It seems like space games are seeing a bit of a resurgence in the past few years. Of course, we have seen Bethesda Game Studios and Microsoft launch their ambitious space-based RPG Starfield this year. However, smaller indie game studios have been successful in launching space-based games as well. We are talking about titles like Hello Games' No Man's Sky, System Era's Astroneer, the Kerbal Space Program series, and more.
However, way back in 1994, Microsoft decided to launch a space-based sim game that was made (sort of) to be a spin-off of its successful Microsoft Flight Simulator titles. It was called, naturally, Microsoft Space Simulator, and it still has a number of fans today.
This game would be highly ambitious even if was released today. In fact, it could be considered to be two games. One half is the "simulator" part of this title. You could fly ship like the US space shuttle, the Russian Soyus spacecraft, and more in the game's virtual solar system. You could even go back in time and pilot ships like the Apollo Lunar Module, or go into the future and fly more advanced ships.
A ton of attention was put into the game's physics. If you really wanted, you could pilot a ship to Earth's moon in the exact time it would take to actually get there. The same goes for traveling to the other planets and moons in the solar system, which could take months or years. It helps that the graphics in the game were extremely good for the time with detailed looks at the planets in the solar system.
The second half of Microsoft Space Simulator was all about blending fun with education. You could get rid of the real universe physics and travel fast to not only the planets and moons in our solar system but to the many, many, many planets and moons orbiting the stars of our Milky Way galaxy.
It's hard to believe that all that was crammed into a few floppy disks and released for MS-DOS a year before Windows 95 launched. The game itself was developed by BAO, which stood for Bruce Artwick Organization. Artwick created the first Flight Simulator game way back in 1979 at Sublogic for the Apple II and that company later developed versions of the game for Microsoft to publish. Artwick left Sublogic in 1998 to form BAO and continued to make the Microsoft Flight Simulator games at that studio.
The main designer for Microsoft Space Simulator was another former Sublogic employee, Charles Guy, who also joined BAO. The Digital Antiquarian has an interesting look at the history of the game's development that we won't repeat here but we encourage you to check it out.
Unfortunately, the game, which got solid reviews from critics at the time, was not a commercial success. Looking back on it today, it's very possible that it was well ahead of its time. There might not have been a huge market for a game in 1994 that basically was a huge galaxy-sized sandbox.
However, we think the success of more recent games like Starfield, No Man's Sky, and others, along with the success of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator game, with its nearly photo-realistic graphics, shows that there is indeed a market for a revamp of Microsoft Space Simulator. Combine all of that with a renewed interest in space exploration by the general public, and we believe that, if developed correctly, a new Microsoft Space Simulator game could be a huge success. Phil Spencer, are you listening?
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