Stardock’s Star Control Will Have Alternate Timeline

(tech demo does not represent final product)

In an interview with Arc Technica’s Lee Hutchinson, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has stated the following:

Wardell’s Star Control would take place 43 years before the events of Star Control 2 and would function as a prequel. “We plan to start the game around 2112 with aliens first contacting the Earthlings and the formation of Star Control,” he explained. From there, the game will proceed in the same open-ended adventure fashion as Star Control 2—Wardell told Ars that the player would captain the Earthling flagship, which can be fortified with upgrades as it explores the galaxy.

“This has been a much discussed topic internally,” he replied. “Since Paul and Fred can’t officially be involved, we decided we would create a new continuity that splits off from the Ur-Quan continuity starting 250,000 years prior where something happened to the Precursors.”

Splitting off an alternate timeline, says Wardell, gives series creators Ford and Reiche the ability to continue the “main” Star Control plot if they choose to do so at some point. “Morally, we just didn’t feel it would be right to try to impose our vision onto Paul and Fred’s sci-fi universe,” explained Wardell.

We asked for more details on that team of fanatics, and Wardell didn’t disappoint: “The game itself is being developed by veteran developers from Firaxis, Big Huge Games, and Stardock, whose engineering and art talent are amazing, but also know what a Star Control game should be like,” he said.

Maybe this could be a sign that a new dev team composed people from other places will be created similar to the formations of Sledgehammer Games for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and 343 Industries for Halo: Reach.

“We intend to make Super Melee a pretty big part of the game from a multiplayer point of view,” Wardell confirmed. “It’ll be an expansion on what was in Star Control 2, except we would like to support more sophisticated battle arenas and up to 8 players. We picture there being a lot of different modes for Super Melee, ranging from classic to Dota-style super melee.”

As with all good things, Star Control will come only to those who wait. “We don’t expect to even consider what a release date is until next year (2015) at which point we’ll have a good idea of how far along we are,” he said. However, unlike Star Control 2′s dual platform release, the new title will be available on a multitude of systems. “We do expect the new one to be home on the PC but also be available on Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Steambox, and any other platform that Nitrous supports.”

Comparing this to the Star Trek reboot

When 2009 Star Trek (directed by JJ Abrams) was released, it received very positive reviews and was very profitable. It reached levels of success that surpassed the previous films. I did enjoy the movie and it really showed how special effects have evolved over time. It also took place in an alternate timeline, giving Abrams and the writers room to change things around without having to “retcon” anything.

Budgeting have always been an issue for Star Trek and it’s great to see that Star Trek is growing into a successful movie franchise just like Star Wars, which JJ Abrams will also be directing in the future.

Some decisions had to be made by the producers in order to gain this success, mainly a plot that revolves saving a planet and lots of action. It’s very hard to make a big-budget sci-fi movie that doesn’t revolve around saving the world or the universe. There is much more action to maintain a fast pace.

Did you know that Gene Roddenberry was not directly involved in the development of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Due to the mixed reception of The Motion Picture, his role was changed to Executive Consultant, and a new script and director was chosen for the sequel.

The reason why I mentioned Star Trek is because the target audiences are different and the competition is much greater. There are a certain set of expectations one can make about big-budget sci-fi and can not be easily applied to games. They were aware of the previous Star Trek movies and what can be done to make it more successful.

Conclusion

It’s very clear that Brad Wardell wants to create a new Star Control game that appeals to fans and is approved by Paul and Fred. Due to TFB’s contract with Activision, they cannot be directly involved in the development of this game. Activision loves Skylanders way too much. Stardock is known for their stance against DRM and their publishing of niche games/utilities made of smaller budgets compared to larger studios and making a profit (e.g. Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod). It’s very early in development and no concept art of this Star Control has been released yet. However, I feel that this new team Stardock is putting together may be able to pull it off. They’ve got a lot of things to cover to match the unique touches of SC2 such as the music, alien artwork, witty dialog, fonts and unique ship design. Strangely enough, SC2 was never 100% polished and Paul and Fred worked overtime to get it done and left things out such as Groombridge and the infamous “planet lander bug”.

Only time can tell when we will get more details about what kind of game this is going to be. Brad has also stated that this will not be a 4X style game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) like SOASE.

What do you think about this Star Control and its alternate timeline?

Links
Ars Technica – Stardock CEO reveals details about new Star Control title in development
Polygon – New Star Control to include series creators’ input, alternate timeline
Nitrous-Engine Techdemo
LittleTinyFrogs – Brad Wardell’s post about Star Control

Tiny Trek

“…I have dreamed of designing this kind of game since picking up that boxed copy of Starflight back in 86, and loading the two 5 1/4 floppies into my Tandy machine. If I can share that same feeling of wonder and excitement I experienced with that game to the current generation of gamers, Then Tiny Trek will be worth the effort.”
- Chris Carson, Gamesare, Tiny Trek Kickstarter Page


Like Interstellaria, it resembles a very retro game. However, this one appears even more antiquated, sporting an interlaced effect from the old CRT monitor days.  Featuring procedural generation, Tiny Trek offers a different adventure every time a new game is started; a hostile race in one playthrough may be friendly in the next.  It also features 2D sidescrolling platform action for planet exploration.  Each planet will be unique and changes each time.

As the name would imply, Tiny Trek has been inspired by Star Trek with its brightly-colored shirts, teleportation sequences and the layout of the ship’s bridge with the viewscreen.

Tiny Trek also features something that is familiar to any Star Control fan: 2D space space navigation and combat sequences.  However, it is possible to fight more than one ship at once.

With over a year of game development and the Kickstarter page being created, they have surpassed their $4,000 goal, raising over $5,000 with 23 days remaining as of this post.  The more people back this project, the more they can achieve for Tiny Trek.  If they reach their next objective at $6,000, they will include tools to edit “ships and races, more color options, and the ability to edit your home world”.

Gamesare is composed of Chris Carson and Sam Dillard.  They are no stranger to bite-sized games.  They have made numerous 2D games, some of which are freeware.

It’s awesome to see Tiny Trek has reached its funding goal.  With just under a month left, I hope they continue to get support so this game can give players a chance to play deep space games that have a combination of being unique, easy to learn, entertaining and most of all, clever.

What do you think about Tiny Trek?

Link
Tiny Trek Kickstarter page
Gamesare website
Clickteam website

Interstellaria

“Interstellaria: The 2D space done in the same style as games like Starflight and Star Control, where the main goal is to explore space and have open ended gameplay.”
- Jonathan P. King, Lead Developer, Coldrice Games

After generations of war a tenuous peace has fallen over the galaxy. For the first time an era of trade and diplomacy reigns. Human corporations, like Star-Ex, have risen to the forefront of human expansion. The universe is a dangerous place, and for those with courage the trade off is simple – they provide the ship, you seek out the profits!
- Plot of Interstellaria


Interstellaria is a “2d space SIM/RPG/Sandbox game” with sidescrolling platforming elements by Coldrice Games. It features the increasingly popular retro visual and audio style.

Upon watching the Kickstarter video, it’s obvious that anyone who is fan of Starflight or Star Control will also love this game.  While it is a very different from both games it retains many things we love about Starflight and Star Control such as space/planet exploration, encountering different aliens and ship customization.  While the user may not be controlling a whole fleet of ships, the player will definitely be spending lots of time customizing their flagship and watching over the crew directly.  During combat, the player must defend themselves in real-time, while protecting their crew and repairing their ship in order to survive.

They have surpassed their $15,000 goal, with over $20,000 of funding as of this post. The team behind this game composes of:

  • Jonathan P. King – Main developer/Pixel artist/Coldrice owner
  • Chipzel (Niamh Houston) – Irish, indie chiptune artist. She uses a combination of gameboys and modern hardware to compose and mix energetic electronic dance beats.
  • Illya King – Concept art/design. He is also an indie comic book artist.

The game utilizes the Unity game engine with Matt Rix’s Future framework. Unity is a very popular game engine and is known for its multi-platform capabilities.

Interstellaria deserves to be added to the list of “Awesome Star Control-like Games”.  The trend of unique, independently produced games continues since Kickstarter started.  If Interstellaria reaches the next level at $27,500, there will be:

Expanded alien territories! 3 regions of space are completely expanded! Several new worlds, all new purchasable alien ships, new upgrades, and new alien crewmen for hire!

The Interstellaria project will continue collecting funds until December 6th.  If you can, please make a pledge and support this awesome project.  It’s games like this that will continue to increase demand for space adventure/combat games like Star Control.

Links
Cold Rice website
Instellaria Kickstarter Page
Installaria on Steam Greenlight
Chipzel’s website
Illya King’s website

Star Command for Android Debuts on Humble Mobile Bundle 2!

Star Command Satellite Image

Star Command Satellite Image

Introduction

The latest Humble Bundle has been revealed: Humble Mobile Bundle 2, a collection for games for Android.  The following is included with this bundle:

  • Star Command† – Android debut
  • Time Surfer† – Android debut
  • Punch Quest†
  • Bloons TD 5†
  • Ravensword: Shadowlands*
  • Carmageddon*

* Only available if bundle is purchased for more than average price.
† Soundtrack available.

Star Command

I’ve always been fascinated with Star Command since it’s debut on Kickstarter.  They have successfully received funding for iOS, Android and Windows development.  It’s a quirky retro-looking turned-based sci-fi adventure RPG reminiscent of X-COM.  Unfortunately, my beloved Android phone died, so I cannot play this game yet.  I may get an Android device in the future or wait for the Windows version.

Pay what you want. DRM free. Awesome games. Helps Charity.

If you’ve got an Android device, definitely check this out.  While the game is very different from Star Control, it has very appealing features such as ship customization, traveling through space, exploration, quirky humor and turn-based combat like X-COM.  Millions of dollars have been raised from these bundles and it’s dirt-cheap.  This entire bundle can be purchased for the price of a single game.  This bundle expires October 19.

What do you think about humble bundles and mobile games?

Links
Humble Bundle website
New Years Thoughts (2012)

Doki-Doki Universe

Introduction

Back in June, HumaNature Studios (pronounced as Human Nature Studios despite the missing N) announced a new title: Doki-Doki Universe. It is very similar to Deko-Deko Mail except that this will also be available on PS4, PS3, PS Vita, iOS and Android. From what I’ve read, the term “Doki-Doki” is a Japanese expression used to describe a heartwarming feeling.

What does this have to do with Star Control?

The CEO of HumaNature is Greg Johnson, creator of Starflight and ToeJam & Earl. He is a longtime friend of Paul Reiche and Fred Ford. Greg also provided some of the voices in Star Control II such as the Utwig. Paul received a special thanks in the credits of ToeJam & Earl. The cartoon style was developed by I-Wei Huang, who is also one of the character designer/artists at Toys for Bob and contributed a lot to Skylanders.

What kind of game is this?

There is a plot. The player controls a robot who is rendered obsolete and wants to survive. The player travels to different planets and meets different kinds of characters. The player is asked various question that are used to determine their personality towards the path of self-discovery. Like Deko-Deko Mail, the player can send messages to other people and include images. There will be a free version and a paid version.

Conclusion

A long time ago, I noticed that Deko-Deko Mail suddenly disappeared. I am glad that Greg and his studio have announced an extension of the original product and created a multi-platform game that includes a light-hearted adventure game with its own quirky art and humor. I’m definitely going to check this out in the future.

What do you think of Doki-Doki Universe?

Links
HumaNature Studios website
PlayStation.Blog – Doki-Doki Universe Coming to PS4, PS3 and PS Vita

Star Control News Spreading Like Wildfire

The news of the trademarks auctioned by Atari is continuing to spread across several video game blogs, especially Star Control.

Brad Wardell has released a statement to Joystiq:

“We’re very excited to publish a new Star Control game. We are inclined to go with an XCOM-like reboot using Star Control 2 as a major source of inspiration,” said Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Stardock to Joystiq. “By rebooting the series á la XCOM, we can bring a new generation of gamers into a fun, silly space adventure. We hope to involve as many of the original designers and developers of the series, along with the fan base. It’s important to us that Star Control remain true to its origins as much as is possible.”

-Article by Alexander Sliwinski, “More Atari IP auction winners announced, Stardock plans Star Control reboot”, Jul 22 2013, Joystiq.com

Keep in mind, not all of the auction outcomes have been revealed:
Franchise name (starting bid)

  • Test Drive ($1.5M)
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon ($3.5M)
  • Airbourne Ranger ($100K)
  • Atari Brand ($15M)

Serge van den Boom (meep-eep) asked Paul Reiche III (TFB CEO) about this. Here’s his e-mail reply:

Hi Serge,

Stardock hasn’t contacted us, so we don’t yet know their plans.  Looking at the court schedules (and this is consistent with my recollections), they acquired the trademark ‘Star Control’ and copyright to the original materials in Star Control 3 — that is to say, not any of the copyrightable materials from Star Control I & II, which Fred and I still hold.

In terms of our interest in the trademark and why we didn’t buy it — we weren’t sure that we could make use of the trademark soon enough to make sense, but we sure are interested in what Star Dock wants to do next!

- Paul

Now we another dose of video game politics!  So, Stardock owns the Star Control trademark, the contents of Star Control 3 (e.g. the Harika) and TFB owns the contents of Star Control 1 and 2?  If Brad wanted to create something faithful to Star Control II, he’d obviously need the material from the first two games.  Regardless of whether or not it is a direct sequel or reboot that is faithful to SC2, he’d still need TFB’s permission to use their content. Of course, this is just my theory.

More documents have been uploaded to BMC Group. The new documents include notice of proposed orders which will be used in an upcoming scheduled hearing, where everything will be approved, finalized and payments will be made. A proposed order relating to Stardock’s bid for Star Control has been released (docket# 313, Exhibit 4, page 132). Their purchase price for the Star Control trademark is $305,000 with a $10,100 “good faith” deposit.

Conclusion

I wasn’t sure how many times Star Control was going to be mentioned.  I’m so used to expecting gaming blogs to obscurely mention Star Control once in a while, but not like this.  Brad Wardell has mentioned that he wants to make a faithful Star Control game, which he can most certainly do.  A new document reveals that the highest bid for Star Control is $305,000.  It is too early to expect any concept art or anything like that.  I’d love to see how he’d combine space exploration, witty dialog and the space battles.  Speaking of space battles, Stardock is very experienced with space combat with Sins of a Solar empire being the first thing that comes to mind.  I wonder how he would pull off space combat in Star Control.

Paul hasn’t been contacted by Stardock yet.  However, depending on the direction Stardock wants to go, they’ll definitely need to get Paul and Fred on board if they want to use material from SC1 and 2.  I know that Toys for Bob works on one game at a time and Activision is in love with the Skylanders franchise and the billions of dollars it has raised so far.  I’m hoping for the best for TFB and Stardock.  They’re both successful companies with strong fan bases.

I hope Star Control news keeps spreading around and gathers more interest in the series.  And don’t forget to check out The Ur-Quan Masters and its HD counterpart.

EDIT: Brad Wardell has posted on the UQM forums. He mentioned Paul Reiche owns the rights to SC1 and 2 and there is ” reason to think that they might be able to participate in the creation of a new Star Control game” Check it out!

Links
Joystiq – More Atari IP auction winners announced, Stardock plans Star Control reboot
IncGamers – Open source Star Control 2 team express doubts over Atari IP sale
BMC Group – Atari
Gametrailers – Star Control Reboot Coming Courtesy of Stardock
UQM Forum – Stardock Highest Bidder on Star Control Trademark
The Ur-Quan Masters
The Ur-Quan Masters HD

Stardock Owns Star Control Trademark (Pending)

Introduction

The Atari auctions are now completed. A three-page court document has been released with the results of the July 18 auctions.

Stardock Systems (Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Galactic Civilations) is the highest bidder for Star Control with On The Go Technology LLC (a mortgage technology development company).

Asset(s) Successful Bidder Back-up Bidder
Backyard Sports Franchise Epic Gear, LLC N/A
Humongous Franchise, Fatty Bear’s Birthday Surprise, Math Gran Prix Tommo, Inc. N/A
Total Annihilation Franchise Wargaming World Limited Uber Entertainment, Inc.
Battlezone Franchise Rebellion Interactive Games Limited Tommo, Inc.
Master of Orion Franchise Wargaming World Limited Stardock Systems, Inc.
Moonbase Commander Franchise Rebellion Interactive Games Limited N/A
Star Control Franchise Stardock Systems, Inc. On The Go Technology, LLC

- July 19 2013, “Notice of Successful and Back-Up Bidders with Respect to the Auctions of Certain of the Debtor’s Assets”, 13-10176-jmp, Docket# 305

As of this post, the auctions have not been officially paid for and will take place on July 24:

The Sale Hearing is currently scheduled to be held on July 24, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. (prevailing Eastern time) at the United States bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Alexander Hamilton Custom House, One Bowling Green, New York, New York 10004, before the Honorable James M. Peck, United States Bankruptcy Court Judge, to consider the Debtors’ selection of the highest or otherwise best bid(s) and the approval of the Sale Transaction. The Sale Hearing may be adjourned or rescheduled without notice.
- July 19 2013, “Notice of Successful and Back-Up Bidders with Respect to the Auctions of Certain of the Debtor’s Assets”, 13-10176-jmp, Docket# 305

So, what does this mean for Star Control? We know that Brad Wardell has expressed interest in Star Control years ago. I do believe that we may have a new Star Control game coming in the future. With Stardock’s strong stance against DRM, we know it will be developed and published with the same high standards as their other games. I would love to see their interpretation of Star Control franchise and whether or not it can be successful. Please keep in mind that Toys for Bob still retains ownership of the original content such as the aliens, characters, and ships. Stardock would still need their permission to use the Ur-Quan, for example. The direction they want to take with Star Control is up to them. Stardock can potentially own the Master of Orion franchise should Wargaming decide to pass on it.

But wait, there’s more…

I found another document that outline contracts “relating to the Assets upon consummation of the Sale Transaction”. Some things listed are “Amazon.com” for “Digital Distribution” under “Battlezone Agreements”. Check out what’s listed under “Star Control”:

Star Control 3 Agreements

Contracting Party Atari Party Agreement Type Est Cure Amount as of 06/21/2013
Reiche, Paul Accolade, Inc. License Agreement $0.00
Cyberlore Studios, Inc. Accolade, Inc. Development Agreement $0.00
Fat Labs, Inc. Accolade, Inc. Master Lease License for Computer Game Use $0.00
GameFly** Atari, Inc. Digital Distribution $0.00
GOG Limited (Good Old Games)** Atari, Inc. Digital Distribution $0.00

**Agreement will require partial assignment

- July 11 2013, Notice of Attempt to Assume and Assign Certain Executory Contracts, 13-10176-jmp, Docket# 296

Does this mean that Paul will be involved in a potential Star Control sequel in the future?  After all, he still retains ownership of the game’s content such as the Ur-Quan and Ilwrath.

There’s another document (Docket# 306) that lists a proposed purchase of Accolade.com (currently redirects to atari.com) from “Accolade, Inc.” for $50,000.

PLEASE TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that pursuant to the De Minimis Sale Procedures, the Debtors propose to sell the following De Minimis Asset (the “De Minimis Sale“):

Asset(s) Proposed Buyer Known Affiliation with the Debtors Proposed Purchase Price Justification
“Accolade.com” domain Accolade, Inc. None. $50,000.00 Only offer received

- July 19 2013, Notice of Proposed Sale of Certain De Minimis Assets, 13-10176-jmp, Docket# 306

Conclusion

Stardock is the highest bidder for Star Control, with On The Go Technology LLC as the back-up bidder. There will be a hearing on July 24 which will finalize these bids.  In an interview with Gamasutra, CEO Brad Wardell has stated he wanted to make a sequel true to Star Control II, pretending that the third game never happened. Stardock has the fanbase, developers and the publishing power to make a true Star Control game. I’d love to see what they have in store for the future.  Their stance against DRM makes their products more accessible for PC gamers without worrying about things such as modding, re-installs and backups.

With Paul’s name listed as “License Agreement” under “Star Control 3 Agreements”, there’s definitely plenty of hope for Star Control.  However, my interpretation of legal documents is purely guesswork.  However, if Stardock wanted to make a sequel to Star Control II, they’d have to get Paul Reiche involved somehow.  Therefore the idea of a Star Control sequel with a strong TFB influence is still possible.

The fact that there is a back-up bidder for Star Control means the bid is obviously greater than $100,000. Does this mean Stardock will get a cut of the GOG.com sales of Star Control? This is another page for “video game politics”.

What do you think about Stardock’s pending ownership of Star Contro and a potential sequel?  Is Accolade making a comeback?  If there there is anyone out with legal experience, I’d love to hear what you think about this recent update.

Looking forward to the future…

Links
Brad Wardell Wants To Make a New Star Control?
Brad Wardell’s Website
BMC Group – Atari Public Bankruptcy Court Documents
Atari SA Corporate Website
Stardock website
On The Go Technology, LLC

Mission Control Center Font

As I write this, Chris Hadfield has turned over command of the International Space Station and is on his way back to Earth.

Now what does this have to do with Star Control?

A very long time ago, when I was watching the news about Hadfield becoming the first Canadian to take command of the ISS. The news was very positive, describing him as the “the most interesting person OFF Earth”. Numerous images of him, the space station and the Misison Control Center. One particular image quickly caught my eye:

Flight Control Room of Houston's Mission Control Center (2006)

Flight Control Room of Houston’s Mission Control Center (2006)

Take a look at the top, just above the giant world map in the front of the room. Look at the font. Does it look familiar?

Mission Control Center font in comparison to the fonts for the Genesis and PC versions of Star Control

Mission Control Center font in comparison to the fonts for the Genesis and PC versions of Star Control

While the fonts are not exactly the same, I find it interesting they each use the “C” in “Control” to envelop the “o” and once again for “Center”. Of the few images I’ve seen, that Mission Control Center logo remains, though the layout of the room itself has changed significantly over the years for each mission. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about NASA’s policy on typography/graphics without doing more research or requiring internal knowledge. However, whoever designed the Star Control box art must have been aware of the font and it’s style.

Other than that, I think it’s interesting to see a similar style used between NASA and Star Control.

What do you think about this? If anyone has additional information, I’d love to hear about it.

Links
NASA Mission Control Center Website
Mission Control Center on Wikipedia