Plus a bonus lesson on the physics of black holes and time dilation!
Normally I don’t do a whole lot of specific research for these columns; instead relying on the fact that I am generally researching all the time by keeping up with video game news. But for this concept I felt I needed to double check and make sure that I hadn’t somehow missed an entire franchise or three, because it seems so obvious.
It’s a game where you race spaceships. In space. Along a three dimensional course. WHY HAS NO ONE DONE THIS.
Oh sure, there are games where the vehicle you are in looks like a spaceship, like F-Zero and Wipeout and Looney Tunes: Space Race, and countless throwaway flash racing games, but they are all still bound to a two-dimensional track. This is hovercar racing, and it’s great, but it’s not spaceship racing. I also found that spaceship racing is a thing people do in EVE Online, which is also great, but it’s not a standalone game for people who don’t want to play EVE Online.
The closest game I found is Beam Breakers, which seems like fun in a Fifth Element NYC kind of way, but isn’t spaceship racing.
Here is what I want from my spaceship racing game. I want there to be three directions of possible movement. I want you to be able to do aileron rolls around your chump opponents as you whip past them. I want pitch, yaw, roll, and six directions of thrust. I want spaceships that control like airplanes because they have special thrusters designed to create pitch, yaw, and roll; I also want spaceships that control like spaceships and just slice their way down the track and make visual-cortex-scrambling sequences of 90 degree turns.
I want shiny, glossy, beautiful ships that look like they came from Forza In Space and I want beat up hunks of junk that have the raw power to blow past the shiny ships. I want retro rocketships and Starfleet knockoffs. I want customizable ships. All the usual trappings of a racing game should be present: unlockable ships, unlockable tracks, local and online multiplayer, et cetera.
I want a beginner mode where the course is defined with a translucent tube boundary that helps you stay on … well on course. I want normal, hard, and expert modes where that boundary is gone and all you have left are a series of pulsing beacons. I want advanced tricks you can do to go off-course and use gravitational slingshots and laser boosts to get ahead, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll lose the race.
I want the backgrounds to be based on real places that actually exist. The first few courses should be in our own solar system: Earth to the Sun and back, the asteroid belt (with proper millions of kilometers between asteroids), the Jupiter moon circuit, in and out of Saturn’s rings, and those are just off the top of my head. For the rest of the game, we’ve got a thousand exoplanets already discovered. Extrapolate and give me courses in those systems. I want expert-level courses that involve black holes.
Which brings me to your bonus physics lesson on black holes. Poorly-researched science fiction would have you believe that black holes are interstellar vacuum cleaners, actively sucking up anything that dares approach. This is not true! You can safely orbit a black hole at a variety of distances (LOOKING AT YOU DOCTOR WHO “THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET”). The danger to black holes is that it is possible to get too close (unlike with a star, where all that hot plasma keeps you back). The closer you get, the slower your personal clock runs compared to someone else far away. [If you were to cross the event horizon, that far away person would see your clock frozen for all of time, or at least until the black hole evaporates.]
(Image credit: http://phys.org/news/2014-03-o…)
So! What I would like for this game to have is basically the Kessel Run fan explanation as the basis for several black hole-riddled race courses. Between you and the finish line is some arrangement of black holes. Try to go straight across and you’ll be slowed down so much that the other racers will be old and grey by the time you finish. Go too far around and some nerfherder maverick will have beaten you to the punch. To win you’ll have to carefully maneuver around and through the black hole minefield so as to keep your distance short while not experiencing too much time dilation.
Of course, if you do cross the event horizon … that’s definitely game over.
NEXT TIME: 19th Century Industrial Society