Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023
Most of the pilot's right control panel.  There's another one on the left!
Enlarge / Most of the pilot’s right control panel. There’s another one on the left!


I’ve spent the past four nights in the darkened cockpit of a fictional but mostly plausible spaceship. For an hour or two at a time I push knobs, flip switches, and watch gauges. Occasionally I’ll fly very slowly a few hundred yards away from the station where the ship is moored for most of its time, then turn around and fly back very slowly – and then I’ll stop and go back to the switches and meters.

Welcome to Rogue System. It’s a bit different from the types of combat-oriented space simulations we’ve had our hands on lately, like Elite: Dangerous– this is very much a module for the realism oriented DCS world simulation package, crossed with a bit Kerbal Space program only for groats and shins. It’s not really much of one either game still, there are six tutorial missions you can “play”, and you can also sort of fly around in free flight mode (by selecting one of the tutorial missions and turning off the “tutorial” part), but the actual game itself is still in early development.

The semi-official “how to disconnect your ship Rogue Systemvideo from Youtuber Deephack.

Kind of. Rogue System has been in the process of being born for over two years, and developer Michael Juliano ran an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign in 2013 to help fund the game’s development. After that failed, Juliano stopped development and returned to his day job; now, after a significant hiatus, Juliano has turned on publisher Image Space Inc and released a completely revamped version of the game as an early access title.

“While the content is currently minimal at best, it’s now built on a foundation that allows me to confidently layer on top of the real gameplay that will make up the bulk of Rogue System’s core module,” Juliano explained in its June 11 developer update. As explained in the update, development of more content continues, with Juliano using proceeds from early access sales to fund things as development progresses.

Strangely addictive

Rogue System right now is very minimal, but it’s also strangely addictive. Players can fly the fictional FireArc spacecraft (although “flying” is probably more accurate) through six tutorial simulations, most of which involve the player walking through complex operational procedures very similar to the types of procedures required to fly real planes – something that will no doubt greatly appeal to sim-heads thinking Elite: Dangerous is way too arcadey.

Looking out into the black from the cockpit of your FireArc.
Enlarge / Looking out into the black from the cockpit of your FireArc.


For example, to prepare your FireArc for disconnection from the station, you will need to power up the electrical systems from external power, connect the batteries, charge them, adjust the power distribution boxes, bring the two fuel cells online, bring the communications system online, power up your cooling systems, heat the built-in low-energy nuclear reactor, talk to air traffic control about your departure (and note the correct departure frequencies, including a localizer), start the reactor, cut off the external power supply, activate your maneuvering system, and then actually disconnect.

I wrote down the individual steps on paper as I went through them so I could practice outside of the tutorial. The resulting procedural checklist looks… impressive:

Eighty-two steps to disconnect!
Enlarge / Eighty-two steps to disconnect!

Maneuver indoors Rogue System is an entirely inertial affair, although the FireArc has some autopilot capabilities (including the ability to zero its rotational speeds). Rendezvous with a station requires careful monitoring of your orbital parameters (altitude, apoapsis, periapsis, and inclination), though I haven’t spent enough time on it yet to see if the more truly counterintuitive bits of orbital mechanics work. have been implemented (such as slowing down to catch up with an object in front of you). Furthermore, the FireArc spacecraft has multiple maneuvering modes at different speeds – from blowing off small puffs of cold argon gas for extremely fine close-range maneuvering, all the way to using superheated plasma from the reactor as a booster for large delta V changes.

Head tracking is supported with a TrackIR, which we were able to use with great success. Full VR support with the Oculus Rift is planned, but not yet implemented. Juliano gave us some suggestions for tweaking configuration files to try and make it work with our Rift DK2, but it’s not working properly yet.

We’ve scheduled an interview with Juliano later this week to talk a lot more about his plans for Rogue System and when the game leaves early access. In the meantime, you can pick it up here if you want to give it a shot. At least for now, Rogue System is for Windows only.

By akfire1

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