Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Freespace

Freespace 2 is a game I have always wanted to play. I can still recall seeing the big box artwork of a major space battle and promising myself I would play that game some day. Reviews confirmed that the game was a cracker with awesome space battles to be experienced.

(Image taken from the official Freespace 2 website:)

I actually did buy a budget Freespace compilation a few years later with Freespace 2 and its predecessor but I never got around to playing them until now. Finding myself at a gaming loose end this week my eyes fell on the box and I decided to have a go.

Although Freespace 2 received more critical acclaim it seemed appropriate to have a go at the original first so I installed it and am working my way through it.

Conflict Freespace dates from the late 1990's and it shows. Graphics are poor, much worse than Homeworld for example. The control system is complicated, every button on the keyyboard seems to be used. Nevertheless there is an enjoyable zap-em-up in there once you get the hang of it. I am rushing through the game on an easy setting in order to get to its reputedly much improved offspring.

I hit one snag. Being a flight simulator the game is designed for joystick control and I suck at using a joystick. Thankfully mouse control is supported and with a bit of poking around (reversing the Y-Axis) I managed to get a decent "mouse look" control going.

If you have ever thought about it there is a fundamental difference between mouselook and joystick control. A mouse directly controls where you are looking while the joystick controls the velocity at which your view point is changing. When you move the mouse to a position the reticule moves with you and stops when you stop. When you move a joystick the reticule begins to move and continues to move until you return the joystick to its centre point.In control theory speak the joystick has an additional integrator in the loop which increases system lag and can lead to instability. Having played a fair few FPS games I am very comfortable with mouselook and I find it works superbly for spaceship control - in fact I find it makes the game easier because aiming is more precise.

2 comments:

Zoso said...

Have you checked out the Freespace Source Code Project? Site seems to be undergoing maintenance, but there's a fair few links still. It got Freespace 2 going in glorious 1650x1080 for me, lovely stuff.

I can't quite imagine mouselook for spaceship control with inertia and constant speed and stuff, a joystick just seems like the natural way to do it!

mbp said...

Thank you for that link Zoso - you have really whetted my appetite for Freespace 2 now. I may even abandon Freespace 1 to move on to 2.

Sadly I am "Joystick Challenged" even though I have a fairly decent game controller I cannot use it. Mouselook works great for me - especially in dog fights where I can keep my aiming reticule over the victims sweetspot much more easily with mouse. One slight annoyance with mouselook is that if you want to turn 180 degrees you inevitably run out of mousemat. I use a fairly big desk surface though and its not that much of a problem.