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

New Year’s Thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. If you’re reading this, the world has not come to an end and. I never believed the Mayan shenanigans. From what I’ve heard, it’s simply the longest measure of time that the Mayans used, nothing more. Did you there are very few scientifically accurate that the world will end? One example is that billions of years from now, the sun will explode and Earth will no longer be inhabitable. Of course, this doesn’t factor things such as the evolution of technology and of the human race itself.

Here are a few things that are worth mentioning and checking out for 2013:

The Ur-Quan Masters HD


After two years of hard work, the first version of UQM HD is available for download. Check this out. I’ve played a little bit of it so far and it’s looking awesome. It’s very impressive stuff considering how old the code base is. Check it out!

Star Command on PC/Mac


This was a game that was originally available for Android/iOS. This was successfully funded through Kickstarter. The developers (War Balloon) launched another KickStarter campaign which was also successful. According to the YouTube video description, the release date is “when it kicks ass”, a nod to games with lengthy development schedules such as Duke Nukem Forever, Wolfenstein (2009) and Rage.

New York Toy Fair 2013

Toys for Bob will make an announcement at the 2013 New York Toy Fair. At the moment, all signs seem to be pointing to Skylanders 3. Anything is possible and if it is another sequel, it may have another addition to the technology. TFB wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t toy-related. The Toy Fair will take place from February 10-13.

Elite: Dangerous


I have read about how Star Control and Elite share some similarities, though I’ve never played it myself. It is very close to reaching the £1,250,000 GBP($2 million USD) goal and the Kickstarter campaign will end this week. This may be the oldest game franchise I’ve seen revived through Kickstarter.

Kickstarter! Kickstarter! Kickstarter!

Yes, there are so many projects worth mentioning such as Space Command and Divine Space. I can spend hours glancing at random projects (not just games) and having my mind blown. It really shows how indie projects can have their voices heard. However, there is a lot of pressure for success and it can be seen as an example that marketing skills is just as important as important as finishing the project itself. There is so many projects on Kickstarter that I really want to start writing about projects more often.

Conclusion

2013 will be full of surprises just like 2012. Check out UQM HD. It looks incredible and it looks incredibly fresh and crisp with its hi-res visuals. This is yet another creation that will keep the Star Control fanbase alive. Check it out.

Kickstarter is starting to become synonymous with indie games and it doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon.

Happy new year!

Links
The Ur-Quan Masters HD – DOWNLOAD NOW
Star Command
New York Toy Fair
Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter Page
Kickstarter Article
Divine Space Article
Hats off to Space Command

Bithead1000’s Star Control for Sega Genesis Review

“This is kind of like Intergalactic Street Fighter II”
– Bithead1000

I came across this review on YouTube by Bithead1000. From the video, I gather that he has played this game before the DOS version. This version tries to make use of the Sega Genesis hardware, despite fact that it was inferior to PC hardware at the time. Because of this, the gameplay was slower and the audio was a lower quality. He describes the music in this version as something reminiscent of 80s horror movies.

For those who don’t know, Accolade created the label, Ballistic, to publish a handful of unlicensed games for the Genesis. This included Star Control, which was branded as “the first 12 megabit game”. These unlicensed games resulted in a lawsuit between Sega and Accolade, which Accolade won.

Here, Bithead1000 plays through the melee mode, “the meat and potatoes of this game”. I like how he chooses ships at random and learns how to utilize each ship on the spot. It actually reminded me of how I learned the game when I first played it. By selecting a ship and pressing a button to load that ship’s “starship databank”. It’s nice to know what to call the ship and all of its components. Of course, the best to learn to play is to choose each ship, play around with it, and develop a strategy.

Another thing I like in this video is how he describes the ships. It’s not a simple fact that some ships have stronger weapons than others; ships can vary in speed, primary attack, secondary function which isn’t always a weapon, etc. It makes it easier for players to choose a favorite ship and even select a certain order of ships to play against an opponent’s order or ships.

Like many games, not only is it fun to play, it’s also fun to watch someone else play. There is something to learn from losing such as better evasion and what ship to choose next in the event of a imminent defeat.

Thanks Bithead1000 for making this video. It brings back memories of my first experience with Star Control, though it happened a very long time ago.

Have you ever played the Sega Genesis version?

Links
YouTube: Star Control Review by Bithead1000
Star Control Promotional Card
Star Control on Other Consoles
Star Control on Sega Genesis

Gamasutra Interviews Paul Reiche

“It’s the most rewarding project we’ve worked on since Star Control.”
– Paul Reiche, Gamasutra – “Toys For Bob’s Rewarding Skylanders Flight” by Leigh Alexander

TFB seems to be getting more time in the spotlight since the release of Skylanders. Leigh Alexander quotes Reiche on topics such as how I-Wei Huang collaborated with other co-workers to create the technology behind the toys and the fact that he had the idea of mixing physical toys and video games before Skylanders. He also mentions that the toys have from “30 to 60 paint operations” and surpassed quality standards.

It’s awesome that Paul mentioned Star Control in the article. Check out the article.

Even if we don’t see a new Star Control game next, do you think they’ll make games with all the TFB goodness we all know and love that made Star Control awesome?

Links
Gamasutra – News – Toys For Bob’s Rewarding Skylanders Flight

12 More Days Until Skylanders

Skylanders will be released next week, Sunday October 16 2011. For Canada, it may be a few days later. It is multi-platform and can be played by anyone with a Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows/Mac PC, DS and the Wii version which Toys for Bob worked on.

Arianna Reiche tweeted an article Paul Reiche had with Dean Takahashi from GamesBeat, the gaming section of VentureBeat. Paul even said some nice things about Activision:

“Paul Reiche, head of Toys For Bob, said in an interview that team knew what kinds of risks it was taking, but it decided to step up to the challenge anyway. The story of how they did so says a lot about how to innovate in an industry with so much prior art and risk aversion.”

“Asked if Skylanders was as big a bet as a Call of Duty game, Rieche (pictured) replied, ‘Fair enough.’ He added, ‘There were many points where we suggested something very radical. There is an unfair perception that (parent company) Activision Blizzard is risk averse. This shows that when there is a good opportunity, they go for it.'”

The Skylanders project started out as an idea while “Activision Blizzard was pruning back on its investments”. Activision wants to publish fewer games that have greater sales, more often, for as many consoles as possible.

Paul mentions more details regarding portal and toys. Robert Leyland at TFB experimented with the wireless technology. The “Leyland Gravity Whip” is named after Robert, who was involved in programming Star Control II. A hardware company who work under Activision, RO Design helped with the design. It is possible that former employees from RedOctane are now working at RO Design.

Dean ends the article with a quote from Paul:

“‘People should be watching this,’ Reiche said. ‘We are not going at it half-cocked at all.'”

I haven’t had a chance to preorder this game. Whenever I get the chance to buy the game, I will be getting the Wii version since that’s the one TFB has been working on, while Vicarious Visions developed the 3DS version and XPEC Entertainment developed the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC versions.

Skylanders will be coming out next week. It’s geared towards a much younger audience and is completely different from any other Spyro game. If not for the toys, this may have been written off as a “kiddie hack-n-slash game”. I’m still curious about what the RPG elements of the game itself will be like. I remember playing Final Fantasy when I was a kid and I never understood the stats completely; for example, I knew that one weapon may be stronger or faster, but I never went out of my way to mix and match armor; I chose items because they had larger numbers. Heck, I still do this with games today. :(

Links
The DeanBeat: Skylanders is massive, innovative gamble for Activision Blizzard
Arianna Reiche’s Twitter

EDIT: Fixed title.

Kotick Talks About TFB’s Time Extension

I found an article on Forbes by David M. Ewalt where he quotes Bobby Kotick on Skylanders.  In it, Bobby Kotick discusses his past decision to give TFB an extra year:

“When they [Toys for Bob] were giving the presentation last summer on the game, and how close they were to releasing it, I grabbed our head of studios and I said, ‘It’s great but it needs another year of real polish… we should wait another year and really give them extra capital and time and resources.’ I think that they were coming in knowing that they needed that, but a little afraid to admit it… they were coming in to say,’We won’t let you down,’ and the senior management of the company was saying, ‘No, we want to give you more time to make it great.’ And it will be great as a consequence.”
– Bobby Kotick

Other Forbes articles have quoted Kotick on other subjects such as “why Guitar Hero failed”.  With regards to Guitar Hero, he stated “we’re going to go back to the studios and we’re going to use new studios and reinvent Guitar Hero. And so that’s what we’re doing with it now.”

I think it’s safe to say that Activision will have more games planned for younger audiences; something more than movie-licenses and mini-game compilations.

Kotick will be making an appearance as a “CEO president and a director of the Athletics” in the upcoming movie, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt.

Links
Forbes.com – Bobby Kotick on Hatching Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
Forbes.com – Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure: Boundary Blurring Fun
Forbes.com – Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick: How To Be An Innovator

Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3 – Why we should care?

If anyone has been keeping track of big-budget games, it’s no secret that fans of BF3 and MW3 will be keeping their fingers crossed this year for their respective games.

First of all, this really has nothing to do with Toys for Bob or Star Control.  With the news of Activision closing studios and laying people off, these two games going head-to-head in direct competition will be another chapter in the big book of “video game politics”.  I want to pay attention of the sales of these two games and how they are rated.  It’s hard for me to guess which game will be more successful.

Remember Modern Warfare 2?

After Modern Warfare 2 was released, it was announced that there was a dispute over payment owed to Infinity Ward.  This resulted in key members leaving to form a new studio under Electronic Arts, Respawn Entertainment. Jason West and Vince Zampella stated that are attempting to gain the rights to Call of Duty.  At the moment, it seems like Activision still owns the franchise.  After this time, Activision created a new studio called Sledgehammer Games; some people in this team have previously worked on Dead Space.

Another engine war

Both EA DICE and Infinity Ward showed off the latest versions of their respective engines. They are both in-house developed and compatible with Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I don’t consider myself a graphical expert; they both look great to me and they clearly know how to use their tech. It’s one of the advantages of using custom in-house products instead of third-party: Complete control. They can even license the engine to other developers if they wanted to.

Who will have their finger on the trigger?

This is really the question I’m asking. Various developers have closed down or reduced their staff due to lower than expected sales. While I understand that these decisions are not made lightly, it makes me feel more nervous about who else will be next in line. What happens to Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games and Raven Software if BF3 has higher sales and ratings? What would happen to EA DICE if MW3 had higher sales and ratings? I have no idea. They are both large studios with years of experience and success.

The most recent game I’ve played that competed directly with Call of Duty is Homefront.  Its ratings were still lower than Call of Duty: Black Ops and Homefront has sold more than two-million copies across the different platforms.

EA DICE will also be working with BioWare on Mass Effect 3.

Conclusion

At this moment, I am unsure if there will be any restructuring resulting from the sales of either games.  I agree that Activision is continuing its “pump one out every year” philosophy and it’s no secret that Black Ops reached over $1 Billion in sales.  Battlefield and Call of Duty are both strong franchises and have very deep roots.  It’s nice to read comments from fans of both franchises supporting these games and having faith in the developers.  I have seen various games in direct competition with Call of Duty and they usually have slightly lower scores than the newest COD game at that time.  I’m just worried that publishers might use the aftermath as an excuse to restructure the developers.  Would EA feel tempted to push BF sequels every year depending on BF3’s success?  I hope that whatever happens with these games, the developers will remain prosperous no matter what and not be subject to corporate greed.

Will Activision take casual games more seriously?

It’s no secret that Activision has pushed many movie-licensed games for millions of parents to buy for their kids.  Now that the contract between Activision and Dreamworks is over, they no longer have that resource for publishing family games.  Activision continues to publish other properties such as Transformers and Spider-Man.

A while ago, Blizzard Entertainment announced Project Titan, a MMO game that is not related to World of Warcraft or any of their other titles.  Not many details have been given regarding the game’s genre or style of gameplay.  The most recent rumor is that it will be a much more more casual MMO compared to World of Warcraft and Diablo.

What about TFB?  They have been working on Skylanders for over 2 years and during development, they were given extra time to make more improvements and additions to it.  While it is geared towards children, the technology behind the game itself is very fascinating to most gamers.  In one of the Skylanders interviews, Paul Reiche did mention that there will be RPG elements in it.  In addition, Jeff Poffenbarger mentioned that TFB had lots of creative control and many of the ideas such as the toys and portal spawner was their idea.

TFB probably will not be working on a new Star Control as their next project after Skylanders.  If their next project gives them as much creative control like they had with Skylanders, their next project will be just as fascinating if not more.

I think Activision will address other casual games.  They might have games that will compete directly against games such as Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, The Sims and LittleBigPlanet.  It would fit their trend of a low investment, high return.

In conclusion, Titan remains a mystery.  I think the success of Skylanders will be the deciding factor for future games for both casual and younger gamers.  With their strong creative control and company growth, they can definitely add their own twist to any genre.

What do you think about the idea of Activision taking casual games more seriously?  Do you think they’ll go head-to-head against other publishers such as Nintendo?

Links
Joystiq – Blizzard’s Titan a ‘casual’ MMO