One of the best group-gaming experiences I’ve had with a computer game was a submarine game – and I regret not being able to recall its name. One night, two friends were visiting quite late, and one had his computer in the car. Over a considerable quantity of cheap vodka, we got to talking about the particular game and a mission that he could not beat, despite numerous attempts.
A half an hour later, we had set up the computer, and sat around in the dark room, with the mission running. One of my friends handled the keyboard and all of the controls – weapons, helm and the like. I watched the informational displays, calling out sonar contacts.
My other friend sat in an armchair (mostly with his eyes closed) and listened and gave orders. Over the next three hours, we beat the mission, handily, evading the best simulated sub-hunters of the Severnyy Flot. Breaking up the workload and working as a tightly coupled team won the day.
It was glorious. You might wonder what that even has to do with the image above. I’m getting to that.
If you’ve played the old pen and paper Star Trek: The Role Playing Game (FASA, 1982), you’ll recall a similar mechanic for starship operations and combat. Each player handled one or more stations, represented with a chart and counters. One player captained the ship, giving orders based on the information given to her by the game-master and other players. Each player at each station tracked things using the charts for their station, and applied their skills.
Starship operations played out as a highly team-oriented subgame, that went a long way to recreating the spirit of traditional Star Trek, and was successful enough to spawn several incarnations of a standalone version (Star Trek: Tactical Combat Simulator).
A number of indie computer games have started development over the years to recreate this sort of thing, but few of them are still in development, and none have (to my knowledge) been completed.
The Artemis – Spaceship Bridge Simulator brings that experience home for up to six people.
One computer handles the simulation, and the main screen – which is the view the captain has (though other crewmen are in charge of what is actually shown on that screen), and the other players take different bridge stations, from engineering to communications.
Together, you will all go boldly on missions, which will involve shouting and chaos, until you start to suck it up and start behaving like real (or fictional) bridge officers and work as a team.
Artemis is out (and also in constant additional development), and will cost you US$40. Right now that’s a bit out of my price-range, so I can’t say as I have any personal experience with the game, but hey, if you’ve got some crazy friends, this might just be your thing.