Starflight 1 & 2 on Gog.com

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
I never played the games, but they're certainly not Wing Commander clones! Both games were released in the '80s. Like you mention, they look kind of like RPG games with some 4Xtype exploration adventure stuff.
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
Highly recommended. I got this more or less when it first came out. It may have been a bit overwhelming for me at the time (I think I was 10-12) and I need a hint book to win, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. It's also great to just marvel the size of the universe the programmers created with just 700kb of game data. The scope of the game was just amazing.

I'm not sure if it falls under the RPG category. I guess Star Control falls into the genre. You could also draw some parallels with Privateer. There is exploration and you have to fund your own ship by mining, collecting lifeforms and recommending planets for colonization (trading with aliens is introduced in the sequel). In the end you have to unravel a mystery which is almost adventure game-like. This requires a fair amount of diligence and you have to pretty much chase down every clue. I think this was the tricky part for me. The save system where the new save actually overwrites the game data on the disk didn't help either. Multiple saves meant making a backup of the game disks themselves (I didn't have a hard drive). This kind of added to the fear of exploring new territory.

Overall, it's well worth the $6 for both of these.

Anyone heard of this? I thought it might have been some sort of Wing Commander clone but from the screenshots I cannot be sure. It has RPG elements and a large galaxy to explore.

http://www.gog.com/en/news/new_release_starflight_1_2
 

Captain Obvious

Rear Admiral
I played the crap out of the Sega Genesis version back in the day (highly recommended due to updated graphics). It's a fantastic game. It let me live out my Star Trek captain fantasies. I never played it on PC and I might look into this. It's about time I bought something on GOG that wasn't Wing Commander.
 

capi3101

Admiral
It's funny...I've been part of a project to produce an "official" sequel to Starflight for quite some time now (project's stalled out...again...largely due to lack of coders, artists, leadership, or basically anything else you need to make a video game. Though I did get the design doc finished for it last year, finally). Anybody has any questions about Starflight, ask away. I've done a lot of research on these games (like hacking the hex code-type research. That much.)

Let's see...what have people posted. Are they RPGs? Kind of. They certainly have a lot of RPG-style elements in them, in that you have your ship, you can pick the species of your crewmembers, name them whatever the hell you want and put them in the post you want. They each have five disciplines, each corresponding to one of the ship's main functions. Your ship itself can be customized with up to five Classes of different pieces of equipment and up to sixteen pods (limited to cargo pods in SF1, SF2 expands it to include jump pods and blastopods). You can have encounters in space, and you go around exploring other worlds, collecting minerals and lifeforms. Interacting with aliens gives you the clues you need to finish the game, though you have to be careful about how you talk with them; pick the wrong stance and they'll as likely start shooting at you.

Basically, you spend the early parts of the game decking out your ship and then the rest of it fulfilling the mission requirements. SF1 has a time limit; SF2 does not. SF1 is open-ended in the sense that you can still go exploring after you win. SF2 is open-ended in the sense that there's no time limit and so you can explore as much as you want before you win the game (though once you win, that's it).

I guess Star Control falls into the genre.

Star Control II (and to a lesser extent, the abomination called Star Control III) do. In fact, a lot of the same people worked on both games. I could toss in a spoiler here, but I won't for the sake of those who might want to try Starflight out.

Star Control I, for those who've never played it, is a lot like Armada, actually. It's a good game, though I wish there was some way to keep the map from spinning around...

I played the crap out of the Sega Genesis version back in the day (highly recommended due to updated graphics). It's a fantastic game. It let me live out my Star Trek captain fantasies. I never played it on PC and I might look into this. It's about time I bought something on GOG that wasn't Wing Commander.

The PC version is substantially different from the Sega Version, fair warning. In fact, the Sega Version was the oddball out of all the versions of the game...more arcade-game-like than the other versions. For example, the PC version automatically lands your ship (as opposed to firing your thrusters to slow your descent). Orbiting planets is also done automatically. Planetary and star system configurations are also different. I still recommend trying it out, but in my experience fans of the Sega Version find the other versions bland.
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
It's funny...I've been part of a project to produce an "official" sequel to Starflight for quite some time now (project's stalled out...again...largely due to lack of coders, artists, leadership, or basically anything else you need to make a video game. Though I did get the design doc finished for it last year, finally). Anybody has any questions about Starflight, ask away. I've done a lot of research on these games (like hacking the hex code-type research. That much.)


As I mentioned above, I've always been impressed how much they were able to cram in two 5.25" low density floppies. I think there are something like 250 planets you can land on. Huge planets where you can go anywhere. That leaves only a few kilobytes per planet, and that doesn't include text (messages, communications with aliens, lifeform descriptions) and graphics. That's pretty impressive. Since you said you've been looking into the code, I was wondering if you had any idea how they were able to implement this. Thanks.

I really should go back and play these, maybe without the benefit of the hint book. BTW, if you ever get back to making a sequel, the game needs to have a menu option that says "Quit Without Saving" that will destroy your game in progress if you ever try to use it.
 

capi3101

Admiral
. I think there are something like 250 planets you can land on.

SF1 had 270 systems with 811 planets total. SF2 had 165 systems with 542 planets total. The vast majority of these could be landed upon and explored by the player, though generally only a few mattered.

Data for the worlds (for all versions besides the Sega Version anyway) is available at the SF3 public wiki. Gathered the data for almost all of the SF2 map personally.

Since you said you've been looking into the code, I was wondering if you had any idea how they were able to implement this. Thanks.

It's been a while and we were never able to fully crack that part of the code open. We knew that Starflight was written in Forth and Assembly Code, and that a fractal terrain generator was included as part of that code. Star system data took up all of eight bytes; one for the star's luminosity class (color), two for the date at which it would flare (for SF1; in SF2, this was replaced with a single byte to indicate if the system would be shown on the map or not, which is how they got a past-vs-present set of maps), two for the x-coordinate, two for the y-coordinate, and one for the configuration of the planets in the system. The system configuration byte is my favorite of the lot: SF star systems had eight orbital lanes in each system - no more, no less - so they could use the single bits there to say "yes, there's a planet in this lane", or "no, there's nothing in this lane". As far as the planet data we found, there was nothing stored besides a single byte, which determined the planet's type. The group theorized that the fractal generator was seeded - probably with the position of the system and the planet's orbital lane number - and that the world was generated based on that seed. The team that originally designed the games built the fractal generator such that it could be preprogrammed to spit out a specific planet with a given planet type code, which is why it could generate a map of the Earth.

That's really the best answer I can give you. Like I said, we were never actually able to hack the code itself, but we did get into the hex and scooped out a ton of data from the game.

I really should go back and play these, maybe without the benefit of the hint book. BTW, if you ever get back to making a sequel, the game needs to have a menu option that says "Quit Without Saving" that will destroy your game in progress if you ever try to use it.

Playing without the hint book is tricky, but I say go for it; that's how the game was originally meant to be played, after all. Just talk to everybody, keep copious notes, and ignore the Thrynn when they're asking you to go blow up Elan and you should be just fine...

Let's see...quit without saving. Um.........no. ;)
Actually, the way the SF3 design doc is set up, this is in the realm of possibilities. It's just that it wouldn't overwrite the last save game so you'd wind up losing all your progress in a single session. A huge step up from the originals, of course.
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
It's been a while and we were never able to fully crack that part of the code open. We knew that Starflight was written in Forth and Assembly Code, and that a fractal terrain generator was included as part of that code. Star system data took up all of eight bytes; one for the star's luminosity class (color), two for the date at which it would flare (for SF1; in SF2, this was replaced with a single byte to indicate if the system would be shown on the map or not, which is how they got a past-vs-present set of maps), two for the x-coordinate, two for the y-coordinate, and one for the configuration of the planets in the system. The system configuration byte is my favorite of the lot: SF star systems had eight orbital lanes in each system - no more, no less - so they could use the single bits there to say "yes, there's a planet in this lane", or "no, there's nothing in this lane". As far as the planet data we found, there was nothing stored besides a single byte, which determined the planet's type. The group theorized that the fractal generator was seeded - probably with the position of the system and the planet's orbital lane number - and that the world was generated based on that seed. The team that originally designed the games built the fractal generator such that it could be preprogrammed to spit out a specific planet with a given planet type code, which is why it could generate a map of the Earth.

That's really the best answer I can give you. Like I said, we were never actually able to hack the code itself, but we did get into the hex and scooped out a ton of data from the game.
.

Cool. Thanks. This is really interesting. That's a neat trick on the part of the programmers. And it's not as if any planet the generator comes up with will do. Each planet that is created has to have a believable topography: vast oceans, low altitute terrain nearthe oceans that gets increasingly higher as you go inland...

Playing without the hint book is tricky, but I say go for it; that's how the game was originally meant to be played, after all. Just talk to everybody, keep copious notes, and ignore the Thrynn when they're asking you to go blow up Elan and you should be just fine...

I've played through before, but with a hint book (or internet resouces for that matter) it's too easy to try to jump to the end. Since I don't have all the coordinated memorized, I'll at least be able to progress in a logical manner. Funny how the hint book tells you to blow up Elan even though that's wrong.

Let's see...quit without saving. Um.........no. ;)
Actually, the way the SF3 design doc is set up, this is in the realm of possibilities. It's just that it wouldn't overwrite the last save game so you'd wind up losing all your progress in a single session. A huge step up from the originals, of course.

And no use of a font that makes the letters "N" and "M" almost indistinguishable? :)
 

capi3101

Admiral
Cool. Thanks. This is really interesting. That's a neat trick on the part of the programmers. And it's not as if any planet the generator comes up with will do. Each planet that is created has to have a believable topography: vast oceans, low altitute terrain nearthe oceans that gets increasingly higher as you go inland...

Yeah. That was one of the real tricky bits of the original game; I seem to recall reading an interview with T.C. Lee something about how it took their coders two years before they finally got it to the point where it would come out with something plausible.

Might have to find that interview...ah, here it is:
http://www.forth.org/fd/FD-V09N2.pdf

Big sucker (it's the entire issue, not just the article with the interview) so give it some time to load up. The interview starts on page 29.

Still love how the interviewer almost craps himself when T.C. mentions the game's source materials took up a whopping 2 megabytes of disk space. Back in '87, of course, that was comparable to saying it took up two petabytes in this day and age...

I've played through before, but with a hint book (or internet resouces for that matter) it's too easy to try to jump to the end. Since I don't have all the coordinated memorized, I'll at least be able to progress in a logical manner. Funny how the hint book tells you to blow up Elan even though that's wrong.

It doesn't exactly tell you to blow up Elan, just that Captain Zarfleen "would have visited the Uhlek Brain World the Thrynn spoke of, and would have left the egg there". The trick is the assuming the correct information came from the Thrynn...they give you the coordinates of Elan and tell you it's the Brain World. I could tell you who has the correct coordinates, of course, but that would defeat the point of playing through without hints.

You can actually beat SF1 in two in-game days...http://www.starflt.com/tables/index.php/starflight1/beat-game-steps/]here's how[/url]. When the SF3 did our planetary survey of SF1, we actually had to do this first to ensure correct bio-readings.

And no use of a font that makes the letters "N" and "M" almost indistinguishable? :)

Well, we'd prefer not to that, of course. Particularly since that little quirk of SF1 was fixed in SF2...
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
Yeah. That was one of the real tricky bits of the original game; I seem to recall reading an interview with T.C. Lee something about how it took their coders two years before they finally got it to the point where it would come out with something plausible.

Might have to find that interview...ah, here it is:
http://www.forth.org/fd/FD-V09N2.pdf

Big sucker (it's the entire issue, not just the article with the interview) so give it some time to load up. The interview starts on page 29.

These old articles are always a great read. Thanks.

BTW, weren't the source code (or at least a portion of it) and design documents released by one of the developers? I remember seeing them a while ago. I don't remeber if I saved the files or not.
 

capi3101

Admiral
Portions of the design document and source code were, at least for SF1. That's the old SFFiles.zip file...hell, I carry it around on my jump drive. Came in handy when I was writing SFRPG and the SF3 design doc on more than one occasion.
 

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bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
Cool. Thanks.

Portions of the design document and source code were, at least for SF1. That's the old SFFiles.zip file...hell, I carry it around on my jump drive. Came in handy when I was writing SFRPG and the SF3 design doc on more than one occasion.
 

privfan

Commodore
I got my first taste of SF1 on the C64
I managed to find SF2 for the pc in a bargain bin years after it had come out. I never did finish it

unfortunately SF3 looks like it has stalled, I haven't seen updates in a long time
http://www.starflight3.org/

IIRC the Enterprise makes an appearance and has something like level 75 shields and weapons which is way higher than the max you could have
 

capi3101

Admiral
unfortunately SF3 looks like it has stalled, I haven't seen updates in a long time
http://www.starflight3.org/

Yeah...I got started on WCRPG and haven't been as focused as I should be on SF3. That and there hasn't been much interest in anybody doing any actual work for about five years now. On the plus side, I did get the design doc done...

I put out some feelers for coders and artists a few months ago right after I finished the design doc; the sound of the crickets is becoming deafening.

I managed to find SF2 for the pc in a bargain bin years after it had come out. I never did finish it.

That's unfortunate; it's a good game. Runs fine on DOSBox and since you did own a copy at one point, it'd be perfectly legal for you to download it from my friend Steven "Zharous" Wirsz at his site, www.starflt.com, if you ever felt like finishing it.

IIRC the Enterprise makes an appearance and has something like level 75 shields and weapons which is way higher than the max you could have

That sounds about right. What we discovered when we were cracking the hex is that the Shield ratings given for alien craft don't correspond to what the player has. It's actually a reflection of the craft's available HP, with each Class corresponding to something like 200 HP or so, IIRC. Of course, shield and weapon ratings increase as you summarily slaughter a race; you can get the Uhlek up to something like Class 64 shields if you can toast them all...and Zharous has a trick for surviving the encounters with the Uhlek "death fleets".
 

privfan

Commodore
I wouldn't need to download it I still have it in the boxes with all my other old games
I would need to boot up one of my older PCs to make use of a floppy drive but that would be a simple task
 

capi3101

Admiral
You still have your original disks? That's pretty cool.

I remember a few years ago that someone on the SF3 boards was looking for a pure copy of the game from the original disks; don't remember who.

25 years is beyond the maximum expected useful lifetime of a 5.25" floppy, unless I'm mistaken......
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I was reminded of this discussion of floppy life expectancy. About a month ago, I managed to find an old 5.25" floppy drive and purchased a Kryoflux board to turn it into a USB floppy drive (of sorts). My goal was to archive my collection of floppies. So I had a total of 81 disks that were stored either in their original game boxes or in a storage box that was kept in decent (but by no means perfect) climate conditions. Out of the 81 disks, 78(!) were in perfect working order. The other three were in varying conditions. One only had a single bad track. There were three other disks that I found in the basement and were there for probably 10+ years. Those were in pretty rough shape. But I was really surprised how robust the media is. Thankfully my Starflight originals were also intact, so it will be nice to play my version of it again.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
That's great to hear... it's too bad there's not a more convenient way to access 5.25" disks. USB 3.5" drives are still cheap and plentiful, but I don't think I've ever seen a modern 5.25 drive.
 

capi3101

Admiral
Hey, run a copy of your Starflight disks and send the copies to my friend Steven Wirsz at starflt.com; he's the admin and I know for a fact he's been looking for a vanilla copy of the original game for a while.
 
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