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Video Game / Cosmoteer

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Cosmoteer is a starship design and simulation game created by Walt Destler. Based on an idea for a game he had as a kid, he attempted to create a pen and paper version several times before realizing it was too complex, and decided to instead turn it into a video game.

In the game, you can either play as a bounty hunter, commanding as many ships as you can afford (starting out with one, buying more using credits earned in-game) while you hunt down ships with bounties placed on them in Bounty Hunter mode, or you play as a ship designer with no limits as to how you design your ships in Creative mode.

The Full Steam game has to be bought on steam, but the old versions can be downloaded here, free of charge.

This game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • 2-D Space: while planets and the like hang in the background, the game itself is just on a flat plane.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Averted. There is a limit on ship size for the sake of frame rate stability (which can be disabled through mods), but apart from that you can make your ships and crew as big as you want them to be.
  • Asteroid Miners: You'll inevitable become one yourself. All the resources you need to keep your ship running and fighting can be mined from the countless asteroids everywhere. Surface veins can be accessed by your crew, but the richer veins require mining lasers on your ship to exploit.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Every solar system has a couple. One always encircles the local sun as an asteroid belt, the others are either concentrated in fields or encountered randomly in the void of space. Colliding with one deals minor damage, and the fields in particular are so dense that navigating them with larger ships requires quite a bit of care.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Ships in the game always have two kinds of prominent weak points; Control Room and Reactors. Losing the control room in the ship disables its thrusters and the ability to micromanage weapons, and destroyed reactors cause a massive explosion and often destroy nearby components and crews. To a lesser extent, Engines are also prime targets to destroy, as a ship without them can become easy pickings. They're also usually mounted close to the exterior, unlike the Control Room or Reactors which are usually behind several blocks of armor.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: Ship designs with forked prows can look really cool and also have some tactical benefits, but they become extremely annoying every time you fly through an Asteroid Thicket because smaller asteroids get scooped up between the prongs like fish in a trawler net. This slows down the ship, deals minor damage to the prow armor, and can even end up clogging your Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon, rendering it useless until you perform some precision maneuvering to clear the muzzle.
  • BFG: The large hull-mounted cannon is a gigantic double-barreled artillery piece that fuses twenty standard cannon shells into one massive shell every time it fires. Unsurprisingly, this shell deals huge damage and is very difficult for point-defense guns to shoot down.
  • Boss Battle: Although not officially labeled as such, pirate bases basically serve as this game's bosses. They're huge, heavily armored, even heavier armed, and usually supported by a bunch of weapons platforms and some escort ships. Their sheer size alone means it'll take you a long time to punch through their structure even if you explicitly target their various reactors and command centers, all the while the station's weapons keep pummeling you. Higher-level stations also mount extremely strong arrays of ion beams and railguns, making them even more lethal.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Downplayed in the form of distinctly colored faction ships in Career Mode. More important is the option to give each specialist job you set up on your ship a dedicated uniform color for ease of identification. There's also a popular mod that gives resource labels on the star map various colors other than white, for the same reason.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: Ion beams on their own aren't all that effective. Their main gimmick is the ability to focus multiple beams into special prisms to combine their power. Each beam after the first loses 25% of its damage this way, but you still get a massive net gain if you put some thought into the correct setup. There's almost no limit to how often you can combine and recombine beams, so with enough space and resources you can build a Death Star-level murder beam that vaporizes anything it touches instantly.
  • Deflector Shields: Come in small and large versions. The small ones are less powerful and have a shorter radius, but can be installed inside the ship. The large model is much more powerful, but the necessity to mount it on the hull makes it far more susceptible to incoming fire.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: The whole point of the game is to design and construct your perfect spaceship. Want a fast and nimble fighter? No problem. Need a big industrial rig for mining and refining resources? Go right ahead. Always dreamed of that one gigantic battleship design? This is the game for you.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Finding the right balance between ion beam damage output and space efficiency isn't easy, but good designs can melt almost any enemy in no time while looking spectacular in the process.
    • Solar mining. The local star's corona contains extremely rich asteroids loaded with the game's rarest resources, but trying to mine them the usual way will instantly fry any crewmember that leaves the ship. You need a Tractor Beam, strong shielding and a ton of engine thrust to slowly drag the asteroid out of the corona. If you can manage all of that, resource acquisition becomes trivial.
  • Earth That Was: In the game's backstory, not only Earth but the entire Solar System (including Sol itself) was destroyed in some kind of technological apocalypse, leaving humanity without a home planet or centralized bureaucracy and causing it to fracture into several factions.
  • Easy Logistics: The game's logistic system, while certainly crucial, is rather simple overall. Your crew requires no upkeep at all (no need for food, water or amenities), and no production chain has more than two inputs. Raw resources are plentiful and easily accessible, and getting stuff where you need it isn't hard once you get the hang of your crew's work priority settings.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: While there's nothing stopping you from constructing broadside batteries out of railguns, the vast majority of ship designs have them facing forward. Unlike ion beams and their prisms, railguns can't adjust their firing angle, so they can only fire at targets directly in front of them. And speaking of ion beams, those are usually given the same treatment.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Laser weapons behave largely similar to ballistic cannons, but unlike the latter they require no ammunition other than batteries.
  • Game Mod: Cosmoteer natively supports mods, and there's already a lot of them available on the Steam Workshop, from rebalancing certain parameters to introducing whole sets of new or upgraded components.
  • Gatling Good: The chaingun.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Small maneuverable ships can dodge missiles easily, meaning they can forgo point defense weapons.
  • Kill It with Fire: Weapons like cannons or the ion beam sometimes light an enemy ship on fire. It will spread across the ship and destroy various systems and crews.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Unlike laser bolts, ballistic shells penetrate deep into enemy ships, giving them much higher damage potential overall. The effort to manufacture and supply ammo is negligible, making this a non-issue most of the time. Cannons also have a particularly powerful hull-mounted model that is well-protected from incoming fire; lasers currently don't have a comparable system.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Missile launchers are mounted en masse on many, many enemy ship types. Some designs carry over two dozen launchers, each of which fires once every two seconds. Add in the missiles' travel time and you end up with massive clouds of missile spam bearing down on the hapless target.
  • Made of Explodium: Destroyed reactors always cause massive explosion, so it's better to place reactors in the more protected area. The 15.3 update added bigger reactor types, which will cause a bigger bang when destroyed.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The railgun is one of the weapons ships can use. It has much longer range and more penetration power than ordinary cannons, but each of its components has to be individually charged by batteries. If even a single section is unpowered, the whole weapon becomes inactive, meaning good logistics are mandatory to maintain a stable rate of fire.
  • More Dakka: Since you can't upgrade individual weapons systems in the game except few exceptionsnote , this is the best way to increase your firepower if you can't afford/don't want to buy another ship - and as noted above, the only limits to this are your imaginationnote .
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There isn't really a story to the game unless you create one; it's just hunting down bounties of various ships. It's still very fun.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: In a sense - there's no Game Over screen at the momentnote , but it is possible to technically get a Game Over if all ships you control are destroyed, you don't have enough funds to buy a new one, and you're far in debt.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Most ship weapons have ranges between 150 and 250 meters. Even the longest-ranged weapons rarely exceed 400 meters, which means that most space battles are fought at what's basically melee distance. Particularly big ships can be longer or even wider than their weapons can shoot, leading to capital ships almost touching each other while exchanging broadsides.
  • Nuke 'em: Missile launchers can be loaded with nuclear warheads that, unsurprisingly, deal massive damage in a large radius. Some endgame enemies carry over a dozen of these. Hope you've got plenty of flak cannons.
  • One Hit Poly Kill: Sufficiently strong railguns can punch clean through multiple small ships in a row.
  • Point Defenseless: The base game currently includes two anti-missile systems to avert this: point-defense guns and flak cannons. The former is tiny, not particularly effective, and only needs batteries to run. The latter is huge, eats ammo like candy and needs three crewmen to operate, but is much more powerful in return.
    • Early game stations lack point defense, relying on dedicated defense platforms to shoot down incoming missiles. This makes the Launcher an ideal weapon to use against them.
  • Redshirt: Non-specialized crewmen wear red uniforms and are literally called Redshirts. You can give them individual names and apply some basic cosmetic changes, but this only makes sense on extremely small ships. Late-game crews can number in excess of 1,000 members, at which point you basically command a Redshirt Army where people turn into little more than numbers.
  • Refining Resources: Construction materials can either be purchased at space stations or produced by yourself. For the latter, either your crew or the mining lasers on your ship need to mine asteroids for raw materials, which can then be turned into usable materials by specialized onboard factories.
  • Roboteching: Missile are super-persistent in their tracking, which often results in spectacular flight paths. What's especially impressive is that if the target ship is strafing, missiles will often curve around it to hit its flanks or even its vulnerable aft section. This might be an unintentional result of the game's programming, but it sure looks impressive and can be highly effective in the hands of a capable player. It also allows relatively safe designs with backward-facing missile launchers to work perfectly.
  • Shoutout:
    • The button to confirm changes made in blueprint mode says "Make it so!".
    • Your basic crewmen being called Redshirts is another one to Star Trek.
    • It didn't take long for players to release recreations of spaceships from famous sci-fi franchises as mods, like the Venator star destroyer from Attack of the Clones.
  • Slow Laser: Laser bolts have travel time just like cannon shells.
  • Space Friction: It's in full effect. Spaceships in the game will lose its speed if you turn off the thrusters.
  • Space Mines: Launchers can chose to fire these. While mines are slow and can be shot down by point defense, the shrapnel they release can't.
  • Static Stun Gun: Disruptors fire bolts of electricity that while weak on damage, can disable whatever they hit. They're very ineffective against armor however.
  • Stock Scream: When crews die from fire, you will hear the Wilhelm Scream.
  • Subsystem Damage: A Ship can lose systems like thrusters or weapons from sustained damage, but it still can fight and fly as long as its control room is intact.
  • Tractor Beam: Exists as a very large and power-hungry turret that can be used on enemy ships, but it's mostly a utility tool for Asteroid Miners meant for pulling resource-rich asteroids out of the sun's deadly corona.
  • Variable Mix: The game's soundtrack has two versions of each song. One for when you're in combat (dubbed struggle versions) and one for when you're doing any other activity (dubbed voyager versions). They seamlessly transfer between versions when you enter and finish combat.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Large and properly designed ion beam arrays can vaporize just about anything in the blink of an eye. Some designs focus all the power into a single beam, others prefer multiple beams next to each other. Both versions tend to look appropriately spectacular.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Most systems need some resource to function, so crews must haul batteries or ammunition for each system... with their hands. There is no automated loading.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: There are numerous resources in the game. Ship construction requires steel, copper wiring and enriched uranium, with more advanced parts also requiring rarer and more expensive stuff like tristeel, diamonds or processors. Hyperjump drive systems consume special fuel, and just about everything in the game costs credits. Arguably the most important resources for your ship's continued operation are sulfur and iron, which are necessary to manufacture cannon and missile ammo. Nuclear missiles also require uranium.