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Space Station Managing, Post Mortem

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the grim-reaper-on-starship dept.

PC Games (Games) 28

M0b1u5 writes "Mistaril is a small company with an intriguing product: Space Station Manager. It's a finalist for the Independent Games Festival and a follow-up game is planned: Luna Base Manager. However, the SSM project has a developer post-mortem which is well worth a read if you're thinking about launching a game development company, or are just interested in game development."

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28 comments

MIR mode cheat codes (4, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8377613)

When you are playing the MIR simulator, don't forget to go into the galley and press the "A" key 3 times in a row. It instantly replenishes your vodka-cannon.

Also, due to MIR's rather porous hull, the game is by default set to "noclip ON". Make sure to turn "noclip OFF" if you want to stay inside the ship.

What's so intriguing? (1)

Sick Boy (5293) | more than 10 years ago | (#8377634)

I played a game pretty much like this (with less stellar graphics, of course) on my C=64. I think it was one of EA's "Blank Construction Set" titles.

Re:What's so intriguing? (2, Informative)

Graelin (309958) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378014)

Project: Space Station [lemon64.com] was an excellent game. But it doesn't seem too similar to this one. The C64 game focused a lot of it's time on the ground managing all kinds of NASA resources, financial, human and equipment. Also launching satellites and manually launching and landing the space shuttle.

This game seems more like a sandbox environment. Still very cool looking and probably much more fun but not like the NASA-sim. (That's what they should have called it, instead of Operation: Space Station.)

Re:What's so intriguing? (2, Informative)

BW_Nuprin (633386) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378049)

I believe what you're thinking of is "Project: Space Station" by Lawrence Holland, published by Avantage. I couldn't find any good websites for it (but I didn't look very hard), but apparently it also came out on the PC in 1987. The C64 version was a ton of fun, and I think I'm gonna try and dig it out of my basement right now.

Re:What's so intriguing? (2, Informative)

BW_Nuprin (633386) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378086)

Actually, I did find a good site on it:

http://www.thelogbook.com/phosphor/apple/stat ion.html

Re:What's so intriguing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8383413)

My eyes, the goggles do nothing!

EOS: Earth Orbit Stations (2, Informative)

DaRat (678130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378256)

I believe that the title that you're thinking about is EOS: Earth Orbit Stations [the-underdogs.org] . I played EOS on the Apple long ago and had fun for quite some time. The idea behind EOS was to run a company building stations in orbit. There were different types of stations that could be built depending on the number and type of modules included.

Space Station Manager (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8377762)

So, Space Station Manager, is it good or is it bunk?

it is a great game (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8377806)

I love it when the kardassians come and turn on their secret hardware and the station turns against you just at the time when the Narnians invade.

Even the Wrongs Went Right ... (1)

Mad_Fred (530564) | more than 10 years ago | (#8377895)

They write "Many times the tasks themselves took just some hours or days worth of effort, but researching and learning to understand the backgrounds and making the right choices took much, much longer." in relation to underestimating the e-commerce costs. But if you've taken the time to understand and evaluate before you make those quick-to-implement choices you've surely won a lot compared to an on-the-spot decision.

Hi. I'm Troy McClure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8377957)

Hi. I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such space-station films as "Animal House in Space: marMOONed" and "Drop that Fish and Hand me the Pliers". Look for me at your metroplex in the forthcoming film "Dude, Where's my Oxygen Tank?".

you forgot these (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8377987)

"Star Trek: Deep Throat 69"
"Babes-in-Nylons 5"

Love it. (2, Interesting)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378332)

I like reading about behind the scenes stuff after games are released. Its just so cool. I want to be involved in that. It seems like working on games is sort of like a wild-west thing. It isn't obvious what will work or how best to do anything so you have to play it by ear a lot. Shoot from the hip. Stuff like that. I dunno.. it just excites me in some strange adventurous sort of way.

Maybe because I've never worked in the games industry.... :-)

Re:Love it. (4, Informative)

Jodiamonds (226053) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378797)

Yeah, it's probably because you've never worked in the industry. ;)

Really, what you seem to be describing is MUCH more related to small startup companies. Being a small startup GAME company does allow for some more freedom and zaniness to go on, certainly, but there are big, old, monolithic game companies, too. =)

I've worked for both small startup (non-game) tech companies, and game companies of a few different sizes. It's really being a small startup that makes the workplace -feel- exciting. The work at a game company itself is sometimes more exciting, but sometimes it's really just ... work. At a small startup, everything you do is magnified greatly, because you are such a large percentage of the company (including making decisions on what you are going to do!), and The Rules haven't been established yet.

Re:Love it. (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 10 years ago | (#8379755)

It isn't obvious what will work or how best to do anything so you have to play it by ear a lot. Shoot from the hip. Stuff like that. I dunno.. it just excites me in some strange adventurous sort of way.

While it can be fun, exciting, etc, realize that your "shot from the hip" will generally be reviewed by your lead, the designers, the producer, the QA staff, and the owner. Your lead will think it's great but not quiiiiite what he was thinking of, the designers will think it's great but not quiiiiiiite what they can use (in a totally different way), the QA will point out the historical innacuracy of what you poured your heart and soul into, the producer will just nod and smile, and the owner will nod and smile, and six months later tell you it is crap and to redo it again.

You can have a lot of power over the outcome of a game, but you have to realize that everyone else does too. This leads to a lot of conservatism in an organization. Sure, the occasional canadian supermoose is added to the code without anyone noticing, but most of the time it is about doing something that will be signed off by everyone.

Still, if I didn't like the industry I wouldn't be here :). There sure as heck aren't golden handcuffs around anybody's wrists.

Re:Love it. (1)

Kai-Peter (756416) | more than 10 years ago | (#8386344)

I have to agree with the other people commenting on this, the risks are really quite calculated .. :-)

The period leading up to starting the game project involved working on technical prototypes and doing market research to find a good game to develop. If you are going to spend 1-2 years of your life on something, you might as well plan a bit ahead.

However, working in a startup company does amplify things (I really loved that phrase). What you do from moment to moment matters a lot, you have to be really focused so you can prioritize between the hundreds of open tasks you have.

Xtreme Programming (2, Informative)

Jodiamonds (226053) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378463)

It may of interest to note that they used XP, and talk about it some in the Post Mortem.

Re:Xtreme Programming (2)

GuyWithLag (621929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8378777)

Actually they say that for them, XP has worked very well, except for the non-coding bits.

Duh.

Re:Xtreme Programming (2, Insightful)

Kai-Peter (756416) | more than 10 years ago | (#8386108)

I would like to expand on the article somewhat. Because of the very high interrelation of the content production and the programming effort, XP as a whole was unsuitable for the project. It didn't matter that it actually worked well for a small subset, the content and code dependencies made the two impossible to separate. Again, I had previous (positive) non-related industry experience in using XP, so what we are talking about is defining the correct domain where XP is applicable.

Profit!!! (5, Interesting)

Aelfy (727873) | more than 10 years ago | (#8379484)

The sweetest, juiciest quote of the whole article:

The game found an appreciating target audience and managed to generate enough profit to let the company continue developing games.

This goes to show, people are finding indie games, and done right they can generate enough profit to sustain a small development studio. They did have a little help from the IGF nomination, but still its an incredible achievement given they worked full time and risked it all.

Is that a light I see at the end of the tunnel?

Reminds me of... (2, Interesting)

BadFormat (533871) | more than 10 years ago | (#8382422)

A few years back CogniToy [cognitoy.com] came out with a really unique robot design/combat game called MindRover:The Europa Project [mindrover.com] . You would start with a simple chase (tank, car, or hovercraft) and outfit it with weapons, sensors, and propulsion. However, the real meat of the game was in the programmer's window. Each piece of equipment had to be wired together with a network of logic gates in order to get the robot to anything meaningful. If your radar sensed an enemy robot, you could signal the weapons to fire or just ram him at full speed. If the radar sensed enemy fire you could signal the motor to move in reverse and fire your own weapons to try to intercept. The smarter the bot, more complex the logic network had to be. The development capital seemed to have dried up for them as well since MindRover was their one and only product of interest.

Re:Reminds me of... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 10 years ago | (#8383376)

Sounds like they were simply remaking the old game Omega [mobygames.com] , just the the game in this article is a remake of another game, EOS [mosw.com] (Earth Orbiting Station). So much for indies and originality.

Re:Reminds me of... (2, Insightful)

Kai-Peter (756416) | more than 10 years ago | (#8386204)

Actually there were several other projects that influenced the design originally: Project Space Station, EOS, Millenium 2.2, Deuteros, Moonbase etc. As such, originality is a tough question. None of the above mentioned games concentrate on the flow simulation or 3D building. But these concepts are hardly original in themselves either. In my opinion most indies are best served by concentrating primarily on usability and gameplay, and only secondarily on originality.

Re:Reminds me of... (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 10 years ago | (#8394751)

I've played a lot of space simulators, and I loved SSM; one of the first pieces of software I bought when I got a PC laptop (previously I was a Mac user and console gamer). I think you hit the nail on the head -- worrying about "originality" is way less important than making sure the game is fun. The graphics alone make the game feel different than the earlier 8-bit games.

Accurate Simulation? (1)

MonkeyCookie (657433) | more than 10 years ago | (#8387738)

I wonder if this simulation includes budget cuts, cost overruns, failing equipment, space accidents, drunken space tourists, space programs failing to uphold their obligations, and copious undeserved drunk, incompetant, Russian cosmonaut jokes, which seem to be popular with American media.

It would sure make it more entertaining.

Re:Accurate Simulation? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 10 years ago | (#8388790)

I think you're looking for "Project: Space Station" it came out back in the 80s on apple/IBM XT/ Tandy. Pretty much had all those things (the drinking part comes in when you brought your ship through re-entry IIRC)

Re:Accurate Simulation? (1)

ChaoticLimbs (597275) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400464)

I've never heard of drunk cosmonauts, and I rely very much on the American media for my space related news.
I would wonder whether this simulation includes Russia selling the USA a SOYUZ module and then after sale but prior to delivery, using that SOYUZ themselves to maintain orbit for MIR?
After that, do they offer to sell the USA ANOTHER SOYUZ for an additional one hundred million dollars?
That would rock!

Re:Accurate Simulation? (1)

ChaoticLimbs (597275) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400697)

I should back that up with facts- the event in question occurred in early February, 2000. I was working on the Space Station Emergency Lighting Power Supply (ELPS) for Goodrich Data Systems.
The Progress module used was slated for ISS use and funded by the USA. This module was extremely important. For diplomatic reasons, not much was really made over this, but it was a very serious betrayal. It delayed delivery to the ISS of several items by about 20 months. In the end, the Russians did improve diplomatic relations by deorbiting the nearly fossilized MIR, and all went well after that.
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