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Best Games - SubSpace

In 1997 you would be lucky to get two computers to talk with one another long enough to play a short game of quake.
It wasn’t impossible. Networked multiplayer games existed. Lots of people played them. I played them. But they weren’t exactly easy to get running. They weren’t exactly responsive. They weren’t exactly stable. The idea of running a single game that could accommodate over two hundred players on a single server, over a dial up modems, well that was sorcery.
Higher speed connections to the internet were available, but they were either extremely expensive or only in specific locales. Wherever you happened to be, that is where high speed internet probably wasn’t. It was all a little too big an ask just to play a multiplayer game. If you wanted to do that you would pack up your pc and move it to where you could hook up a LAN. With a bunch of other people. Maybe even a party. A LAN party.
Now, if I want to play a game with any number of other people I can turn on one of the many devices within arms reach that will let me do that. Including this IPad I am typing on right now.
What if there were some sorcery that let you do that in 1997? What if there was at least one game where you could join in and play with an absolutely staggering amount of people.
SubSpace is all at once close to a decade ahead of its time while also being a throwback to the very early days of video games.
SubSpace is multiplayer Asteroids. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that SubSpace is massively multiplayer Spacewar!.
Spacewar! is a head to head space combat game from the early 60’s. You control a spaceship in pitched combat against another spaceship. There is gravity, inertia, explosions, a star you can slingshot your ship around. It’s actually pretty impressive. And it is likely the first ever video game.
SubSpace is that, but if two hundred other people were also playing and there are missions and team and sometimes you would join up with a bunch of random people from anywhere in the world to play some spaceship soccer.
It felt like it shouldn’t work, but it did. It was amazing.
Unfortunately, being amazing doesn’t always mean commercial success. Subspace didn’t sell well enough to keep the servers running for very long. And like far too many online games, that would have been the end of it. With no server, the game had nothing to call in to, no place in the world to call home.
But SubSpace was amazing, and a lot of people knew that. These people did what people who love something amazing do. They made it their own.
Today on Steam you can play SubSpace Continuum. It is a aground up recreation of SubSpace. I don’t know if there are people playing it now, but I think it might be worth your while to try. Get a group of two hundred or so people together. Go fly tiny 2D spaceships around 2D mazes and shoot at each other. It’s fun. It’s one of the Best Games.
This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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