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For the Black Metal band see Darkspace (band)

DarkSpace is a massively multiplayer real-time strategy computer game developed by PaleStar. Released in December 2001[2], DarkSpace involves multiplayer spaceship combat between three player-controlled factions.

DarkSpace takes place in a persistent universe, referred to in-game as "The MetaVerse", where players choose from several types of ships and fight for control of planets. It also uses instanced "Scenario" servers, where factions battle for control of a single solar system.

DarkSpace has a long and varied development history. The game began as a small personal project, survived several deals with multiple publishers, and is run today by a mostly volunteer staff on an open sourced game engine.


Players begin by selecting one of three factions. Two factions are human: the United Galactic Trade Organization (UGTO) with sleek and well-rounded ships, and the Interstellar Cultural Confederation (ICC) with good long-range capabilities. Players can also choose the alien K'Luth, who pilot fast organic ships and are masters of hit and run tactics. DarkSpace also contains several non-player factions to interact with, such as the mechanical Mir race, opportunistic space Pirates, and several other rare and bizarre alien entities.

Players then choose a starship. DarkSpace has several types of ships, such as battleships, troop transports, supply vessels, and engineering ships. Each ship type has different capabilities and plays a unique role in the game. Scout ships, for example, can reveal enemy positions, while heavy cruisers are built for attacking other ships. Players are not limited to a single ship that they "own"; they can return to a shipyard or home gate at any time and select a new ship[3]. Players can also store modified ship layouts in a personal storage "garage"[3].


New players start with the rank of 'midshipman', and are restricted to the smallest ship types. To control larger ships the player must earn higher rankings by accumulating "Prestige Points", which are awarded for various tasks such as damaging enemy ships, bombing and capturing planets, building planetary structures, and repairing the ships of teammates. Most ships not only require a minimum rank but also one or more specific "badges" before they can be piloted. To fly a larger combat ship, for example, a player has to achieve the "Bronze Combat" badge by inflicting 50 points of damage to enemy ships.

DarkSpace emphasizes tactical combat: players are able to finely control details of their ship's attack and defense maneuvers. It also emphasizes teamwork and organization: since most ships play very specialized roles, battles can often be won more easily and prestige earned more quickly if players work together as a team[citation needed]. In the larger scheme, faction control of areas in the MetaVerse requires coordination and communication between large groups of players.

Although the game takes place in space and uses a 3D graphics engine, gameplay is restricted to a 2D dimensional plane.

Server types

DarkSpace uses several different types of servers to offer different modes of play. The main game is played out in "MetaVerse" servers, where planets remain in control of a faction until captured. The play area is spread over several star systems and game servers, but all players can travel to the same locations and battle over the same planets.

DarkSpace also offers "Scenario" servers, which contain special plot events or time-limited battles. In scenarios players choose a faction and fight for control of a much smaller area - usually a single solar system. Different game setups and victory conditions may be used for each scenario - for example, factions normally at war may temporarily ally. When the victory conditions are met or when time has expired a winner is declared, prestige is awarded, and the scenario restarts.


DarkSpace establishes a fictional series of events detailing humanity's future progress into space. In the near future colonies are established on Luna and Mars, which then rebel and claim sovereignty. The United Galactics Trade Organization (UGTO) is formed and does a "complete survey, exploration, and colonization of the Sol system"[4]. In 2049 the UGTO sends three ships to explore the Centauri system, where a small outpost is established. Many years of space exploration follow, with humans visiting 11 solar systems and colonizing 10.

Human colonies are now so far from the Sol system that they fall outside of UGTO control. These systems became known as the Farstars. During the First Stellar Conflict the Farstar colonies fight for control of planets and resources but are eventually stopped by a UGTO police force. The UGTO attempt to shut down all independent shipyards, causing planets to rebel and begin the Second Stellar Conflict.

After twenty years of war "the Sol loyal systems once again prevail over the Farstars due to their superior firepower"[4]. This is followed by three decades of uneasy peace. Finally, "in 2125 the Free Trade League formally declare[s] the Farstar systems an independent sovereign government henceforth to be known as the Interstellar Cultural Confederation (ICC) and revolution was begun. A series of highly organized surprise attacks drove the UGTO forces from ICC space"[4].

The UGTO and ICC continue to war for many years. In 2266 a UGTO explorer ship disappears in the Sirius system[5]. After investigation by both UGTO and ICC intelligence a joint force arrives to investigate. The taskforce is attacked by an unknown assailant and takes heavy casualties, but the UGTO manages to capture one of the enemy ships[6]. The ship is piloted by an alien species named the K'luth, who reveal themselves to human colonies soon thereafter[7].

The DarkSpace game begins in the midst of a human civil war, which has been intensified by reports of an alien species aggressively spreading its domain throughout the known universe.

Development history


DarkSpace was created by Palestar, an independent development company founded by Richard "Faustus" Lyle[8]. Lyle had the idea for DarkSpace in 1995, when he wanted to make a "massively multiplayer game with real-time elements based in the Master of Orion universe"[8]; Lyle said that "Netrek, Starfleet Command, and Masters of Orion [were] the principle influences on DarkSpace"[9]. After getting the game to a playable alpha state in 2000, Palestar teamed up with Blue Byte Software to publish the game. Blue Byte, attempting to leverage the brand power their Battle Isle series, rechristened the game Battle Isle V: DarkSpace.[10]

Prior to the publishing agreement Palestar had offered closed beta test signups on their website[citation needed]. After Blue Byte became involved they handled the testing arrangements instead[citation needed]. In early 2001, Blue Byte announced a closed beta test of Battle Isle: DarkSpace[11][12] - testing was to begin in February, and those who had previously signed up through the Palestar website would get first consideration. Remaining beta testers would be selected randomly. The initial group of testers was small, but worked closely with each other and the DarkSpace developers. According to Lyle, beta testing "really help[ed] to work out the bugs and correct gameplay issues"[8].

Drop by Ubi Soft

Soon after testing began Ubisoft announced that they were buying Blue Byte and making it a wholly owned subsidiary[13]. They evaluated the projects Blue Byte was funding and decided that DarkSpace did not fit into the Battle Isle series[14]. Consequently, UbiSoft canceled their publishing contract with Palestar[14][15], forcing the small outfit back into independence. Palestar launched a new DarkSpace website in May 2001[16]. After a new back-end infrastructure for the game was written and released (GameCQ), a new public beta test began[17][18].

Partnership with Playnet

The DarkSpace public beta test ran during the summer and fall of 2001. According to Palestar, DarkSpace reached 10,000 registered players in September[19] and 20,000 registered players in November[20]. Since the game was free and reasonably fun[who?], a large number of people drifted throughTemplate:Quantify, many of them sticking around throughout the test[citation needed]. Development proceeded at a decent paceTemplate:Quantify, as features were added, bugs fixed, and changes made. Eventually, however, the money provided when Ubisoft cancelled the publishing contract would run out, so the game needed to develop a revenue model. In December 2001 Palestar teamed up with to host the game[21][22], and DarkSpace moved to a pay to play model, charging $9.99 per calendar month for unlimited access[23]. Players could still access a tutorial and demo mode for free[22].

Retail Publication

In July 2002 Palestar signed an agreement with Got Game Entertainment to distribute DarkSpace in retail stores.[24][25] DarkSpace hit store shelves in December that year.[26]

Source code release

In June 2009 Palestar released the source code for the DarkSpace game engine, named Medusa[27][28]. The engine is available under three different licenses[29]. Several days after release the DarkSpace game servers were overwhelmed by downloads and the engine source code had to be temporarily taken down[30]. The source code is currently hosted on SourceForge [1].

Present day

Since release and the transition to pay-for-play, DarkSpace has had several patches and changes [31][32], some of which have caused (and still cause) controversy[citation needed]. While the game has always been "under development", the pace of updates has varied. At times changes will be fairly frequent; at others long delays have been known[citation needed]. Palestar's small size (a single part-time programmer, since 2002) means that speedy changes are not always possible, and since the head developer cannot survive on the income provided by DarkSpace he must hold a second job[citation needed]. This necessarily slows down progress.

Despite these problems DarkSpace continues to develop. Due to historic limitations on Lyle, volunteer assistance has generally been welcomed in many forms. All moderators of the game, forums, and chat rooms are unpaid volunteers, as are the administrators and game developers (though admins and developers are usually granted free play as compensation)[citation needed]. Player input is also welcomed via a suggestion forum, official developer chats, and casual feedback in chat rooms, in which developers (including Lyle) participate.

Recently Darkspace became Free-to-play with no restrictions, any subscriptions are counted towards as donations. Darkspace has a pay for extra system to get funds in.


After its release DarkSpace received several positive reviews. Michael Lafferty of GameZone called DarkSpace "a game that looks good, sounds great and plays well"[33], while Brett Todd of GameSpot thought "[n]early every scene could have been clipped from a big-budget movie"[2] and Gamers Hell's Andreas Berntsen said it was "the closest to a perfect online space-strategy game I’ve seen so far"[34]. The gaming website Respawn UK named DarkSpace 'Best Space Game of 2002'[35]. However, several reviewers felt that the learning curve was too steep: Lafferty said "when first launched, the tutorial in DarkSpace was somewhat daunting"[33], while Berntsen said "actually mastering the gameplay takes practice, and the initial learning curve can be somewhat steep"[34] and Aaron Daigle from Game Chronicles claimed that "reading the manual and completing the tutorial mode are critical if you want to excel [at] or even just play the game"[36]. A common complaint was that DarkSpace suffered from a lack of players. Tim McConnaughy wrote in his GameSpy review that "there are too few players for such a massive strategy element"[37]. Berntsen agreed that "there simply aren’t as many players to show what it really can do"[34], and Todd brought attention to lack of players as well.[2].

One of the main goals of DarkSpace was to encourage players to work as a team: in an interview with RespawnUK, Lead developer Richard Lyle stated "we've been very careful about what abilities we give ships, so as to make sure players work together to acheive [sic] their goals." [38]. Several reviewers commented on this. Todd noted that "players are intended to work together in their respective factions and complement one another with the specific tasks of their vessels."[2]. Misund felt that "teamplay is absolutely essential"[34], and McConnaughy commented that "players must work together to field a rounded force capable of dealing with threats ... this requires that players work together every step of the way. Darkspace rewards team strategy."[37]

Despite issues with player count and learning curve, several reviews seemed to see potential in DarkSpace. Brett Todd thought that "the groundwork is being laid for DarkSpace to evolve into something special"[2], and Lafferty said "[g]iven some time to grow, DarkSpace will likely be a sleeper hit"[33]. Game Chronicles saw a strength where others found weakness, saying "while small in numbers, I think you would be hard pressed to find a cooler group of folks"[36].

In March 2007 DarkSpace announced its 140,000th registered player[39].


DarkSpace uses a backend called GameCQ. GameCQ is similar to Blue Byte's portal software, the Blue Byte Game Channel, due to Richard Lyle having written much of the latter[citation needed].

According to Lyle "a process/server handles one star system, then those star systems are linked by jumpgates to form the metaverse. The metaverse can be grown as our player base expands simply by adding additional hardware and servers. However, everyone is connected to our central server, which is used for player to player communications and other functions"[8].


  1. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "DarkSpace goes pay for play", December 21 2001.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Todd, Brett. "DarkSpace Review", GameSpot, February 7 2002.
  3. 3.0 3.1 DarkSpace Manual. "5.4 Choosing Your Ship", Retrieved Feb 1 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "DarkSpace History", Retrieved Jan 29 2010.
  5. DarkSpace Fiction and Lore. "2266 CE", retrieved Jan 29 1010.
  6. DarkSpace Fiction and Lore. "The Sirius Incident", retrieved Jan 29 2010.
  7. DarkSpace Fiction and Lore. "K'luth establishes official contact with ICC and UGTO", retrieved Jan 29 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Callaham, John. "DarkSpace Interview", HomeLAN Fed, December 4 2001. Archived from the original 2001-12-21. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  9. Sullivan, Dan (TruthSword). "DarkSpace Interview Part 1 - Part 2, IGN Action Vault, November 21 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-11-27. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  10. Blue's News. "Battle Isle: DarkSpace Announced", July 31 2000.
  11. IGN Staff. "Blue Byte News Explosion!", IGN, February 1 2001.
  12. Blue Byte. "Sign Up for BATTLE ISLE: DarkSpace's Online Beta Test". Archived from the original on 2001-03-30. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
  13. Ho, Jennifer. "Ubi Soft acquires Blue Byte Software", GameSpot, February 8 2001.
  14. 14.0 14.1 GameSpot. "Ubi Soft drops Battle Isle: Darkspace", May 15, 2001.
  15. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "DarkSpace Beta Test", May 30 2001.
  16. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "Web site changes", May 30 2001.
  17. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "Open Beta Begins for DarkSpace", July 19 2001.
  18. IGN PC. "DarkSpace Open Beta", IGN, July 20 2001.
  19. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "DarkSpace hits 10,000 players", Sep 12 2001.
  20. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "20,000 DarkSpace Beta Testers...", November 20 2001.
  21. Walker, Trey. "Playnet to host DarkSpace", GameSpot, Dec 7 2001.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Lyle, Richard (Faustus). " to host DarkSpace, Dec 7 2001.
  23. Walker, Trey. "DarkSpace launched", GameSpot, Dec 21, 2001.
  24. Walker, Trey. "Got Game picks up DarkSpace", GameSpot, July 15 2002.
  25. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "Got Game Entertainment to publish DarkSpace", July 15 200.
  26. Parker, Sam. "DarkSpace now in retail", GameSpot, December 11, 2002.
  27. Drafell. "Medusa Engine Source Code Released", DarkSpace Development Blog, June 21 2009.
  28. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "Medusa Engine Source Code Released", June 20 2009.
  29. Palestar. "Medusa Engine License", retrieved January 22 2010.
  30. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "DarkSpace Source Code Offline", July 1, 2009
  31. Walker,Trey. "DarkSpace gets a new upgrade", GameSpot, June 19, 2002.
  32. Walker, Trey. "DarkSpace upgrade, special offer", GameSpot, Mar 22, 2002.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Lafferty, Michael. "DarkSpace Review", GameZone, May 12 2002
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 Berntsen, Andreas Misund. "Darkspace Review",, Retrieved Jan 23 2010.
  35. Got Game Entertainment. "DarkSpace: Reviews" Archived from the original on 2003-07-07. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
  36. 36.0 36.1 Daigle, Aaron. "DarkSpace Review", Game Chronicles, January 17, 2003.
  37. 37.0 37.1 McConnaughy, Tim "Juan Golbez". "Darkspace (PC)",, May 19, 2002.
  38. RespawnUK. "Interview with Richard Lyle of Palestar". Archived from the original on 2002-01-17. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
  39. Lyle, Richard (Faustus). "DarkSpace reaches 140,000 registrations", March 23 2007.


External links

Facts about "DarkSpace"RDF feed
ContentTypeVideo Game +
DesignerRichard "Faustus" Lyle +
DeveloperPalestar +
DisplayNameDarkSpace +
GameCatVideo Game +
NameDarkSpace +
NamePageDarkSpace +
NamesDarkSpace +
PageNameDarkSpace +
PageTypeVideo Games + and Games +
PublisherPalestar +
StatusReleased +

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