When I first encountered this title way back in 1995 (2 full years after its original release date), I thought it was an extremely innovative game. Nowadays, after almost 19 years, I think I still consider Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space, as a genre of its own!
If someone tries to categorize this game, will face a difficult task as it doesn’t seem to belong to a certain category, i.e. space strategy, space simulation or something similar. If someone also tries Wikipedia for information about this game, will find it categorized under “Cold War Video Games” as well as “Business Simulation” games, along with a vast amount of different video game types and genres which have nothing to do with “BARIS”. It is definitely a genre of its own.
Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space is a turn based strategy video game, released in 1993 for MS-DOS. The game was originally developed by a software house, named Strategic Visions and was published by the famous and legendary Interplay. To enhance the game’s marketing strength, the publishers came to an agreement with retired NASA astronaut, Buzz Aldrin to include his name in the title. The video game was based in an older board game which was named LIFTOFF! and which was published successfully in 1989 by the , now defunct, Task Force Games.
The game features a two-sided turn-based game-play, in which you can play the role of the American NASA Director or the Soviet Space director. Both directors’ goal is to win the “space race” by successfully landing on the Moon. The player’s control area is a basic space center, (NASA cape or Baikonur, cantoning at first the basic structures of the vehicle assembly building, the launch facility, the R&D center, the tracking station and the administration. When the game progresses new buildings appear in the complex, as the astronaut's training centers, the Apollo, the Gemini, and other program centers and at least 2 more launchpads. Similar structures exists for the Soviets, as Sputnik, Vostok, Soyuz and other buildings as well as cosmonauts facilities. During the game it is required to purchase rockets and space vessels in order to conduct a line of space missions from earth suborbital to the final descend to Moon, both manned and unmanned. Simultaneously the player must research and develop these vessels in order to boost the safety factor up and be able to conduct missions successfully. The R&D is not the only thing that increases safety. Successful missions increase vessel's safety considerably especially for machinery as docking. The successful rate is also depended to several random factors even if the safety factor is at its highest percentage. Especially in manned missions, the vessels maybe safe but the crew might not be fully trained for the task which will inevitably result in failure. Because of this complexity the player should begin with basic missions comprised of i.e. a simple Atlas or R-7 rocket with a single satellite on which will be launched for a mere earth orbital mission. As one progresses it will be easy to setup a manned mission for earth orbital purposes. But the game difficulty is always increasing as there are limited resources for purchase and development. There is a limited “currency” named MB which are allocated along with research manpower, also very limited. Each round the Mbs are increased by the central budget considering that the player is launching successful missions. More resources are allocated when a successful mission is conducted before the opponent which increases the country prestige!
There are numerous missions to select from with several degrees of difficulty but none can perform every mission available because he will certainly run either out of resources or out of time and the opponent will reach moon first! So it is important to understand which missions are crucial in order to prepare for the final winning move of landing on the Moon. This procedures will be clear after many attempts and failures adding more difficulty to the game. Many of these missions are a “mosaic” of different tasks, multiple crews and more than one vehicles. Reading the manual will make it clearer because the terminology used is not easily understood by everyone.
The game has an astonishing level of realism and depth. It took the developers over two years to develop and when it was released it was received with mixed emotions. Generally it became very popular and resisted in the test of time till nowadays. It was that level of popularity combined with Interplay's solvency that resulted into releasing the source code of the game, back in 2005 which made it possible to port the game to modern machines and operating systems such as Windows, Linux and OSX under a GPL license. The game was made available through SourceForge and one can find the links to download it from the http://www.raceintospace.org/. The BARIS “universe” also contains a development. A company called Slitherine Strategies decided to “remake” the game under the name Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager, in 2013. The game has a r release date of October 2014 and will be available for PCs, MAC, iPAds and Android machines. The Specifications needed to play the game are low :
Operating system: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7/8, Windows Server 2008/2003
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.33GHz or faster processor (or equivalent)
Memory: 1GB for XP, 2GB otherwise
Graphics Memory: 256MB
Display Resolution 1024x768 or greater
Hard disk space: 1.5 GB
Internet Connection (for Multi-player only)
Of course the photos from the game-play seem to be of high quality graphics and taking in mind both the original game and the potential of modern hardware we can expect the sequel or remake, to be even more deep and with a wider range of options.
BARIS of course maybe alone in the genre but quite a adequate number of games existed all the way back to early 80's that complete the gaming universe of space race strategy or simulation, in terms of realism of course and not in terms of ie a science fiction space game. The most notable games out there are:
Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space released in 1983 for Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, MSX and Commodore 64 by Activision. This is more of a space flight simulator and one of the most realistic that existed in early 80's. It is required to control everyting from launch phase through earth re-entry of the shuttle. The game was extrelemy diffcult to accomplish!
Project_Space_Station, released by HESware in 1985 for DOS, Apple II and Commodore 64. It is considered one of the best games of its kind! The player of PSS is required to build a space station and maintain it with extreme emphasis in the resources and economics of the effort. The game is considered to be very realistic and has a great depth in terms of options and tasks to accomplish the goal. This game must be the game that resembles the most to Buzz Aldrin's Race into Space.
Earth Orbit Stations, released in 1987 for Apple II and Commodore 64 by Electronic Arts. In this game the player tries to setup and maintain a workable space station in orbit through a number of difficult tasks. It was considered as an very challenging and thus difficult game, with an even more incomprehensible gaming interface.
Apollo 18 on the Moon Missions released in 1988 from Accolade for Commodore 64. It is a mission simulation game for the cancelled Apollo 18 mission to the moon. It is considered of course extremely difficult because of the variety of tasks required to complete a mission to the moon which is furtherely enhanced by the attention to timing.
Shuttle was space flight simulator released in 1992 by Virgin for Amiga, Atari ST and the PCs. It paved the way to modern space flight simulators and was considered the simulator of the year 1992.
E.S.S. Mega was the abbreviation for European Space Simulator Mega. It was released in 1991 for MS-DOS and Atari St and a version for Amiga CDTV followed in 1992. It is probably the first of its kind to use 3d graphics.
Microsoft Space Simulator was also released in 1994 for MS-DOS. This is was a space flight simulator developed by Microsoft. It was a spinoff of the classic Microsoft Filight simulator series of games.
Space Station Manager which was released in 2003 by Mistaril for Windows, is a dedicated strategy game in which the player is supposed to manage and run a space station.
Orbiter Space Flight Simulator is a freeware space flight simulator developed in 2006 for Windows.
Eagle Lander 3D is a flight simulator in 3D, developed for Windows in 2009.
Space Station SIM is actually a SIMS addon for living and managing the SIMS onboard a space station
There are more games on the subject either commercial or freeware, such as
, released in 2010 as freeware game for Windows by Martin Schwiger or Space Shuttle Simulator is yet another space flight simulator for the fans of the genre . And if you really look around you will find many more of them for the fans who are looking for the absolute realism
Many of the latest, at least after 2005, efforts are considered highly realistic in terms of space flight and are the type of games only the core fans of the genre will acquire. The older games, depending on the license and platform can be downloaded or bought cheaply and can be played on Windows, Linux, OSX and other platforms either natively or through various emulators such as DosBox, Vice or WinUAE.