Independence War II mod Torn Stars: Unstable Space hits beta

Stirrings in the galactic graveyard that is the Independence War II mod scene! Long-thought-dead mod Torn Stars: Unstable Space, has seen a beta release, as of today!

Unstable Space adds a whole host of functions to the minimalist, elegant HUD already present in Independence War II, including email, buying and selling, hiring and firing, factional reputations, and more.

How dead was/is it? Last noise was of an Unstable Alpha, sometime around 2007. Holy cats. And according to the developer,

“I am utterly exhausted. Even writing this post is tough. The beta is far from perfect. It is a sandbox adventure, devoid of any scripted events or story line. It contains a simulated star cluster, along with all the ships, stations, asteroids, planets, stars, factions and battles that go along with that. Expect bugs, and imperfections aplenty. I am not sure how much support I can give fixing them.”

But eh, what the heck. I’m downloading mine right now from torn-stars.com. And even now, he seems to be doggedly responding to posts. Continue reading

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Because Stars Matter: Starshatter (Sci-Fi Flight Sim) is Free!

Entering orbit in an F-34D, a slower multi-purpose fighter.

Update

The original host site, Starshattermods.com, succumbed to hacking and is down. Hard Light Productions, a fantastic community that grew around Freespace Open, has generously taken up hosting the Starshatter forums here. Starshatter files are hosted in this thread. I still have some of the files, please let me know in the comments if you have any trouble obtaining them.

The Short

Starshatter: The Gathering Storm is a moderately complex, moderately realistic, spaceborne military flight sim that takes place in a series of dynamic campaigns. It won’t change your life, but it ain’t bad.

The Good:

  • it’s not too punishing or difficult. It strives for a moderate amount of realism, but offers an optional video-gamey control scheme
  • takes place in four dynamically shifting war campaigns, rather than a static set of missions or a bland open world design
  • graphics and sounds are good for such a small studio, but won’t blow your entire head off
  • receive promotions! Start flying fighter craft, and move upward to capital ships, even become an admiral and direct the course of the war.
  • heck, it’s FREE and open source!
  • fairly open to modding
  • rewards come after overcoming the learning curve, about 4-6 hours, perhaps less if you’ve flown flight sims before

The Bad:

  • a bit repetitive, a bit spare, a bit bland. It’s a quasi-military flight sim, there’s not a lot of character here.
  • lack of variety in ships
  • reportedly difficult and tedious to create your own missions
  • no multiplayer campaign

Read on for the review, or skip to the “Getting It” section for info on how to get it!

Continue reading

AI War: Pocket Reference

So, AI War: Fleet Command is quite an intimidating game. You’re in control of a growing number of units (from a few hundred to many thousands), against a pair of unpredictable AI personalities with the power to overwhelm you at a misstep. All progressing in real time. Oh, dear.

The game mitigates this by giving you semi-autonomous units that don’t need babysitting, and an assortment of effective orders to give them. You mostly control the pace of the game through your offensive actions, so you also control how violent the AI becomes in response. It’s designed to get your mental gears moving, but luckily it doesn’t devolve into a click fest.

But it does kind of turn into a “what was that control again,” and “what the hell do I do now” fest. Instead of printing out the manual and hotkey guide (both of which are out of date), or playing the 4-hour tutorial again, or interrupting the game to check the controls, I made a short, economic reference for AI War. It’s 8 tiny pages and fits in a pocket. Continue reading

Raw Notes for Independence War 2 – Tweaks

The following is a raw dump of notes I made while trying to figure out the optimal settings  for the fantastic classic space sim, Independence War 2. Again, this is quite raw and I may come back later to finalize it.

iw2 config hacks (if any)

 Joystick Deadzones
 - in flux.ini:
 - [fcInputDeviceDI]
     - dead_zone_x = 0.175
     - dead_zone_y = 0.175
     - dead_zone_z = 0.175
     - dead_zone_rx = 0.175
     - dead_zone_ry = 0.175
     - dead_zone_rz = 0.175
 - setting them to 0.1 works pretty well.

Set password for multiplayer in flux.ini:
 - [FcServer]
     - password = "1234"
 - [FCClient]
     - password = "1234"
 - passwords must match, even for the host.

Set resolution and set windowed in flux.ini:
 - [fcGraphicsDeviceD3D]
 - windowed mode can be dynamically resized to any resolution!

from the elite mod, edit flux.ini for more difficulty:
 - [icPlayerPilot]
     - max_rem_range changed from 50000 -> 100000
     - (increases the detection range for your ship? remote control range?)
 - [icShip]
     - critical_damage_scale changed from 0.2 -> 0.5
     - criticals_per_impact changed from 0.2 -> 0.5
     - (increases your ship damage... and the chances of ship damage? hard to say.)
 - [icTacticalCamera]
     - field_of_view changed from 1.2 -> 1.75
     - (fov is increased in the tac cam)
 - [iiSim]
     - collision_damage_factor changed from 3.5 -> 4
     - (damage from collisions increased)

Raw Notes for Independence War 2 – Mods

blue_swirls_crThe following is a raw dump of notes I made while trying to figure out the value of the various mods available for the fantastic classic space sim, Independence War 2. Again, this is quite raw and I may come back later to finalize it. (For now if you want to read the unwrapped text, you’ll have to copy it and paste it into another doc.)

= IW 2 Mods =
my reviews and impressions

sources:
- http://www.i-war2.com/downloads.htm
- http://www.i-war2.com/assoc_mods.htm
- http://www.i-war2.com/downloads_5.htm
- http://www.i-war2.com/wetwired/
- http://www.torn-stars.com
- http://mods.firstones.com/buda5/iwar2/index.html

= Installing Mods =
     - Generally, simply place in the game root /mods folder. No need to unzip, much of the time. See the mods' readme files for specific requirements.
     - Backup flux.ini if manually editing or if a mod is going to edit it.
     - Mods may mess up savegames, but there's sometimes something in the readme if they do.

= The Short List =
* - tweaking required/optional

The Essential Mods - worth installing even on a first play
     - Multimod - allows multiple mods to be used at once.
     - Free roaming - allows free roaming play after the game is over.
         - in the GOG version, this mod is preinstalled, but will not show on the mods menu. (Check /resource if you don't believe me.)
     - Custom Jafs - give Jafs a bigger cargo ship
         * these settings appear once the mod is selected:
         - [CustomJafs]
             - jafs_cargo_loading_delay = 0-15 (seconds, 0 default)
                 - not sure what base game default is
             - jafs_comments = 0 (none), 1 (cargo comments off), 2 (all on)
                 - game default is 2, mod default is 0
             - jafs_ship = (ship location?) default is a 20 pod Venice freighter
                 - base game has ~8 slots, often necessitating multiple trips

Continue reading

State of the (AI) War: Incoming!

It’s taken me a while to get to where I can actually play a game of AI War: Fleet Command to completion, so I’ve decided to blog the occasion, or at least the start of it.

Here’s a peek at my current game, to perhaps be explicated to a greater degree:

Current war state: we’ve taken one planet, and we’re eyeballing our next victim. Also expanding spy network currently at around 20 of 80 worlds.

Continue reading

(Indie Game) Flotilla – Turn Based Tactical Battles in Full 3D Space

On impulse (the human tendency, not the distro service), I bought Flotilla, by Blendo games (maker of the stylish freebie Gravity Bone). It’s a ten dollar turn-based tactical space battler, with shades of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It’s pretty. For a game based in full-3D space, it’s also fairly easy to learn. Surviving battles, though, is hard.

Fine-tuning my attack of a beam frigate in between turns. You must carefully position your ships to avoid exposing weak spots, while targeting the weaknesses of your opponent.

The game is roughly in two pieces. The first is an overworld-style map, with quick jaunts between planets, where you will experience plot points such as crocodiles with space madness and human scientists offering ship upgrades. The second piece, and the heart of the game, are full-3D space battles between your flotilla, and other ships. Like a three-dimensional game of chess, you’ll maneuver your pieces in an orangey space, attempting to lure your opponents into vulnerable positions. It’s complex enough to require some tactical thought, but simple enough to learn in about ten minutes.

Each game plays out a bit differently, but nearly every playthrough will have you engaging in mini-epic turn-based battles between your motley collection of ships, and other motley collections of ships. There’s quite a bit of motley going around. In my experience, each full game takes around a half hour to play out, though the game itself can be minimized to the taskbar if you need a break, as it won’t eat CPU time when minimized. There doesn’t currently seem to be a way to save games, but that could well change.

Flotilla also offers a 'skirmish' mode, in which you can choose small fleets of ships to face off against each other.

The style of the game will turn away those used to dark, dead serious games, as this is a galaxy populated with intelligent farm animals flying neon-bright ships, angrily sabre-rattling at each other. Battles play out to the tune of delicate étude-like piano pieces in bubbly orange space, like a terrible champagne. The visual style itself is solid and pleasing enough, but has the feel of something that is still awaiting a few more brushstrokes of varnish. The overall presentation is different enough that this can be forgiven in the short run.

As a game, Flotilla is complete and solid, but it could use a few extra features, such as a chase camera and a way to speed up the hands-off portion of battles. Don’t let this stop you, as the developer, like many independent game producers must, released the game while still tweaking the overall finish of the game. Think of yourself as a patron of the arts, and that ten bucks that could be three lattes could very easily help this guy put the finishing touches on what is a unique and fun game. It’s also notable that there is no DRM, not even a serial, required for the game. Once purchased, you download the game and install it anywhere. Updates are released in separate patches that can be downloaded and applied at any time, again, with no DRM or accounts required.

Though Flotilla has been released early on the PC, it’s developed using the XNA framework, and will soon be available on XBOX, which may well garner a larger audience. It’s saying a lot about the design that it will likely fit both the PC and console platforms quite well, and currently supports split-screen play on the same device for two players.

Download a free demo of Flotilla here.