Home Forums Space/SciFi Combat and Simulation Game Discussion Space games for the realism-junky? Or any in development?

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    Hey guys, I’m new to the forum :), names Petroleus, student of Aerospace Engineering in Delft, the Netherlands, and big-time space AND game enthousiast.

    I’ve been looking around the web for any realistic futuristic space sims, meaning realistic in the way like Orbiter, but then a few hundred years of technology further. To be honest, i haven’t found any so far :(. All seem hellbent on a very earth-like perspective of movement, which (hopefully) needless to say is quite rediculous in space :).

    Allow me to rant on some misconceptions a bit :P: A direct link between orientation and velocity, which on earth this is nearly always quite accurate, but in space… hardly ever. Reality is: there is a direct link between orientation and acceleration. On earth if you have a certain velocity in your car and you change the direction of the car, changing the car’s orientation will automatically change it’s direction, because on earth we can push away the earth and the earth pushes us back, changing the velocity’s direction. In space there is nothing to push, and if you have any nonzero (relative) velocity in one direction and you orient yourself in a different direction, there is no amount of foreward thrust that will EVER get you to go exactly in that direction. It’s like dropping a ball from an airplane: sure, it will accelerate downward, but even up until the moment it hits the ground, it will always have (part of) the foreward velocity the plane had, so it is never actually travelling straight down. Otherwise put: before you get close to going the direction you want to go, you would have to accelerate to such an enormous degree that the sideslip from the original velocity is negligable. This is probably the most stubborn of traits I find in games, that to change direction, all you have to do is change orientation and fire your constant burning engines. Directly next to that is endlessness of velocity in space. Some games do this in part, but most ignore the fact that when in space you start a roll maneouvre, you have to counteract that same roll maneouvre in order to stop rotating. This in affect means it is nearly impossible, at least with the crudity of manual controls with the strength most games portray, to get two objects in space to be still next to eachother, unless you couple them. Yet in many to all space games you see ships flying in perfect formation, which really takes the messiness out of space, wrongfully so in my eyes. [end of rant]

    these are just some things, others are energy-management, which is a REALLY big deal in space, but in games engines just buuurrrrn and weapons just firrreee and nothing gets overheated 😯

    I am pretty sure it is not impossible nor unenjoyable to make a sim with realism as base, in fact I would be tempted to try so myself if I had more time and game designing experience. But I don’t find any 🙁 Have I simply not looked good enough?

    I found this forum via google and an old topic concerning a designer asking about how realistic games should be, sadly that topic is gone so it seems, is anyone working on something like this?



    Hi Petroleus and very nice rant 🙂

    Now trying to find a game that may allow you to play with near accurate physics is the challenge because this list is very small. And too be honest not many are made because it would be to tough for a newbie could handle in picking up the game so they stay away from making them purely because of the money imho. I have been wanting to give this game a try for a while just never got around to it http://eaglelander3d.com/ it seems like it would be an accurate game on landing your lunar module.



    Hi DarkOne 🙂

    I don’t understand why, apparently, it is regarded as very difficult. It is different, and that is what takes getting used to, but I think it shouldn’t be impossible to guide a player to 3d thinking and understanding what inertia really means in a space environment. Games used to have tutorials, I’m thinking about games like half life and ghost recon. Nowadays I understand fps is so common no real turorial is needed, but what I mean is, the concept of ingame tutorial isn’t anything new. Also there are plenty of games that blend it into the storyline, or thinking of Portal, where the learning-proces seems all-game-long.

    But aside from that, you don’t have to understand the full way of control of your spacecraft to be able to fly. I mean, even now we have computers controlling aircraft and even our cars. If you wanted, you could build a computer that would make a spacecraft fly in a somewhat starfighter-like way, but that would require a multitude of engines, whereas any game I’ve seen so far uses only rear engines for thrust. Also, it is such a fuel-inefficient way of flying that I personally wouldn’t find it credible :P. But to get to the point: you can build a computer that flies the spacecraft realistically with a human-friendly control interface, it is not required that the human fly the spacecraft manually. Perhaps that would even be a bonus for the real veterans, to be able to fly manually.

    Basically what I don’t understand is why anyone would start making a space-game, and somewhere along the way decide to ignore the fact he is in space altogether :P. You don’t get laserguns in Oblivion, you don’t suddenly start flying in a racing game (unless you really suck :P), you don’t get a AG-36 in cod 2, because apparently game designers are smart enough to know what fits a game setting and know how to play within those boundaries, but for space games they seem to be allowed to make major exceptions, under the excuse ‘it’s future technology’. But future or past doesn’t change the laws of physics, and doesn’t change what way of flying would drain your fueltanks in a minute, wheras another flight style would last them hours.




    You might like Pioneer. It’s not complete, so right now your ship has unlimited fuel, which makes things easy at the moment.

    Your control thrusters are all set up to eliminate any spin or tumble when you’re not using the control. You might not like this, but it’s how I’d set up a real spacecraft if I could. Centrifugal forces (as seen from the rotating frame of reference) and the background starfield can be used to detect the rotation for which the space craft needs to compensate.

    The autopilot in Pioneer does something you’d love. Your space craft points towards your destination for the first half of the journey, then away for the second half. You can obviously work out why!

    Gravity is all properly done, for single massive bodies. I have a saved game where I set up a beautiful low earth circumpolar orbit, done from takeoff using nothing but manual control of six directional thrusters and attitude control. I took off and quickly made an extremely elliptical orbit, then used a single three second burn at the right time, in the right direction, to circularize the orbit. Altitude varies by a couple of hundred kilometres, but considering the information I can get from the game that’s not bad at all.

    Is this enough for you? Right now, there’s little in the way of traditional Elite-style gameplay in Pioneer, but the flight model’s there, and it’s seriously space-like.


    Petroleus wrote:
    But to get to the point: you can build a computer that flies the spacecraft realistically with a human-friendly control interface, it is not required that the human fly the spacecraft manually. Perhaps that would even be a bonus for the real veterans, to be able to fly manually.

    So maybe do like maneuvers instead of manual flight. Because you are correct you would think in space we wouldn’t always have manual control because we are not perfect and cannot make certain calculations on the fly when it comes to moving debris and ships in space. And make the challenge in that you need to know the correct maneuvers and combat tactics to get you out of a situation.

    But then you have the gamers that like to be in the hotseat in the combat, which i think everyone likes on occasion, which you would need to be manual control. So in that I think the game types would need to be separate because a maneuver based combat system for fighters isn’t going to work.



    i think it depends how far down the realism route you want to go.

    Imo space combat is more likley to be like submarine combat than fighter pilot combat. Since objects dont slow down in space, range of weaponry wouldnt be an issue in terms of energy. Also, if you are developed enough in terms of tech to be fighting in space, you would think that (assuming your target is not changing velocity) accuaracy over extreme ranges would not be an issue.

    a point on being hit, arms usually in the modern era far out pace armour, since nuclear fallout etc would be less of an issue in space it seems to me that increadably high power arms would be the norm. Unless some super armour is developed being hit once could be game over. Especially if the ship has a potentially unstable engine system (fission, fusion, chemical, or antimatter would all go up fast). bullets bombs, missiles/torpedos, we know are real weapons, lasers, plasma, and coloured crap are currently sf. And even if they wernt would they be more effective than bullets and bombs? (i.e. given the power of a nuke, could they move fasters or be more powerful, or cheaper, or more accurate, or harder to deflect).

    Therefore space combat would be about avoiding being hit. There are three ways to do this; dodge, or avoid detection, or counter measures.

    If you take the dodge route, then figher craft could be possible, but they would have to expend energy, and probably give of heat to keep changing direction/velocity to avoid being hit. This creates two problems, firstly fuel load vs distance they are require to travel, second if heat seeking tech (or any form of radiaiton based radar exist) they could be tracked and killed.

    avoid detection – if you werent releasing heat, or any form of radiaiton, in my view it would be hard to spot and object in space. This would mean it would be hard to alter your direction or velocity, but space combat could be about who spots who first, similar to sub combat. I suppose you could look for stars being eclipsed, or try a radar system. But a radar system may involve releasing radiation your self. If there was a light source such as the sun near by it may reflect off a space ship, but then the spaceship could be painted with low light reflecting paint.

    Counter measures- these could either mess with the incoming missle/bullets aiming system (if heat or radition detection based), or simply counter attack the incoming object. If counter measures were used it would quickly become a numbers game. Who has most countermeasures vs missiles, or a game of detection and computation speed. You have to detect the missiles obviously. If they were adjusting their velocity you could track them as previously stated, if they were dumb fire it might be alot harder.

    In my view if you sent in fighter wings the opponent would simply need to assign X many counter missiles to each fighter. If that x was greater than the fighters ability to deploy counter measures, or the fighters ability to out run the counter missile, game over. Most spacesims dont spam anti fighter missiles, because they know it would make it too hard. But given the cost of a heat seaking missle against the cost of a fighter, in reality it would seem to me that manned fighters wouldnt be economic or effective. Unless of course you found a way of wasting your opponents counter measures first by sending large numbers of decoys.

    I expect all three of the above routes would be used, not sure which would be come dominant. But i definitly expect the ranges to be much greater than those shown in sims, and i doubt craft would be flown manually, because there would be no need. Ranges would be long because weapons would out class armour. If the counter measure for a fighter has a nuclear, or anitmatter war head, or even a chemical one, then fighers would need to be spread apart enough so if a detonation occured they all wouldnt be wiped out. Given the long distances decisions would be made much slower than in flight sim combat, and sharp manovers would be less necessary. Just changing trajectory by a few degrees might take you out of harms way.

    I would like to see a space combat strategy or tactics game based on a thought experiment such as above, as i think realistic space combat piloting would be abit dull.



    Nice brianetta, i’ll give it a look 😉

    I was thinking how I would design a futuristic space-craft. How I would control it. The biggest problem is that you can not detect velocity. You can detect rotation very easily, and a computer could nearly instantaneously stop rotation in any direction, ofcourse depending on rotation speed and thruster thrust. But velocity can really not be measured, and you would have to use accelerometers and calculations to figure out in which direction you last accelerated in order to know in which direction you are travelling, an inexact science no matter how you slice it. adding rotation to that and the need for the computer to translate directional acceleration from 3 interchanging axes only adds to the problem.

    For rotation I think I would use non-centering discs or levers. setting it at an angle from its neutral position tells your computer to achieve that amount of rotation around the specific axis, which you could translate directly to a specific burn-time, and resetting the dial to neutral tells the computer to kill the rotation; intuitive control without being inefficient. You could simplify it by having a non-continuous control, meaning you pass increments as you turn the dial, each increment correlating to a second of burn-time, but inaccuracy of the burn time/inconstant thrust make me favor the computer controlled way. Having auto-centering systems means you have to hold the stick during the entire manoeuvre, which a pilot trying to do 20 things at once would not like to do probably :P.

    As for translational control.. I think I would make a ‘direct and activate’ kind of system, where I tell the computer what direction I wish to travel in, the computer than auto-orients the engines in the proper direction and sets the burn time. The thing is, in space you probably don’t want to do any directional corrections at all, knowing how drastic the fuel-consumption is.

    nice going on that orbit :O, think a few hundred k is very nice for manual control :P, although, given some graphical representation, I think you should be able to perfect it 🙂

    As for battle, few, difficult to predict. I think projectile based would be the first thing to go for, although, accelerating a projectile kicks you back as well, screwing your orientational systems.. At this time we are really limited in the weight department, so we simply can’t shoot an m1 abrams into space, or to do it we would have to send it in pieces and assemble it in orbit. biiiig moneehh. So in other words, armor plating is not really an option. That being said, lightweight kevlar/carbon shizzz is all hot n cool now, so maybe that would be a sound way to go. But I don’t even want to think about the ramifications of a bowlingball hitting a structure I spent two decades designing at a hundred mps … the pain… And a single perforation of the pressurized hull would be very likely to cause explosive decompression, really hard to design it otherwise.

    Then there are futuristic things, ion-plasma-laser-xray-rays of death….(all of which seem to travel at highway speeds..?)… which make little sense to me. the energy needed to create an ion bolt is probably far more disastrous than the energy-impact on the enemy ship. In space heat management is a biiig deal. you really have to get rid of it, or you’ll be a pewwy hawt potado.. In that area, I’m actually thinking this might become the aim of space-warfare. finding ways to heat the oponents ship, with as little as possible heating of your own ship… hmmm.. interesting thought..

    I think the best way by far is the submarine way. stealth spacecraft. it would probably be very hard to mask yourself from radar, but perhaps not impossible. Heat emission would be nearly impossibly to control. space-craft that are near a star must always radiate heat, cause they are constanly being heated up by the star, and against a 4k backdrop… not givin u much hope. That being said, I don’t know if I would put my money on ship-v-ship battle, I think drones are more likely way to go. Give them very high-gain antennae (sothat the signal is very hard to pick-up when not in the directed beam toward the mothership, hence hard to hack and hard to find the mothership) would fight the battle until the oponent finally finds your ship. Once that happens, with projectilebased solutions i’d guess it’s first hit first kill, and with heat-based solutions I suppose it would be more of a system battle.

    Thinking of the massive costs of space flight, i’m thinking at this point it would be most efficient to simply land on some random moon and fight it out with rifles 😛

    EDIT: oh btw, I am trying hard to redesign space-flight… this dependancy on fuel really bugs me 🙂 If one day I succeed we’ll have elecrical propulsion 😎



    Real space combat won’t be like any earthly combat. There will simply be no comparison. Ranges will be immense, and data on enemy positions will be several seconds or even minutes old even from the telescope. Energy weapons suffer inverse square law problems at range, making the most effective weapon something carrying matter. Rocket propelled projectiles, using either a warhead or their own kinetic energy (which could be quite something) are what I envisage. A traditional bullet or shell would be disadvantageous to the party firing it; the more energy or mass given to the projectile, the more their own velocity will change, and that change can’t be uncoupled from weapon effectiveness. A rocket propelled projectile will split only its own momentum, not that of the launcher/projectile system.

    The information problem will be the biggest one to overcome. Even some projectile propelled by a phenomenally high powered motor would be launched at a target using out of date information, so the projectile would need senses, manoeuvrability and some sort of decision making box on board, to correct for target velocity changes en route. The earlier they’re corrected, the cheaper the correction.

    Dog fights in space? I don’t think so. I really don’t.

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