Star Battle games are games which typically happen in space. They are also called command based strategic simulation games because they are based on a series of commands that get entered (or selected from a list when possible) in order to tell the game what happens next. Everything depends on what the user tells the game to do next.
This type of game has existed since the early 70s on mainframe computers and were quite addictive. With the command based system gave the whole game a feel of the player being in total control of what was happening (or not) in the game.
THE BEST EXAMPLE OF SUCH A GAME:
One of the greatest game of this type is of course trek73 which as it's name implies was first published in 1973. The object, back then, as to get a set of Klingon ships scattered around the known galaxy. This game had it all.
- It had commands to travel amongst the stars for one thing. The "known" space was there for the exploring and you weren't sure in advance what you'd find once you got there.
- It had commands to aim and fire photon torpedoes as well. This was all based on what the user was seeing on the screen at the time.
- It also had long range and short range sensors at your disposal to explore what was in your vicinity and in the neighboring quadrants of space.
- They had the computer which could give information and status report on the condition of the ship (granted back then the status report was rather brief but still enough to be convincing).
- When in trouble you could tell your crew to start fixing the problem areas of the ship to get the ship back to 100% operational mode.
Basically this type of game had it all as you can see. For a game born at the start of the microcomputer age it was a rather complete arsenal of possibilities. This is why it became so popular so fast. Even today you find people that are still creating their versions of the game (myself included).
WHAT MAKES THIS TYPE OF GAME TICK:
The first element of this game is that being space battle, it's not hard to imagine that this games holds a specific vision of the future. Futurist games offer sometimes very unique views of how the authors see the future. Being in the future has a aspect of "unknown" elements that help it as well.
The command based interface also helps a great deal since they represent the technology available to the user as well as what the use can do in the game. The trick is to have everything available a command (or two maximum) away since sometimes the time to react is indicative of how successful your decision will be.
Basically, being a Trekkie helps in this type of game (or at least knowing what Startrek is) since today, most of these space related games are based on Startrek. So if you know StarTrek you'll know why things are the way the are for alot of these space battle games.
STAR BATTLE GAMES TODAY:
On a more recent note, there are many ports of this classic games available today for many different languages and Operating Systems. There are even many ports which featured graphics and sounds to boost. It seems Trekkies just can't get enough of these types of games and probably for a good reason too.
One of the more recent ports of the game is called OpenTrek and is open source. You can tell from the screen shots on that page that the game has evolved visually but stayed the same internally so to speak.
All in all, it seems new Startrek like projects seem to surface all the time. For some reason I don't believe we'll see an end to this type of game until we actually meet the vulcans or klingons because space, the unknown and exploration seem to be strong defining attributes of humanity today.