Terminus is a space-flight role-playing action video game by Vicarious Visions. It was released in 2000 for Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Apple Macintosh. Terminus won awards in the 1999 Independent Games Festival for "Technical Excellence" and "Innovation in Audio".
In Story mode, the player chooses one of four careers (United Earth League military, Mars Consortium militia, Marauder Pirate Clan, mercenary) and follows Terminus's single-player storyline, set in the year 2197. In 2000, Terminus was unusual among RPGs in that the player's actions can affect the ending of the storyline. Failing a mission, for example, may lead to a different ending than would have occurred if the mission had succeeded. One unique feature of Terminus is the story would progress with or without the player. The player could begin the game in story mode, then go off and do something else and the story missions/battles would still take place, reaching an outcome depending on which side eventually wins.
In Free mode, the player chooses a career and does the same as in Story mode, except there will be no storyline missions. In Gauntlet mode, the player outfits a ship with near-infinite money at their disposal, and faces several waves of attackers, with the object of staying alive for as long as possible.
Polygon explained that Vicarious Visions' first major game "following the publishing debacle during college" , was the space combat RPG Terminus. President Karthik Bala said "We ended up getting a personal bank loan for a million dollars. We knew if we didn't figure this out and make it work, we'd be screwed for the rest of our lives." The duo of developers had been left with a mountain of debt from development costs on Synnergist due to the publishers not giving them royalties for the game, and began work on this project on 1996.
Back in January 1998, the "Vicarious Visions' seven full-time employees and squadron of contractors" were laboring to complete the game, which at the time was to be the company's second release". At that point "The development budget for Terminus ha[d] already crossed the $250,000 mark with months' more work to be done before an expected September 1998 release." Vicarious Visions President Karthik Bala said at the time "Terminus will include not only network and Internet play, which is becoming almost standard in games, but also the capability for players to communicate by voice". Bala retrospectively said "The Department of Defense had recently declassified an audio compression algorithm that we ended up using and writing Voice over IP within our game at the time. We did some really cool stuff primarily because it hadn't been done." As a contest finalist at the first annual Independent Games Festival (the game ended up taking home two awards), "Terminus was exhibited on the show floor at the Game Developers Conference, March 16–18 in San Jose, Calif". Polygon explained that despite winning some industry awards, "publishers were reluctant to take on the project [and] when Vatival Entertainment finally shipped the game in 2000, it hardly sold." By 1999, the company employed 15 people, "including four Rensselaer graduates and two undergrads".
Terminus is notable for its implementation of Newtonian laws of motion, which means that objects are subject to inertia. Once accelerated, they float indefinitely in one direction unless again accelerated into a different direction. This makes steering quite complicated, but mirrors actual behavior in free space. BarrysWorld explains "The game has a newtonian (i.e 'realistic') flight model, that is to say that the ships will not fly like jet planes but they will actually obey the laws of Newtonian physics. In order to go in another direction you'll need to slowdown to a stop and then go in the direction that you want to move in. All this will be accomplished by a kind of reaction control system autopilot that attempts to keep you moving in the direction you are pointing" The site added "Terminus should be the first of a series of sims that will encourage 'l33t' skillz to master."
Support for Terminus has long since ended. Although the game is still licensed by Vicarious Visions, the source code was licensed to the owner of the TerminusPoint website to allow continued development of the game and thus has been improved and enhanced. Although the client files are still available at the TerminusPoint website, the project has seemingly been abandoned.
FileFactory Games/Gameworld Network gave 99 out of 100, writing "I bow down to these developers, because they've done an incredible job allowing the user nearly unlimited freedom, while also providing limitless customization combined with outstanding gameplay". Mac Ledge gave 4.5 out of 5. PC Zone gave 86%, saying "Overall, while not as flashy as other recent space-sims, Terminus has lots of substance. It packs so much into the game". GameSpy gave 75%, writing "With Terminus, Vicarious Visions has raised the bar of excellence within three simultaneous genres, but couldn't quite glue all the pieces together into a cohesive whole". Gamer's Pulse gave 71 out of 100, writing "In the end, Terminus failed to truly excite me. That's not to say that the game isn't fun to play; it does offer a good time to the pilot within us all." Mac Addict gave 4 Stars. Adrenaline Vault, The (AVault) gave 3.5 Stars, writing "The addition of Newtonian physics is a misguided attempt at originality, and the graphics that accompany those physics aren't awe inspiring enough to make you forgive its somewhat weak combat elements." Computer Games Magazine gave 3.5 Stars, saying "When everything is said and done, Terminus comes out looking-and feeling-good." Electric Playground gave 7 out of 10, Absolute Games (AG.ru) gave 65 out of 100, and PC Player (Germany) gave 54 out of 100. GameSpot gave 6.5, writing "Terminus offers flawed but nonetheless decent space combat action, along with an impressive online play feature. The game ought to be appealing on account of this and its cross-platform compatibility, but its glitches and general lack of polish considerably diminish its overall quality." LinuxWorld wrote " Terminus is a game like none that I have experienced before. It uses a realtime persistent universe -- a feature that was scoffed at by many in the gaming industry a few years back -- to provide a dynamic and involving environment. It successfully creates a highly intricate and evolving experience that will engage both casual players and hardcore gamers. "