Space Combat Sims for fans of X-Wing v Tie Fighter Part 2: Software

In some ways, this is the best of times for space sim aficionados. FreeSpace 2, the last great commercial space combat sim is open-source and there are a lot of games based on that codebase which are freely available, or will be released shortly.

Personally I would recommend starting out with Freespace 2, picking an updated engine for it so it runs well on your system, and going to town. Then, if you’re interested, move on to all the other cool projects around the Freespace community.

Good Old Games also sells both Freespace 1 and Freespace 2 for $5.99 per game. They also sell a number of other fine space combat games. The game itself is excellent, it features the best capital ships in this kind of game that I’ve ever seen.

The biggest Freespace modding community appears to be at Hard Light Productions. They host a number of projects, though one of the most popular project out there is the Battlestar Galactica Total Conversion called Beyond the Red Line which has a demo available.

Hard Light does host a Babylon 5 Total Conversion called The Babylon Project, which seems like a good idea, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Unfortunately, no mod really seems to bring the graphics in the Freespace 2 Engine up to modern standards. Though it is certainly nicer looking than the wireframe graphics from the X-Wing games.

Older games can even be played through emulators if they don’t work natively. Ben Armstrong at Microsoft even made X-Wing run under Virtual PC. Unfortunately that solution won’t allow joysticks to work, so most people recommend using DosBox instead.

There is even a patch for the Win95 version of X-Wing to make it work on modern machines.

Newer games include the X series of space sims which are a bit more like Wing Commander Privateer and have you in a more open-space kind of profiteering game. Trading goods and ships for wealth and power respectively. These games are more like Elite and there are six in the series plus a stand-alone expansion here and there:

Space Combat Sims for fans of X-Wing v Tie Fighter Part 1: Hardware

porkins

A lot of people like myself miss the old days. Let us then reminisce, and also blow the crap out of our enemies.

To get started, you’ll need some kind of joystick. I use Logitech joysticks because I like the twisting functionality on the stick itself for adjusting yaw on helicopters and jets in games like Battlefield 2 and sometimes roll in space sims like Freespace 2.

The two Logitech sticks I have are the Force 3D Pro and the Extreme 3D Pro. Names are kind of goofy, but they get the job done with the features i like and a reasonable price. Unfortunately, some games don’t support the force feedback. However, that can been taken as an advantage seeing as how the version without the Force Feedback costs half as much.

If you’re really cheap, you might even find an older USB stick at goodwill. I found an older USB Microsoft SideWinder there that I haven’t even tried yet. Adapters probably exist to go from gameport to USB, but I doubt they would work for joysticks unless such a product is designed specifically for them. Older gameport joysticks often required special software, unfortunately.

In my next post I’ll talk about some of the games you can play with these sticks.

What do you think? Are there some sims you want to see covered? Or maybe some sticks that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.