Casual Interstellar Travel
"If you know how warp drive actually works, stop wasting time writing science fiction and get thee to a patent attorney as fast as possible so you can begin to enjoy your reign as the Bill Gates of faster-than-light travel."
—Phillip Athans and R. A. Salvatore, Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction
In real life, so far as we can tell, interstellar travel is an epic undertaking. Since we do not know of a form of achievable faster than light travel, it would take almost five years to reach even the nearest star, and thirty thousand to reach the center of the galaxy. And that's assuming you can get a ship up to near lightspeed, and decelerate again when you reach your destination, both of which present massive logistical challenges. Not to mention the fact that, at those speeds, the tiniest dust particle becomes a deadly hazard. And if anything goes wrong, you're stuck hurtling through the depths of space with no chance of being rescued and no hope of escape. Not a prospect for the faint of heart.
Sometimes, however, interstellar travel appears to be about as trivially easy and quick as driving an automobile a few kilometers down a paved road is in modern society. Usually this takes the form of some kind of teleportation network, but there are quite a few settings where ships capable of traveling thousands or millions of times the speed of light are available to every Tom, Richard, and Harry.
This can happen when writers do not think things through and treat planets like towns and interstellar voyages like intercontinental flights or, at worst, like crossing an ocean in a steamship. If the sci-fi writers have any sense of scale, then the scale of civilization surpasses our one planet easily. And probably mocks the Mundane Manifesto while it's at it.
It can also be done deliberately, in the very softest SF, where all sense of realism has long since been tossed out the window. For instance, the writer just may feel that places in space are pretty close and just Hand Wave it.
Many find this trope relatively easy to swallow when applied to some form of Portal Network, but being able to walk into a seedy bar on a Crapsack World and hire a ship to take you to a planet of Crystal Spires and Togas requires prodigious application of the MST3K Mantra.
Anime and Manga
- Variation in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which has Casual Interdimensional Travel. It looks and acts just like your typical Casual Interstellar Travel, complete with Cool Starships traveling through what looks like hyperspace, only they don't have to worry about Real Life distances between planets and tend to teleport people down to the surface rather than leave hyperspace and land. It's mostly done through magic. The "casual" part is subverted, since only Sufficiently Advanced Alien individuals with magical powers can casually travel interdimensionally, regular Earthlings don't even know of the existence of magic and other worlds. Even these individuals need to get permission from the Dimensional Administration Bureau.
- In the Hentai OVA Bondage Queen Kate, traveling to the far reaches of the galaxy is portrayed as being no more taxing than visiting another country is for humans today. The desert planet of Dune is known as a popular tourist destination.
- Macross Frontier is a rather unconventional example. FTL travel via Space Folding is possible, but has large energy requirements and is unpredictable. Travel between stars however, is casual, and quite comfortable actually, since the series takes place on what is essentially a fleet of island-sized domeships containing huge sprawling metropolises, small oceans, green fields forests and farmland In SPACE! It's actually likely that the Frontier's citizens have a higher standard of living than the people of Earth, since the planet itself is recovering from a space war.
- In one episode of Dirty Pair, Kei and Yuri decide to stop off on a planet, on their way to a dinner date on another planet, because they have a nice shopping mall there. Another depicts commercial interstellar space travel as more or less resembling modern airlines.
- In The Essential Silver Surfer a villain wants to prove to Shalla Bal that Norrin Radd (the Surfer) is dead in order he can move in on her, so they pop across to Earth in his ship. Come to think of it, how did he even know where to go?
- Attempted and failed with The Smurfs in the story "The Astro Smurf". In both the comics and the cartoon episode, Astro Smurf/Dreamy attempts to travel to the stars by using a Smurf-made rocket ship where pedal power operates a propeller at the bottom of the rocket. Unfortunately, try as he did, the main character of the story was unable to get the rocket off the ground. The rest of the Smurfs decide to make Astro Smurf/Dreamy believe that the rocket was fixed and now works by taking him on a Fauxtastic Voyage to another planet which turns out to be the inside of an extinct volcano and disguising themselves as Schlips (Swoofs in the cartoon show). It was repeated in the cartoon show story sequel "Dreamy's Pen Pals", except that the Smurfs simply transformed the village into the Swoof Village by using stage props, but Brainy had cut corners on completing the complex formula for transforming the Smurfs into Swoofs, so they ended up changing back into Smurfs a bit too soon.
- In The Fifth Element, star-hopping is apparently a common past-time of the rich and powerful, who think no more of vacationing on another planet (or as in the film, on cruise ship orbiting a planet) as their counterparts today would of seeing the Caribbean.
- Star Wars is so completely based on this trope that it's really hard to come up with concrete examples. They're everywhere. Even the Death Star - large enough to be mistaken for a moon - goes traipsing around the galaxy freely. In the EU, people have worked out the speeds of Hyperdrive travel based on evidence in the movies and the EU, and a good course will get you across the galaxy in a week. In the films, cross-galactic travel is accomplished in mere hours (unless you think Obi-Wan and Luke spent days and weeks on the Millenium Falcon on the trip from Tatooine (Outer Rim) to Alderaan (Core World). There's also Padme's trip from Coruscant (Core World) to Mustafar (Outer Rim).
- The KOTOR games make for an interesting study. Once you have free reins with the Ebon Hawk, you can fly back and forth between the various planets as much as you like. Time isn't a factor, and you never visit more than a single location on each planet. At no point whatsoever is the issue of fuel brought up... Once you get access to the Yavin space station, you'll go there after every mission, just to shop, because they have good deals. That's right. You'll cross the galaxy at mind-bending speeds for a discount on a blaster.
- Completely averted in The Black Fleet Crisis, and to a lesser extent the book Showdown at Centerpoint, which put reader perspective into civilian craft without the support of massive interstellar corporations, governments, militaries, or criminal syndicates. These ships are slow, have about as many creature comforts as a minivan, and the regulations upon them make it simply not worth it. Most other sources mention, but do not elaborate upon, the simple fact that the average person in the galaxy never sees the other side of his own planet, let alone anything beyond the stars. Many characters have noted that visiting hundreds of worlds really means setting down in a starport, exchanging cargo, grabbing a bite, and heading out. In short, interstellar travel may be abundant but it is not casual let alone comfortable to anyone below the elite, which happens to include all the protagonists.
- Yoda: Dark Rendezvous has some Jedi trying to sneak off Coruscant on a budget passenger liner. They're all horrified to various degrees by the crowding, delays, security, and so on that they usually get to bypass.
- Also, in the X Wing Series, interstellar travel certainly is easy for the protagonists, who are part of the New Republic military and have military ships, including single-pilot snubfighters, which can go into hyperspace. But in Wraith Squadron the Wraiths go undercover as various tourists, specifically as tourist stereotypes which customs officials see all the time. An aged and exiled but still liquid senator and his bodyguards buying transportation in the same small shuttle as a failed test pilot with a long-suffering wife and three absolute hicks is seen as completely unremarkable. Those same hicks fit into the mold of yokels who have blown their entire savings on a single trip to a more civilized world.
- The vibe seems to be that interstellar travel is like air travel about 50 years ago. If you want to, you can make a living doing it, but it's rather difficult.
- One limitation seems to be the dependency on specific hyperspace routes. With a good route, you're quite capable of getting from one end to the galaxy to the other in no time. Without one, you're stuck with slower, more roundabout methods. It's probably best to assume when there are inconsistencies, they were using different routes.
- The 80s comedy Morons From Outer Space involves an interstellar spaceship crashing on the earth, with Earth officials positive the aliens are of high intelligence in order to pilot such a ship. If only they'd seen the movie's title...
- This is very evident in Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, to the point that not only are criminals routinely shipped to penal planets in other star systems, it's possible to make a living as a bounty hunter even with having to shlep the prisoner to the prison planet yourself.
- The Milky way from Perry Rhodan contain numerous way of FTL travel, more than a dozen can be found, without pointing that during the course of the serie "the powers that be" decide to increase the universe impedance, making FTL harder.
- The Humanx Commonwealth of Alan Dean Foster plays Space Is an Ocean fairly freely—while interstellar travel isn't necessarily cheap canonically, within the story most characters consider it to be no more inconvenient than a long plane trip would be to us. In perhaps the most over-the-top example, Mid-Flinx features a character who travels to a barely-documented planet, only to be followed by three other ships which are looking for him. This would seem far less improbable if he hadn't gotten there by pointing in a random direction and instructing his ship to take him "that way". Then again, Flinx is the Chosen One of his particular universe, so it's quite likely his venture there was not entirely random.
- Robert A. Heinlein's various works catalog a wide range of interstellar travel options, depending on the continuity.
- His "Future History" series discusses the evolution of space travel from the first manned spaceflight, to the first FTL capable vessel, to the point where it's as easy as hopping into a rental ship and flitting between star systems. This trope isn't fully expressed, however, until The Number of the Beast, whose protagonists invent a dimension-hopping device that lets them travel to any time, place, or universe as easily as flipping a switch.
- In Have Space Suit - Will Travel, the starships of the Three Galaxies organization can jump between stars and galaxies in almost no time at all. Most of the travel time between planets is entering and leaving the planets' atmospheres.
- Louis Wu, from Larry Niven's Known Space novels, had spent most of his centuries of life hopping from planet to planet, merely out of restlessness. Indeed, when he gets fed up with human company in general, he takes off in a private spacecraft and starts travelling in a random direction, with no concern for the expense or the difficulty which returning to the inhabited parts of Known Space might pose.
- Partially used in Dan Simmons' Hyperion and Endymion books - during the first half (Hyperion), travel to any given point is quick, through a system of teleporter gates. The entire galaxy as melted together into one gigantic metropolis, since any given city is never further away than the nearest jump-gate. Particularly rich people have their houses divided over several planets, with Gates instead of ordinary doors. However, in Endymion, a major plot-twist at the end of Hyperion has destroyed this system, and interstellar travel is now only available to particularly powerful organizations and the enormously wealthy... In Endymion the only remaining mode of instantaneous travel kills you when it is used.
- And then it turns out that Aenea can teach people a way to teleport themselves to any planet in the universe that has life on it. Instant teleportation without needing a spaceship defines this trope.
- Glasshouse by Charles Stross has interstellar teleportation, though as the characters are practically Sufficiently Advanced Humans this may be unsurprising.
- "The Road Not Taken", a short story by Harry Turtledove, is the uber-example of this trope. It posits that anti-gravity and hyper-drive are easy to discover, but lead societies away from further advances. So the galaxy is populated by a bunch of species who all have interstellar Global Airships, - and black-powder muskets at best. One such species tries to invade Earth with disastrous (for them) results.
- In the Honor Harrington series, it is explained that it's cheaper to ship bulk cargo from one system to another than to ship something from two locations on the same planet. The catch is that you must be ultra-rich to afford even the tiniest spaceship, and interstellar travel is not exactly safe or fast.
- Especially if you can't use a Junction transit, which can shave months off of a trip.
- In the Dune Chronicles, the only mode of interstellar travel is through the Spacing Guild, which has a monopoly on interstellar travel. This is justified in-story by a religion-based ban on computers (justified in-universe), which means that only the Guild's Navigators (who live in tanks of concentrated spice and have been physically and mentally mutated by it to the point of being Starfish Aliens) are capable of piloting a ship through hyperspace without it being destroyed. As such, more than a few characters complain about that monopoly and the high cost of that travel. However, by Heretics of Dune, Ix has truly broken the monopoly by skirting around the Butlerian Jihad's conventions and producing machines that could substitute for the Guild's prescience.
- In the Legends of Dune prequel trilogy, the pre-Guild interstellar travel is more in line with this trope. The League of Nobles spaceports are always bustling with activity. While the books Hand Wave how interstellar travel is achieved without FTL drives while still able to cross the vast distances between stars in weeks. In fact, it is clearly stated several times that it would take a month to travel between Selusa Secundus, the League capital world, and Corrin, the central Synchronized World.
- In Jerry Oltion's The Getaway Special and its sequel Anywhere But Here, a Mad Scientist invents a faster than light teleportation drive that runs on car batteries and can be built with parts from Radio Shack for about $200. The only limitation on the drive is that it cannot jump "into" another mass - even atmosphere. Launch from anywhere, deorbit with parachutes. Result: extrasolar colonization in RVs! And Homeland Security breaking up extrasolar trailer parks with Colony Drops...
- Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton starts off with this but then inverts it. Humanity develops wormhole technology that allows them to treat interstellar travel like an airport or a train station so they never really develop spaceship technology too much. When they finally do need to develop spaceships they do so by jury rigging the wormhole technology but it is very much an inconvenient form of interstellar travel.
- The Void Trilogy, set 1500 years after Pandora's Star, has a lot more spaceships. There are commercial spaceships, the Commonwealth Navy, and private spaceships. Think of them as like ships nowadays: the biggest and most efficient are company or government owned, but there is a significant number of leisure yachts.
- From the same author: In what is likely the most extreme example of this trope, the Kiint from the Night's Dawn Trilogy have the capability to teleport instantly across multiple galaxies at a moment's notice. In the same trilogy, regular space travel is available and people own private starships, but it's still difficult enough that it couldn't be used to effectively reduce the population pressure on Earth.
- Hamilton runs the gamut of this trope in his various novels. It's completely averted in Fallen Dragon, where space travel takes months and is so costly that it has been nearly abandoned, and the only companies still doing it are just invading planets they own the rights to and stealing all their stuff to try to make a profit.
- Parodied in all Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy media. Hyperspace is treated in a manner similar to the highway system is on Earth (which is why the Earth is destroyed in the first place). The infamous Infinite Improbability Drive used by the protagonists allows for travel over ridiculously vast distances with some rather trippy side effects if you don't happen to be in the cabin. In a later book, Interstellar travel that is even faster than the IID is facilitated via a cafe.
- Andre Norton's science fiction books feature Free Traders who travel from star to star carrying trade items. Their ships use a FTL drive that allows interstellar travel in a few days.
- The Mote in God's Eye. Starships had the Alderson Drive, which allowed instantaneous jumps from star to star. The setting had merchant starships, such as those owned by Horace Hussein Bury. The only limitation is that the relative positions and natures of stars determine where the jump-points lie, and one must still use ordinary reaction drives to move about in-system and between jump points.
- E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, after the Bergenholm inertialess drive was created. Some ships could go up to 90 parsecs (294.4 light years) per hour. Later books add the hyperspatial tube, which doesn't cut the travel time much (if at all) but does let you traverse the distance unseen (except at the point of emergence).
- The History of the Galaxy novels, while mainly focused on the military, make no secret that it's ridiculously easy for any private citizen to obtain a FTL-capable ship. Travel time can be anything from a few minutes to hours and days (no longer than that, usually), depending on how deep into Hypersphere a ship is capable and the pilot is willing to go (the deeper the faster). It gets to the ridiculous extent that a previously-unknown race of Human Aliens is able to purchase a battlefleet online along with enough Humongous Mecha to wage a war on humanity.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium trilogy, being very loosely based on Master of Orion, this trope is played perfectly straight. Subspace or Hyperspace travel is cheap, relatively, and accessible to almost anyone. It takes only days to get anywhere, weeks at most.
- In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals From the Dark series, this trope is played straight for some alien races, but not humans. In the first novel, humanity doesn't even have FTL drives. In subsequent books, only the military has FTL-capable starships. However, the rapid expansion of humanity makes it clear that humans will play this trope straight eventually. Contour drives require little energy and can transport a ship anywhere in the galaxy nearly instantly, although no one has ever tried such a long jump, as even small jumps require extremely precise calculations. Jumps are usually done in series.
- Averted in Akhmanov and Christopher Gilmore's Captain French, or Looking for Paradise, where interstellar travel is achieved via a relativistic drive that feels like a fraction of a second for anyone in the ship but takes decades in real time. While humanity has settled dozens of worlds, colonization is a costly venture that only governments on rich planets can afford, usually when overpopulation becomes an issue. The only people for whom space travel is routine are space traders, including the titular protagonist. Due to this, space traders are greeted on almost every populated world and treated as royalty. Without them, there would be no interaction between planets. Even interstellar communication is a rarity, as it requires large orbital transmitters and receivers to be set up and maintained, and any message would still take years to arrive. Even with this, a ship still has to travel for months under normal power in order to get away from deep gravity wells, as they mess up calculations. It is also risky, as a jump can deposit the ship near a star or inside a planet. There are, probably, no more than several hundred space traders in this 'verse.
- James Blish does this with cities and indeed entire planets in the Cities in Flight series, where a new law of physics shows that the larger an object is, the easier it is to move at hugely FTL speeds. At one point it is stated that a spacecraft is crossing the solar system at FTL speeds (from Jupiter to Earth, if I remember correctly) powered by a few ordinary batteries.
- The short stories "Assumption" (scroll down) and "The Black Sheep of Vaerlosi" by Desmond Warzel.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's two-part novel The Stars Are Cold Toys is premised on humans discovering FTL Travel in the early 21st century, resulting in most countries having their own space programs and American space shuttles and Russian Buran spacecraft lifting off into space using the usual means and then activating the jumper device, which instantly sends a ship slightly over 12 light years in a given direction. The distance is always constant. By sheer coinsidence, the first interstellar jump results in humanity encountering the Conclave, a conglomerate of alien races ruling this part of the galaxy. Unfortunately, there is a strict hierarchy between the Strong and Weak races, and humanity is classified as the latter. The alien method of FTL travel are considerably slower, often taking months, although they still fit this trope. Then you have the Geometers, who have managed to combine both technologies into a highly-efficient method of interstellar travel to the point where moving entire star systems isn't that big a deal.
- The human jumper has the added bonus of only allowing humans to survive the jump with their sanity intact, which is good for humans, as the Conclave has a habit of destroying races that serve no useful purpose to it (even if they don't pose a threat). The greatest fear is aliens learning to survive the jump, and all pilots have standing orders to destroy the ship in the event this happens (they may even choose the means to do so: self-destruct, fry the jumper which earns you a slow death, or enter into an uncontrollable series of Blind Jumps until you run out of power). Oh, and humans feel the greatest high possible when jumping.
- Played mostly straight in Lacuna, where the jump drive allows the crew to travel to anywhere in the galaxy where there's no significant gravitational pull. Unfortunately, doing so has a slight chance of creating a horrific, ever expanding Negative Space Wedgie which very very slowly destroys the universe. The Toralii know about this and attack anyone who possess jump drive.
- In the Foundation series, travel between planets throughout the galaxy is fairly easy and accessible to most people in the Galactic Empire.
Live Action TV
- The first six Power Rangers seasons involved travel between galaxies in a time span ranging from seconds at the quickest (via teleportation) to a day or two via Transforming Mecha spaceship thanks to alien technology. Season seven did it at a more... reasonable in-galaxy-only pace (except for a notable incident involving a wormhole) due to using a human-built ship, and later seasons involving aliens avoid mention of distances whenever possible. When they do, its always something like "several galaxies away".
- Everything in the Stargate Verse, but especially the titular Stargate network.
- Battlestar Galactica sports at least one use of this almost every episode. While not every ship has FTL capabilities, most modern ones are outfitted; civilian and military. The FTL drives are used to skip across space for reasons such as: running away from offenders (Ahem, CYLONS.), scouting out areas of space, or just quicker travel. Granted, the ships that didn't have FTL were quickly destroyed in the genocide.
- As mentioned in the trope description, Star Trek is not the best example of this trope... but it does have its moments. Apart from the Federation, assorted alien empires, and major shipping lines, you will occasionally come across an individual trader flying a small but warp-capable vessel to ferry Tribbles or what-have-you around the galaxy. Deep Space Nine's Quark had an interstellar shuttle briefly, but it was a gift (and assassination attempt) from his much richer cousin. Swindler and smuggler Harry Mudd also had his own ship in The Original Series (which he paid for with counterfeit money), and private owners of small warp ships made appearances in a few Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. So, an interstellar ship is the kind of thing the occasional well-off (or clever/lucky/dishonest) entrepreneur can afford, but not just anybody could get one. In metaphors, travelling between stars isn't as easy as getting a car, or even as easy as getting your own used single-engine Cessna, but it probably is as easy as getting your own small private jet.
- Farscape is a good example. All three subtropes of Faster-Than-Light Travel are present; "Hetch Drive" is dirt cheap and available to everyone, "Starburst" is available to Leviathans, but wormholes - which act as a metadimensional Portal Network - can only be utilized with the assistance of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, which they don't give lightly for really good reasons.
- In Andromeda, people could travel between galaxies in small fighters and courier ships.
- Also, because of how Slipstream FTL works, which has something to do with probability, and sentience, and, um... "Quantum", the more a route is traveled, the faster and easier to navigate it becomes. This would make Casual Travel even cheaper the more people do it.
- It's clearly stated the luck is the biggest factor in slipstream travel. A lucky pilot can cross galaxies in minutes, while an unlucky one can take months to get to the nearby system. Since machines (even AIs) can't guess, they can't use slipstream at all, unless they... get creative. That's what they need to do to get anywhere specific in a hurry. If there isn't any living brain to help, they can just do a random walk and hope they get lucky at some point. More than one ship managed to pull it off. The Andromeda Ascendant was stuck in slipstream for years trying to get back to her home galaxy after the crew was killed off.
- Alternity's Star*Drive setting has relatively casual travel, thanks to the titular stardrive. A stardrive jump always lasts five days, though the distance covered depends on the power of the engine.
- Varies slightly with BattleTech and the nature of the universe. There are a good number of JumpShips capable of interstellar travel, but said travel is generally prohibitively expensive and largely reserved for the wealthy, the politicians, and the military--which, when considering the Lyran Alliance/Commonwealth, may be the same person.
- Traveller. Starships could travel up to 6 parsecs (19.6 light years) per week regardless of how powerful the ship was, and people routinely took interstellar trips the way we take ocean cruises today.
- That's only partially true. Only the very fastest ships can do six parsecs. Jump engines take up space and a privately owned vessel usually can't afford more then 3 parsecs. Most Free Traders can only do Jump-1 with a few doing Jump-2. Large merchants as well usually are Jump-1 to make room for cargo.
- There are misjumps — but as long as one sticks to mostly-safe procedures, it doesn't get worse than lost time and money; and even this can be avoided via regular maintenance, keeping safe distance and using only refined fuel (available via high class spaceports, or own refinery in an inferior port).
- It's also not nearly as routine as ocean cruises. There is no communication between stars except via another ship. Thus all news anyone has from somewhere else is late by a varying amount of time and probably mixed up and confused as a result. Which makes everything outside one's own star system a wild and potentially dangerous adventure.
- Warhammer 40,000 both plays straight and subverts this trope. While there is enough cargo traffic to keep entire hive worlds fed, watered, and supplied, interstellar travel, especially civilian interstellar travel on ships that rely on charts instead of Navigators, tends to be (relatively) slow, and very dangerous. The Tau method is much less dangerous, but even slower. Neither Chaos, Tyranids, nor Orks likely care about the wait or dangers as long as they have someone to kill (or eat) at the destination, and the trope is played straight by Eldar and Necrons, who either get there through a portal network, use inertial drives, or are already there. A lot of the earlier material often states that a ship CAN jump from one end of the galaxy to the other in the space of a few weeks... from the point of view of the ship. To an outsider, that ship will be gone for months, if not years. Some sources also state it can take up to a week to get from a world to a 'safe' spot where you can enter the Warp, thus extending transit time quite considerably.
- Fading Suns has very casual travel thanks to the Jumpgates left by the
dead ascendedmysteriously absent Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Society may be feudal thanks to the Church (Catholics IN SPACE), but getting to the next system over is as simple as puttering out to the jumpgate in your thousand-year-old ship and popping through. Also, we are told that if you ever GO BEYOND the gate (i.e. go into interstellar space), you will be assaulted by demonic creatures, plagues or demonic plague creatures. That's right, go too far beyond the light of a star and you are attacked by demons. It fits snugly beside the Church's declaration that 'technology is evil' - except starships, computers, blaster guns (heaven forbid), personal energy shields, medical scanners, healing serum, planes, phones, lights, satellites, space stations, jumpgates, hovercars, SAM launchers, grenades, gravity emitters....
- For the Capsuleers (players) of EVE Online, a regular shopping trip can take one through a dozen star systems. Muggles are mostly planetbound, though.
- Freelancer runneth over with this kind of travel, enabled by the Trade Lanes and the inter-system Jump Gates, plus the Pirate-infested, naturally occuring Jumpholes.
- In both Independence War games, Linear Displacement System (LDS) drives are practically standard equipment for spacecraft, which allow for quick inter-system travel and escape from threats (if one doesn't get hit with an LDS inhibitor missile to prevent that). Capsule drives, on the other hand, are most certainly NOT standard equipment, as shown in Independence War 2: Cal and friends don't even get a capsule drive until about the time the game transitions from Act I to Act II, where they trade a blue, alien ring hidden in Lucrecia's hoard to Haven Station for the capsule drive. You're going to need it, as you'll see next mission...
- Mass Effect plays it straight and averts it.
- Played straight with Mass Relays, which are capable of transporting a starship hundreds to thousands of light years instantaneously. Because all ships have element zero drive cores, you could take off from Earth, travel to a colony world thousands of light years distant to visit a friend, and make it back to Earth in a single day.
- Averted when it comes to non-relay FTL travel. Without the mass relays, the civilian ships make about 12 LY per day (military ships might be faster, but it's never specified). You also need an Unobtanium drive core. Plus, you have to discharge the drive regularly, which must be done on the surface of a planet or in a strong magnetic field. Otherwise, the core releases the gigawatt equivalent of a rub-your-shoes-on-the-carpet-and-touch-the=doorknob static discharge. This is invariably lethal.
- And at the end of Mass Effect 2, Shepard destroys the Reapers' backup plan. Their response is to just fly back into the galaxy from darkspace. That's right, the Reapers have Casual Intergalactic Travel, which further emphasizes just how much more advanced the millions-of-years-old Reapers are compared to even the most advanced galactic races. The Arrival DLC shows that the Reapers can get from far outside the galaxy to the edges of the Milky Way in a very short time. They were smart enough not to put all their eggs in one basket. The third game's codex says that while the best non-relay FTL the Citadel races has is between 12 and 14 LY per day, the Reapers can go 30 LY in a day... and their unknown power source doesn't have that lethal static discharge due to whatever unknown fuel source they have.
- Halo, to an extent. FTL travel is relatively slow for humans (about 4 LY/day), but also pretty cheap. And since the UNSC has mastered terraforming, most of the UNSC's colonies are within about a month's travel.
- The Covenant FTL technology is much more refined, although they have nothing to do with it. They have merely used Forerunner technology as it is. In an Expanded Universe novel, Cortana compares human Shaw-Fujicawa FTL drives and the Covenant ones to a blunt instrument and a scalpel, respectively. Human ships almost literally punch a large hole in space/time into slipspace. The power requirements are enormous. Covenant drives cut a tiny slit in space, which massively reduces their power costs, vastly decreases their travel times, and allows them to exit slipspace with pinpoint accuracy. It's also heavily implied that humans could easily improve on the Covenant tech if they got their hands on it. Every Covenant ship captured in the novels gets conveniently destroyed before it can be brought back for study.
- Ratchet and Clank, FTL there is ludicrously fast. The fact that series' events unfold not in one, but three Galaxies Far Far Away should make speeds' monstrosity fairly obvious. But then again, it's all for fun, not any kind of realism.
- The Star Ocean games involve travel through something that looks like outer space, but is much much easier to get around in. Justified in that the games takes place within a 4-dimensional MMORPG, and it's only natural that the programmers would design their universe-powering game engine's physics to include FTL if they wanted a science fiction game. Yes, it's quite metafictional.
- Ten thousand credits will net your civilian clunker a jump drive, with a mere 50 creds per landing to refuel, in Privateer. Privateer 2 doesn't even bother with the cost of a jump drive, it's built in to all ships.
- Descent 2 starts the game telling you that you have been kept on retainer for 'up to 72 hours'. In that time you manage to travel to several different planets and destroy lots of robots.
- Played straight in Sins of a Solar Empire. Until the arrival of the Vasari, the Trade Order was a loose group of worlds, where most of the interstellar trading was done by civilians. With the start of the Vasari conquest, the Trade Order reformed into the Trade Emergency Coalition. However, you can still build trade stations in space that automatically spawn trade ships (that you can't control), which prowl the phase lanes between planets and stars.
- With the addition of trading to Sword of the Stars, it's clear that this is the case with the case with the traders. Instead of assigning them to a specific system, they are instead assigned to a sector that includes one or more systems. They then travel from system to system, increasing the empire's revenue. It's not entirely clear how the Hivers trade with systems not joined with their Portal Network, but the game just Hand Waves this.
- Elite and its sequels treat the hyperdrive like this however there is nowhere near enough space traffic as in universe sources would suggest.
- Particularly in the later games in the X-Universe series, space is pretty damn crowded with (damn annoying) civilian ships.
- Likewise Escape Velocity. A basic cargo shuttle costs maybe ten to twenty grand.
- Interstellar travel was already pretty casual in Schlock Mercenary before the Teraport was re-invented, when everything depended on the Portal Network—there are even interstellar taxis for transporting individuals between stars—though it is mentioned that only the wealthiest 10% had access. Then again, this is a sci-fi so far up the Kardashev Scale that Antimatter is yesterday's technology.
- Starslip subverts it with the 'Starslip Drive', which abuses alternate dimensions. As the original title (Starslip Crisis) suggests, it isn't without consequences.
- Subverted in Freefall they do have FTL, known as the Dangerous And Very Expensive drive. All but the very rich are stuck with Generation Ships.
- In the Sluggy Freelance Story Arc "GOFOTRON: Champion of the Cosmos" space travel within the Punyverse seems to be quite easy. Justified since, unlike our universe, the hundred or so solar systems in the Punyverse are all bundled up right next to each other.
- Far Out There takes this as a given. It's been stated that the cast could have a ship of their own if Ichabod wasn't too lazy to buy one.
- Interstellar travel is moderately casual in Orion's Arm. While regular travel by spaceship is slower-than-light, the spaceships are generally relativistic and experience time dilation, and most people(or things, or things who are people) are immortal anyway and can go into suspended animation or turn themselves off if they get bored. Also, the wormhole network does allow for more or less casual fast interstellar travel within the terragen bubble for those who can withstand the limitations.
- Space travel in Nexus Gate is a very casual thing. People commute to work regularly on public transit ships and own their own private craft.
- Invader Zim is a weird example: in the first episode, it takes Zim six months to travel from Conventia to Earth, but later episodes show him traveling to Irken or other planets in what one presumes is a relatively short time (Dib mentions Zim had been gone "three days" when he went to Foodcourtia). Perhaps the tallest put him on a cheap flight?
- Futurama does this a lot, primarily out of sheer comedic value. Not only does the Planet Express ship routinely make deliveries to distant planets as a matter of normal business, not only are there highway-like lines of other space ships waiting to travel similar distances, not only has the crew rocketed off to the edge of the universe and come right back to earth in a matter of a week, but Cubert and Dwight have once delivered newspapers to homes in a nearby asteroid belt (supposedly not our solar system's) using what amounts to a do-it-yourself bicycle-powered rocket.
- In Transformers Prime (and other members of the "Aligned" continuity family, like Transformers: Rescue Bots and Robots in Disguise), the groundbridge/spacebridge technology makes travel between Earth and Cybertron easy. Suitably-built spacecraft can also make the journey routinely. (Both subject to sudden difficulty or unavailability as the plot demands, of course.)
- the "Expensive" in the name isn't there just for acronym value