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Microsoft Space Simulator

Entry updated 21 August 2012. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1994). Bruce Artwick Organization (BAO). Designed by Charles Guy. Platforms: DOS.

Microsoft Space Simulator is a Toy Game which simulates historical and technologically extrapolated forms of space exploration, much influenced by the developers' line of flight simulators beginning with Flight Simulator (1979 subLOGIC, AppleII; 1980 TRS80) designed by Bruce Artwick and continuing as the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. The majority of players' time is typically spent in the "free flight" mode, exploring the solar system and the planetary systems the developers created for such stars as Achernar and Polaris. It is also possible to use the software as an observatory, and to play through some prepared scenarios, such as the Apollo 17 moon landing and docking the Space Shuttle with the projected Space Station Freedom. The simulation is based on Newtonian Physics; relativistic effects are broadly ignored, though acceleration decreases as a spacecraft approaches the speed of light and it is impossible to exceed it. A variety of options are included to make spaceflight easier and more enjoyable, from using an autopilot to a flight mode which ignores many of the more inconvenient physical realities. A wide range of spacecraft is available, from actual vehicles such as Apollo's Lunar Module and the Shuttle's Manned Manoeuvring Unit, or orbital spacesuit, to an Alien vessel with an Antigravity engine and a somewhat optimistically engineered starship based on the physicist Robert Bussard's 1960 design for an interstellar ramjet. (A version of the Bussard design appears in Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space as the "ramscoop".) Many manoeuvres used in actual spaceflight are achievable within the simulator, including Hohmann transfer orbits, aerobraking in a planetary atmosphere, gravitational slingshots around celestial bodies and accelerating towards a target until a "turnover" point is reached, at which point the spacecraft is reversed and begins deceleration. In practice, however, most players adopt a more instinctive approach to spaceflight, chasing planets through the sky; this attitude is encouraged by the software's lack of a system for planning interplanetary navigation in advance. While the developers' enthusiasm for the project is clearly visible, Microsoft Space Simulator is a far less accessible game than its flight-simulator-based cousins; little happens in space between occasional course corrections. In essence, this is a game for dedicated spaceflight enthusiasts only. [NT]


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