This is the story all about how a game got flipped, turned upside down. I'd like to take a minute, so sit right there, and I'll tell you how Continuum became freeware.
Continuum, formerly SubSpace, is a great example of how software piracy can go awry. Originally developed as an experiment to test the implications and severity of lag in a multiplayer dial-up environment, its creators realized the commercial potential of a game using the technology. And voila, SubSpace was created.
A two year beta testing phase occurred before the game's official commercial release. During this phase, and early after the game's commercial release, there were only a few servers and ships to use in play. Replay value, however, was huge. Due to the amounts of players, which were unheard of at the time, it may be considered one of the first entries in the massively multiplayer online game genre.
Unfortunately, many players refused to pay for a game they had previously, for two years, played for free. The "warez" group CLASS released a widely used crack for the game which allowed anyone and everyone to play the game for free. The creators went bankrupt in 1998, but the game had been distributed with the server files so, luckily, the game could still be played.
Enough of this history lesson. Continuum is really quite fun and has many different servers, some even with somewhat different gameplay. You have the capture-the-point gameplay of the main arena in the Death Star Battle server and the experience and cash based system of Hyperspace. Some servers even have completely different graphics that aren't even space-based!
The basic gameplay, though, consists of flying your ship and shooting lasers at enemies. Your ship can move either forwards or backwards and moves similar to a ship in the classic, Asteroids. The control key fires lasers which launch forward relative to your ship. Hit another player's ship with your lasers and their shields will be damaged. If their shields reach zero they will explode. Luckily, after being hit, your shields recharge quickly, allowing dogfights to last quite a while.
In addition to your basic laser you can also fire missiles. Missiles do much more damage than lasers but can only be carried in limited quantities.
You also have an array of power-ups to use. There are radar jammers, rocket boosters and even invisibility fields! These are activated with the function keys, however, which makes using them on many laptops a difficult task.
The shift key modifies actions. Moving forwards or backwards with it pressed utilizes your after-burners, firing a missile drops a mine and powerups have slightly altered effects.
In most servers you have eight spaceships to choose from, each with a different load-out of power-ups and weapons. This helps gameplay from becoming stale and allows each player to find a ship that fits their play style.
The user-created nature of Continuum lends itself well to different game types. Your basic CTF and deathmatch modes are there, as well as some more exotic game-modes such as asteroids, where individuals or teams must bash the living daylights out of a bunch of space rocks. Because of the amount of game types it is very unlikely that you will ever find yourself bored.
At one time there may be up to 300 players online in a server at once. This is awesome, as you won't ever have a shortage of targets to kill.
The only two caveats to Continuum are the bouncing physics, which make it difficult to fly through tight turns and tunnels sometimes, and the fact that you will sometimes be kicked into spectator mode for high lag once in awhile. This has only happened to me a few times but none of them were due to the lag on my side.
Continuum is a great multiplayer space shooter that plays like a game of asteroids where the asteroids can defend themselves. It combines the best of the space-shooter genre with the best of the MMO genre to create something that almost anyone can enjoy... unless you are just bad at playing Asteroids, of course.