Friday, September 10, 2010

Starflight: Earth and Other Planets

Now this looks familiar...
Going into this game, I had this idea that Earth would be the big reveal, like the final quest would involve finding it or something. I guess I had Battlestar Galactica on my mind. So imagine my surprise when it showed up on my viewscreen already. When I last blogged, I had received another set of coordinates to check out. Arriving there, I found three stars in very close proximity. I explored all three. Two of them were small systems, but when the third turned out to have nine planets orbiting a yellow sun (albeit a sun that had "flared," destroying all life in the system), I began to get excited. Sure enough, the third planet brought me to the screen at the top of this posting. I tried to land somewhere in the New York/Washington DC area. I encountered a barren and blasted landscape with "muddy brown oceans"--a subtle environmental dig? I'm sure there must be ruins here to find, but I can't find them. Each planet is quite large, and unless you have a previous clue about where to land, there's simply too much territory to explore. I tried landing in the areas of Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo, too, but to no avail. Despondent, I returned to Spaceport hoping for a new message with a clue, but I didn't have any. Selling my minerals, I realized I had lots of money with nothing to spend it on. My ship, as you can see, is already maxed out with equipment, and my characters are already maxed out with training. So I decided to head out and explore random planets until something interesting came along. I only spoke briefly about planets before, so let me expand on that now. When you enter a solar system, you see a central star with several rings around it representing the orbits of planets. Somewhere within each orbit is a single planet. The stars are color-coded according to how hot they are, ranging from red (coolest) to dark blue (hottest). Since I'm color blind, I pretty much just have to guess.
A solar system with five planets.
If you fly over one of the planets, you have the option to enter the planet's orbit. At this point, you can have your science officer scan it. I'm guessing that the completeness of the scan depends on the skill level of the science officer, but since I elevated mine to his maximum skill very quickly, I've never had anything but a complete scan. In scanning a planet, you're trying to figure out several things:
  • Can I safely land on this planet?
  • Is it worth landing to search for minerals and/or life forms?
  • Can I recommend this planet for colonization?
The sensors alone tell you part of the story. This planet is an immediate non-candidate for colonization because it doesn't have any oxygen in the atmosphere and doesn't have any water in the hydrosphere. On the other hand, the lithosphere (the physical surface of the planet) has some valuable elements, and the sensors say that the mineral rating is 46. This is one of the higher figures I've seen. I don't know exactly what it represents, but on other planets anything higher than 25 or so has provided me all the minerals I can handle. There is, however, absolutely no life. The "analysis" of the sensors tells you even more. In this case, the gravity of the planet is only 2% of Earth gravity, meaning not only can I land safely, it will hardly cost me any fuel to leave. Such a low gravity would also rule out colonization, though, if the lack of oxygen and water didn't already. Also ruling out colonization would be the "inferno" temperature of the planet. But the "calm" global weather means I can probably explore for minerals without risking injury or death to my crew. This, in short, is a planet that I strip mine for minerals but not much else. As you explore a planet looking for minerals and ruins, your Terrain Vehicle uses a certain amount of fuel depending on the gravity, terrain, and weather. If all three are to your disadvantage, you might only be able to travel a few kilometers from your spaceship before you have to head back and refuel. If all three are on your side, you can venture dozens of kilometers away. The longer you can stay out, the more exploration you can accomplish, and the more minerals you can collect. Here, on the other hand, is a planet perfect for colonization. The previous screen told me that it had an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. Its gravity is exactly that of Earth, it has plenty of life and minerals, and the global weather is calm. The only strike against it is the temperature, which is a little hot, but not too hot. I can claim this planet in the name of Arth, log it, and get a hefty reward when I return to Spaceport. (If you accidentally recommend a bad planet, you get fined upon return to Spaceport, so you have to be careful.) This planet, I can't even safely land on. The gravity would crush my ship. Frankly, I don't know what the cutoff point is, but I've been avoiding planets with higher than 5.0 (5X that of Earth) gravity. While I was exploring to capture these images, I ran into an alien species I hadn't seen before. It looks like a blob with antennas coming out if it, and it's too clever for its own good.
I've met the Gazurtoid. The Gazurtoid are old enemies of mine. You, sir, are no Gazurtoid.
Unfortunately, on the "friendly" setting, these fools didn't tell me anything except how cool they are and how I should worship them. I was just about to figure out how they would respond to "hostile" when they abruptly cut communications and took off. I'm sure we'll meet again, mighty slugs. So I'm out of specific clues unless I want to head back to Earth and try to explore every inch of it. I guess I'll just bop around for a while and see if I can find any more aliens. I have plenty of money for fuel, after all. More tomorrow.


  1. I'm not sure if the locations of ruins are randomized or not, but I found something interesting on Earth at 19N x 96W. I'm not sure if it's a clue or not, though...

    Funny how I wasn't even looking for it and I stumbled upon Earth around the same time as you did.

  2. It should be possible to learn how hot the star is from the spectral class, given in the "stellar parameters" in screenshot 3. The classes are, from hottest to coldest, OBAFGKM.

  3. Kalinova, awesome find. For everyone's benefit: "July 1, 3476 -- the Emperor of the United States announced that the Royal Family will be on ahand at this year's 17th Centennial Celebration to be held in the capitol at Disneyland."

    At a nearby ruin: "Jan 28, 3478: Scientists expect cancer cure breakthrough any day."

    That's depressing, but it's nice to know that the United States survives another 1400 years. I just don't know how they get the "17th Centennial celebration at Disneyland in the 3400s. Clearly there was some revisionist history going on.

  4. My best guess is that Disney bought the US government and moved the capitol to Disneyland, but still they celebrated Independence Day on the same date (3476 - 1700 = 1776). Also, since Mickey Mouse is the king of Disney's Magic Kingdom, wouldn't that make him Emperor after the takeover? Someone should write some fanfic about this...

  5. I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned it, but this game has obviously been a major influence on Mass Effect 1.

    Mass Effect 2 isn't as good, they catered for the LCD first shooter market, lost all the exploration of planets etc... was a real shame.

    1. Mass effects failure to be anything more than painfully weak parody of starflight instead of the modern glorious return of it is a wound that still hurts to this day.

      Somewhere between during its initial reveals, and the time it released, EA decided the moderns audience was too fucking stupid for a game like star flight, and traded anything remotely mentally engaging for blue titties and camel toes.

  6. Mass Effect 2 is a fantastic balance of role-playing, exploration, and shooter. I did plenty of random planet exploration in ME2, yet still had far better combat and plot-driven dialogue. I heartily recommend ME2 to any gamer.

  7. I was similarly excited when I came across our solar system. This definitely holds as one of the best RPGs ever in my opinion. No other game captured the wonderment and excitement of exploring quite like this one did.

    1. I agree. Even the Genesis port is a great experience. It misses some of the fun finding useless ruins and artifacts, but Earth is there with nearly the same level of quips.

      Gravity cut off should be about x20 I believe. I safely landed on a x17 planet I believe, but x22 was bad. It's strange the game will even let you attempt to land a planet you can't escape, but wouldn't even let me get close to landing on a sun.

      Strangely, with the whining orb, no matter what stance I took, the Spemin were always praising me. Another change from the PC version it seems.

  8. If I remember correctly, once you find Earth, there should be an artifact (newspaper clipping) somewhere in the vicinity of San Francisco.

    Great game, enjoyed it immensely



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