Best Place to Park a Tarsus? (October 20, 2013)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
We've posted a new poll that revists the seamier side of the Wing Commander universe. WC games are well known for their rich 'gameflow' locations where players congregate between spaceflight missions. And even among so many noteworthy locales, the places in Privateer's Gemini Sector are especially memorable. Virtually every choice here evokes strong memories, which can make the decision tough! Which Gemini Sector base had the best atmosphere to you?




















The last poll asked about the best console and mobile platforms as we are kickoff a major new cycle. Compared with the last time we ran this in 2006, the options flipped somewhat. The Playstation 4 slightly edged out the Xbox One by a margin similar to the lead that the Xbox 360 had over the PS3. The Nintendo system shrunk considerably, as did Sony and Nintendo's handheld systems. The new class of portable smartphones and tablets surged to fill the gap however and collectively took about a quarter of the vote.

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Original update published on October 20, 2013
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Pfft, the "special locations" are getting all the votes. Come on! Close your eyes, think "Privateer", and the first image that comes to mind is that mining base concourse.
 

Silverain

Rear Admiral
Pfft, the "special locations" are getting all the votes. Come on! Close your eyes, think "Privateer", and the first image that comes to mind is that mining base concourse.

Nah, every time I remember Privateer the Pleasure Planet music starts playing in my head...
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
^Agree with this.

Although the special locations have plenty of mood and atmosphere, they're just that -- special locations, you spend 90% of your privateer life on the mainstay starbases and planets. My vote also goes to the pleasure planets. I always imagine them to be relaxing, hedonistic, highly debaucherous places. I sure wish I could visit one.
 

Whistler

Commodore
My favorite tradelane spine for legal cargo always had a stop in New Detroit. She's our city-world that reminds me of Earth in this universe. You saw DC in WCIV with how much the cities have grown, New Detroit is probably the closest to home.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
I also picture the mining base concourse. The Troy System and its 'generic' bases is where a large part of Privateer gets played.

Like I alluded to in the original post, the really great thing about Privateer is that virtually everyone can imagine themselves at virtually every one of the places listed in the poll. Sure, games like Priv 2 and Freelancer had bigger more elaborate universes (and in the case of P2, even more exotic and "atmospheric"), but Privateer really just nails it.

After a while I usually jump over to Oxford. I like the planet, and the tiny system means easy patrols.

I'm surprised New Detroit is doing so well, or rather, that it and New Constantinople are beating Perry out by so much.
 

capi3101

Admiral
Probably because for all it's grandeur, Perry feels a bit stifling. I mean, that military march theme probably doesn't help much. It doesn't feel like "home", at least IMHO. Probably why it's not doing so well.

Picked Oxford my own self (what can I say, I'm a librarian...).
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I also picture the mining base concourse. The Troy System and its 'generic' bases is where a large part of Privateer gets played.
Yes, that's one of the reasons the mining base stayed with me so much. In a way, I suppose they missed an opportunity there - had they put a "special" location in Troy, it would have given players the illusion of much greater grandeur. Then again, it's a difference of approach, really. Today, games have to grab the player in the first few minutes, so a lot of emphasis is put on the start. But games like Privateer relied much more on a "you ain't seen nothing yet" feeling, showing the player relatively little and hinting that he'd better go off and see more.

I'm surprised New Detroit is doing so well, or rather, that it and New Constantinople are beating Perry out by so much.
Yeah, and Gaia sure ain't getting much love... ;)

Seriously, I recall that I didn't much like flying out of Perry, because the missions there weren't to my taste. That may be the case for other people as well.
 

pigsonthewing

Rear Admiral
i was one of the few that loved flying off of Perry. Going through the other Wing Commanders kind of instilled a sort of feeling of duty to protect humanity, so i flew a lot off of perry and the some of the other borderzone systems. i have to admit i never really got into the trading part of privateer.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
i have to admit i never really got into the trading part of privateer.
There really wasn't much to get into. Trading was one of the big Achilles' heels of Privateer - it kinda worked, but it just wasn't interesting in any way, because the prices were essentially static. I suppose at the end of the day, once you finish the storyline, there isn't any motivation to go on anyway, because the game doesn't give you anything to do with your money - so it makes sense that they neglected the trading and focussed on other things.
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
Yeah, and Gaia sure ain't getting much love... ;)

I found Gaia a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting more room locations, maybe a huge gothic cathedral for the shrine, packed with suspicious Retros, and a 'bar' area where you could chat with the freaks. Instead we got to talk to one guy before visiting the eyeball thing.

In it's own way I guess the Gaia we saw fits the Retros perfectly, totally wacky.
 

pigsonthewing

Rear Admiral
There really wasn't much to get into. Trading was one of the big Achilles' heels of Privateer - it kinda worked, but it just wasn't interesting in any way, because the prices were essentially static. I suppose at the end of the day, once you finish the storyline, there isn't any motivation to go on anyway, because the game doesn't give you anything to do with your money - so it makes sense that they neglected the trading and focussed on other things.
Agreed, but I also remember at the time it was still pretty neat to have the choice to trade, I don't recall too many games offering that type of game mechanic combined with the visual presentation. Each time I had the urge to play the wing commander games when I was a kid, I had to delete windows to make space on my harddrive, and keeping track of all those floppies was pretty tedious, those were the days...
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
I was quite in love with the agricultural worlds. Those endless fields, that haunting theme.
 

Mekt-Hakkikt

Mpanty's bane
I voted for the Refinery - it had that eerie, haunting tune that really unnerved me. I really had the feeling of being more or less alone in deep space.

Landing on Pleasure bases, now - that was relaxing.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
I also picture the mining base concourse. The Troy System and its 'generic' bases is where a large part of Privateer gets played.

Considering how much fundraising you have to do before you can reasonably consider leaving Troy (Jump Drive, second gun, afterburner, Tungsten Armor, Engine Upgrade I, sector maps), most players will be getting quite a few hours logged there.

I never cease to be amazed just how much depth Privateer had for all of its "primitive" sound and graphics.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Considering how much fundraising you have to do before you can reasonably consider leaving Troy (Jump Drive, second gun, afterburner, Tungsten Armor, Engine Upgrade I, sector maps), most players will be getting quite a few hours logged there.

I never cease to be amazed just how much depth Privateer had for all of its "primitive" sound and graphics.
For me, it's the opposite. Because I'd previously experienced the glory of Sid Meier's Pirates!, for me Privateer was a terrible disappointment in terms of depth. It was a shallow, shallow game. Don't get me wrong - I love Privateer, and I spent many, many hours playing it. But at the end of the day, Privateer was story-driven, and there wasn't much else to it. What else could you really do? Make money? Sure, until you had the best ship and the best equipment. Fly for pleasure? Yeah, even in a maxed-out Centurion, you could still head out into Kilrathi space and get some satisfaction from fighting - but there's not much challenge to it, and ultimately, it does get dull. Explore the universe? Ugh... seriously. What's there to see? Privateer is the "open-ended" game that ends, the "be anything" game that drives you along one path. It's an enjoyable, and sometimes pretty convincing illusion of freedom - but it's nothing more than an illusion.

But - the ship upgrades, which I guess were the "depth" you were referring to, were pretty outstanding. I could whine and complain that they could have been better (more interdependency - remember the wonderful frustration of buying a new shield generator and discovering that now your power plant sucked? More of that...), but they win hands down in the only real test that matters: namely, no other game has ever beaten Privateer in this regard. Priv 2 was shallow, and Freelancer was a joke. And these two games actually show what a shining strength the core gameplay of Privateer is. For instance, all my complaints about nothing to see in Privateer were ultimately addressed in both Priv 2 and Freelancer - but so what, when the inferior gameplay made those later games too boring to bother with? Somewhere in my archive, I still have my savegame for Freelancer, promising myself that one day I will revisit the game when I have more time, and I will finally go off and visit Rheinland, not to mention finding the Hispania... but come on. It's been a decade, and I still can't be bothered... ultimately, as far as I'm concerned, Privateer has far better chances for a revisit than Freelancer.
 

Ijuin

Admiral
Well what I meant by "depth" was that in Privateer there were multiple routes to the same ends. You weren't forced into the above-the-board cargo and mercenary missions--you could be plenty profitable running drugs or committing piracy as a "career". Also, each of the three ships had its own fighting style and was viable--sure, the Centurion was more suited for those who demanded high-speed dogfighting, but the bigger powerplant and protection of the Orion is great for somebody who prefers a tanking style, while the Galaxy was decently agile but with more armor than the Centurion and a second missile launcher which the Orion lacked. I have completed the main story with all three of them (though doing the story in the Tarsus is mainly for those who want tougher combat).
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
But - the ship upgrades, which I guess were the "depth" you were referring to, were pretty outstanding. I could whine and complain that they could have been better (more interdependency - remember the wonderful frustration of buying a new shield generator and discovering that now your power plant sucked? More of that...), but they win hands down in the only real test that matters: namely, no other game has ever beaten Privateer in this regard. Priv 2 was shallow, and Freelancer was a joke.

What about Frontier: Elite II? (Possibly also other games in the Elite series; I only ever played Frontier).
  • Your hull has a mass limit. Every component takes up mass.
  • If you're trying to trade, everything you load up with - autopilot, atmospheric shielding, cargo bay life support - means you can carry less cargo per trip.
  • Even if you're not trading, you need some space free for hyperdrive fuel.

  • For smaller ships, you can choose standard hyperdrives or military drives.
  • Standard hyperdrives take hydrogen fuel, which is cheap, or can even be slurped from gas giants if you have a fuel scoop.
  • Military hyperdrives take less mass for the same distance, but take expensive military fuel and leave radioactive residue.
It wasn't perfect.
  • The simple and repetitive nature of Frontier's combat made many of the upgrades pointless.
  • The optimal way to make money was to have a ship with just a hyperdrive and autopilot, and repeat a trade route or trade triangle. You don't have any guns, so if you're ambushed, load game.
  • There were "decisions" about crew hiring for the larger ships, but these didn't seem to mean much. You could ask about crew experience when hiring, but this didn't affect your ship's performance, and even the highest wage you could offer was a tiny fraction of your income by that stage of the game.
  • It would have been neat if specific locations had unusual equipment. A persistent rumor is that there's an obscure shipyard where you could buy a level 4 military drive, cloaking device or similar. (There isn't).
I'd be happy to see a game simultaneously implement Frontier's mass limits and Privateer's power consumption limits. For additional chaos, you could have cooling issues as well, which change with proximity to the nearest star and the amount of gear you operate simultaneously.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Well what I meant by "depth" was that in Privateer there were multiple routes to the same ends. You weren't forced into the above-the-board cargo and mercenary missions--you could be plenty profitable running drugs or committing piracy as a "career". Also, each of the three ships had its own fighting style and was viable--sure, the Centurion was more suited for those who demanded high-speed dogfighting, but the bigger powerplant and protection of the Orion is great for somebody who prefers a tanking style, while the Galaxy was decently agile but with more armor than the Centurion and a second missile launcher which the Orion lacked. I have completed the main story with all three of them (though doing the story in the Tarsus is mainly for those who want tougher combat).
Ah, that depth :). Yes, I fully agree with this - and again, all I can do is lament the fact that neither Privateer 2 nor Freelancer came even close to the beauty of Privateer's ship lineup. The only other game I've ever played that had equally perfect ship choices was the afore-mentioned Sid Meier's Pirates! - but even then, only the 1987 version, because the 2004 version came very close to ruining things by tripling the number of ships and making their stats overlap.

So yeah, absolutely. Privateer 2 and Freelancer essentially treated ships as upgrades - instead of buying additional equipment, you simply bought a new ship, and then the next one, and so on until you had the one best ship of the game. In either of those cases, if you ask "well, which ship has the best stats", you will get one clear answer. In Privateer (or Pirates!), the answer is - "uh, well, it depends on what you want". Yes, sure, at the end of the day, the Centurion is actually probably the best ship of all (hence the biggest pricetag), but even so, the differences between the ships are so noticeable that people often would stick to the Orion (which I'm guessing almost everyone upgraded to, in order to get away from the Tarsus as fast as possible).

What about Frontier: Elite II? (Possibly also other games in the Elite series; I only ever played Frontier).
Well, I didn't mention Frontier, because I barely spent any time playing the game - probably no more than fifteen minutes. I just didn't like what I saw. Consequently, I don't know much about it - admittedly a very big and significant hole in my space sim education :).

What you describe does sound quite interesting and similar (but different) to Privateer. Trade-offs, I guess is the keyword here. You buy something, you lose something else in exchange. Modern games just don't seem to do this.
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
For me, it's the opposite. Because I'd previously experienced the glory of Sid Meier's Pirates!, for me Privateer was a terrible disappointment in terms of depth. It was a shallow, shallow game. Don't get me wrong - I love Privateer, and I spent many, many hours playing it. But at the end of the day, Privateer was story-driven, and there wasn't much else to it.

I wholeheartedly agree with this, it pains me to criticize Privateer because it's a superb little game, it adds something special to the WC Universe with the insight into civilian Spacer life, and all the new ships we meet. But for all the freedom of what the player gets up to during his time in Gemini, the game is more linear than it lets on, and Gemini is a lonely and depressing place once the plot missions are finished. Incidentally, I too had spent an extraordinarily long time playing the original Pirates! before I experienced Privateer - I take it you're talking about the 1987 version, which for its time was an outstanding demonstration of how an 'open ender' should be, but in itself became one dimensional once you had rescued your sister, found the treasure and conquered the Carribean on behalf of one country.

I feel if Privateer had somehow given you the chance to participate in a broader cause than just the plot missions, say, taking sides in warring factions and making progress in wiping each other out mission-by-mission, the game wouldn't have ended so bleakly and abruptly after the plot missions have ended.

Even random fixers in the bars with special missions would have helped, random yet pre-scripted missions with unique space combat and dialogue, just something to make a break from the lonely existence of flying generic guild misisons.
 
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