Daily Elysium: The Subspace Continuum
Lo, tho I was negged by a villainous mine repper
Then, nailed like the steed of an angry farrier
I shall not cry my lowly station, nor act the pitiable leper
Nay, I shall deal my electric death as a stalwart terrier!
Poetry, much like carpentry, baking, and math, is not for me a strength. But I felt that something special was in order for today's topic, as the focus of this brief exposition is a game near and dear to my heart. A game which I only just recently learned is not only still alive and kicking, but quite free of any and all monetary charges, and no less fun than the last time I visited. For those of you who've ever felt the Subspace addiction, who know why repping a vulching neg after picking up an engine shut-down green is a tense experience, who know the joy of destroying a passing turret with a solid Thor's Hammer, who know the pure hate one can have for a cloaked mine repper, then I have both good and bad news for you. Subspace is still alive.
Usually when people ask what the first MMOG game I played was, my mind leaps straight to Everquest. Of course that's entirely inaccurate, as are many statements I make, as I so rarely remember the time I spent with Subspace. Pretty remarkable considering that I probably spent more total hours playing that game than any other. At one time I fancied myself rather good at the game, a claim that recent experiences completely invalidates. Despite assertions to the opposite, Subspace is not just like riding a bike for two very important reasons:
i) It doesn't have spokes or anywhere to put baseball cards.
ii) It doesn't count as exercise.
For those of you not familiar with Subspace, or as its known now Continuum, it works like this. Imagine an updated version of Asteroids, though not in 3D. Now take out the asteroids and replace them with a few hundred player-manned spaceships similar to yours. Now add mines, bursts, repels, portals, turrets, shrapnel, bombs, upgrades, decoys, and of course 'greens' and you've got the idea. I think that clears things up nicely.
Subspace was released originally by Westwood Studios. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, the original Subspace team went on shortly after to work on the ill-fated and largely forgotten Command and Conquer: Sole Survivor ... bonus points if you ever played or even owned that game. But, Subspace's true successor is the somewhat popular Sony Station game, Infantry. In truth, if you've played Infantry, you'll probably have a pretty solid grasp on the mechanics and variety of Subspace (Continuum), and vice versa. Though, I'm pretty sure that solid comparisons between the two generate a kind of East Coast/West Coast rapper style animosity for players of both games.
Of course, Subspace has been officially dead for several years now, and is thriving entirely off the community that's grown lovingly attached to it. Even the client is not actually the work of the original Subspace team, though you'd never know it, and, of course, the servers are all player run, managed, maintained, and funded. Which is not in anyway to say that the enterprise is amateurish or lesser to the full version. In fact, the players have probably taken better care of the game than Westwood ever might have, and there are as many play types and opponents online now as ever were. In an industry with shelf-life measured in weeks, Subspace is an anomaly, a game people play years later.
I learned that Subspace was still a thriving and perpetually angry community through my younger brother who, it turns out, has been playing the game since I first showed it to him four or five years ago. Don't begrudge him this, as I'm pretty sure it's the most advanced game his antediluvian computer can manage. He's also quite good, or certainly better than it turns out I am now. He does strange things like aim shots, hit opponents with his shots, and dodge the incoming bullets of other players. It was all above my concept of punishing my enemies with the burdensome guilt of my death.
In a way, I'm pretty happy being terrible at modern Subspace, it makes it much easier to not play it, a serious issue back in the day. Where unfortunate incidents such as killing other players or feeling a sense of accomplishment while playing will certainly not be troubling my sleep, I find that playing Subspace now is an experience akin to slamming one's head in a car door. And yet (with me, there's always an 'and yet') I'm happy to have played again, if only briefly, and revel in a moment of grand nostalgia. Sometimes that's the best reason to go back and load up a cherished game for just a brief taste: to ride that tram in the opening of Half-Life, to hear the echoing cry of sieged gnolls in Blackburrow, to see the visceral bodies tear apart in Fallout, and Subspace ... ah Subspace with your piercing chirp of an acquired green, and the breathy sound of a repel, and the heavy thwack of tiny yellow bullets spraying from the front of your ship like a (disgusting excretory analogy omitted).
For those interested in Subspace Continuum, or who even want to download the client and play again, visit Subspace.net.