Someone Make This: HomeSpace


About ten years ago, I had a stunning revelation. It happened, as all important revelation necessarily do, while I was sitting on my porcelain throne. I had just finished a mission in Homeworld prior to my engagement with the porcelain throne and had thoroughly trounced the opposing fleet. I found myself daydreaming and imagining myself in the position of a fighter pilot blasting alien ships out of space. That’s when I realized that I had transposed the Freespace universe into the Homeworld universe. If you have played both of these games, then I may have just blown your mind. Enter HomeSpace.

If you talk to space game fans, chances are they have heard of Homeworld and Freespace. These exceptional titles took space games to whole new levels of strategy and playability, albeit in two very different genres.

Freespace

Dog-fighting in space is just about the most satisfying game experiences I have ever had. Freespace took the foundations of Wing Commander and various other dog-fighting space simulators and created something that expanded and improved the genre in every way imaginable. In fact, the Freespace series was so spectacular that it holds up well even today. There is a large modding community that keeps the Freespace series looking good and up-to-date.The source code for Freespace was released a while back, so the modders have been able to do amazing things with keeping the game modern. Freespace 2 was released in 1999. There hasn’t been another Freespace game since then.

This image depicts the loadout screen for ships and squads.

In Freespace, you take on the role of a fighter pilot based on a larger ship. And when I say large, I mean huge. The scale of ships in Freespace was impressive for its time. I still have a great time with the game as I fly my fighter across the bow of a massive capital ship. Throughout the campaign, you gain access to new fighter and bombers as well as armaments. You can outfit yourself to be a capital ship killer, a dogfighter, or something in between.

The space battles in Freespace are gorgeous and extremely fun. You control exactly how your ship moves, including speed, shields, and weapons. The visuals are beautiful and the audio is stellar. You can communicate with ships in your squad and others through a sort of radio menu. It takes a little getting used to, but soon you will be commanding your squadmates to give you cover or to guard specific targets. One of my favorite things to do in the game is destroy the many subsystems on larger ships. Weapons, engines, and various other subsystems can be destroyed by direct fire, making for varied strategic gameplay.

Homeworld

The Mothership has a massive construction bay, as shown in this image.

Controlling an entire fleet of ships in true 3D can be a major pain, but somehow the Homeworld series managed to get everything right. Homeworld controls and plays in many ways like a standard RTS game. But many players have a hard time coming to terms with one fact: the enemy can come at you only from the four cardinal directions and everything in between, but from above and below as well. Depending on how well you get the hang of Homeworld, it can be strategic heaven or confusing as hell. The learning curve is rather high, but totally worth it. Homeworld was released in 1999. Homeworld 2 was released in 2003. There hasn’t been another Homeworld since then.

In Homeworld, you control a mothership that can manufacture smaller vessels. As you increase your tech levels and build new subsystems for your mothership, you be able to build larger and more advanced ships. You start out only being able to build fighters, bombers, and utility vessels like resource gatherers. Eventually, you will be able to build carriers, destroyers, and battlecruisers.

While the gameplay in Homeworld is excellent, the story is what really shines. Relic Entertainment created a unique universe that is full of lore and just begging to be explored. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t played, but the story begins as your homeworld is laid to waste. Watching your homeworld burn is a disturbing moment and moved me to a level of emotion I have felt in only a handful of video games.

The Gameplay

Imagine having the fleet constuction and control options available in Homeworld mixed with the dog-fighting characteristics of Freespace. You would control a flagship within the fleet, but have the ability to take direct control of any ship at any time. A tactical overlay would provide you with an overview of the battlefield, extensive fleet control options, and access to construction and research facilities.

This image illustrates the beauty of the Freespace engine.

Going from the tactical overlay to dog-fighting will be seamless and enable you to control the outcome of battles like never before. Instead of watching one of your ships fire mindlessly at the wrong target, you would simply take control of the vessel and direct it to your liking. While in dog-fighting mode, you have control over the ship’s various subsystems. Smaller craft would have fewer subsystems and would be of limited effectiveness except for their designated purposes. Larger vessels would be well-rounded and feature a slew of subsystems that enable them to tackle most situations under your control.

All well and good, you say, but how do you get involved in battles anyway? If you’ve ever played a 4X game, this concept will sound familiar to you. At the beginning of a game, you will start within a solar system. You can zoom in to any part of this system to view your ships and structures. As the game progresses, you discover new systems, colonize, and then fortify them, conquering enemy fleets along the way. While 4X games attempt to do this, space battles tend to lack the strategic finesse involved in Homeworld’s battles. Also, being able to pilot any ship in the fleet would provide you with even more strategic options.

The DLC

DLC 1 “Universe Expansion” – While there may be a lot of planets in a galaxy, eventually you’d be able to conquer them all. Players will get to explore an entirely new galaxy that is home to a super-powerful alien race that is inexplicably hostile.

DLC 2 “Flagship Upgrade” – For the low, low price of (yet to be determined), players can increase their flagship’s weapon and armor levels to ridiculous heights. Excluded in multiplayer.

DLC 3 “Ship Designer” – Players will be able to design their own ships from the smallest fighters up to the largest capital ships. Building ships from the ground up may be a daunting task, but watching your all-powerful Battle Ark of Awesomeness plow through enemy fleets is well worth the price (both of the time spent designing it and the actual money paid for the DLC).

Who Should Make It

Volition – Volition originally developed the Freespace series, so they certainly know how to handle the dog-fighting aspect of the game. However, like the Red Faction series, hype would be high and sales would be low.

It's easy to capture images for Homeworld, as the game's visuals are superb.

Relic – With Relic leading the way, HomeSpace could really be something. Havning originally developed Homeworld, Relic would certainly get all of the fleet management mechanics right. Unfortunately, half-way through development, the Warhammer games and Company of Heroes series would take precedence and funding for HomeSpace would be dropped.

CCP – Understanding how space-based simulation games work is part of CCP’s job. As the developers of EVE Online, they certainly know how to keep people interested in a game. At some point after the game has shipped, CCP would try to insert a new ship into one faction’s fleet. This seemingly insignificant event would prompt players to riot in-game and send representatives to speak with CCP directly.

Final Words

HomeSpace would be a great game, but due to the technical difficulty in meshing two different genres of gameplay together is unlikely to ever see the light of day. Perhaps there would be a way to start it on a smaller scale. If so, I would be all ears.

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Posted on January 12, 2012, in Someone Make This, Tasty Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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