Orbiter 2010 is a free, physically realistic space simulation engine. With hundreds of add-ons from the Apollo missions to fictional starships from Star Wars and Star Trek, there is plenty to keep any avid flight sim fan occupied for weeks. Warning: This simulator requires some learning to get it going–but once you learn how to make it go, you command some of the most amazing flying that you will ever do, real or sim.
Orbiter is open-source (free), and installs simply by dropping the files in a folder–no changes to the registry needed. However, an installer is available if you wish. Right ‘out of the box’ you can launch and play, no joystick is required as all the controls are found on the keyboard. If you are going to use a joystick, keep in mind that even the slightest non-centered pressure on the stick can cause a huge problem when you run time forward to avoid having to actually wait six months to get to Mars. I personally recommend the fighterstick USB and pro throttle USB from CH Products. Both are very solid in construction and will serve your flight simming needs for many years.
You are probably going to want to either print out or have a tablet or other device handy for the Orbiter Manual. There are a LOT of controls and some pretty complicated systems to learn. The base install now comes with TransX, a transfer orbit Multi-Function Display (MFD), which compliments the vanilla MFD built in to Orbiter. Using these tools you will soon grasp the fundamentals of space flight–real rocket science–without having to do all the math yourself (whew!). Practice docking with a space station, making a Hohmann Transfer to the moon, or even try to land on a comet or asteroid! When you have the basics down and are interested in expanding your fleet, there are plenty of vessels out there for you to try–everything from Apollo missions for those who like realistic, to X-wings and the Enterprise for those who want to be a little more fanstastical. One thing is for certain: This isn’t your typical space-flight turn and burn. Orbiter takes practice, patience, and skill.
- Advanced MFD systems and the need for counteractive flying techniques make this game challenging in the extreme.
- One of the best parts of the game is that you get to learn about space flight. Not just the history, either. You get to learn about the physics of launch, orbit, transfers, gravitational slingshots, and more.
- If you are not into flight sims, this might not be as fun. If you are only into fighter type sims, this may not be as fun. If you are wont to sit in front of your computer for hours honing your flying skills, this game is going to be a LOT of fun.
Presentation: Med – High
- The graphics are decent with the base install, and Orbiter comes with no sound. Luckily, you can install sound via a plugin, as well as improve the textures used by the game. Planets, unfortunately, are all flat–there is no support for terrain meshing.
Orbiter Home – Home of the project itself.
Some of the more important associated links:
Dan’s Orbiter Page – Some of the most important add-ons for the complete Orbiter experience.
Orbiter Hangar – Probably the most comprehensive collection of add-ons for Orbiter.
Altea Aerospace – Doug’s Orbiter page, home of some slick ships for your flying enjoyment.
Don’t forget to check out the links on the Orbiter Home Page, from there you can find just about everything Orbiter that you will ever need!
Orbiter 2015 is supposed to be coming out soon, I haven’t seen a release date but it is in Beta Testing. It may well become Orbiter 2016 by the time it is released. I’m hearing great things about the new version–better graphics, terrain meshing, and some other general improvements. In the meantime, 2010 offers plenty of challenge.