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Battlecruiser 3000 AD

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1996). 3000AD. Designed by Derek Smart. Platforms: DOS, Win.

The Battlecruiser franchise is famous both for the length of time it has spent in development and for the combative personality of its designer. The first version, Battlecruiser 3000 AD, was intended to be a universal Space Sim using three-dimensional graphics, in which players could roam through a simulated galaxy without restrictions. It was released after seven years of work to exceptionally poor reviews; the game was generally agreed to be both remarkably hard to understand and full of bugs. Considerable disagreement ensued between Derek Smart and the then publisher, Take Two Interactive. Smart continued development and Battlecruiser 3000 AD v2.0 was released in 1998 by Interplay Entertainment. This version, while much superior to the first, received little attention from players. A third release, Battlecruiser Millenium (2001 3000AD, Win; 2003 rev vt Battlecruiser Millenium Gold), came much closer to embodying the original design vision for Battlecruiser 3000 AD; this iteration was self published by Smart, making it an Independent Game.

In Battlecruiser Millenium the player can choose a character from any of several species, and pick a career ranging from starship commander to space marine. The best developed option is the one inherited from Battlecruiser 3000 AD, that of military starship captain. In this role, the player commands an interstellar battlecruiser, and is responsible for personally managing a wide variety of power, weapon and shield systems, as well as issuing orders to individual crew members and dispatching smaller fighter ships on independent missions. It is also possible to leave the ship by means of a shuttle and land on planets, dock at space stations, assault manned installations using boarding parties, and mine asteroids for resources. The galaxy in which the game is set contains several competing factions; battlecruiser commanders generally adopt a role resembling that of a privateer, an independent military commander who is personally responsible for arming and resupplying their ship.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from a strikingly obscure interface. A wide variety of complex options are presented to the player in a distinctly idiosyncratic way, making the game difficult to learn. More fundamentally, the Battlecruiser Millenium games suffer from a failure of environmental narrative (see Interactive Narrative). The universe made available for exploration is impressively broad and detailed, though the details often lack atmosphere, but the general absence of characterization and plot elements means that story fails to evolve. The games are perhaps best described as extremely detailed simulations of fictional spacecraft and their environment; they are compelling only to those who enjoy the simulation for its own sake, and are happy to create their own goals within the game. Ultimately, Battlecruiser Millenium is less interesting for what it achieves than for what it set out to do. The idea of simulating an entire universe in which players can adopt any role they choose is an old one in Videogame development; it seems likely, however, that the future of this dream lies with Massively Multiplayer Online Games such as EVE Online (2003).

Related works: Universal Combat (2004 3000AD, Win; 2005 rev vt Universal Combat Gold) designed by Derek Smart is a development of the Battlecruiser series which focuses on combat-based gameplay in air, land and space environments and includes an Online World; it received mixed reviews. Universal Combat: A World Apart (2005 3000AD, Win) designed by Derek Smart is an expansion which adds new missions and equipment to the original. Galactic Command: Echo Squad (2007 3000AD, Win) designed by Derek Smart began another iteration of the franchise which is generally similar to its predecessors but has a far more strongly defined – if not markedly original – plot. [NT]


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