Endless Sky
November 27, 2015 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Endless Sky is a space trading and exploration game, dubbed as a spiritual successor to Escape Velocity. It's free to play, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, completely open-source (GPLv3), and available on Steam.

Never heard of Escape Velocity?

Escape Velocity was a space trading and exploration game, originally released for the Macintosh in 1996, with additional installments in 1998 and 2002. It quickly developed a cult following, earning praise for its rich and expansive in-game universe.

The older two games are tough to run on modern hardware, but fortunately, the final installment, Escape Velocity Nova was ported to Windows, and still runs on a modern Mac. Moreover, it sported a powerful plugin engine that allowed the former two games to be ported onto the newer engine as plugins.

Endless Sky is still under active development, but is very playable. It features an editor and contribution guide.
posted by schmod (36 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, considering the hours that I poured in to EV Nova in middle school I should probably take a pass on Endless Sky.

Ah who am I kidding I'm downloading it right now.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:40 AM on November 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yessssssss. I poured a couple of days into Endless Sky (and then Fallout 4 came out and, well) and it was a really nice dip back into the old Escape Velocity vibe in a modern engine. It's a fairly specific take on the whole trade-and-combat space exploration upgrade ladder genre—you could compare it to both Elite and the Star Control games and get pieces of it but it strikes its own balance different from both—and one that I really really dug when my wife introduced me to EV:Nova back in the day on her bondi blue iMac.

One notable thing about Endless Sky: it doesn't (yet?) have a soundtrack, just sound effects. So for best experience, DIY yourself some mood music. I've played it to a couple different things so far and my favorite has been the Disasterpiece soundtrack from It Follows. (Also, you should listen to that soundtrack. Also also, you should see that movie.)

but fortunately, the final installment, Escape Velocity Nova was ported to Windows, and still runs on a modern Mac.

For all the love I bear for the EV franchise and to Ambrosia for making it, I'm excited about Endless Sky in large part because even that modernized release was woefully under-modernized when I tried it out a year or so back. The game's core assets and engine are still built for a tiny earlier-era screen, with wee fuckin' text and tiny sprites the default experience. That combined with the thirty bucks they're asking makes it a weird, sort of refusing-to-acknowledge-that-time-has-passed product. I imagine it's more a result of hard times and limited resources than anything but it's still makes me side-eye it a little.
posted by cortex at 8:54 AM on November 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah. I'm under the impression that EVN burned out Matt Burch -- he's emphatically stated a few times that he's done with EV and game development. Meanwhile, the publisher, Ambrosia seems to be fizzling out.

EVN's game engine was ancient even when it was released -- it was probably one of the last commercial MacOS applications to be released with support for the old 68k macs (which had been obsolete for something like 8 years at that point). Apparently the plugins rely pretty heavily on resource forks, which should also say something...

Meanwhile, Endless Sky is a pretty impressive technological accomplishment. Apart from the interview linked above, I can't really find anything out about the lead developer, Michael Zahniser, which is a shame because he's clearly a very talented game developer. The entirety of Endless Sky (including the game engine) was implemented from scratch in C++, which simply isn't something you see a lot of today. The writing is also really good, considering the depth of the plot, the fact that free/open-source games almost never have good writing, and the fact that the game is evidently still a work in progress.
posted by schmod at 9:05 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing that really can't be overstated about Nova was how amazing that plugin engine was. You didn't need to have any programming chops to be able to make everything from new ships and weapons to entire new systems and story modes. There was an enormous modding community and zillions of mods, ranging from the truly awful to entire new games built on Nova's bones (the porting of the first two games was definitely a crowning achievement).

Glad to see that Endless Sky is keeping the same focus on extensibility and plugins.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:06 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved Escape Velocity SO MUCH--I was literally just rhapsodizing about it yesterday to a co-worker. Thrilling to hear that Endless Sky might push some of my same buttons! I'm definitely going to try it.
posted by theatro at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not that anyone cares, but the source code also looks good. Tidy, modern C++. (What, doesn't everyone look at open source games' source code?)
posted by Harald74 at 10:12 AM on November 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

The source is indeed quite pretty, but I can't remember the last time I saw that indentation style (Allman Style according to Wikipedia) used on anything new.
posted by schmod at 10:27 AM on November 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've really been enjoying this game a lot. It's on steam as a freebie, too. There's another game coming on steam called Defect that looks like it might scratch a similar itch, too.
posted by boo_radley at 10:40 AM on November 27, 2015

This is just what I didn't need in terms of my time management, thanks :)
posted by nubs at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2015

Free time is overrated. Bring on the exploration!
posted by Spatch at 10:51 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Allman looks like the default C# style.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:52 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sold on "similar to Escape Velocity"! My old Mac friends and I were reminiscing about the series not long ago, talking about throwing together a similar game for iOS. The original EV was one of those classic games that represented the best of the Mac back then. It was fun, moddable, and ran pretty well; I was able to play with no problems on an old LC that I had in my room (the Power Mac I got that Christmas made it a lot better). I spent most of Christmas Eve trying to take over Earth, which had 32767 defenders. I think I got through a few thousand, but just gave up out of boredom.

Allman style is pretty much what we use at my place. It's not as common as K&R, but it's not a rare thing either, from my experience.
posted by bonje at 11:01 AM on November 27, 2015

Ahh man, EV. I had just got my first Mac, some Performa model, when the first EV was released, but I didn't get into it until Escape Velocity: Override came out. I wish I had someone to reminisce about EV and other Ambrosia games with but I was the only one of my friends back then that had a Mac. But this is bringing back all kinds of memories of Hotline Client and MacAddict magazine and software demo CDs so thanks for that.
posted by Venadium at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

You had me at Escape Velocity.

MacAddict magazine and software demo CDs

posted by Going To Maine at 11:16 AM on November 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Allman looks like the default C# style.

Yup, VS loves reformatting code into that.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2015

Allman style is the only way I've ever written code. I'd be hard-pressed to find another. I've also long been a fan of Escape Velocity since way back, which is odd since the last Apple computer I've owned was he Apple IIgs. I'm super excited to try this one out.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is perfect timing, because yesterday I reinstalled Escape Velocity: Nova after a friend pointed to me a fix for running it on OS X 10.11 El Capitan. EV:N still plays great (the beginning is a bit slow), but it doesn't look hot on modern resolutions.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:46 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

A few of the stations on SomaFM might be appropriate for those looking for music to accompany this game. Groove Salad is the most popular station and it would probably work well but there are also a couple of stations specific to space - Space Station Soma and Deep Space One - that would also work well. (It's not the best match for this game but I always get a kick out of the Secret Agent station.)
posted by ElKevbo at 12:31 PM on November 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Important question: is there a forklift?
posted by radwolf76 at 12:36 PM on November 27, 2015 [10 favorites]

Hmmmm.... I'm able to deliver three or four cargoes, then get surrounded by pirates and killed. Hopefully there's more to this game.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:05 PM on November 27, 2015

Part of the vast amounts of time I put into EV Nova was creating my own sprites and ship specs with the editor (there was an editor, right? Or was I just hacking the damn thing with ResEdit? I don't remember) but I don't have nearly that kind of time or know-how anymore.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:11 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Random observation: Their formula for creating pirate ship names is also a really good death metal band name generator:

Add one of these words:
  • Night
  • Death
  • Doom
  • Dark
  • Free
  • Hate
  • Mad
  • Mind
  • Gut
To one of these words:
  • oath
  • fire
  • spit
  • night
  • fury
  • rot
  • bat
  • bath
  • blade
  • flame
  • curse
  • scowl
  • wrench
  • wrought
  • corpse
  • fear
The names that it spits out are always perfect:
Darkfire, Hatespit, Mindcorpse, Freefire, Gutscowl, Madfire, Deathrot, Nightcurse, Freebath, Doomoath, Hatefear, Freefury, Nightfear, Darkcorpse, Darkfury, Nightrot, Freenight, Mindfury, Madwrench, Hatecurse, Mindwrench, Doomfury, Freescowl, Mindspit, Mindscowl, etc....
posted by schmod at 4:46 PM on November 27, 2015 [14 favorites]

This sounds like fun, but I'm pulling my hair out trying to get OpenGL 3.0 working on my Ubuntu installation, so that the darned thing will run.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:03 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tremble before that most fearsome of pirate vessels: The Freebath!
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:20 PM on November 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

This game will not run without OpenGL 3.0... I've wasted most of the day finding out that my laptop's CPU can't ever do it. 8(
posted by MikeWarot at 8:34 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Welp there went four hours.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:06 PM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

ALSO: I don't remember the mortgage mechanism in any of the EV series. It's a really great addition that simultaneously allows you to purchase ships sooner than otherwise AND adds some much-needed goosing to the early game.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:07 PM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, man. I loved EV. I'll have to check this out.
posted by brundlefly at 10:50 PM on November 27, 2015

I guess a lot of the plotlines aren't fully in, yet, but putting on some space music and hitting up some intergalactic trade is pretty okay.

It's sure a hell of a lot easier to get into than Elite: Dangerous, which I finally tried thanks to Steam sale this weekend. Ugh.
posted by curious nu at 7:25 PM on November 28, 2015

Strategic Conquest anyone?
posted by sydnius at 7:53 PM on November 28, 2015

I played ES for a little bit a few weeks ago. I lost an entire summer to EV roughly 20(!) years ago, and spent a bunch of time fiddling with Override and Nova in the time since. I even have fond memories of the unofficial Star Wars TC plugin -- and discovering first hand that an Imperial Star Destroyer literally handles like a brand-new, shiny Chrysler ... Building.

The one thing that kinda bugs me about ES is that they've waived the rule that you have to be x distance away from the center of a system before being cleared for hyperspace. Which totally eliminates the Solo-esque tension of being chased by and only just escaping pirates, local patrols, and other belligerents that I remember from the old days.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:22 AM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you paid your shareware fee?

Man, EV brings back *memories*. A few friends in high school played it and modded it a lot...one got into 3D graphics because of EV (anyone remember weepul_884?). This is on my To Check Out list after I'm done with Fallout 4.
posted by caphector at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2015

I naturally gravitated towards K&R style, myself, before I learned the different styles. Sometimes I Allman in that, if it makes the code more legible/workable for refactoring.

@bonje: good luck trying to get a plugin style architecture to work on iOS. I't slighlty more doable now, I guess, in iOS9, but still practically impossible to get that running where other authors could put stuff up and people could use it without jailbreaking.
posted by MacD at 12:11 PM on November 30, 2015

OK, a day later and I'm blasting pirates and stealing their ships until I had about six or seven little ships. Then I realized I was paying death benefits to crew I lost in the takeover attempts and it was killing my income. So I sold them all and now I have a 20m ship and two 5m escorts, and nothing can touch me. Hopefully there's a different more to this game.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:29 PM on November 30, 2015

Does Cap'n Hector ever show up?
posted by brundlefly at 5:08 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just saw the author, Michael Zahniser, fly by in a Kestrel... I knew better than to attack.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 6:30 PM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older the youtube planner people are so #OBSESSED for...   |   Hoverboard Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments