Hobbyist programmers have been producing their own games since the very first computers appeared, but the professional products are now so hugely impressive that it’s almost impossible for a single developer to compete.
Still, if you can live without photo-realistic graphics and a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer then there are still plenty of smaller projects worth exploring, and Space Combat is a great place to start.
The basic scenario doesn’t exactly sound revolutionary: it’s an open source single-player TIE FIGHTER-like space game, where you patrol the galaxy and destroy enemies wherever you find them.
Still, there’s some depth in a back story based on Asimov’s “Robot” series, and although you can just spend a few minutes blowing things up, it’s not just a mindless shooter. You can choose various ships to fly, work your way through various missions and a whole campaign, navigate many different environments, watch in-game movies, earn medals, achievements and more.
If that’s not enough then you can edit individual missions, even use a scripting language to create your own custom campaigns.
Getting started is very straightforward. There’s no need to install intrusive system components, extra graphics or audio libraries – just download and unzip the core program and it’ll take care of everything else.
Although beware, while the initial download is small, that’s because all the graphics, music, maps and everything else must be downloaded separately (around half a gigabyte of data). But once again there’s no manual hassles involved as the program can do all this itself.
If there’s an issue here is that the keyboard and mouse experience isn’t the best. You can play the game that way, but the developer strongly recommends using a joystick for the best results.
Still, Space Combat is a fun game with plenty to offer, whether you just need a five minute diversion or you’re looking for more depth. Go take a look.