doing very well though. But in general I think the Kickstarter hype is gone most front page projects barely scratch their funding goal if at all.

  6. Sian says:

    This looks like the kind of battle that I was imagining back when my hopes for SotS ][ were high. I hope this gets made. It looks delicious.

    Disclaimer: Haven’t played the demo yet, what with being at work and such.

  7. Sheogorath says:

    It’s like Macross and Touhou had an RTS baby.

  8. DarkFarmer says:

    it wasn’t easy to figure out how to control the demo [Why control left instead of right click to move?], and when I did, I didn’t find anything particularly interesting going on there. There have been a few “manual firing” (as opposed to AI controlled firing) rts games over the years, damn I wish i could remember the name of it, but it was treated more as a puzzle game, which I think works better than treating it like a universal RTS war sim engine.

  9. slerbal says:

    I had to re-read the article three times for the correct name to stick in my head – I kept reading it as “Contact Vendor” to which my mind induced a game about phoning technical support for a broken bit of kit :(

  10. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I very much enjoy the art style. As someone with a huge Evernote notebook of spaceship pictures and concept art clipped from around the World of Internet, I see a lot of my favourite influences in there.

  11. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    You say Homeworld, I see movement bound to a 2D plane.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Nexus had an interesting take on this; rather than moving ships to arbitrary spatial coordinates, you moved ships based on the objects in the space (or moved away from them, if one ship was being creamed). It was a nice system because the game was about hitting subsystems and breaking shields rather than just piling in as many ships as you could and having healthbars count down.

      • CaidKean says:

        Mind you, in Nexus you could set custom waypoints at any arbitrary point in space and order your ships to move towards it.

        So, you could still tell a ship to move to an arbitrary point in space, it just took more clicks.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yeah, although I rarely used that (I suppose equally in Homeworld you can order ships to attack a target to move, but it’s more based around getting balanced fleets to the right place and less about picking apart individual ships in detail).

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Is Contact Vector played in 3D?

      Yes. In the current demo ships can move between five levels. We want to create a game where the freedom of space is there, but not so much as to make the interface horribly clunky, or the effective search space for the player so large it becomes for want of a better word, ‘lonely’. We think we’ve hit a happy medium between the two extremes.

  12. thebigJ_A says:

    Why’d you post a video of coral sea mating season?

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Came (snigger) here to say the same thing. Those streams of white look rather … reproductive.

      EDIT: I have added this to my RPS WANT bookmark folder though, which I note still has Raindrop in it.

  13. steviebops says:

    The lighter coloured ships suck at point defence.

    • Sian says:

      You’re a pessimist. Look at it this way: The darker coloured ships have very strong offensive capabilities. :p