Play Escape Velocity, or be Somebody's Fool

November 2000.

a part of E-Maculation

Update from 2009: Wow! This super-old article gets viewed a lot. Please instead check out these notes about playing Escape Velocity in Windows. They are a little more up-to-date.

What's this all about?

News is kinda slim these days. To make up for it, I have decided to start writing periodic columns about what you can do with your emulated Macintosh.

The inaugural column will deal with something I've been kicking around for quite some time now... playing Ambrosia SoftWare's "Escape Velocity" on an emulated Macintosh.

Beware... these columns are going to be mighty rough. I just do not have the time to fine tune them. In the meantime...

Enough Jibba-Jabba, how do I get started?

I will assume that you have already know how to use an emulator, and have downloaded Escape Velocity from this site. Given that, you must know that this game runs best in Basilisk II. Fusion 3.0, by Emulators, Inc., offers much better speed, but graphical problems may render the game unusable. If you do not have it already, get ahold of Gwenole Beauchesne's latest Windows build of Basilisk II here. To learn about setting up the emulator, check out this guide. The latest version of the emulator should run the game without any problems. If you need some help with the emulator, stop by our forum.

Okay... What's this game all about?

The premise here is simple. Pay attention.

1) Humans settle the galaxy
2) Humans become rich!
3) Aliens attack
4) Humans form a massive confederation
5) Aliens are rendered extinct
6) The confederation becomes corrupt
7) The "outer planets" become oppressed
8) 15 years pass
9) The outer planets begin to rebel
10) The rebels become strong
12) You boot up "Escape Velocity"

GRRRRR... I wanna kick some evil empire butt...

So... you want to kick some "evil empire" butt, do you?

Um, I just said that, fool.

Sorry. Anyhow, You're in the wrong game... for now. You start Escape Velocity with a shuttle craft. Yes, a shuttle craft, straight out of Star Trek. As you probably guessed, a shuttle craft is not very effective when going up against an armada of evil empire ships, and yes, there are armadas of evil empire ships.

So... what can I do with my little shuttle?

You've gotta use the economy, stupid. Start by hauling cargo and passengers around the galaxy to make a quick buck. Trade in commodities. Dabble in the planetary casinos. Stay clear of pirates...


Yes, Pirates. More on that later.


... stay clear of pirates and keep hauling ass around the galaxy, and eventually you will build up a small stash of credits. You can use these credits to upgrade your shuttle (try buying a gun), hire another ship to follow you around (another shuttle?), or you can keep saving them up and buy a better ship (a "courier" is a sure bet).

But CW, this game is more complicated than a custom GMC van. I need help!

Yes, this game is complicated. But this isn't a bad thing. When you are in-game for the first time, looking at your shuttle (and your first planet, "Levo"), hit "Esc" to go to the options screen, and hit "preferences." Make a note of some key commands. When you get back to the game, do not move your shuttle. Hit "L" a couple of times to land on Levo. This is a small planet; it does not have every option available later on. Enter the commodity exchange. If any of the prices are at medium or low, buy as much of that commodity as possible. Leave the commodity exchange. Enter the mission computer. Since your cargo hold is probably full of commodities right now, you will be limited to ferrying passengers. Highlight a mission that interests you. While you have highlighted the mission, you can hit the "M" key to get a general idea of where this mission will take you, relative to your current location. Accept a ferry mission that looks interesting. Leave the mission computer and enter the spaceport bar. Here, you can hire an escort, gamble, or gather information relating to other missions you will later encounter. This area is not much help to you right now. Explore the options if you like.

Once you are finished on Levo, leave the planet and head back to your shuttle. Now it is time to get the hang of controlling your ship. Maneuvering is quite tricky at first. Hit the forward arrow to accelerate, then position your ship using the side arrows. Changing direction is difficult... trust me, you will get the hang of it eventually. When you have reached a basic proficiency in maneuvering your shuttle, hit the tab key. If any other ships are in this system they will become highlighted on the right side of your screen. Hit "Y" to hail one that you have selected. The ship will respond, but will likely not have too much to say. This is okay.

When you have finished talking to the nearby ships, hit "M" to get a look at nearby planets. Notice "Levo" on the map in front of you. You are here. A red dot will mark the planet you must ferry your passengers to. To get there, hold down the "shift" key and select an unmarked system that is in its general direction. Exit your map. Hit "J" and you will "hyper jump" to that system. Before moving on, you ought to land at this new planet. Hit "L" and approach. (If more than one planet is in the system, use the number keys to cycle through them). You must be close to the planet and slow moving to land. Achieving this is tricky. A tip: Head towards the planet at full speed. When you near the planet, point your shuttle the opposite direction, but keep moving toward the planet. You should be advancing at in reverse. When you are nearly there, hit the up key, and your speed should decrease. When you are near to a stop, hit L again and you should land. I know, I know. Just Try again. Now that you have...

Enough Jibba-Jabba, get to where I kick evil empire butt!

Fine. A few more points, though.


Enter the commodity exchange. If you can, sell the goods in your hold at a profit. Do this time and time again, as you advance through the game.

If you can upgrade your ship here, BUY AN ESCAPE POD AND AN AUTO-EJECT DEVICE. You have limited control over saving in this game... if your ship is going to blow, you want to make sure that you can get out of it.

From here, just keep exploring and making money. You'll figure it out. The documentation is good in a pinch, too.

Knock Knock

Um... who's there?


Um... us who?

Us who's gunna knock you out fool!


That's right. So... why is this game so good?

Graphics: Not good. They are low key, as you can probably tell by now. You have a little ship that you fly around flat little planets... and other little ships. You shoot little blips at the other little ships. Nothing special here.

Sound: Minimal and bad. The theme song is annoying.

Control: Complicated, and keyboard based. This is not good.

This game is good, right?

Scope: This baby is epic. You can pretty much do whatever you want. Start off hauling cargo. Buy a bigger ship. Buy some missiles. Buy a really big gun. Buy an illegal shield booster. Buy a cargo freighter to follow you around. Spot a massive confederate freighter and take it down. Board it and steal its cargo. Sell it at a pirate space station on the fringe. Or not. If you would rather be a righteous SOB, you can hide out in a nearby asteroid belt and hunt down pirate ships. Plunder them and set 'em ablaze, or capture them whole. As a bonus, nearby planets will think of you as a hero. Still not interested? Try getting involved with the civil war. Hang around rebel planets hauling cargo until you get in contact with an agent of the rebellion. Do the bidding of the rebel commanders. Or vica versa... it's your call. If none of this is your cup of tea... just hang around. Pull cargo across the galaxy, dabble in piracy, keep the balance of power... don't piss anyone off and you can amass quite a fortune. Dump that fortune into an illegal attack fighter from a shady looking pirate and go on a little rampage. Hell, you can even start your own empire.

If you are a bugger for "story," you can even follow along rather concrete career paths by picking the right missions. This is quite fun, too.

Replayability: Given that this game is open-ended, you can replay numerous times. However, if you play the game to death, numerous fan-made additions are available. Head on over to Ambrosia Software for a look at the latest. You can do as little as inserting custom weapons and ship designs, to giving the galaxy a "Star Wars" face-lift. The call is yours.

But CW...


Pirates just got me... I lost my brand new custom ship... and I have no money!

Quit the game entirely. Reload, and enter your ship. You should be a few moves back.

Pirates KEEP killing me...

Don't fight in your shuttle. Buy a "courier." Install a turret. This will give you an auto targeting system. If this isn't enough, buy a missile rack and about a half dozen missiles. These missiles lock on, and three or four should be enough to take out some early pirates. You may also need to stock up on flares and an launcher for them. They will throw incoming missiles away from you.

I can't shoot missiles and flares...

Hit "W" to select a SECONDARY weapon, and hit shift to fire.

I can't get any special missions...

Talk to ships that show up as "traders" on your tab menu. Stop in the bar at every planet you hit. They'll come.

This game is too slow...

Hit the "Caps Lock" key to give yourself a 2x speed boost. Turn it off to fight.

This game is more addictive than smack AND speed balls. What else can I play?

This game has not been ported to Windows. However, part three of the Escape Velocity series - Escape Velocity Nova - has been ported. And if you pay to register that game, you can download the entire scenario of the first game as an add-on. On the PC platform, meanwhile, you might want to hunt around for a copy of Sid Meir's classic "Pirates! Gold." In this title, you play a pirate on the Spanish Main. The gameplay is somewhat similar.

An old game called "Solar Winds," (published years ago by Epic MegaGames) bears a passing resemblance. Solar Winds, however is an addictive adventure/arcade blend.

Have we reached The End?

Yes. Have fun.


Do you got the stuff?


Ambrosia Software. Download Escape Velocity

BasiliskII for Windows. Download Basilisk II