Saturday, September 19, 2009

NAEV 0.4.0 review

NAEV Items [more shots]

NAEV 0.4.0 is out, a game of the space trading and combat simulator genre, inspired by the non-free Escape Velocity. Win32/lin32/lin64/mac binaries are available here.

The new version has parts of the user interface changed and is better accessible, for example through in-game gui keybind editing. Three aspects of NAEV show that usability is a priority: 1) the tutorial is informative without overwhelming too much 2) most combats can be evaded through the run away-tactic (this might be unintended, but definitely liked by me). 3) The automatic jump system, that allows consecutive jumps to systems without having to manually repeat standard maneuvers gives much relief to the player.

The changelog also lists better-looking visuals as well as new sounds and music tracks. As a bonus, all the art in the game is licensed under Debian-friendly licenses. [license.txt: audio, visuals]


Wingmen fighters in action

In NAEV the player starts with a small trading ship and needs to earn money to buy new vessels and equipment. Trading or patrolling missions are the key to income. Though I'm no fan of playing lots of similar missions in a row, I did feel satisfaction, when discovering the most effective way to earn money with them: play patrolling missions and a lot of them at the same time.

Along with the repetitive, generated tasks, there are some original missions of different difficulties that allow the plot to progress and/or provide alternative methods of earning credits. They alone are reason enough to give NAEV a spin. The developers want to include more and more story missions, so contact them via IRC or mailing list if you're up to some sci-fi 'quest' writing! :)

A third (or is it fourth?) method of increasing wealth is observing prices and buying where prices are low and selling where products are expensive. However, there is not much of an economical simulation implemented in NAEV yet, so I wouldn't recommend this path for now.

Yet another battle
Scout ships, fighters and battle-cruisers are available in the shipyards of NAEV, different kinds of energy and missile weapons can be bought, various upgrades can be installed. The brainless method of costlier=better didn't work for me, I had to balance the effects and firepower against speed an maneuverability. Running away is more enjoyable to me than fighting and waiting ten seconds for my ship to turn.

The coolest item in the game is the fighter bay. It allows to host small allied ships in your cruiser. After 'shooting' them into space, they will attack enemies and can be controlled with a few simple commands. Place two is occupied by the afterburners, which will give a temporary speed boost at the price of having the view shaken.


Next, two questions for the current top 5 NAEV contributors (and two extra ones for the lead dev):

Q1: What is your role in NAEV development?

bobbens: I am the lead developer of naev.

Deiz: I do a bit of everything, as required.

Done graphics, sound, missions, etc., but most of my time has been spent on making the sprites look nice and getting the game to a fairly balanced state.

For sound I mostly hunted things down and vocoded a few sounds to get the results I wanted. For graphics, most of the ship models are sourced from Vega Strike, many of the outfit graphics are based on models by Joss that I've heavily hacked up.

brtzsnr: I coded a couple of features that NEAV lacked (one of them is the faction disks), now I'm working on 3d-models and sometimes I fix bugs. I wish I had the time to implement more complex features.

stephank: I wrote some code to save configuration. It was unable to at the time.

BTAxis: I've provided some game content (two missions and half a dozen systems so far). That is the extent of my active role in NAEV's development. However, I also occasionally put forward proposals for new or improved game mechanics on the project mailing list, and if I can make them convincing enough and/or talk bobbens into seeing things my way, they may one day find their way into the actual game. I enjoy doing that. Thinking up game mechanics, making them work in my head and fitting them into a bigger picture is fun for me.

Q2: What do you want the game to become in the future?

bobbens: I want the game to be as good as the memories of my childhood playing original EV made it to be.

Deiz: Ultimately I'd like to see NAEV be appealing to a broader audience. At present if you're not somewhat familiar with the Escape Velocity/Elite/Freelancer/etc genre there's not too much to grab your attention.

brtzsnr: I hope NAEV to become more RPG-like (have a crew with different skills tree, say one engineer, one pilot, one commander, etc). Also I want more non-linear/intricate stories.

stephank: I played a lot of Escape Velocity, so that's why I got interested in NAEV. It looks and feels a lot like EV right now, but it looks like the (active) developers are mixing in interesting features from other games in the same genre, and even innovating. I would like them to surprise me, more so than me influencing them. :)

BTAxis: I already mentioned the proposals I wrote up. They're essentially the answer to this question, or at least they're the story so far. But if I'd have to explain it in two words, I'd say that I want naev to be a space exploration game that offers a high degree of interactivity while at the same time providing and engrossing and believable world for the player. That is not an easy goal to meet. Most space games that I know of sacrifice one aspect to pursue another, and in the end NAEV may have to as well. But at this point in time, I believe it's doable, and I hope to be part of making it happen. [For more information check out the proposals on NAEV's mailing list]

Q3: What made you start the project?

bobbens: I started the project about 6 years ago by myself when I realized that there was no game like EV (which I had played extremely intensively as a kid) on linux. EV also had major gameplay flaws that should have been worked around.

Since I had no projects at the time I started out with the ambitious NAEV, which over the years has slowly been taking shape and was released recently (one year ago) to the general public.

As of 0.4.0 I'm starting to be pretty impressed by the results.

Q4: What do you think of Star Control II (The Ur-Quan Masters) as an example of a EV-like GNU/Linux game?

bobbens: I only played Star Control II after someone mentioned it to me about 6 months ago. It does seem to have a lot of EV features, but it seems to lose a bit the fast paced-ness of EV and customizeability of the ships. However it does have other great features that EV lacks like the zooming in systems and the dialog use.

It's good to find good features in other games and use them for inspiration in NAEV, it's evolved enough that it no longer is an EV clone. It also takes from all over while trying to keep itself unique.

Latest NAEV gameplay video


theotherhiveking said...

It looks quite nice.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it does, I've seen this before but haven't got to trying it yet. Looks like it's is about about time.

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