Why is the Space-Sim genre still dead?

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
What are the reasons?

I once thought it's dead because of two things:

1. The joystick requirement

2. The enormous geek factor

But I think these reasons aren't valid anymore.
Alternative input device are back now. I mean some games ship now together with skateboards, bongo drums and guitars, so why can't a new space sim ship with a basic joystick if needed?


And games like Mass Effect and KOTOR are far more geekier than Wing Commander and Freespace ever were. If Mass Effect can be sold to today's audience, so can Wing Commander.

So, why is the genre dead?
 

t.c.cgi

Vice Admiral
Whatever happened to having three different flavors of Star Trek and a half dozen knock-offs airing every night on television?

I said this once before in a similar thread. The 1990's was still riding on the buzz of the Cold War-era space program, the first Star Trek series, and the technically mind-blowing Star Wars films. The market wanted to go into space and do neat things.

That faded away. People are on average less eager about space (the number one setting of sci-fi everywhere) than they were in the 90's. That directly impacts viewership, movie attendance, and game sales. If people aren't interested they're not going to buy.

And I would point out that while Mass Effect has you travel through space, everything you do is on foot, either on a planet or on something that perfectly simulates a planet. In that regard I can call it "Gears of War with some Bioware dialogue slapped on" and not be entirely incorrect.

I once thought it's dead because of two things:

1. The joystick requirement

2. The enormous geek factor
A quick response to these...

Extra peripherals are obviously not a problem when people paid hundreds of dollars for an ugly set of two plastic guitars, a plastic drum set, and a microphone to play Guitar Hero for a couple months. I think this is a problem of causality. People no longer care about flying or space, so they don't buy joysticks because they don't have simulators. After all Darkstar One, X3, etc, all allow for mouse flight.

I also doubt Wing Commander could really be called geeky. Spending the entire weekend tweaking config.sys and autoexec.bat just to play games was geeky to be sure. But Wing Commander itself wasn't a geeky game. It didn't force anyone to learn newtonian flight models or how to select, arm, and fire the Sidewinder on weapon pylon 3. It was very mainstream.
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
Ever notice every time a new FPS comes out, the space combat kind of takes a back seat? Halo came out, next thing you know, the flight/space sims kinda stopped.

Then a year or two later we get Ace Combat games and a few others... right now we're in a pretty hieghtened age of FPS, they're all the fad right now. The result: A new Star Wars game may be the last hope for a decent space sim at this point. But once the FPS fad fades away again, either the Turn based RPG, 3rd person action, or flight sim will rise again.
 

t.c.cgi

Vice Admiral
Then a year or two later we get Ace Combat games and a few others... right now we're in a pretty hieghtened age of FPS, they're all the fad right now. The result: A new Star Wars game may be the last hope for a decent space sim at this point. But once the FPS fad fades away again, either the Turn based RPG, 3rd person action, or flight sim will rise again.
Mass Effect 1/2 (a 3rd Person Action RPG), riding in the shadow of Modern Warfare 1/2, sold very well.

What you're looking at is a big difference in development cycles. FPS games produced as a franchise can see development cycles as short as 6-months.

EDIT: This also assumes gamers only buy one game a year. That is not the case. Gamers buy everything that appeals to them that they can afford. So Halo's presence on the field didn't stamp out those genres.
 

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
By the way, why are ww2 games so insanely popular now?

Since 2000, the market is just flooded with ww2 games. Any theories on that?
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
By the way, why are ww2 games so insanely popular now?

Since 2000, the market is just flooded with ww2 games. Any theories on that?
Medal of honor was insanely popular when it came out. I think Rising Sun put it over the edge, at least it did for me. I still get chills shooting down my spine when I play the first mission in the PT boat going around Pearl Harbor with surround sound on... Excuse me for a few minutes! :p

That said, I think everyone quickly got sick and tired of fully automatic weapons that NEVER seemed to run out of ammo. Or grenades with a higher explosive yield. With WW2 games, you have to reload every few moments, it takes time, and you need to account for everything.

I think its the same thing with WW1 flying games. They require more skill, you can't pull all the fancy moves you could in Ace Combat. You try to pull one of those free falls or hard veer offs in a biplane, kiss the upper fixed wing good bye, as well as most of your manueverablity, hell you're lucky to stay in the air after that. But I'll tell you something, I have a lot more fun with games like that then I ever did with Ace.
 

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
Whatever happened to having three different flavors of Star Trek and a half dozen knock-offs airing every night on television?



That faded away. People are on average less eager about space (the number one setting of sci-fi everywhere) than they were in the 90's. That directly impacts viewership, movie attendance, and game sales. If people aren't interested they're not going to buy.

I think the new sub par Star Wars and the late Star Trek TNG movies had a lot to do with that.


Speaking of faded fads.. is anyone missing the new agey myst clones? Amber, Lighthouse, Zork: Nemesis, Amerzone, 7th guest, Drowned God, Obsidian, Atlantis..

many, there were a lot of them.

ok, well, I don't really miss them. But I always liked the cover art of them. Usually some artsy stuff with inverted characters, odd landscapes intricate machinery or a big alien head.












Good old times, huh?
 

Mace

Vice Admiral
WW2 games are not popular now anymore, call of duty and battlefield switched to modern combat situations years ago.

The reason why WW2 wargames are so popular, is that you could still actually fight with weapons, and not snipe eachother from hundreds of yards. the thrill of combat. Same goes for ww2 flightsims(and wing commander!), you can actually still dogfight instead of:
"Tiger's claw this is maverick", I spotted an enemy ship 50 million clicks out, locking, firing, I got her, returning home"

Those scenerios don't make much of a game. Same is with playing one-on-one in a combat sim with an FPS fan, why I (and probably more of us), would like to dogfight and trade licks a little, the FPS guy just flys straight in, and opens up with all weapons at his disposal, no tactics, no chasing or outflying eachother, you do thesame and all you get are lucky shots. So the audience has also changed.

As for the star-trek thingie from the 90's; Sci-Fi channel has chosen to steer away from the "male 12-45 years old" target audience, and also attract a female audience, and the result: Revived V, Revived Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Stargate Universe; It's just a bunch of people sitting in a spaceship/virtual reality, mostly in the dark, talking(whispering) to eachother about their personal issues, and you essentially end up with "Days of our lives in space". Speaking of that, why doesn't MTV play music videos anymore?

And no, Wing Commander is not for geeks, geeks would be discusted because you have sound in space, and that the fighters behave like fighter jets moving at relative speeds and physics of a WWI bi-plane, while they are supposed to move at supersonic speeds, that makes dogfighting impossible.

And as for the joystick thingy, a cheap but solid joystick could be bundled with ease, and there could be a version without stick, same as you can get guitar hero without a guitar
 

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
Revived V
They have revived V? Didn't know that (probably because I am not in the US)

They should have revived Earth: Final Conflict instead. Anyone remember that? The basic premise was just like in V, but the aliens were truly "alien". Until season 2. Then it went all downhill. Never seen a show that went from good to mindnumbingly bad so fast.
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
They have revived V? Didn't know that (probably because I am not in the US)

They should have revived Earth: Final Conflict instead. Anyone remember that?
Yes I remember it, and no they shouldn't have. It sucked! Classic case of tactless children trying to make money of their father's name. I've read the original premise, and it's nothing like what finally came out. They say talent skips a generation, well if that isn't proof enough, nothing ever will be. I found the first season acceptable, but after that, it got repedative and boring.

You want to revive a series? I'dve loved to see SeaQuest DSV back on the air. More underwater sci fi, history, and PSAs, and less Space Battles, Military Campaigns, and Micheal Ironsides. The first season was great, but then the show pretty much killed itself with it's "New Direction" that even the cast hated.

Sadly they can't really do a revival with Roy Schieder and Jonathan Brandies dead... and I doubt anyone would invest in a remake.
 

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
Yes I remember it, and no they shouldn't have. It sucked! Classic case of tactless children trying to make money of their father's name. I've read the original premise, and it's nothing like what finally came out. They say talent skips a generation, well if that isn't proof enough, nothing ever will be. I found the first season acceptable, but after that, it got repedative and boring.

Well, I agree with the last part. Beginning from Season 2 the show sucked. EFC Season 2-5 was one of the WORST shows on television. No arguments here.

But not Season 1. They "changed direction" in S2, and fired the lead and most of the good writers and changed even the art direction.

S1 was great though. And yeah, it followed Roddenberry's premise only in the pilot, good thing I would say. Let's be honest here, the later seasons would be more in the vein of Roddenberry than Season 1. The show was more heavily influenced by X-Files than by anything Roddenberry wrote. Which, again, was a good thing. G.R. had nice ideas, but his work was never that of a genius and was especially lacking in the "drama" department. TNG was only saved by Roddenberry losing control over the show in Season 3.

Roddenberry's son had not much to do with Earth: Final Conflict by the way, he had only contributed one episode in the first season. It was the worst of the season (trite morality-play with neo-nazis).

EFC is noteworty case of producer screw-up. The old newsgroup to the show is very interesting to read, because it showed clearly how the show took its horrible direction:

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.tv.earth-final-conflict/browse_thread/thread/d2133874ef8f0ec8/11d2d633f510fb05?hl=en&lnk=gst
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.tv.earth-final-conflict/browse_thread/thread/6c99f1d94303a703/86b42dfe5446ba8b?hl=en


You want to revive a series? I'dve loved to see SeaQuest DSV back on the air. More underwater sci fi, history, and PSAs, and less Space Battles, Military Campaigns, and Micheal Ironsides. The first season was great, but then the show pretty much killed itself with it's "New Direction" that even the cast hated.

Seaquest? Had potential. But never lived up to it in my opinion. Better series to revive:

Earth 2, Space: Above and Beyond.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
What are the reasons?
I don't think solid design kept pace for space sims. Wing Commander relied heavily on a new 'wow' factor to sell each new game instead of building up the core gameplay. As a result, a mission in Wing Commander IV plays essentially the same way as a mission in the original game... and you're relying on an unsustainable full motion video budget to sell the new game. (You know what killed that final generation of AAA space sims (and in turn publisher interest)? It's not that StarLancer/FreeSpace 2/Tachyon were terrible games... it's that everyone who looked at them on the shelf was programmed to ask an obvious question: 'so, it's Wing Commander without the video?')

All that 'HALO is just like Wolfenstein 3D!' acerbity is just talk. One big factor in FPS' continued success is the fact that they're able to both evolve in incredibly important unnoticed ways (multiplayer, physics, mouselook, etc.--all the stuff that becomes standard over time) and because they're willing to innovate around the basic concept in different directions (open worlds, themed pieces, multiplayer dedicated games, things like Half Life where they build the story into the game...).

Another thing that hurts is the 'sim ghetto' that we helped build. You know what Wing Commander's gameplay is? DooM without a floor--but we (and the folks advertising it) worked so very hard to convince everyone it was something much more complex. It's not an arcade game or a shooter, it's a *simulator*. Ooooh. You know what? People *like* shooters and arcade games and they don't necessarily enjoy being told something else is superior.

One of the upcoming HALO games has an arcade-derived space combat mission--maybe that'll be a start.



But I think these reasons aren't valid anymore. Alternative input device are back now. I mean some games ship now together with skateboards, bongo drums and guitars, so why can't a new space sim ship with a basic joystick if needed?
It's an interesting thought but I don't think it's the same. The really succesful alternate controllers are hits (sort of) because they're part of a particular movement--social games. You put extra money into a Rock Band setup or a Wii to play a particular kind of multiplayer game in real life with your friends. Other controllers, like the skateboard or the various guns, have been flops--because it's a different thing to purchase an expensive one-off controller for a game you play by yourself.

(Flight sticks and hardcore simulators for the current crop of consoles do exist... but no one really cares. I've been playing IL-2 on the Xbox with a nice Saitek Xbox flight stick... but I don't think either of those things is burning up the sales carts, or even breaking even.)

It also wasn't that people necessarily *bought* separate joysticks for Wing Commander--that's always been a barrier, and fancy specialty sticks continue to exist in roughly the same capacity today--it's that a cheap joystick was part of the standard Dell/Gateway/Compaq 'family PC' at the time.

I said this once before in a similar thread. The 1990's was still riding on the buzz of the Cold War-era space program, the first Star Trek series, and the technically mind-blowing Star Wars films. The market wanted to go into space and do neat things.
It's more than that--the overall TV market shattered into a zillion pieces. It used to be you could produce a sci fi show and have a low-but-consistent audience... but that isn't the case anymore because ratings are down so significantly overall. Spending a lot of money to create a new Star Trek type series still guarantees you a steady audience that's 10% of a hit show... but the numbers that make a show a hit today are so low that that 10% isn't worth the money anymore.

And I would point out that while Mass Effect has you travel through space, everything you do is on foot, either on a planet or on something that perfectly simulates a planet. In that regard I can call it "Gears of War with some Bioware dialogue slapped on" and not be entirely incorrect.
That doesn't seem especially fair. The original poster is right that Mass Effect is a very geeky game--to an odd extent. It's full of the kind of lore and design that people who play Gears of War don't care about. I'm not really sure how ME became a huge hit, since it spends so much effort doing strangely unique and unnecessary things. The stuff that defines games today isn't that you press a button and your guy shoots--that's just a given--it's the fact that Mass Effect has a unique 1950s-derived sci fi art style and Gears of War has muscles and brown stuff.

(Sadly, ME's success is actually a problem for modern day WC pitches. Why do Wing Commander when you can do a game in EA's current popular sci fi setting?)

You want to revive a series? I'dve loved to see SeaQuest DSV back on the air. More underwater sci fi, history, and PSAs, and less Space Battles, Military Campaigns, and Micheal Ironsides. The first season was great, but then the show pretty much killed itself with it's "New Direction" that even the cast hated.
I love seaQuest more than is reasonable, but I'm not sure there was anywhere for it to go... which is why it kept getting retooled. Like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before it, they ran out of things to do underwater. (And it wasn't an underwater show anyway--it was the best of a dozen attempts to copy ST:tNG at the time. There's a great movie that LeHah and I saw on Netflix streaming recently that's clearly a pilot movie for *underground* Star Trek.)
 

boringnickname

1st Lieutenant
I love seaQuest more than is reasonable, but I'm not sure there was anywhere for it to go... which is why it kept getting retooled. Like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before it, they ran out of things to do underwater

Speaking of things to do underwater.. I am a bit surprised that no movie/tv producer discovered the Archimedean Dynasty setting.
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
I I love seaQuest more than is reasonable, but I'm not sure there was anywhere for it to go... which is why it kept getting retooled. Like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before it, they ran out of things to do underwater. (And it wasn't an underwater show anyway--it was the best of a dozen attempts to copy ST:tNG at the time. There's a great movie that LeHah and I saw on Netflix streaming recently that's clearly a pilot movie for *underground* Star Trek.)
I suppose you have a point. I could think of a few more directions, but that would take maybe two or three episodes. Still I knew the show was dead when Roy Schieder called it "Childish trash" walked away.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Speaking of things to do underwater.. I am a bit surprised that no movie/tv producer discovered the Archimedean Dynasty setting.
Probably way too obscure--I loved that first game, though! It played a lot like Privateer.

(Speaking of games and television... isn't it bizarre that there was never a Tomb Raider TV show?)
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
Probably way too obscure--I loved that first game, though! It played a lot like Privateer.

(Speaking of games and television... isn't it bizarre that there was never a Tomb Raider TV show?)
I heard rumors of one being beaten around, but with the movies and all... I can see why there wasn't one. Besides, shows with that type of plot line don't tend to do too well.
 

DaveO

Commodore
I have to agree that the neglect of the space simulation market is mostly due to interest from studios to do FPS games. Space sim has shifted over to strategy with worthy entries. In regards to the remake discussion, ABC revived the V show. I watched the entire first season. I don't see the series lasting beyond the second season since sci-fi shows are generally cancelled in the first season due to ratings. Only the Syfy(sounds like a disease) channel may attract shows that last beyond a season.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I have to agree that the neglect of the space simulation market is mostly due to interest from studios to do FPS games. Space sim has shifted over to strategy with worthy entries. In regards to the remake discussion, ABC revived the V show. I watched the entire first season. I don't see the series lasting beyond the second season since sci-fi shows are generally cancelled in the first season due to ratings. Only the Syfy(sounds like a disease) channel may attract shows that last beyond a season.
If the current V show is cancelled, it will be because it's dreadful. :) I went most of my life believing that the 1980s V television series was the worst possible thing you could do to V... but then this happened.

We're probably being unfair on network TV, there's some genre stuff out there. Heroes and LOST just finished four and six year runs, respectively and Fringe is going into its third season. I think Supernatural and Smallville are still on, too.

Well, if something like Lexx got 4 or 5 seasons, how is AD too obscure? Or have you meant obscure as "not well known"?
The benefit of licensing a video game IP for your movie/series instead of something you create is name recognition. Ie, Disney is willing to develop an action movie as 'Prince of Persia' because the game sold x-million copies and their surveys show people are familiar with the name (and in exchange they lose some profit--there's fewer licensing options available and you will have some profit sharing agreement in order to get the name.)

Archmedian Dynasty is a great, great game... but I'd be surprised if most ordinary gamers had heard of it, and much more surprised if it had sales numbers that would impress a movie producer.
 
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