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Vega Strike is a first-person space trading and combat simulator, developed for Microsoft Windows, POSIX Unix-like operating systems such as Linux, and Mac OS X systems. Many of the core game mechanics of Vega Strike are indirectly inspired by Elite. The successors to Elite, namely Wing Commander: Privateer, were particularly strong influences.
Vega Strike is programmed in C/C++ over the OpenGL 3D graphics API and performs internal scripting written in Python and XML. Released under the GNU General Public License, Vega Strike is free and open source software.
Vega Strike aims to insert players into a large, dynamic universe with diverse factions of varying disposition to the player and to each other, and an economy model where trade, combat and exploration are all profitable. Financial gains allow the player to buy upgrades and/or better vehicles, thus enabling him/her to advance into more dangerous and profitable missions. The player can have varying levels of relations with factions. Negative relations can form if the player kills some of a given faction’s ships. Positive relations can be formed if the player destroys ships that are part of an enemy to a given faction. Players can either buy and sell cargo, or accept missions from the Mission Computer, as well as talking to people in the local bar at the space station/planet. In the tradition of some precursor games, individuals of significant plot importance are often found in bars.
The existence of a universal currency, open markets, trading items of value to all or most groups, and widespread technologies allows the player to do business practically everywhere and buy from anyone.
There is also a campaign in the game which assigns certain missions for the player, following various paths within a story-graph. The player can continue playing the game after the campaign is finished.
To travel quickly to and from different planets/space stations in the same system, the SPEC system is used. It multiplies the engine speed of the player’s spacecraft, causing the ship to reach high speeds, allowing the player to quickly travel to different locations in a solar system. However, the number of times it multiplies the engine speed is limited by gravity: The closer the player’s ship is to a planet/space station, the less the speed is multiplied. After the player waits, and gets farther away from the gravity of the planet/station, the SPEC drive will “ramp up”, and the player’s ship will stretch and star streaks will appear, until the player’s spacecraft slows down due to gravity, or the player deactivates the SPEC drive.
To travel to different star systems, the player needs to go to weak points in space known as jump points, as well as buying a jump drive in advance. Once the player equips his/her ship with a jump drive, the player needs to go to a jump point. Once the player’s ship is close enough to the jump point, the player can activate the jump drive, and "jump" to another solar system in a few seconds. In typical solar systems, there is an assortment of jump points, each point leading to another system. The player may have to go through multiple systems/jump points to get to the destination system. For missions that span across multiple systems, the instructions for which jump points to go to are displayed on the HUD, but if the player wants to reach an area regardless of any missions, he/she can use the navigation computer to plot the correct course.
- Cargo: Transportation of items of the most diverse kinds, ranging from foodstuffs to political prisoners—a dangerous trade, as authorities will detect illegal cargo and pirates will attempt to pry it off unsuspecting haulers.
- Bounty: Players are advised to be careful in their choice of targets, as every faction has their own friends and enemies.
- Patrol: A number of targets within a system must be scanned in detail by visiting each in turn.
- Clean Sweep: Similar to patrol, but any hostiles encountered on the way must be eliminated.
- Defense : A target in the system is being attacked by enemy forces. The player must eliminate the attacking forces and keep the target from being destroyed. The target can range from a small merchant ship being attacked by some light forces, to a space station being destroyed by a large, well planned attack force.
- Rescue : A player must rescue a downed pilot, and he/she will be rewarded with credits. The player must proceed to a location, tractor the pilot’s escape pod in and carry him to a destination planet. However, the escape pod is usually in a battle zone, and the player is warned to exercise caution in these missions.
Vega Strike includes a variety of upgrades for the player’s ship. As the player makes more money, he/she can use it to buy upgrades to improve the spacecraft’s performance. Upgrades include repair, repair systems such as the Repair Droids, Reactors for your spaceship (Better reactors allow the spacecraft to use better weapons and also fly longer distances in your ship with the SPEC system engaged), energy shields and hull upgrades (to make the spacecraft stronger against attack), weapons such as lasers and missiles, maneuverability enhancers (like mult jet turn enhancers which increase the ship’s turning rate), and miscellaneous upgrades such as adding extra cargo space, fuel, cloaking devices (which make the ship invisible visually and undetectable by radar/sensors) and ECM systems (anti-missile countermeasures). Every spacecraft can only carry a limited amount of upgrades, as they all have a maximum upgrade capacity.
Vega Strike contains a wide array of spacecraft that are sold by each race, and by various factions within each race. Vessels vary in purpose from multipurpose civilian craft such as the Plowshare medium-size cargo shuttle to high-performance fighter/assault craft such as the Ariston. Cargo haulers, bombers, and even capital ships are at the player’s disposal.
The player starts with the Llama class light cargo shuttle, along with some basic upgrades. As the player progresses into the game, he/she has a choice of buying multiple ships.
Far from all of the spacecraft in the game are available for the player to buy by default; however, some players edit certain resource files manually to enable other spacecraft to be bought and piloted. Such spacecraft are not (yet) tuned for player usage, and may lead to unbalanced gameplay.
The Vega Strike universe
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Vega Strike takes place in our known universe, as the Solar System and many known names from actual stellar cartography are represented. Sol is not the departing point for players, as the main character, Deucalion, was not raised by humans. The player starts out on an Oceanic planet in the Cephid 17 solar system, unemployed and still reeling from the financial and emotional trauma surrounding the death of his brother-in-law, the previous owner of the vessel he now commands.
One of the first people the player will meet is Jenek, whose hauler has broken down. He needs the player to deliver a shipment for him. If the player accepts the mission, it will lead into the campaign of the story, where the player will meet more characters.
General characters that appear outside of the campaign are Merchants that hang around bars that give the player cargo missions, Confed officers that assign patrol/clean sweep missions, Pirates and ISO members that give cargo/bounty missions, as well as bounty hunters that give bounty missions.
- Humans: One of the three larger powers in the Vega Strike universe, human factions includes the Andolians, Purists, Shapers, League of Independent Human Worlds, Merchant’s Guild, Unadorned, High-Born, Mechanists, ISO, Interstellar Church of TrueForm’s Return (Luddites), the Forsaken, and assorted pirate groups. The primary genesis of factional divisions among humans can be traced back to the formation of meme-groups on pre-interstellar Earth, and the general pattern of single meme-groups being dominant, if not exclusive, in the first several waves of sub-light colonization. Many of the current human factions have poor, sometimes violent, relations with each other. In general, humans are at war with the Aera.
- Rlaan: The Rlaan are methane breathing aliens and another of the three larger powers. They are firm trading partners with humanity, though by no means allies. Their war with the Aera has calmed over the preceding eight years into a cease-fire, though it has never been formally diplomatically resolved, and minor hostilities still flare up on occasion. While the Rlaan have no love for the Aera, they will not directly assist humanity against them unless there appears to be imminent danger of collapse, as it is to their competitive advantage for the human economy to be bogged down with soaring military expenditures.
- Aera: The third and final of the major powers, the Aera are a short-lived, aggressive and vaguely paranoid species that, failing diplomatic negotiations for rights of passage for colony vessels, have attempted a military solution to the interposition of Human and Rlaan space between Aera space and the rest of the jump network. In the game, they are generally unfriendly and they will attack the player. In Human and Rlaan space, there are generally many bounties on Aera spacecraft. They also possess very powerful spacecraft and weapons, and often are part of invasions of other species' solar systems.
- Uln: A minor power and one of only four known extant groups to have achieved interstellar travel on their own, the Uln are of primary interest because their homeworld is the best preserved site known for the study of ancient artifacts. The Uln are ostensibly neutral in external dealings with the major powers, but this is due more to lack of political will and military might to enforce their own opinions than any preference for power-brokering. The Uln are relatively safe from the major powers because access to artifact research sites is perceived as far more of a benefit than any risk posed by the Uln to the major powers themselves.
- Klk'k: The fifth known extant group to achieve space-flight (though they had not reached much beyond their own moons at the time of their discovery). The Klk'k are heavily integrated with human interests, and are members of the Andolian Protectorate.
- Shmrn: The smallest independent power, these are the descendants of a slave species employed by the now defunct Light-Bearer faction of humanity, freed to pursue their own interests at the end of the first Fraternal War. They are descended from the same root stock as the Dgn.
- Other: The Dgn, Mishtali, and Purth are client species of human factions, the Lmpl, Nuhln, and Saahasayaay are client species of the Rlaan, and the Bzbr are a client species of the Aera. There are also life forms such as “Hoffman’s Blobs”, non-extant groups such as the “Ancients” and minimally evidenced groups, such as “TWHON” that do not play significant roles in the day to day affairs of the known extant species.