Thursday, September 9, 2010

Starflight: Clues, Quests, and Combat

Finally! Sweet, juicy data banks.

The evening didn't start well. Literally every thing I did led to destruction, either at the hands of Mechans or Gazurtoids (more below), always after I'd spent an hour or so filling my hold with minerals.

For some reason, I kept playing, and things got better. Tonight I "solved" what feel like two major quests.

First, the Mechans. They hang around a planet about 20 sectors from the Spaceport, destroying any ship they contact. There was a notice about them in the operations room at Spaceport. Every time I met up with them, they would ask a series of questions, and I would get the answers "wrong," apparently, and they would destroy me. Finally, after some trial and error and common sense, I answered their questions in a satisfactory manner (essentially convincing them that I was their long-lost master), and they gave me access to their databanks. From them, I learned:

  • The Old Empire was attacked by a variety of races called the Numlox (seriously? Are we going to have a species called the "Baxpase"?), the Phlegnak, the Uhlek, and the Gazurtoid. The attacks started in 3400 and lasted more than 400 years.
  • The Old Empire had an organization called the Institute, which was a society of scientists and intellectuals who believed the Empire was going to be destroyed.
  • The Institute conceived Project Noah, filling at least nine "ark" ships and sending them to various worlds for underground colonization so they could outlast the destruction of the Empire and save the human race.
  • These Mechans were sent in 3479 to secure and terraform the planet where a colony called Heaven would be located. They were supposed to be followed a year later by Noah 9, but they never came (because the mission was sabotaged by Laytonites, as I discovered yesterday; I still don't know who they are).
  • While waiting for Noah 9, the Mechans followed their programming and defended the planet from other races. They were attacked 14 times, twice so badly they had to retreat underground and repair themselves.

Having imparted this information, the Mechans allowed me access to Heaven, which was full of minerals. I loaded up greedily, logged the planet (renaming it "Utopia"), and returned to Spaceport for a nice reward.

For my second expedition of the evening, I tracked the coordinates I received two nights ago of some aliens who had a stolen a cloaking device. These aliens turned out to be the Gazurtoids, who have some issue with "air-breathers"--and I'm talking a biblical issue.

These evangelist aliens were defending the planet at the coordinates in question, but I finally bested one in battle, destroyed him, and looted my first ship.


On the planet--which I christened "Gazurtoida" and logged as colonizable--there was a king's ransom in minerals plus a "shimmering orb" which turned out to be the cloaking device. I haven't had a chance to use it in combat yet. I also visited a ruin where I received cryptic coordinates for yet another Old Empire ruin.

This is what I call a planet!

I think it's safe to say that this game is the best discovery of my CRPG project so far. I had never heard of it before a couple of weeks ago, and now I'm completely hooked. My only complaint is combat. You have to go through the process of raising your shields and arming your weapons and then "entering" combat while enemies are shooting at you. Some of their shots are incredibly lucky--I've died in a single shot before. Even once you have your shields and weapons ready, you attack by turning your ship so that it faces the enemy and you fire missiles or lasers. But such maneuverability is very tough, and I've only successfully completed it once. I do expect it to get easier, though, and in any event you can flee from most combats if you're quick.

After combat, you have to engage in the process of repairing your ship and healing your crew. This is where the engineer and the doctor come in. Some repairs require certain minerals, so I've taken to keeping a small supply of each type of mineral I find. Unfortunately, I didn't have cobalt when the situation called for it.

Tomorrow night, I have to teach a college class, but I think there's a reasonable chance that class will get out early. After all, I have a new pair of coordinates to explore, and I love putting together all of this lore to learn about the universe. It feels good to be living up to my title again.


  1. Starflight is one of the CRPG jewels of its era. Mind you... it's also a challenge. Keep a tally of how many times you "die" so you can extrapolate how many times you'd have had to start over to finish the game.

    Love the crew names, by the way. One of the best sci-fi series ever...

  2. It absolutely is. I don't know why it doesn't get as much love from the geek community as "Firefly." At least "Farscape" came to some semblance of a conclusion.

    I've died about six times already, so breaking my rule was an absolute necessity in this one. But once another reader pointed out that Starflight comes with backup utilities, I'm not considering it cheating any more.

  3. Great post, the enthusiasm for the game shows.

    The whole save-corrupt and backup utilities thing sounds like the permadeath was a last-minute bug the makers were circumventing with providing the batches.

    I'm just speculating, as the permadeath doesn't really sound like it fits the game very well. In roguelikes, you get all the maps (and sometimes more) generated anew with each game. In Wizardry, it sounded like your overall progress is kept so you lose characters but not the game. (Although it sounded very harsh, at least for modern standards). In Staflight's case, it sounds like an anomaly.

    Since you like this game, you probably would enjoy Ur-Quan Masters as well, though it's not an RPG. It does have adventure, exploration, quests, gathering resources and improving your ship and escort fleet. Just not building characters and improving their stats, so that strikes out the "character development" part from your definition. Unless you consider your ship and fleet your character. Also, the combat is an action game (and a great one), which might be a turnoff, although you can have AI handle it.

    If you are ever considering bending your RPG interpretation a bit, UQM is a game to include.


  4. Oops, it was Wikipedia's definition of CRPG, not your own. I'll go through that and then I promise I'll shut up about The Ur-Quan Masters.

    * Character identification: not much, although you do have role-playing choices during the game. The captain (your character) is a human male. I think the name is prechosen as well because of the voice acting.
    * Weapons, armour, items: yup, your ship, fleet and other key items.
    * Combat based on at least partly on probabilities: combat is action-based, but there's an option to let AI play your battles. Since ships are good against some ships but bad against others, it's possible to make rock-paper-scissors -style match-up decisions. I'm not sure how feasible it is to play through the game relying on AI though..
    * Game progression through combat and dialog: the game is heavy in both, and the dialogue is great. No block-pushing puzzles in this one, but a lot of clue-based stuff etc.
    * Interaction with NPCs: heavy, through dialogue. The story and writing are excellent.
    * Random encounters: applies well enough.
    * Choice of actions, and changes in the game world based on your actions: plenty. The world is open to explore, you can do many parts of the main quest in the order you like, and solve some of them in several different ways, which may affect the fate of NPCs and the game world.

    Right, so I shut up now.


  5. Eino, it sounds like a good game, but even if I add it to my CRPG list, since it's a 2002 game, there are exactly 660 games between me and it. So don't hold your breath.

  6. Actually UQM is a re-release of Star Control 2, which is a 1992 release. I'm still not holding my breath, I'm guessing 100-200 games in between anyway. No matter, I'll enjoy reading about all the games you play!


  7. Both Starflight and Star Control 2 were designed by Greg Johnson, who is also one of the two creators of ToeJam & Earl. He is awesome.

    1. Hello. Great mention of ToeJam&Earl. That is such an amazing and unique game. Loving your blog about the Starflight game. It sounds like quite an expansive game for the era. I remember playing Elite on my BBC computer and getting the same kind of feeling about being able to explore a whole galaxy. cheers (post03).

  8. This is a skosh more than three years after the original posting, but reading through for the first time...have to look for this one.

    Also, i was entertained that you were teaching a class but there was "a reasonable chance" that it would get out early, allowing you to continue the game. Funny thing, happenstance!

  9. Wow, 8 years after the last comment lol


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