Friday, 26 September 2014

Realism in games: Space simulators

Space, the final frontier. Even within the gaming community. There are two games that stand out from a realistic perspective; Orbiter and Kerbal Space Program - or KSP for short. Both use newtonian physics and have some very convincing graphics to make the gamer's experience more realistic.

There are three types of realism; visually - where the graphics are crisp, detailed and textured and objects move seamlessly, Intelligently - by which artificial intelligence is well programmed so the player feels he or she is playing with other living people, or when you are given a 'hint' just when you need it, and finally, Physically - where the coding of the game almost entirely emulates the real world forces of physics, meaning objects interact almost exactly how they would in real life.

Orbiter was first published in 2000 (yes, its old) and was praised for its realistic physics engine which allowed players to try and re-create real life scenarios such as a Soyuz TMA launch or the flight of the Discovery shuttle with breathtaking realism. It is used to teach physics to students as well as to gamers who learn inadvertently how to alter the trajectory of a space vehicle. It was last updated in 2010 and remains one of the most (if not the most) realistic comercially availble space simulators of all time. Whlie playing Orbiter i found i became a little bored because there was a certain lack of creativity gamers enjoy participating in, like designing my own rocket or creating an avatar. I then stumbled apon KSP.

KSP is also a space flight simulator but it is more of a game than a simulator. There are little people called kerbals which you can take with you on missions you decide, in rockets you build, which you then fly. There is a feeling of control when you launch a 1,000,000 Kg rocket aimed at the moon which  enjoyable at the very least.