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Starflight

MobyRank MobyScore
Atari ST
...
3.8
Amiga
...
3.0
Macintosh
...
4.7

Trivia

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The advertising on the back of the box is strongly inspired by Star Trek, although the game itself is not. It shares a few elements with it, however.

Compaq

The Starflight reference card lists this helpful hint if playing on an original Compaq "luggable":

Compaq(tm) users with an external composite monitor should type Control-Alt-< at the DOS prompt before starting Starflight to activate the composite display output.


This means that Compaq users could play the game in 16 colors (instead of the CGA 4-color palette) as long as they hooked up a TV or composite monitor to the composite output.

Copyright notice

The DOS version of the game features a copyright notice written in the spirit of the game and reproduced below:

INTERSTEL POLICE WARNING

As provided by the Galactic Treaty of 4410, this computer software product is hereby declared the Intellectual Property of the Human authors, Binary Systems. All rights are henceforth reserved in space and time.

Provision for the protection of Intellectual Property is covered under section 8.9.1A-F of the Intangible Property Act of 4506, ratified by all beings except the Gazurtoid.

Included in Section 8.9.1A-C is the provision for Interstel Corporate Police to enforce the Law.

WARNING: Any being caught with an unauthorized copy or version of this Software Product will be punished by Interstel Corporate Police. Punishment may include the destruction of the offending being.


Additionally, players will be visited by an Interstel Police Vessel at some point in the game and forced to give a passcode. Oh, and it has level 75 shields.

Development

Starflight and Starflight 2 were written in a mixture of Forth (!!) and assembly.

In an interview, the creators stated that what they did for both games was to create the universe first, populated all the various races, and then let them tell their own version of the story. This is directly opposite to most modern designs, where you have the story first, and the art/universe come later.

EGA re-release

Electronic Arts re-issued Starflight packaged in a box (as opposed to the album-cover packaging) with proper EGA support a couple of years later its initial release, but this version had an extremely limited distribution and is considered very rare. The gameplay in this release is also slightly different, which is seemingly unintentional because the gameplay differences conflict with established rules (shields stay up in nebulas, etc.)

Extras

The package came with a colored starmap listing every single system in the game and their star class. One quickly learned to add the "wormhole" jumps to the map in order to save fuel and/or avoiding enemies.

Game design notes

The inside tri-fold lists notes from the game designers:

The Dream:
Back in 1982, we approached Electronic Arts with the idea of creating a universe on a disk that would let people experience the feeling of exploring the universe. It was an ambitious idea. We knew it would require a lot of time and the development of some new technology. We were more right than we knew.


The Cutting Room Floor:
We rewrote the game several times as we struggled to achieve our goals. We wanted the universe to convey a gigantic sense of space, complexity, and life. And we wanted an exciting fantasy role-playing game, with a wide spectrum of character interaction and activity. It seemed like whenever we were close to finalizing the script, we'd find another way to make the game more fun.


The Planet Builder:
About nine months after we started the actual programming, we came up with the idea for the fractal generator. A fractal generator so powerful that it could create surfaces in space. It took 6 man-years to create the technology, but it gave us the ability to cram 800 complex and unique planets into each game, instead of the 50 we'd had before. There are so many that even we haven't explored them all.


The Aliens:
To find the right names for each race, we wrote long profiles and histories for each, then tossed random syllables at each other for several days. To handle their languages, behavior, and combat-action, we had to devote months to building a sophisticated artificial intelligence system. We threw away the communications module three times before we had exactly what we wanted. Sometimes we wondered which would come first, flying to the stars in Starflight, or flying to the stars in real life.


Breathing Ammonia:
Once the fractal generator builds a planet, the eco-system generator creates environmental conditions for it, like gravity, atmosphere, minerals, and temperature. Once we took a journey back to Earth, only to find the eco-system generator had given it new continents and an ammonia atmosphere. It took two years to perfect the technology.


15 Man-Years Later:
The last several months were spent tying all the various technologies together. Because of the program's complexity and scope, the play-testing alone took months. But all that time and effort has proven worthwhile. We had a vision of what an outer space fantasy game could be, and now that vision is a reality.

Saving

For the DOS version of the game, all of the player's information is saved onto a single save file. For this reason, the game points out you NEED to make a backup and should not play off of the original disks. And also, the game needs to be saved prior to exiting or the progress can get stuck "in-progress".

Size

Starflight (and the sequel) contains over 800 planets, each with specific artifacts and minerals to find and mine--all on two 360K diskettes (which also have to share space with program code and graphics) and without needing more than 256K of RAM. Consider the following: You could go to any arbitrary planet, find a cluster of artifacts and take only one of the artifacts in the cluster, leave the planet, spend another 20 hours exploring other planets, fighting battles, saving the game, etc., then go back to that same planet and find everything exactly as you left it, including the cluster of artifacts with only one taken. This was (and still is) an astonishing technical achievement!

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • August 1988 (Issue #50) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15h anniversary issue) - #55 in the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • Happy Computer
    • Issue 01/1988 - Best Role Playing Game in 1987
  • Power Play
    • 1987 - Best MS-DOS Game '87
Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Kasey Chang, PCGamer77 and WildKard

Contributed by Trixter (8734) on May 12, 1999. [revised by : Patrick Bregger (112037)]. -- edit trivia