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27/02/2011 Artistic Novel Gamer Podcast
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Infinite Space DS

Infinite Space




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Returning Gamer (DS)

Reaching Infinite Space: Ever since he was a child, Yuri had dreamed of visiting the stars. Now given the chance will he find that his dreams are everything they promised to be?

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Chapter the first: Comrades and coincidence

My name is Yuri and I have always dreamed of leaving my home planet and reaching for the stars. Last night I witnessed a raging battle in the heavens.
At first I thought it was a shooting star. That was, until I realised it was growing larger and heading toward me. It crashed mere metres from where I was standing and I could see that it was a star-ship, badly damaged.
I climbed in to see if there were any survivors.

She was lying across the command console; she was beautifully drawn, if you know what I mean. I climbed down and helped her out of her craft.
"Typical men," she exclaimed, "a few quick shots and they're gone."

Right, I thought, is that how this is going to be? First thing I've heard anyone say and this is the level I'm to expect?
"Oh sorry," she says, "I've just been shot down. Not feeling myself. My name is Nia."

"Are you a launcher?" I asked, excitedly. Launchers were known for providing people who wanted to go into space with passage and a good start to their freelance adventures.

Nia cocked her head on one side and looked at me, "where'd you get that from?"

"Well," I explained, "Iím an orphan, living on a planet where space travel is totally banned, who dreams of flying off into the stars. Iím really hoping that - on top of the infinitesimal probability of a space craft crashing right in front of me - the first person Iíve ever met from space turns out to be a 'launcherí."

She raised an eyebrow. "Have you any idea what the chances against that kind of coincidence are?"

Not put off, I persisted, "Well, are you?"

Her incredulous look turned to a frown, "as it happens, I am. But, so help me, Grus, if there doesn't turn out to be a really good plot reason for this coincidence..."

I cheered, heartily.

"Anyway," Nia sighed, "I can't go anywhere. My ship is busted up and it would be stretching the realms of possibility if the one person I crashed in front of happens to be a 16-year old prodigy when it comes to fixing star-drives and single-handedly welding the shattered hull of a 40-tonne star-ship back together."
I just looked at her and grinned.

Chapter the second: Freedoms and Peons

We left my home world behind and flew out into space, heading for a planet where I could buy my own ship. I pawned my one and only possession: a relic of great interest and plot-propelling mystery left for me by my long-dead father.

My first ship was not at all what I was expecting.

Nia's ship seemed small, homely and just the sort of place to learn about flying; the ship we bought for me was a 320m long destroyer, with a crew of 200 people. 200! I'm only 16 and I've never been in space before; how could I suddenly manage 200 people! We sat down for a drink so I could talk to Nia about my concerns.

"Don't worry about them," Nia assured me, "you don't need to worry too much about the crew. We don't see them a lot."

"What!?" I exclaimed, suddenly gulping my tea, "I don't ever meet any of my crew?"

"Oh, it's not like that. If you meet anyone with a name they can be recruited as officers and placed in specific command roles. But, yeah, the general crew are just... sorta... there..."

"But these people are going to live and die at my command!" I protested.

"Just make sure you fit crew quarters and a mess hall and they'll be fine. Maybe a doctor to patch them up to get back into battle." She shrugged.
I spluttered my tea all over the Navigation console. "I don't even PAY them?" I gasped.

"Look," Nia became exasperated, "you'll have enough on your plate wandering around the universe 'finding yourself' without having to think of the welfare of 200 people you'll never meet."

"But... that's... SLAVERY!"

"Oh give it a rest."

I was starting to feel that this life was not going to be as glamorous as I had hoped. Still, I thought, at least we can put this ship to good use. There must be oppressed masses to free, princesses to save and historical ruins to explore.

"So, what's our first mission?" I relaxed and took a big mouthful of warm, re-assuring tea.

Nia didn't even look up, "oh, um, we're going to knock over a commercial transport full of luxury goods."
She was still wringing tea out of her hair ten minutes later.

Chapter the third: In control and out of control

If the realities of this life and the story in which I found myself are stretching the limits of my credulity and morality, these challenges were as nothing compared to the practicalities of actually living this life.

"Have you decided what to call your ship, Yuri?" Nia asked cheerfully.
"Yeah, Amistad."

"Oh, don't start!"

The star-ship controls seemed to have been designed by two or more people who didn't like to talk to each other. A feature labelled Anti-Ship on the Fire Control System seems to report this same statistic as "Dexterity" during battle (whatever that means). Overall the whole experience of controlling my fleet was extremely awkward. A misunderstanding over the quirks of "saving" (some sort of backup process, Nia assures me) resulting in me having to repeat much of my journey multiple times.

Compared to my dreams of piloting a star-ship the reality was kinda dull.


"Yes" she looked up, wearily.

"I thought space battles would be all manoeuvres, tactics and daring?"

"And?" she asked, nonplussed.

"I seem to spend most of my time using Excel. I've stared at more comparative rows of figures than... I don't know when and even though I'm adjusting the ship's attack strength and speed it doesn't seem to have any direct relation to my ability in battle. And, battle's another gripe. I thought it would be a cunning battle of wits, but it's mostly just a case of waiting for the other bloke to turn his back and then pressing a big red button. Admittedly I have 2 buttons to push and they have their pros and cons but it's just... not..."

"Go on," Nia said kindly, "say it."

"It's just not Battlestar Galactica."

"Would you like to try Melee battle?" she offers kindly.

"Ooh what's that?"

"That's where we board the enemy ship and, using the whole crew we -- please don't look at me like that -- using the whole crew we fight hand to hand until either crew is totally slaughtered." Nia smiled, sweetly.
"Well," I really wasn't sure if this was such a good idea, but I thought it might break up the repetitive battle I was in the middle of, "let's try it."

We drew the ship alongside the enemy and all piled aboard.

Our crew stood in ranks, fearlessly facing the opposition. The enemy crew had also assembled line after line of grinning, toothless and battle-scarred pirates. Neither side knew fear, intimidation or had any doubt that they would fight to their last breath for their Captain.

"Ready," came the first barked order.

"Aim," both crews tensed.

"Scissors!" my crew began attacking with scissors. On this day, fortune smiled and the enemy had planned their first barrage using paper! Oh how the gods of war smiled upon this...

"Hang on!" I shouted. All 200 warriors stopped and looked at me. I looked at Nia with a suspicious expression. "Is this just rock, paper, scissors?"

"Well, no," she explained, "there are three commands, Leader, Shoot and Slash and they..." she paused.
"Are basically just a big game of rock, paper, scissors?" I asked.

"Itís better than that," she said, "Your enemy is so predictable after a couple of games you can predict which they are going to use next. Assuming, that is, that the enemy just doesnít decide to continuously retreat until you get fed up and go back to firing on their ship."

"But," I kept on questioning, "my feeling is -- and do forgive me if this question seems a little bit basic -- that that is complete rubbish?"

"Well I'm sorry," Nia retorted, hurt showing on her face, "that's just how things are out here!"

I was so disappointed. Space looked so exciting. The ships were gloriously presented, the actions in battle were smooth and film-like and space even sounded glorious -- everywhere we went a thrilling score accompanied us.

But, in the midst of all this I spent most of my time fighting a bad control system, staring at numbers, re-using battle tactics and playing rock, paper, bloody scissors!

"Well," I sighed, "I've come this far. I'll stick with you for now; but, if it doesn't get more any more interesting I'm going back home to my Pokemon breeding."

"Fair enough," said Nia and took my hand. "Ooh, they're about to use 'shoot', you should switch to 'slash'."

I was aware of the sound of my teeth grinding together. "Swords against infantry? How does that even work....?"

Written by Chris Jarvis

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Chris Jarvis writes the Novel Gamer column.

"I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."

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