Re: [stella] Star Fire Release Candidate

Subject: Re: [stella] Star Fire Release Candidate
From: Glenn Saunders <mos6507@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003 22:25:55 -0700
Manuel, I got the chance to play SF a bit over the weekend (sans sound for the time being, I don't have a great setup right now) and I wanted to talk a bit about the gameplay.

Before I get into this, I should say that I think the game looks great and your engine being able to have that many objects on screen at once has a lot of raw potential.

That being said, the first thing I noticed is that the ships seem to follow fairly linear paths across the screen. Is there any way to get them moving in more unpredictable ways, like changing speed and/or direction?

One of the best parts about Star Raiders for the 400/800, and one that translated pretty well to the 2600 (unlike the other parts of the game) were the actual movements of the enemy ships. Star Voyager also did a pretty good job with zig-zagging enemies that really avoided the cross-hairs. Starmaster's lumbering ships are pretty boring in comparison.

Without making the individual ships more unpredictable in their movements, the game can't help but feel more like an old-school shooting gallery where the ships are on predetermined rails and you are just moving a static crosshair through a field of view. The ships also don't seem to move much in the Z-axis when they trace across the screen either so it feels pretty 2-dimensional aside from the starfield. (In Star Raiders you always had a sense that you were truly following ships that were moving in 3D angles and affected by your movement and speed.)

If the movements have to be that way due to technical restrictions, then I think the game needs to bring over more of the other elements of the Star Fire arcade game. I didn't notice a temperature meter on the cannons. So there is no way to overheat your guns, right? There also is no way to control variable speed on the ship. No 2600 space sim has ever offered variable speeds, even 2600 Star Raiders.

There is also little resource management. No energy meter. The only thing you have to watch out for is your shield indicator.

You also can't get hit from the rear, right?

And Star Fire arcade had a timer that was your main enemy. No timer here. I'm not a big fan of timers however...

Also, when the stargate appears, you can just walk away from the game. Nothing happens unless you line it up and shoot, unlike Star Voyager where there is an urgency to line it up before you miss it.

If the attempt is simply to port Star Fire then there are still missing elements that I think might be able to be added to some degree, and might be worth it even if you have to go to 16K or superchip.

If you aren't, then you still have to judge the game against all the others out there (Starmaster, Star Voyager, Phaser Patrol, Star Wars: TAG, and 2600 Star Raiders), each of which with their strengths and weaknesses.

If you aren't going to have the galactic map and the resource management aspects of SR then you have to really beef up the action quotient otherwise it might feel a bit minimalistic compared to the others.

If it seems like I'm being overcritical it's just because I'm such a strong fan of the genre so I'm probably pickier than most.

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