On the Starcruiser, passengers undergo bridge training, they go out into an open area of space and use drones to simulate training objectives. The stations are loading, weapons, systems, and shields. There’s no bus drive problem because there’s no helm station, operations are pretty static. Navigation is handled by the Ship’s Droid intelligence.
At this station, you are intended to go pick up various-sized cargo modules such as passenger luggage or supplies. The interface is pretty simple: you move the cargo loader two-dimensionally across the bottom half of the viewscreen until it’s close to a piece of cargo and then swing your loader arm towards the top of it. If you attach the loader arm to a piece of cargo, then it grabs it and speeds off to the cargo hold automatically. Your cargo loader reappears somewhere on the screen, and you have to find it before you can grab another container. Most cargo containers are the same size as the loader, smaller containers are worth more points. A number of cargo loaders working in unison can grab a ship and move it into the shuttle bay. I do not have a good analog for this 1980s arcade game experience, maybe a claw machine that actually held onto the toy?
The Weapons stations have a targeting sight that you move two-dimensionally across the top of the viewscreen and a firing button to shoot the blasters, or missiles. Blasters have more speed, and missiles do more damage but have a slower reload speed. The weapons station reminds me a little of Missile Command, you place the sight on the target and hit the button as fast as you can. The sight is guided by a joystick and not the famous trackball.
The same people who gave Stormtrooper helmets terrible peripheral vision have large support beams blocking parts of the viewscreen. For the most part, enemies and cargo didn’t appear in the blind spot, but sometimes your targeting sight and cargo loader would get lost there.
The systems panel is a microcosm of the escape room panels in Engineering. There are a number of panels on the systems board, two people work each board, and each has their own screen. The screen will display some status or condition in puzzle format resembling one of the panels in an ideal state. The job of the systems station is to push buttons and flip switches until the panel on the board looks like the panel on the screen. Systems is a very hard station, you do not look up at the main viewscreen, you only match what’s on your board to what your station is asking for. 1980s game analog is playing five different games of Simon at once without having to remember long sequences.
Shields was my favorite station, there are eight people arranged around a circular table on the bridge. The table is divided into four 90-degree arcs around the ship. Each two-person station controls two moveable deflector shield arrays. The shield stations have a button and a spinning knob that moves your shield around the whole ship in an inner or outer ring. Ideally, you keep your 90-degree arc defended, but it’s possible to move into another station’s arc to help them out. Moving the shield would be familiar to people who played Pong or Breakout in the 80s. To explain the game, we need to bring in another 80s video game, Asteroids, not only because many of the story missions had you defending the ship from asteroids but because you have to defend the ship from big shapes if you block them successfully, they break into smaller shapes which also need to be stopped. So if you were shot at by incoming blaster fire, you needed to block it with the shield, if it was a small incoming rock, you needed to block it with the shield, which would stop it or turn it into tiny rocks. There were medium and large rocks too, in order to stop a larger rock, you needed to push your button and reinforce the shields, which also stopped your shield from moving for as long as you held down the button. If a rock was too big, it would pass right through an unreinforced shield. So the job of the outer ring defender is to grab any incoming shots they can stop, but more importantly, break up as many big rocks as possible into smaller rocks that the inner ring defender could stop. Anything that got past both shield defenders would hit the ship, and a red light would flash. In later stages, it was more important for the outer defender to just go after big rocks and trust your partner to pick up the small rocks and blaster fire. Like asteroids, the graphics are simple wireframes and simple geometric shapes.
But wait, there’s more
So the bridge has 4 types of stations, there’s also a lot of display screens for showing high scores and cast members having video calls with characters. And in the center of the bridge there’s the hyperdrive lever, somebody pulls it and the ship makes the jump to hyperspace. When this happens, if there’s time, the cast member usually chooses a passenger to pull the lever. When that happens, stars turn into streaks, then swirling clouds, then you’re somewhere else. You see the hyperspace effect on the main viewscreen, but also the windows in the atrium and every cabin porthole in the ship at the same time. It’s all rendered in real-time.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
So the portholes use high-definition LED TVs or monitors and Fresnel lenses to make them look cool. The atrium windows might be similar, but the main viewscreen is huge, it’s probably rear-projected onto a screen because nobody makes an LED display that big. One of the reverse engineering group pointed out that he looked at the setup and thought that normal projectors could be setup above the weapons stations and pointing at a curved screen. Whenever I was running shields, I never looked at the main viewscreen to see if the asteroids making my life a pain were being missed by the weapons stations or simply a different set of objects entirely. I suspect the shields, like systems, are completely disconnected from what’s happening on the screen otherwise, a good weapons crew might make life boring for the shield crew. I think the biggest difference here from normal bridge sims is that it ties into screens all over the ship, that space is always moving outside the ship, and the bridge can be tied to events such as canned video clips and the arrival of allies and enemy ships at scripted but not necessarily timed entry points probably triggered by a showrunner backstage.
This is my bridge simulator, there are many like it, but this one is Star Wars
Some friends of mine play Artemis, a co-op bridge simulator, it doesn’t have stations for 32 people with a screen big enough for everyone to see clearly or show art house movies on. Usually, it’s 5-6 people playing a Star Trek style bridge. There are other games that do the same thing, This list is from r/BridgeSim, and it’s 8 years old, I’ll add the current statuses and any new entrants as I update this page. In the near future, I’ll create a table with all the bridge simulators currently available and list whether or not they support some of the features available on the Starcruiser.
Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
BridgeSim – a Bridge Simulator released under the MIT license. Their GitHub site.
Pulsar: Lost Colony
Space Nerds in Space – is an open-source bridge simulator inspired by Artemis, is available for Linux, and can set multiple mainscreen windows for a widescreen, and can set client windows to arbitrary viewing angles like the portholes on the sides of a ship. The project has people making physical console builds for their setups, not just hiding laptops. There’s a GitHub site and Subreddit for the project. The lead developer also has a related Patreon.
Starfleet Academy: Starship Bridge Simulator is a 1994 Nintendo game that will be half your search results.
Starship Horizons Bridge Simulator – Starship Horizons Adventures uses live NPC actors to enhance the experience built on the Starship Horizons Bridge Simulator, so they have a LARP angle built around the sim’s capabilities.
Thorium Nova – Now Open Source
Union Spaceship Command
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